Crowdfunding roundup Jan 2015: The ROK Grinder and the Evolve 3.0 Brewer

Crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo is definitely the place to get cutting-edge coffee gear, watches and gadgets. I'm a regular follower (and sometimes author) of projects on both platforms, and here are recent projects that caught my eye.

The ROK Grinder

The Rok Grinder, still live on Indiegogo after a wildly successful campaign and also available direct is one of the next generation hand grinders that are becoming popular with newly minted coffee nerds.

 ROK benchtop hand grinder

ROK benchtop hand grinder

What makes the ROK grinder different?

According to ROK, it provides '$600 grinder performance at less than a third of the price'. The ultimate determinant of performance (in the age of the Mahlkönig EK43) is optimal grind particle size distribution. According to a chart provided by ROK (that looks a little too clean and linear, honestly), the ROK grinder performs similarly to a Baratza grinder. Unfortunately it's impossible to know which one - there is a considerable range of Baratza grinders with conical or flat burrs, ranging from the $200 mark to around $1000. It's definitely beautiful, with a metal industrial design that is likely to be an eye-catching piece in the kitchen.

Is the ROK really any good?

Looking through the marketing, what's likely is that the ROK presents a significant improvement on other hand grinders like the Porlex or the Hario Mini Mill. This would be provided by the double bearing system, ensuring shaft stability, a long-standing issue with most hand grinders. On the r/coffee thread there are many posts about how to ensure shaft stability with solutions from modding with tape to 3D-printing a shaft stabiliser. So in this respect, the ROK is likely to work. However, it's not hte only stabilised hand grinder on the market - the OE Lido 2 is a well-respected grinder with stabilised shaft, rock-solid design and one critical feature that the ROK lacks - portability.

ROK will definitely deliver

One thing strongly in ROK's favour is a strong existing user base from their line of hand espresso machines, and their proven relationship with manufacturers. This makes them a relatively low-risk Kickstarter project, rather than the vaporware that some other projects have ended up being. Up to you to decide whether the $174 USD pre-order price (deliverable May 2015) is worth it.

The Evolve 3.0

The Evolve 3.0 coffee brewer, still live on Kickstarter (for a very limited time), is an ambitious project by three New Zealand entrepreneurs who are trying to help redefine simple, compact and elegant coffee brewing at home.

 Evolve 3.0 coffee brewer

Evolve 3.0 coffee brewer

The Evolve brewer combines three methods of making coffee into one pot, allowing the user to change brewing methodology without buying more equipment. Great idea for space saving and travel. It's also more elegant looking than any other moka pot I've seen on the market (why are they so ugly??). Its functionality includes

  • Stovetop/Moka pot: Like a traditional stovetop coffee maker but a little smarter both in the aesthetic sense as well as functional design: it includes a removable gasket so it can be replaced as it goes bad over time with exposure to heat and moisture.
  • Pourover: The glass pourover holder and steel filter provide an easy-to-use and low maintenance pourover coffee maker. You have the option of using paper filters if you want, of course
  • Plunger: Again, a little smarter than the average plunger: the filter has very fine holes for a reduction in the number 1 villain in plunger coffee - an overabundance of fines.

They have an incredibly ambitious funding goal of $150,000 NZD, which they are on their way to achieving. You can pre-order one on their Kickstarter page for $250 NZD (about $195 USD) - including international shipping.