A view of Voga Coffees Floor Management Brewer at Devocíon in Brooklyn
Oakland-based coffee machine maker Voga Coffee has recently made strides, expanding its presence in specialty coffees across the country and receiving an award at the most recent SCA show in 2018. The company has drawn attention to its Ground Control commercial batch brewing machine, which recently made its North Atlantic debut at the new Cafe Devoción in Downtown Brooklyn in Bogotá and New York City.
According to Eli Salomon, co-founder of Voga, the machine uses “a patented, completely new brewing science that allows us to selectively extract the flavors we want through a series of carefully controlled mini-sprays,” creating a “noticeably sweeter, less bitter product,” more consistent and nuanced coffee than even a well-executed infusion. “
I visited the new Devoción on a spring afternoon to chat with Scott Norton, Voga’s director of sales and marketing, and see the brewer in action. The process looked pretty simple: a barista adds fresh coffee grounds to a brewing basket at the bottom of the machine and then taps a few keys on a touchscreen keyboard. While it is doing other tasks, the machine goes to work quietly: the bottom is saturated and stirred, and the brewed liquid is drawn into the glass vacuum chambers. “Once the liquid is fully extracted and the coffee grounds remain essentially dry, the process is repeated, with the coffee grounds being dipped and extracted several times,” explains Norton. “Each extraction reveals new layers of flavors and nuances in the coffee. Then the extractions are mixed together, resulting in a highly complex and balanced coffee batch.” The closed system process eliminates any “weird” flavors that can be created by oxidation, and the ventilation releases aromatics that can only be achieved with a vacuum system.
The brewer was invented in the kitchen of Salomon’s San Francisco apartment, where he worked with chemist and Voga co-founder Dr. Josh Avins experimented. Salomon came up with the idea of making a large siphon with a vacuum pump, and Avins pointed out that “a chemistry lab never does a single extraction – extraction theory suggests that three mini extractions with fresh solvent are usually ideal. “They eventually hit on the idea of brewing the coffee multiple times while essentially drying the soil, and soil control was born. “The idea was initially received with skepticism by industry experts, but it is widely accepted,” says Salomon. “For example, drying and re-extracting a bed of soil was an integral part of Brewer’s Cup World Champion Tetsu Kasuya’s winning ‘Four Six’ recipe for 2016.”
The Voga team presented the machine at a SCA Expo, where they met Steven Sutton, founder of the Colombian coffee roasting company Devoción. “I liked the concept and wanted to know more, so I asked for a demo,” says Sutton. “We tested the brewer in our Williamsburg café and we were instantly blown by the control the machine had over our coffee.” Sutton immediately ordered one for their new downtown Brooklyn location.
Ground control is currently used in around a dozen coffee shops across the country, and Voga’s new brewer in a group, the Cyclops, was named Best New Product (Commercial Equipment) at SCA Expo 2018. The machines are 95% made in America, 100% hand-assembled in Oakland, and take about three minutes of baristas training. “Our employees and customers love it,” says Sutton. “We are now able to brew any coffee we want in batch for optimal results, and we can offer special edition coffee in our batch brewer that we have rarely offered before.”
Voga is also working hard on a new home brewing machine and is currently in talks with investors and partners to bring it to life. “There are so many ways to bring new science to coffee-making,” says Salomon, “and we have lots of other ideas that we’re really excited about.” Currently, New York City coffee drinkers can order a cup of Ground Control-brewed coffee in Devoción’s new space – while taking an unexpected break from downtown Brooklyn.
Joanna Han (@joannakarenina) is a Sprudge.com employee based in New York City. Read more about Joanna Han on Sprudge.
June 11, 2018