Looking for a manual coffee brewer that can make consistently good cups? The Kalita Wave 185 coffee dripper is a pretty solid option — one that I have a lot of experience with. I’ve made hundreds of pour-overs with the steel, glass, and even the special Tsubame model.
Yes, the materials do make a difference, but more on that later. For this review, let’s focus on the most common stainless steel variant.
In a nutshell, the steel Kalita Wave 185 is a durable and lightweight brewer that quite easily makes a delicious cup of coffee thanks to its flat-bottom construction. However, there are a couple of trade-offs you’ll have to live with.
Read on to find out what I love about it, what I would change, and how to get over its quirks.
- The Kalita Wave 185 excels in producing an even and consistent pour-over with its flat-bottom design and unique wave filters, ideal for both novices and aficionados.
- Durability and portability make the stainless steel variant of the Wave a superb choice for coffee lovers on the go, despite the potential for slower water drain than its glass and ceramic counterparts.
- The Wave has its quirks such as filter fit issues and clogged brews, which can be fixed with some simple hacks.
Things To Consider When Buying Pour-Over Drippers
Pour-over brewers come in many shapes, sizes, and material finishes. They all brew differently too. Before you think about choosing this brewer, consider the following things:
Do You Make a Lot of Coffee?
Like auto drip machines, manual pour-over drippers come in different sizes that are best suited to the amount of coffee you can make in one brew.
The number “185” refers to the Kalita Wave’s two-cup capacity. This means you can make two (or up to three) cups of coffee in a single brew, which is about 10 to 15 ounces, or 300 to 450ml.
If all you brew is a cup at a time, then you’ll save a bit of money with the smaller Kalita Wave 155 model.
Are Coffee Filters Readily Available to You?
Coffee filters likewise come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. For more on this, you might want to check out our ultimate coffee filter guide.
The Kalita Wave uses a special filter that looks like the paper wrapper of a cupcake. These aren’t as common as the standard cone and truncated cone variety, and there are fewer aftermarket options available. You can find these online, but probably not in the coffee section of your local supermarket.
Some auto drip brewers use similar paper filters, but those are often too large for the Kalita Wave. With some creative folding, it’s possible to fit a standard cone filter into this dripper. However, your brews just won’t be as even and consistent, which is one of the Wave’s best strengths.
Do You Brew on the Go?
If you’re the type to take your coffee gear with you, say on a camping trip, the best choices are those that are lightweight and durable. This means either plastic or stainless steel.
The steel Kalita Wave 185 is a great portable option with its svelte and practically indestructible build, which you can toss into your backpack and use right on top of your camping mug.
Kalita Wave 185 Overview
The Wave is a manual pour-over coffee dripper from Japanese coffee equipment manufacturer Kalita. This brewer features a flat bottom with three small dripper holes in a triangle formation, which promotes even extraction of the coffee bed.
Kalita’s patented wave filters pair with this brewer to maximize consistency in brewing. The filter has twenty curved creases (or “waves”) which limit contact with the brewer, allowing hot water to pass through at a controlled and efficient rate.
We’re taking a closer look at the stainless steel version, but this dripper also comes in ceramic and glass. There are also a couple of special edition models: The Tsubame, available in steel or copper, and the Sagan, made of sandstone porcelain.
In the box, you get the dripper itself and a little plastic scoop that holds about 10 grams of coffee.
Features and Benefits
There’s plenty to like about the Kalita Wave 185! Check out our detailed insights:
Even and Consistent Brews
You don’t need to be a pour-over maven to get good cups out of the Wave! The brewer’s flat-bottom construction coupled with the special filters work really well to keep things even-steven on the extraction front.
How so? It’s just easier to saturate the coffee grounds evenly with this design compared to V-shaped and truncated cone brewers! With the latter, you have to pour more carefully, ideally with a gooseneck kettle, to get that desirable flat coffee bed at the end of the brew.
Sharp Looks, Not Edges
Stainless steel tools can look dull, uninspired, and utilitarian. Not the Wave with its sleek lines and beautiful polished finish! This elegant little thing won’t look out of place on your kitchen countertop or your specialty cafe’s pour-over bar.
This brewer is comfortable to hold, with its hemmed steel edges. That remains true even when things heat up, thanks to an insulated handle made with BPA-free plastic that sort of looks like wood. Top marks for build quality!
Portable Pour-Over King
It’s a no-brainer to take your Aeropress camping. But what if you prefer pour-overs?
If you’d rather pass on plastic brewers, the steel Wave just might be the best tool for the job. It isn’t just durable, it’s lightweight too! I’ve tossed it into my backpack for out-of-town trips without much thought, including a hiking trip where it survived unscathed.
Room for Improvement
The Kalita Wave 185 isn’t without its quirks. We talk about those, as well as our tips to overcome them.
How well the Wave brews also depends on how well you place the filter. It’s easy to pop one in, but once you pre-wet the paper, the creases tend to unfold and lose their shape. To remedy this, we suggest holding the top ridges of the filter with one hand while you pre-wet the flat bottom portion first. Practice makes perfect!
The filters are also kind of bulky and tend to lose their shape because they stack rather than fold flat. But here’s a cool storage tip that solves both issues: Compress a small stack of filters inside a mug to make their footprint smaller. This also helps keep the pleats folded nicely, making them easier to pre-wet.
Slow Water Drain
There’s a lot of discussion online about how the stainless steel Kalita Wave takes longer to drain compared to the other models in the Wave family. The culprit is a Y-shaped spacer positioned lower on the brewer’s bed than those on its counterparts.
This issue may cause brews to clog or stall, as the bottom of the filter may form an air seal on top of the Wave’s tiny drain holes. The result might be over-extraction, which can cause a bitter cup.
We tested the steel Wave side-by-side with other models and confirmed this to be true. The glass and ceramic models drain the quickest, followed by the Tsubame.
|7oz / 210ml Water Drain Test With Filter
|Kalita Wave 185 Material
|Stainless Steel (with spacer)
Depending on your brew style, this might not be a problem for you. But here are a few solutions that address this issue:
Give It Space
Try adding your own spacer so that the bottom of the filter sits a tiny bit higher! We’ve experimented with two things: a steel key ring and the reducer disk of a moka pot. As the Drain Test table shows, this worked great and put the steel model on par with the glass and ceramic variants.
There are other inventive solutions online that we haven’t personally tried, but in theory, should also work to fix the issue. Here they are, ranked from least complex to most involved:
- Partially unfold a paper clip and use it as a spacer
- Cut a round piece of steel mesh and use as a spacer
- Make the three holes ever so slightly larger with the use of a drill bit (careful with this one!)
Give the Brewer a Lift
There’s a possibility that the slow drain issue can be caused by an air seal under the brewer, especially if you’re using a vessel without a spout. Lifting the Wave off the cup it sits on can relieve some pressure, which might help keep the brew from stalling.
Just Brew Faster
In my experience, the brews don’t completely stall — they just slow down significantly after you’ve poured all the water in. The most simple fix is to use a recipe that allows you to pour water quickly and in fewer stages. This avoids over-extraction, because of the overall shorter brew time.
Because the flat bottom style can be quite forgiving with the way you pour, using a regular (non-gooseneck) kettle might be an advantage in this case.
Alternatives and Wrap-Up
If the slow drain is an issue for you and you don’t feel like hacking it, consider picking the ceramic or glass model of the Kalita Wave. The steel Tsubame is also a good choice, but it costs a little bit more.
For greater flexibility in brewing style, you might want to see how the Hario V60 compares. Like the Wave, it’s also available in a wide range of sizes and material finishes.
But if all you’re after is something that makes good coffee, doesn’t require a lot of pouring finesse, and is practically unbreakable, the stainless steel Kalita Wave 185 might be all the brewer you need.
Kalita Wave 185: Is This Brewer Your Perfect Choice?
Explore the art of pour-over with our Kalita Wave 185 review. Uncover the nuances of this coffee dripper for a flavorful brewing experience.