Celebrating 100 Years of HARIO and How I Came To Love This Brand
To coffee lovers and geeks alike, the historic brand HARIO has almost instant recognition and reputation. And even if you’re unfamiliar, you’ve probably been within arms reach of a HARIO product before. These coffee gadgets can be found in almost any neighbourhood cafe worth their salt. For many, HARIO gadgets were an entry point into specialty coffee, with their brewing gear laying the foundation for pour overs to be enjoyed and fussed over at home. Trust me. Trust me. A HARIO product has likely been in the frame of a YouTube cooking video you’ve seen or on the kitchen counter of your foodie friend you last hung out with.
My history with HARIO dates back to 2009 when I first purchased the iconic V60 cone dripper. I had just gotten into making pour overs through befriending the zany owner of Halifax’s premier third wave cafe, Two If By Sea. It was there that I first experienced staggeringly tasty “specialty” coffee. They brought in all the cool West Coast roasters from that era: Heart, Ritual, and 49th Parallel. It was the first time I tasted fruit and layers of flavour in my filter coffee. At home, I wanted to recreate those “ah ha” moments of discovering flavours hidden to me by milk and roast. My mind was blown, and I wanted more, and I had to figure out how to do it in my kitchen. I was pointed in the direction of the HARIO V60 and quickly went online to find one. From there, my journey into making coffee by hand began, with much trial and error and Google searches ahead.
But something was missing. After many terrible pour overs and speaking to a few friends who were just glomming onto this new “third wave” of coffee culture, I was soon informed that using pre-ground coffee was leaving me at a flavour deficit. I was on the edge of flavour winning out over convenience but needed a nudge in the right direction. Now, I knew that coffee lovers used grinders at home– I grew up hearing the buzz of my mother’s Braun coffee grinder each morning. But as a broke student, I never made that leap, opting instead to buy ground coffee in a tin can from aisle 4. Enter hand-grinding. Grinding coffee by hand had been off my radar, but after researching, I found that hand grinders weren’t as cost-prohibitive or rare as I thought. Later, a friend who was big into espresso told me to get one ASAP. The final push came when another coffee friend mentioned a brand called “HARIO.” He told me, “Get one of their grinders. The Skerton is what I use.” That weekend I put in a special order with a local cafe owner acquaintance for this industrial-looking Japanese hand grinder.
I was now set. I began to grind all my coffee by hand, at first cursing the decision with each crunching rotation of the burrs– light roast coffee is pretty dense, after all! But once I incorporated it into my morning routine and got some muscle memory going, it felt great and helped me wake up. It might sound cheesy, but doing everything by hand makes it feel much more special. And without question, I immediately noticed the coffee simply tasted better. The other benefit was I no longer had to bashfully ask the barista behind the bar to grind my coffee beans. The only hurdle was getting my co-workers to stop making fun of me. Ten years ago, your average downtown office worker was more often than not brandishing Tim’s, Starbucks, or Second Cup, while riding the elevator up to their floor. Halifax, at this time, was no exception.
You just didn’t have a strong presence of independent cafes slinging joe on every corner as we (thankfully) have now, and the entire culture was kind of fringe. At the office, my coworkers would be taken aback when they saw me in the staff kitchen, hunched over in a chair, grinding my coffee by hand with a paper filter and my V60 on the table. I lost count of how many mornings I was zinged to the effect of, “You know electricity has already been invented, Jon.” Super cringe office worker humour be damned, I was committed to making a delicious pour over each morning. My V60 and Skerton grinder would stay on my desk Monday through Friday, and every weekend I would then schlep them home for weekend brewing. These two brewing gadgets became an inseparable kit on trips and overnight stays, and even while camping. I was hooked!
All the while, HARIO was slowly on its way to becoming a household name here. But in Japan, the company was already considered a coffee, tea, and kitchenware goods retailer powerhouse. HARIO actually means “king of glass'' in Japanese, and the company began in 1921 mainly to produce laboratory glass instruments in a Tokyo factory. In 1948, using their heatproof glassware and glass processing techniques, HARIO began manufacturing coffee siphons. Throughout the next 50 years, they refined their glassmaking while continuing to innovate new technologies. This momentum led them to expand their operations and move into automotive headlight lenses.
Back then, I was oblivious to HARIO's esteemed history and the brand’s non-coffee-related products. But I did notice the pour over revolution taking over North America in the early 2010s in what would be defined as the “third wave” of coffee culture. HARIO, you could argue, was partially responsible for this, having invented my all-time favourite dripper in 2004. The development of the now renowned V60 actually dates back to the 1980s. At this time, trapezoid-shaped coffee drippers dominated the Japanese market. The HARIO product designers researched parabolic-shaped drippers, looking to achieve a cleaner-tasting coffee by allowing water to pass through the grounds rather than steeping them. There was simply something magical about a 60-degree slope–it seemed to create balanced and clean cups of coffee.
While HARIO may be known for their glassware, when it comes to ceramic, they’re no slouch. Working closely with resin makers and traditional Japanese potters in Arita, they sought to replicate the taste of cloth-filtered coffee with a conical paper filter. They achieved this by facilitating water flow through the device by adding the spiral ribbing. HARIO didn’t stop with the innovation– they now have four spin-offs of the original V60, further pushing the boundaries of coffee brewing. What’s more, the original line expanded to offer signature collaborations, different colours, and glass, plastic, copper and stainless steel versions.
Thirteen years later and my trusty V60 is still my daily driver. Recently, at a coffee brewing competition, I asked Ben Put–an accomplished multiple World Barista Championship finalist–why he opted to use the V60 for his routine, to which he replied, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He later went on to win the competition. In spite of the myriad of coffee drippers on the market and the many V60 spin-offs out there, I’d have to agree with Ben. I get great cups of coffee each morning with this dripper, and it’s an old pal I keep coming back to. I’m thankful for all the serendipitous and (caffeinated) hot takes on coffee gadgets over the years, which helped me discover HARIO. I truly think that this brand, in a certain way, led me to begin a career in coffee– a journey which brought me here, to Eight Ounce, and this very blog post. I hope the rich history of HARIO and all of their wonderful products equally inspire you on your own coffee journey!