The History of Hario
Originally known as a company that designs and manufactures glassware products, Hario, which directly translates to ‘Glass King’ evolved to become a leading coffee brand, thanks to the Hario V60 coffee brewer. The company has been producing high-quality tea and coffee products since their pivoting success of their flagship brewer.
Hario has grown to become a leading player in the coffee industry, especially in the manufacture of pour-over coffee equipment. It has helped to create a coffee evolution in the Australia and the world over, by creating uniquely designed coffee grinding and brewing equipment, which are used by home coffee connoisseurs and cafes alike. The methods and design behind Hario’s coffee brewing devices have helped to entrench brewing of speciality coffee with the craftsmanship it deserves.
Hario was primarily a glassware manufacturer based in Japan. The company started in 1921, when they launched operations in Kanda, Tokyo, a short distance from the current Tokyo University. During their launch, the company mainly focused on producing heat-resistant glassware as well as tools, for science and research institutions in the area.
After almost 30 years, the company started expanding their line of products, to include kitchenware. This move led to the development of coffee siphon equipment. After a few years, together with the help of a man called Tsuruoka San, the company came up with the first prototype of the Hario V60 coffee dripper. This innovative product tried to solve a common problem of the time – the complex nature of coffee brewing methods during the late 1950s.
During that period, the most preferred and pervasive coffee brewing method was the nel drip. This process required the brewer to have patience and practice, for perfect execution. Hario wanted to come up with a coffee brewing method, which preserved the quality of coffee produced using the nel process, while increasing ease-of-use and practicality. This was achievable, considering the company had a background in laboratory equipment. As such, the engineers in the company were intimately conversant with paper filters as well as glassware of different shapes and sizes.
As Tsuruoka san was experimenting with cone-shaped glass funnels to make a pour-over brew, the cone filter was born. It was later released to the market for commercial sale in 1980. However, the cone filter was just an initial attempt to make a reliable coffee brewer. As time went by the V60 Dripper remained a prototype, until the company decided to revisit its design in 2004. The V60 Dripper gets its name from the 60-degree angle created by the cone’s shape.
The re-visitation of the initial V60 design saw it blossom to become the beloved Hario V60 design that we love today. In 2004, there was the addition of spiral-shaped ribs on the funnel’s interior. These were meant to eliminate issues created by diagonal ribs, present in similarly-designed brewers.
In typical pour over brewers that contained diagonal-shaped ribs, the filter would frequently stick to the glass, which would impede water flow throughout. However, the new design of the V60 featured spiral ribs, lifting the filter from the glass while allowing coffee to bloom during contact with water. Apart from that, the new V60 design came with a large hole in the centre. This allowed more water to make contact with the coffee grounds, thus extracting more of the nuanced and delightful flavours.
The Hario V60 Dominates
The design changes implemented in the V60 gave it two distinct advantages. First, the brewer managed to closely approximate the extraction technique of the nel drip. Secondly, the Hario V60 was capable of producing both cold and clean flavours, based on the speed of pouring the water through. With those minor but efficient changes to the original design after 60 years, the V60 was able to beat the competition fronted by the 3rd wave coffee movement.
With full extraction of the character and flavour of beans used, combined with its ability to consistently deliver a clean cup of coffee, the V60 managed to rise to the top. When you add the ease of coffee extraction using the V60, you get a coffee brewer that will be a staple in many homes. However, you need to remember that the V60’s journey to the top was not instant. It has been through hard work, consistency and a bit of geographical positioning.
The V60 became a hit first in Seattle, Washington. Seattle is an American city, commonly associated with coffee’s modern history. Most coffee drinkers at the time, as well as those who served them, discovered a certain bond with the V60 and its brewing method. Pouring a cup of coffee to a customer was something intimate and somewhat ritualistic. You could feel the Japanese hospitality through the cup.
Soon after, news of the V60 spread fast and its design started taking new styles and forms. Coloured ceramics and clear glass, pop-inspired and minimalist, the V60 gained popularity and spread in numerous appearances and iterations. In short, you could find a V60 in almost any colour combination. Some even went to the extent of producing custom-made V60 coffee brewers, for the rich and famous in society.
Within a short time, Intelligentsia Coffee started using red V60s in their speciality coffee shops. In addition, well-known people in the coffee industry soon became brand ambassadors for the Hario V60. A notable example is world Barista Champion Michael Phillips, who used the V60 to win the championship title in 2010. Another example is George Howell, who founded the Cup of Excellence program. He regularly advocated for the use of Hario V60. The V60 has grown to become one of the most popular coffee brewers, thanks to its popularity; especially in trendy coffee drinking circles.
Since its inception and design revamping, the Hario V60 has received hundreds of awards. The V60 was first created using ceramic and glass, it then moved to plastic and finally metal. The Hario V60 ultimate edition is the Copper Coffee Dripper. It features high thermal conductivity, which has a better extraction due to better heat retention. Sales outside Japan account for approximately half of the company’s coffee equipment revenue. This can be attributed to the company’s huge impact on the global coffee industry. This trend is not expected to slacken anytime soon. The V60 is still innovating and the design is expected to match the changing trends in the world of coffee.