Kalita Wave 185 and 155 Review - Why We Love This Coffee Dripper
Like an unstoppable wave, pour over is taking the coffee world by storm.
Yet, between the overly difficult and the wannabes, it’s hard to find a manual dripper for the casual coffee connoisseur. Luckily we have the Kalita coffee dripper, a happy marriage between high-quality craft brewing and approachability.
Continue on down for a closer look at this amazing brewer in my Kalita Wave review.
The Kalita Wave 'In A Nutshell'
At first glance, 'the Wave' may seem like your average pour over dripper, but it’s got a bit more going on. Its flat, three-holed bottom restricts the flow of water, simplifying the overall process. This design feature also produces a slightly more concentrated cup of coffee than other drippers.
The Wave’s unique, ridged filters hold the slurry out away from the dripper’s walls, allowing air to (1) balance the flow of water and (2) act as an insulator, keeping your brew warm.
Compared to other pour over brewers, the Wave is an approachable device that makes a bold yet flavorful cup of coffee. Thats why it's a favorite, year after year.
Best for: someone who wants a pour over that makes full-flavored coffee without a steep learning curve
Things to Consider Before Buying a Pour Over Brewer Such as the Wave
From the name, pour over coffee sounds like a simple process. Pour some hot water over ground coffee et voilà, a fresh cup of joe!
If you think that’s all it takes, then you are in for a nasty surprise. Pour over coffee is a delicate process that puts quality control back in the hands of the brewer.
Compared to other coffee makers, pour over brewers have a simple design that lets you tinker and tailor each step of the process. But it's not a push-button method like an automatic drip coffee maker. Each step requires your hands-on attention.
These coffee makers are not for someone looking for a quick cup or someone who prefers espresso. On the other hand, they are great for someone who lives by drip coffee and who enjoys sinking their fingers into each individual step. They require love and attention but can take your coffee game to a whole new level.
In general, drip coffee is lighter than most other styles of coffee (though not any less caffeinated), with a more complex flavor profile. Because they are so small and simple, you can easily pack a pour over coffee maker away for a business trip or a camping vacation.
Before you take the proverbial plunge and wrap your mitts around one of these coffee makers, there are two questions you should keep in mind:
- How much time and attention do I want to give my coffee routine?
- Am I looking for something to expand my skills or provide consistent quality?
The Kalita Wave Dripper Review
The Kalita Wave gets its name from the horizontal ridges descending down its walls like waves. Essentially, it is a wide cone that has a flat plate with three small holes at the bottom. A baseplate encircles the cone to allow it to rest over any serving vessel, and a curved handle arches from top to bottom.
"Rather than water dripping through a singular hole, it features a flat bottom with three extraction holes. This eliminates any channeling of water in the coffee bed, resulting in an extremely crisp cup." - Perfect Daily Grind
This dripper comes in three different models: in addition to the stainless steel, you can buy any of the Kalita Wave series in glass or ceramic. Additionally, you have two different size options to choose from: single cup (the Kalita 155) and 2–3 cups (the Kalita Wave 185).
Compared to other drippers, the Wave is an approachable coffee maker that requires little fuss to produce a tasty cup Its unique shape is designed specifically for improved flow control, which makes it both reliable and predictable.
The Wave would fit best in the hands of someone with a tad more experience than the beginner, and who enjoys the hands-on nature of pour over brewing. That said, even an amateur, given a little practice and patience, would quickly be on their way to delicious coffee with the Wave.
Aesthetic Appeal 4.5/5
You may think that the relatively simple designs of pour over drippers would mean that the Wave would look just like all the rest, but you’d be wrong.
Sure, the shape is the same but, like Momma always said, “the devil is in the details.”
Compared to the Hario V60, the Wave looks more classic than modern. Its cone is wide and stout with horizontal ripples running up the side.
A flat baseplate extends around the bottom to allow the Wave to rest atop your cup or carafe, and an angular handle arches from the top of the cone to just above the baseplate .
Most people are familiar with the stainless steel Wave, but it also comes in glass and ceramic. In terms of function, there is no difference between these three options, though the metal version is obviously the sturdiest of the three.
The Wave also comes in two different sizes: the 155 and the 185. The 155 is strictly a single-cup coffee maker, while the 185 can accommodate 2–3 cups.
Kalita also offers a unique kettle that matches the Wave’s wavy design.
Whether you go with the full set or not, this dripper will be an eye-catching statement piece for your kitchen.
Ease of Use 5/5
Using the Kalita Wave could really be called a piece of cake - or maybe a cupcake, thinking of the colorful little paper cups used to bake them.
Why? The Kalita Wave’s paper filters, with their wavy, vertical ridges, look like an oversized cupcake cup.
When it comes to drip coffee, getting an even extraction is vital - getting it easily is a blessing.
These large ridges hold your bed of grounds out away from the walls of the Wave, allowing air to pass between. They serve a similar function as the grooves on the V60, as the improved airflow hastens the flow of water along the sides, evening out the flow rate and overall extraction. Yet these ridges allow for more space between the bed and the walls than the V60’s grooves.
This allows air to also serve as an insulator so the walls of the Wave won’t suck the oh-so-essential heat out of your fresh slurry.
One thing to be careful of with these filters is that, without proper storage, they can easily lose their shape. If you store them upright or in the actual Wave cone then they will be fine, but simply tossing them in the cupboard won’t do.
Two additional notes about the filters: where other pour over coffee makers (especially the Chemex) recommend rinsing the filters before brewing, the Kalita Wave does not require it.
"Don't rinse the filter. Because the Wave's filters are so thin, they won't impart a papery taste to the coffee if you skip the standard pre-brewing rinse." - Erin McCarthy, 2013 World Brewer's Cup winner (using a Kalita Wave)
Brew Control Ability 4.5/5
The unique three-holed, flat underside of the Wave has a specific function: to slow down the flow of water through your bed of grounds (1).
The amount of time hot water is in contact with the grounds is a key factor in determining the success (or failure) of your brew.
The flat bottom of the Wave offers a stable and predictable way to restrict water flow compared to other manual drippers. Kalita claims that the flat bottom helps promote a flat coffee bed during brewing, and that this uniform bed leads to more even flavor extraction (2).
This design feature makes the Kalita Wave a much more forgiving dripper than other pour over drippers, allowing you to brew consistently tasty coffee without meticulously hovering about. Additionally, the predictability frees you up to focus on other important aspects, like grind and water temperature.
As for grind, the Kalita Wave is meant to take a medium-coarse grind - similar to the grind size used in a Chemex. As with all pour over coffee makers, you should experiment to find the grind that produces the flavor you're looking for, but a fairly coarse grind will extract more of the brighter flavor elements and reduce the more bitter components.
Another possibly unexpected benefit of the flat bottom is that the coffee-to-water ratio of the Wave is slightly different from other drippers. On average, the Wave requires less water to score a solid extraction. Put another way, it yields a stronger cup than some other brewers, using a comparable ratio.
Because of the flow restriction, the Wave produces a slightly fuller bodied coffee than the V60. However, it will have more noticeable hints of sweetness and acidity (thanks to the medium-coarse grind requirement) than an immersion brewer like a French press.
The Kalita Wave gets full marks for portability - assuming you get the stainless steel version. The Wave does come in both ceramic and glass, which have the advantage in heat retention, but if you are in the habit of taking your pour over with you for whatever reason - camping, traveling, what have you - the stainless steel version is lighter and much less fragile.
Do note that because the fluted, cupcake-cup-style filters are susceptible to being flattened, you should be prepared to pack them in something that preserves their shape. If you’re really into irony, clean out an old coffee can of about the right size. Nothing says “hipster” like brewing a pot of natural-processed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe using filters you pulled out of a can of “mountain grown.”
The Kalita Wave is close to the same price as its competing pour over cones. But as top pick in our review of the best pour over coffee makers, having a comparable price puts it ahead of the game.
The Kalita Wave 155 vs. 185: Which Is For You?
Whether you choose the Kalita Wave 155 or 185 depends on how much coffee you typically brew at once (and which coffee filters you buy). All the other features are the same across the Wave series: the flat bottom, the three small holes, the shape of the filter cone that contributes to the drawdown. The only difference is the amount of coffee each model brews (3).
Typically, the Kalita 155 takes about 17-18 g of ground coffee and 300 ml (10.1 oz) of water, which is a popular size for a coffee mug. This makes the 155 a natural choice for a single-cup coffee maker. The Kalita Wave 185 brews with 29-30 g of ground coffee and 500 ml (16.9 ounces) of water. These recommendations use a slightly higher amount of coffee than many coffee makers; as a result, the Wave (in 155 or 185 size) is known to make a bolder, fuller-bodied cup, though retaining bright flavors due to the recommended coarser grind size.
Note that whichever you choose, you'll need to purchase Kalita's proprietary filters in the appropriate size. Standard flat-bottom or basket filters are not the right shape for the Kalita.
Alternatives to the Kalita Coffee Dripper
Even if right now you’re thinking “this is the dripper for me,” it’s worthwhile to at least glance at the competition. After all, with so many options, it’d be a bit silly to only look at one.
Three other pour over coffee makers you may want to consider are the Hario V60, the Clever Dripper, and the Bee House Dripper.
The Hario V60
I’ve already mentioned this brewer a few times: it is top choice among many coffee lovers and therefore an obvious choice for comparison. The Hario V60 is a completely open-source pour over dripper, designed from a “no barrier” mindset.
With this dripper, the quality of your coffee is entirely up to your technique and skill. This means that the V60 will produce an excellent cup, but only with a lot of practice and experimentation.
It comes in a wider range of models than the Wave but requires a lot of attention. Unless you’re prepared to put in some serious time and effort, then avoid this dripper. If you think that the Hario V60 may be a better fit for you, read more about it here.
The Clever Dripper
This pour over brewer’s name is more than a gimmicky marketing tactic. The Clever uses a unique locking mechanism that holds your slurry in the cone until you place it atop your serving cup or carafe.
This feature makes the Clever half immersion brewer and half dripper, but entirely worthy of its name. It comes only in clear plastic, but you have the option of either a 10 oz. or 18 oz. size.
Compared to the Kalita, the Clever wins out in approachability but loses when it comes to flexibility. The Clever Dripper is a great brewer but won’t allow you the same level of play that the Wave will. If you want to take a closer look at the Clever Dripper, click here to read our review.
The Bee House
In terms of quality, the Bee House is quite comparable to the Wave, so it should be no surprise that the two have a similar design.
The Bee House has a straight bottom rather than the flat bottom of the Kalita, but only two holes to restrict water flow. Instead of wavy filters, the Bee House has vertical grooves along the inside of the cones to separate the bed of ground coffee from the walls of the brewer.
Like the V60, these grooves don’t allow as much airflow as the Wave’s filters do, so you may experience some heat loss while brewing. However, the Bee House uses standard filters easy to find in most supermarkets.
Occupying a level somewhere between master and amateur, the Kalita Wave is a great pour over coffee maker for just about any coffee lover.
Brewing with the Kalita Wave dripper is a straightforward experience that requires little practice to perfect. The flat bottom design helps control the flow of water and produce a more concentrated cup of coffee while creating a more relaxed brewing experience.
- National Coffee Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/How-to-Brew-Coffee
- Bennett, B. (2017, February 16). Kalita Wave makes superb coffee but demands practice. Retrieved from https://www.cnet.com/reviews/kalita-wave-155-review/
- r/Coffee - Kalita Wave questions (155 vs 185?, which material?). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/Coffee/comments/3myfaa/kalita_wave_questions_155_vs_185_which_material/