The 4th wave! Are we there yet? – Matt Perger


The specialty coffee world is ever changing and is evolving at a fast pace.To give us a better understanding of where it is heading, I have enlisted the help of some of the most awesome coffee professionals to tell us about their current projects and give us their take on what the 4th wave of coffee might be. Matt Perger, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and Tim Wendelboe will be featured in the first part of our weekly journey into their specialty coffee worlds, fueled by knowledge, innovation, ambition and perseverance.


First one up will be the amazing MATT PERGER. You might have heard of him, he is really good at making coffee really small and has changed the way we brew espressos.

How did you discover the ek43 and what was the process that lead you to researching its potential, and becoming an essential part of the Mahlkoenig development team?

I originally discovered the EK43 at Cafe Myriade in Montreal. I was traveling through after the WBC in Bogota. Anthony Benda and Scott Rao had spent a lot of time testing grinders, and had settled upon the EK43 for their Batch Brew and filter coffee service. I had never seen it before, and thought it was a pepper grinder.The coffees at Myriade blew my mind, not because they were exceptional (they were), but because they were so sweet and rich. I didn’t think it was the grinder, and gave all the credit to their roasters. Rookie mistake.I didn’t see the grinder again until the 2012 World Brewers Cup in Vienna. I was training buddies with Anthony Benda, and had brought a Marco Uber Grinder. My coffee wasn’t tasting great, and Anthony recommended we borrow an EK43 from the Mahlkönig stand. We did so, and my coffee improved 10 fold. Thanks to Anthony, and Mahlkönig I managed to take out the WBrC that year.Right after Vienna, St Ali and Sensory Lab bought as many EK43’s as we could, and started using them for batch brew and filter coffee service.Late 2012, I was in a spiral trying to increase extraction yields of our espressos (16-18%) to the same level as our filter coffees (20-22%). I was constantly messaging Ben Kaminsky (then Director of Espresso and Quality Control at Ritual Coffee Roasters) as we competed to raise our espresso extractions above 18%. If I achieved 18.4% it was high-fives and the afternoon off. It just wasn’t working. One day I decided to try making espresso with the EK43, as a joke. I measured the extraction and it was 20%. Ben didn’t believe me, so he tried it as well. He hit 20%. Disbelief, recalibration of refractometers and double-checking ensued. Soon after, we confirmed that the EK was indeed extracting higher than we ever thought possible. I knew right then, that I needed to bring it to competition.Using the EK43 for espresso isn’t as simple as traditional espresso grinders. It took me a long time to start producing shots that I was happy with. I needed help, and so hired Ben Kaminsky to be my coach for the 2013 competitions. We spent countless hours in the training room trying recipes, measuring shots and re-roasting specifically for this weird style of extraction. At least 1000 shots were thoroughly measured and logged in this time. As competition drew near we got the hang of things. We had developed a new pre-dosing, grinding and distribution method, different roast profiles, new brew recipes, a novel tamping method to restrict the flow, and even descriptors to help them understand what was going on. We were confident the judges would like it. Our espressos were sweeter and more complex than I had thought possible 6 months previous. As you know, we took 2nd place in Melbourne, and the popularity of the grinder soared soon after.Mahlkonig brought me on board as an ambassador soon after the 2013 WBC, because no one (including Mahlkönig or myself) knew why the EK43 was better. We conducted a number of tests in their Hamburg lab – combining refractometery, sensory and particle size analysis – to get some meaningful data. In short, we learnt that the EK43 produces more fine particles and fewer coarse particles and that this creates a much more even extraction than most other grinders. Since then we’ve been engaging in more tests to see if we can apply this knowledge to their other grinders. Nothing to report. Yet.

What inspired you to take that standard apart, study it and coming up with this fresh new way of approaching espresso brewing?

The inspiration was more likely frustration and lack of options. I would love to say I knew what I was doing as we began experimenting, but we were truly in the dark. During that process, what inspired me most was the sweetness of higher extractions. It was like a light at the end of a long tunnel, and we knew it could be achieved.

What are the benefits of using a lower flow rate, and does it only work on the ek43 or is it a universal effect that we could apply to any set up?

Espresso is really annoying, because brew time is linked to grind size. Adjusting flow rate helps you counteract this by offsetting grind and contact time. IF your flow rate is high, you need a really really fine grind setting to slow the shot down. A really really fine grind is counter-productive because it will more than likely clog the basket, creating an uneven extraction. Reducing flow rate allows you to use coarser grind settings (that don’t clog) while still keeping brew times close to the 30 second mark.This technique is useful for any grinder, and is especially useful when using lighter espresso roasts that are less brittle and harder to grind fine.I recommend a flow rate somewhere between 150-250ml per 30 seconds. Measured without portafilter. This seems to be the best spot for most grinders. If you can’t adjust flow rate directly, reduce the pump pressure until you get there. Don’t be scared to go as low as 4 bars. That’s still a lot of pressure, and you’ll still get crema.

Tell us what you are working now right now? Any news of what you will be presenting at host?

I recently started a new company called Proper Ventures in equal partnership with Sensory Lab. It will be the platform for any and all of my zany coffee-related projects. Barista Hustle, my blog and weekly newsletter, has been the first project of Proper Ventures, and very recently we launched it’s big brother – Coffee Hustle. It’s a reddit/medium/linkedin hybrid for coffee people to check the news, host their own blog and share interesting things with the community. Next on the list is designing some new barista equipment.I’m also spending this year’s HOST show with Mahlkönig, La Marzocco and WCE All Stars. With Mahlkönig, I’ll be demonstrating some new products and getting geeky with their visitors. At La Marzocco’s Out of the Box event I’ll be speaking about the role of the Barista and my views on where it’s heading, and with WCE I’m part of some fun brew bar and Q&A sessions with other champions.

4th wave? is it happening right now? What is your take on it, Mr. Perger?

I try to avoid using waves to describe styles of coffee, but I’ll do my best. At the moment we’re seeing a proliferation of recipes, equipment, techniques and roasts that favor consistency and repeatability. If the Barista’s role in this equation is diminishing, how can she remain relevant? I see the Barista becoming much more closely aligned with her original role – service professional behind a bar. Instead of laboring over shot times, doses and grinders, I’d like to see all Baristas focusing on becoming consummate, welcoming, knowledgable, empathetic service professionals. Who also serve coffee. Our customers don’t care how we made it, as long as it’s delicious. So why should Baristas care how they make it? This movement, towards greater automation and better service, is my best guess at what the 4th wave could be.

I would like to thank Matt for taking time from his busy schedule to talk to us. Cheers, Mr. Perger.

Next week, Tim Wendelboe will talk to us about his new farm and future plans, plus we will be able to read about his take on the 4th wave of coffee.

You can comment on my original post on Coffee Hustle. Let me know how you perceive the 4th coffee wave.