The specialty coffee market has no shortage of brewing methods to choose from. There’s the Kalita Wave, the Hario V60, the Chemex, the AeroPress, the syphon… Many of these are technologically innovative and the results of intense scientific research. But the Vandola is something else altogether.
This “new” Costa Rican brewing device is inspired by traditional pour over methods and draws on pre-Columbian art. What’s more, it’s handmade, visually stunning, and designed to be used in coffee shops.
I met up with inventor Minor “El Maestro” Alfaro to find out how the Vandola works, what impact it has on the final coffee flavor, and the best recipe for it. Here’s what I found out.
The unique artwork on each Vandola is influenced by pre-Columbian pottery. Credit: Donny Chow
What Is a Vandola?
The Vandola is a clay pour over brewing device that looks similar to a jug. However, it also has a narrow neck for the filter to sit in, a handle, and a spout. Alfaro took inspiration from the café chorreado, a traditional Costa Rican brewing method that dates back more than two centuries. This brewing method involves filtering grounds through a cloth filter or “sock”.
Alfaro also tells me that the Vandola is designed to be used in cafés. He feels that most pour over methods were created with individuals in mind, making them hard to use in a high-traffic coffee shop. I ask him how the Vandola is different; he explains that it’s durable with a sturdy handle, easy to pour, and designed to avoid spills.
The Vandola is made entirely of clay. Credit: Diego Ponce
How Does The Vandola Affect The Final Flavor?
You’ll find a valve at the neck of the Vandola, where the bottom of the filter paper will sit. Alfaro tells me that this allows the coffee to be infused faster, as well as creating a better oxygenation. The end result is a beverage with more defined flavors and a predominant sweetness.
Two-Time World Cup Tasters Champion Gabriel Céspedes also gives me his opinion on the Vandola: “The aroma is highlighted and lasts longer, the acidity is delicate yet bright, and the body is soft. The flavors are accented in a more delicate manner. In my case, I can better appreciate the retro-nasal aromas when drinking the coffee.”
The valve is key for oxygenation. Credit: Minor Alfaro
How Is The Vandola Made?
Every Vandola is made by a potter, who is also responsible for adding pre-Columbian art to the pour over brewer. Alfaro tells me that choosing the right potters is key: he wants people with a thorough understanding of pre-Columbian ceramics and artwork, along with their cultural importance.
It takes an entire month to produce a Vandola. First, the cone and the body are sculpted separately and then joined. It then takes 15 to 22 days for the clay to dry, depending on the humidity levels. Only after that is the Vandola is ready to be fired at 800°C. It’s painted and varnished, and then once it’s cooled it’s fired a second time, but at 1,100°C. Now, finally, the Vandola is ready to use – but only if it survived the firing. Not all of them do.
This process means every Vandola is unique. Not only are they handmade, which adds individuality to every one of them, but they undergo slight changes in shape while in the oven. Alfaro tells me that high-quality materials are used in order to standardize the sizes as much as possible, but even so there will be some variations.
Aldo Nero and Thubten Wangchen, Director of Tibet House in Barcelona and member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile from Europe, drinking Guatemalan coffee from a Vandola. Credit: Lorena Wong
A Vandola Brew Guide
So how do you brew with these beautiful pour overs? Let me share Alfaro’s recommended recipe with you. You can purchase a 500 ml or 1,000 ml Vandola; this recipe is designed for the 500 ml version.
- Gather your Vandola, coffee, and filter. You can use a paper, metal, or cloth filter that’s designed for either a Chemex or a V60.
- Preheat the Vandola. This step is crucial: since the device is very thick, if it’s cold it will absorb a lot of the coffee’s initial temperature. However, preheating it will keep your coffee warm for around 30 minutes.
- Rinse the filter and grind the coffee.
- Coffee dose: 35g
- Coffee grind: Since every Vandola is unique, it will take a couple of uses for you to find the best grind size. The width of the neck will affect the speed at which the coffee drips through. However, if you’re using a V60 filter, you might want to start off with a finer grind than if you’re using a Chemex filter.
- Pre-infuse with at least 70g of water, making sure that the coffee bed is completely wet.
- After 30–40 seconds, slowly pour your water in concentric circles. This should take 4–5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
You can use V60 or Chemex filters in your Vandola. Credit: Minor Alfaro
Written by Fabiola Solano.
Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.
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