Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

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Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby Duck on Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:39 am

Somebody please tell me that I've lost my ever-lovin' mind and need to sit down, shut up and get back in line.

I finally got around to ordering a Hario Buono kettle. I know, I'm late but it is what it is. I have seen these used in cafes and all over the place from nearly everyone that I consider to be authoritative on drip brewing, but hadn't really gotten to inspect one up close until this week.

Aesthetic Design? Full points. Functionality? Gold star. Delivery on promised pouring control? You bet. Overall material construction? REALLY? It might be mainly stainless steel, but the bottom sure isn't. Not the same grade, anyway. I'm no metallurgist, but I am shocked over how thin this thing is and the fact that it has cheap plastic handles! C'mon, give me some neoprene or SOMETHING! Granted, I am using mine on a gas stove so it's prone to heat up more than in a cafe, but it should be able to handle that without heating those handles up so much given that my flame is completely under the kettle and not creeping up the side.

In a cafe setting, you better get to stepping if you're doing a hot water transfer (not that you would want to delay much anyway) or pouring multiple cups because from a heat retention standpoint, there will be none of that. Zero! I'll have to confirm this thought when I can thread a Scace device or some such through the holes in the top and track it with hard numbers and not hypotheticals, but I just can't see how it would, given how thin it is. Check me out on this, grab a spoon and tap the side just a bit (careful, don't mar or dent the awesome design and finish!). Is that not terrible sounding?

Like I said, I love what this kettle does from a functional standpoint. The control I now have to pour and create turbulence where I want to is incredible, love it. My beef is with the cost to value ratio as it relates to material construction. I mean, this gardener's watering can (http://www.amazon.com/Rumford-Gardener- ... 658&sr=8-1) looks like if you were to bend the tip down just so and have it some with a lid, you'd be in about the same spot for less than half the price and it's ALL stainless steel! I doubt that it's 18/10 (can't think of why it would be), but it's also not priced like it.

Here's something else to consider from a cost-to-value standpoint in terms of materials: Cafelat's 33 oz. / 1L pitcher, which is made incredibly well from a materials view, weighs 388 grams (just happen to have one here) of solid, thick stainless steel. It's available from Visions for $32.40 , making it $.084/g. The larger 1.2L Hario Buono Kettle weighs in at 342 grams, is made of far cheaper materials for $56.99, again from Visions to be consistent, making it $.166/g, almost exactly twice as much. But IMO, the quality isn't there to justify it! Granted, we're comparing two different products, function-wise, but we're also still comparing steel/metal pouring receptacles with no moving parts or other features to offset the additional expense. Both have specialized pouring tips, both have attached handles via soldering, both are roughly the same size, both are made to handle hot liquids, etc.

So how are these Hario kettles $50-60 and the Takahiro models $125+? To be fair, I have not seen the Takahiros for myself and am purely speculating, but even if it is made with 3x or even 5x better materials, the price is still nowhere near justified in my mind if it offers only the same functionality and doesn't have double walls or something. Again, I haven't seen one personally so I'll stand down from commenting on them.

For the record, I am not hating on Hario overall, just taking issue with this one product given the acclaim and hype it has received from the community overall. I have the v60 dripper as well and I am digging it quite a bit and having a blast learning to use it better. Decently thick ceramic construction, nice spiraling to direct flow quickly, etc. A little pricey for what it is, but it's not bad and still falls within the acceptable cost premium/perceived value range. Certainly not as disproportionate as the Buono kettle. We are all used to paying a premium for things that have small differences in it from a design or functionality perspective and I'm cool with that, but if you are going to charge a premium like this, you should deliver on that premium as well.

So please, do what you have to. Correct my thinking, mock me, rebuke me if you must, just somebody tell me how so many highly skilled, uber-knowledgeable coffee people jumped on this bandwagon and this point hasn't come up in any post that I've seen or heard of. I'd love to be proved wrong with my perceived value of this Buono kettle.
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby TimNoble on Sat Jun 05, 2010 2:13 am

True enough, Aaron. At Town Hall Coffee, we're looking for some neoprene or something to cozy up the Buono. The temp loss is substantial, and we're pulling from our Bunn tower, turning around and pouring for the brew bar.
(I can't believe you actually posted this, though. :wink: )
I've looked at fat separators, olive oil cans, and modding steam pitchers- nothing works as well, except the Takahiro, and I'm still too poor for that nonsense.
For two years, the chant at every throwdown and jam has been "somebody MUST be working on a domestically made advanced version of the buono." I haven't heard a peep though.
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby nick on Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:23 pm

"Price justification?" Well, this wouldn't be the first time that someone's calling-out a coffee preparation tool for being 'overpriced.' :wink:

I have a Takahiro, Hario Buono, and a Kalita (which cost me about $140). First, a quick note: the prices here are about on-par with what these things cost in Asia. You might think they'd be much more expensive here than in Asia, but they aren't.

That said Aaron, it's gonna be the same response that folks got when people got sticker-shock about stuff like the Clover or the Robur-E: it's less about price, more about value. If it's worth it at that price to you and/or your business, then it's not too expensive. If it's not worth it at that price, well... frankly, I like the Takahiro best (I got mine for $90 a couple years ago). I frankly find less value in the Buono at $50-ish. Compared to the Takahiro, it feels hollow and thin with its welded design vs. the one-piece cast polished body stainless. The pouring action of the Takahiro is more controlled, due to its narrower spout and slightly more vertical spout angle.

The Kalita is nice, pretty, and has a thinner and longer spout than either of the others, but the design seems to lose more heat, especially through the spout.

The thing to remember is that these are designed for the purpose of pouring water into coffee drippers. Similarly-shaped pitchers that are made for watering plants may not be food-safe (especially at the appropriate temperatures), and stuff for olive-oil or the like are usually not big enough.

Value. The Takahiro is worth it to me. I like the Kalita sometimes, though it's more of a show-piece than anything. The Hario Buono feels cheap and chintzy, but probably only because I have the Takahiro. FYI, when I was in Korea, I saw a made-in-China Takahiro knockoff for sale for about $40. :twisted: Maybe we can get those imported! I also saw a gold-look finish Takahiro. :shock:
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby Jim Saborio on Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:56 am

Mr. Duck, I see what your saying. If it were a tea kettle, I'd totally agree with you. The buono, however, is a highly specialized piece of junk with a very limited market.

They don't sell or make many and they probably don't reach the economies of scale to make them $6.99 like the tea kettles at Target.

In terms of jumping on the bandwagon, keep in mind that this is pretty much the only readily available coffee kettle in North America right now. Well, there is the Takahiro too...

The Hario Buono is OK. Does it do a better job than a steam pitcher, waterpik or garden hose? Hell yeah! We've used one commercially for about a year and it shows little serious wear. Yeah, it doesn't feel as sturdy as the Takahiro, but I can't imagine having to replace it in the next 4-5 years.

I agree with Nick on his assessment of the Takahiro's virtues. I can't imagine the kettle making your coffee taste significantly better, but it's sure nice for some poor fool who has to make 50+ pour-overs a shift. They pour well... yes, better than the Buono.

Oh, as a disclaimer, I just started selling Hario Buonos at my shop. I have one at home too. They sell reasonably well, but I can't imagine trying to sell Takahiros to Joe Pour-Over at the prices I've seen.

Heat loss? Get an induction plate, or pretend and ignore it. You will need a water tower that dispenses water at 210F to compensate for the heat lost while transferring from tower to kettle. Can your tower do 210F consistently? If so, please contact me.
-JIm

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby phaelon56 on Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:46 am

I'll get a pic posted of the pouring kettle I bought several weeks ago at a small roaster/cafe in Taiwan. It is aesthetically a few points lower than the Hario, but appears to be all 18/8 or 18/10 construction, has a metal handle, nice and solid, and has good thermal mass. It looks like it will pour well (have not yet tried it but has the right type of spout). Retail price including tax was about $20 USD. I tossed the box in order to minimize the suitcase space it took up and don't recall the brand. If you happen to be in Taiwan they are available at Wilbeck Coffee:
北市信陽街26-7號 2312-1252
Taipei , Xinyang Street 26-7 No. 2312-1252
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby nick on Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:02 am

For those reading who are wondering what these kettles look like:

L-R: Hario Buono, Takahiro Stainless 0.9L, Kalita 0.9L Copper
Image

Spout detail
Image
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:01 am

Tiamo is the brand. Chinese manufacturer who has lots of tea and coffee stuff including cold brew and siphon systems but these pots do not appear on the web site for the US distributor. It's reasonably heavy - probably not 18/8 or 18/10 as I thought but can't be sure. The bottom plate is about the same thickness as the Hario but overall mass is greater. This pot weighs 11.2 ounces compared to 14.4 for the Hario that is 2X the size. Retail price on the one I bought was $20 including Taiwan taxes. They had a larger one at about $30 retail.

It comfortably holds 16 ounces of water.

Image

Image
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby Duck on Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:04 pm

I’ve been waiting for the responses to roll in before re-addressing, so thank you to all who responded. Good rational comments, all; but I’d like to address a few things.

TimNoble wrote:“The temp loss is substantial, and we're pulling from our Bunn tower, turning around and pouring for the brew bar.”


I suspected this and made mention of it, so how is so much cash being spent on something with such poor heat retention? I mean, there is not a single gram of weight dedicated to insulating these bad boys. Again, I submit that of the product lines listed, I have only seen the Hario Buono up close but I found some great pics of the Takahiros that showed the inside and…nothing. Yet, it’s $125 - $165?

TimNoble wrote:“nothing works as well, except the Takahiro, and I'm still too poor for that nonsense”


Nonsense indeed.

nick wrote:“it's gonna be the same response that folks got when people got sticker-shock about stuff like the Clover or the Robur-E: it's less about price, more about value”


First off, this was a great post by Nick, so thanks for this and the later post with the comparative pics. However, in this instance, the value over price argument doesn’t quite stick IMO. With the whole line of Electric Mazzers, the cost-to-value gap is closed substantially given that you now have zero coffee waste. So you pay more up front but you get it back. The Clover I think is a little better comparison but even then, the sticker price was SO great and the gap was so wide that only a few companies that I can think of ever recovered that expense (Artigiano, Stumptown and ???). Even then, it was a fairly sturdy, well-made machine that allowed the user to control multiple brewing variables and it was a one of a kind machine. This Buono kettle is a piece of pressed metal with no moving parts that is used to pour water, albeit strategically.

For the record, I am not advocating that we start using plant watering cans or other pitchers / devices not meant to be used for heating water and coffee. The point was that from a materials construction standpoint, they were about the same. Intent of use and function are entirely different matters.

nick wrote:“The Hario Buono feels cheap and chintzy, but probably only because I have the Takahiro”


Takahiro, or not, is IS cheap and chintzy! Effective? Sure. But for me, I can’t quite assign the same value to it. The only redeeming argument for these seriously overpriced kettles being used at all at this price (and I think every responding poster has touched on this) is that there is simply a lack of alternate options. Complaining publicly without offering solutions is one of my pet peeves and I try to stay away from it, but this time out I was in fact looking for options, so thanks Owen for bailing me out with the Tiamo line.

Jim Saborio wrote:“They don't sell or make many and they probably don't reach the economies of scale to make them $6.99 like the tea kettles at Target.”


It's a good thought, but I don’t know that I entirely buy the economies of scale argument in this instance. I understand it, certainly. Any café owner current or previous who has ever failed to be able to purchase with any kind of significant scale (especially something like paper goods) understands this, but Hario is a little bigger company. Are they Target-sized? Certainly not. But they are large enough to offer several products that use the same base materials so they are getting some scale. Plus, their demand is sky-high right now, so they should be achieving an even better economy of scale than they have in the past. To be fair, this is strictly my perception and not based on fact so if someone knows better, I would be happy to retract.

That said, the capitalist in me thinks it’s a pretty sweet deal. If you can convince people that your stuff is worth a 1000% markup or higher, may God bless you! Rock it out all you can! I ain’t mad at’cha! However, in thinking about this over the last few days, I wonder how often we as an industry make ourselves susceptible to being taken advantage of (the Clover being a prime example). It’s kind of like when you get married or have kids. Just because a store or manufacturer attaches the label of “bridal” or “baby”, the price triples, but the materials barely change. Oh sure, a little built in Scotch-guard or something, but it's still just a drool bib. Granted, since you’re now targeting a smaller and more specific market, your volume will likely be less so a higher markup is needed to keep the doors open, but the merchant is also playing on higher perceived value rate of return. Emotions get involved in the purchase, people start looking for value in places that it may or may not legitimately exist in a different context. I think that these kettles are an example of this and the problem is exacerbated by a lack of alternate options. We are effectively creating our own demand at this price point and I don’t think it will be too much longer before someone does something about it and either kicks up the bells and whistles with things like like heat retention, etc. or significantly drops the price. It’s textbook supply and demand economics. One of the components WILL change sooner or later. I'm fine with the overall price point in general, I just wanted to see more for it.

Tomorrow, I am firing up my new coffee refractometer and MoJotogo iPhone app for the first time to figure out exactly how all this works. I am sure as heck looking forward to adding back in some value to my purchase!
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby nick on Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:11 am

Duck wrote:However, in this instance, the value over price argument doesn’t quite stick IMO. With the whole line of Electric Mazzers, the cost-to-value gap is closed substantially given that you now have zero coffee waste.

Aaron, my friend, I frankly see your post as the second thing I've read this week that was asking for justification (or, in the other situation, asking to "convince me otherwise") but is stubbornly rejecting the reasonable responses. There's apparently no convincing nor justifying that's gonna happen for y'all. Interestingly enough, both were fundamentally about value.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. Perceived value depends on your value system. If you don't think it's worth it, then it's not worth it to you. If others think it's worth it to them, then it's worth it to them. That's pretty much what it boils down to, isn't it?

To me, there's actually a bigger issue on this subject: Most folks in the US who use these kettles are pouring water with them. Most folks in Asia who I've seen use these kettles (and have been using them for a lot longer than we have here) are dripping water with them. Gotta remember, these suckers don't just apply water to the grounds/slurry, they also create agitation, and you can absolutely over-agitate or pierce the coffee bed in less-than-desirable ways. Some may have noticed that Fetco changed their shower-head designs on their Extractor-Series brewers a couple years ago. Simply put, they went from a "spraying" head to a "dripping" head, and the coffee quality is the better for it.

But that's a whole 'nother subject. 8)
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby Duck on Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:12 pm

LOL! Wow, now I feel a little called out! I read through large sections of that convince me otherwise post and the many, many responses just yesterday and decided to pass from jumping in because I saw him as too stubborn with his mind made up. I'll give the guy a small kudo for at least attempting to answer his criticism rather than just dropping a post and leaving it. Your comparison does have some similarities.

nick wrote:Value is in the eye of the beholder. Perceived value depends on your value system. If you don't think it's worth it, then it's not worth it to you. If others think it's worth it to them, then it's worth it to them. That's pretty much what it boils down to, isn't it?


Jay Caragay shot me a Facebook message on the side and made a good comment that supports value on the other side and in fairness, it bears repeating. Jay said "The reality for me is that these are working items for us. We're using them to make some of the best coffees available and making a profit off of them. $55 for a Buono isn't that bad considering."

True, a cafe setting would have a higher possibility for value than a home setting and I acknowledge that. However, in my value system, I still feel that an item touted (and priced) as being super-premium turned out to be made of second and third tier materials and I can't get around that. Maybe in time I will feel differently after I pour a hundred gallons or so through it but for now, it's where I'm at.

Maybe being married for 10 years to one of the the thriftiest ladies I know has taken its toll. I don't know. Maybe I've just taught through one too many Dave Ramsey classes.

It's not that I expected more from a dripper kettle. I knew for the most part what I was buying. It's more that I did not expect to find less in terms of materials used to get there that threw a monkey wrench into my assigning value process. Anyway, I think I'm starting to repeat myself and if I post any more on this, I'm going to sound more stubborn than the "Why doesn't the BGA do more specifically for Seattle?" guy and no one ever wants to be "That Guy".
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby nick on Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:40 pm

Hope my post up there didn't come across as harsher than I meant... ain't trying to call you out, bro... I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin. :D

Now if you wanna stick to hatin' on the Hario Buono kettle, I'll sum up my feelings on it this way: the Hario Buono pouring kettles are to hand-poured coffee brewing as the Mazzer Super Jolly is to espresso grinding. Solid, gets the job done, relatively affordable, and as soon as you can afford to invest in something better, you'll never want to go back. :shock: :twisted: :oops: :wink:
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Re: Price justification for Hario and Takahiro kettles?

Postby Duck on Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:58 pm

Ha. No worries. We've known each other far too long for me to get riled up over that! It actually gave me an idea for a blog post in a completely different context. I'll kick you a link in the next couple of days if I actually get it thought out, developed and posted.
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