I had previously only seen it at the SCAA show in April and had some good tasting brews on it but I really did not have the chance to play with it myself. Also, the recent intense focus on manual brewing methods has put the interest on machines like the Clover and the Trifecta a bit on hold. However, I was very curious to try it out, as we have been looking for a new solution to brew black coffee for our bar for some time now due to the fact that the Clover is not always giving us the results we want.
So, what is a Trifecta? I will try to sum it up for you:
1. The Trifecta is a 1-2 cup brewer that brews a filter styled coffee within 1-2 minutes.
2. It uses a fine mesh metal filter to filtrate the coffee.
3. It uses compressed air to create turbulence in the brew while brewing (stirring)
4. It uses air pressure to press the liquid through the metal filter, much like the aeropress.
5. The Trifecta allows the barista to play with dose, grind particle size, brew time, pre infusion, turbulence velocity and amount, temperature, etc. it is all repeatable by programming through an easy to operate menu.
Working with the Trifecta is not very difficult. It took me about 10 minutes to hit an extraction at about 18,5% on a 65g/l ratio with a brew time of 45 seconds. However when I tasted this cup it tasted very bitter and not good at all. I noticed that the program I was working with had a very strong turbulence that might have lead to an over extraction of the fine grinds, and although I ended up within the Gold Cup standards of extraction ratio, we must not forget that the Extract MoJo that I am using to measure extractions with is only measuring the average extraction yield.
I tried to adjust the grind coarser and prolong the brew time, and that seemed to help a lot. I also adjusted the turbulence to a minimum velocity but with several short intervals within the brew time which now was about 70 seconds. At the end I got a really sweet cup of our Cielito Lindo coffee with clarity and great aftertaste that also ended up at a 18,5% extraction.
With such a good result on the Cielito Lindo coffee I was eager to see if the Trifecta could cope with our Kenyan coffees. This turned out to be a real challenge. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to get that crisp and lively acidity in the cup that I normally get with an Aeropress or when I am cupping the coffee. Sure the coffee still got very sweet and clear, but without that firm acidity the Kenyan coffees are not that interesting to drink. I am sure it is all a matter of adjustment and trying harder, but in the short time I had to play with the Trifecta, this seemed to be my biggest hurdle.
In retrospect, regardless of acidity or not, all of our coffees came out really nice from the Trifecta. They were all sweet and clear and well defined. The repeatability was also impressive, and I think the reason for this is that once you have the brew profile programmed there is nothing you can do to screw it up. Like on the Clover, you can still affect the quality by different stirring techniques. This means that all baristas will brew a slightly different brew just because of the variation in stirring techniques (turbulence).
Would I buy one? Well to be honest I really dislike the design of the Trifecta. Putting it in a neatly designed coffee shop it looks like a tractor in a Ferrari store. Not very sexy. (It doesn’t help that it makes a lot of nasty sounds when it dispenses the final brew into the cup either.) The Trifecta is also a bit time consuming. Although the brew time is only 1 minute or less, you have to add at least 30 seconds more, because the machine has a routine it needs to go through before and after the brewing process. That means the whole process for our Kenyan coffee took about 1 minute and 40 seconds (see video below) + measuring and grinding time. Although this is not a lot of time, you most certainly can make an Aeropressed coffee in less time and the brew would be equally tasty.
The price is also a bit steep. I could buy a lot of Aeropresses for that price and still afford a high quality water boiler that is more useable as well.
Despite this, I still think the Trifecta really has potential. If I was running a chain of coffee shops, I would definitely consider installing a Trifecta. Why? It doesn’t take a huge amount of training in order to operate one and the repeatability and the results are great. It is a really good way of making freshly brewed black coffee, especially if you compare it tho what most coffee shops are doing today, which is brewing “todays coffee” on huge filter brewers. We all know what a stale coffee from a half full air pot tastes like and with the Trifecta you will never have that problem, ever again.
To sum it up, the Trifecta is a great tool, but not a necessity. Especially if you feel you are already mastering the “brew by the cup” concept. I still would like to see the Trifecta in action in more places as I really enjoyed some of the brews I made on it.
(In case you are wondering we went for the Aeropress and an Über boiler to replace our Clover. This will happen in 4-5 weeks as we are waiting for the Über boiler to be delivered.)