With no moving or electrical parts, one would think a steaming pitcher would be a breeze to engineer and manufacture. No complicated PID controller like Stagg EKG. No first-of-its-kind vacuum pump like Atmos. Easy, right? Right.
At least that’s what we thought when we started on this journey into steaming pitcher land. Named after the whirlpool effect in water, Eddy took two years to complete from start to finish with the design guidance from our partners at Branch. We decided against the path of least resistance and chose to swim upstream, if you will, because we knew we could make a serious statement in the saturated pitcher market if done correctly. Each of Eddy’s unique features was born from extensive user testing with baristas. Coincidentally, the features the baristas requested posed major manufacturing challenges which, after countless prototypes, we were able to conquer.
We sat down with Eddy’s product manager, Hanna McPhee, to talk about the user feedback loop, manufacturing woes, and the final product we couldn’t be more proud to share with you. The two-year process was well worth the wait.
What was your role in bringing Eddy Steaming Pitcher to life?
My role centered around working with our design partners at Branch to research and prototype Eddy’s unique design features by observing specialty coffee shops and baristas. We wanted Fellow to have the best understanding of what baristas like about the current milk pitchers on the market and what they didn’t like. We then took this industry feedback and went to the drawing board to see if we could actually make a physical product that included everyone’s requests and feedback. This part was extremely tricky and the main reason it took us two years to engineer Eddy.
What inspired Fellow to dive into the espresso tool world?
Obviously, our origin is pour-over brewing equipment but we dipped our toes into drinkware with Joey. As we got into the mug game, we quickly realized we wanted to make cups that made it easier to serve milk-based drinks and pour latte art. When we started engineering this new line of drinkware called Monty Milk Art Cups, we decided to design in tandem a thoughtful steaming pitcher for creating latte art both at home and in the café. Fellow always gets very excited when brainstorming new coffee products, but we won’t make something unless we truly believe we can add our special touch to make something better than what’s currently on the market.
What are these differences that set Eddy apart from other pitchers?
In both form and function, Eddy is very different. From a functional perspective, the most defining feature is the sharp front crease. It’s a giant bend that goes almost all the way down the front face of the pitcher. Most steaming pitchers have this little gullet as we like to call it. It’s what you see on a pelican or some type of bird that catches fish in its beak. When pouring, the gullet creates two different flow rates which isn’t necessarily intuitive to both home baristas and professional baristas. Obviously, when you use a product for a long time, pour after pour, you get used to this change in flow rate. With Eddy, we wanted to try something different and see if we could keep the flow rate consistent from the start, which would lead to a more intuitive pour for the user. The sharp crease on Eddy did result in a faster pour because now the milk is all going at one speed. However, we do think that we accomplished creating a more intuitive drawing tool. This sharp crease combined with Eddy’s unique fluted spout, gives you more control and a better understanding of what happens with the milk when your hand moves.
From a form perspective, we worked closely with our partners at Branch to visually create something that’s unlike any other pitcher out there. We’re always trying to keep in mind designing for both specialty cafes and home kitchens. This product should be something you are proud to leave on your counter or beside your espresso machine and not something you want to hide away in your cupboard.
What was your user testing process?
We created many different prototypes and had several cafés around the Bay Area use the product in the café behind bar. This was really important because wanted them to use Eddy in the same workflow they would during normal service hours. After every new production round, we’d bring the new, more polished version of Eddy back to our test cafés and start the process all over again. In addition to café use, we interviewed many different barista champ competitors via Skype and also had them send pictures of how they hold their current steaming pitchers. I have a file on my desktop with dozens of close-up photos of people’s hands holding different pitchers. It’s a little creepy to be honest.
How did Eddy’s design morph after giving the different prototypes to baristas?
Every feature of Eddy was impacted by user testing but the ribbon handle, measurement aids, and stainless steel thickness stand out the most in my mind. We kept hearing over and over again that milk waste was a really big concern for small specialty cafés. To help mitigate waste, we added measurement aids inside of Eddy to ensure precise milk pours. We also got feedback from a bunch of different baristas about the importance of thickness for a steaming pitcher. They wanted to be able to easily gauge how hot the milk was inside of the pitcher. These conversations directly impacted Eddy’s thickness. Lastly, and probably most importantly, our user testing lead us to our ribbon handle. When we first started making this pitcher, our goal was to make the end all, be all handle. This was going to be the best handle that you could ever dream of. What we quickly realized is that how baristas hold a steaming pitcher is pretty personal. It’s like how you hold a pencil or paintbrush. So instead of taking a hard stance on the perfect handle, we did a complete 180 and switched our stance to making a universal handle that would be flexible for all pouring styles. With the open-ended ribbon handle, Eddy can be manipulated and held anyway the barista chooses.
Any hiccups during the design process?
So it turns out that when metal is cylindrical, it doesn’t like to bend into a sharp crease. It took many, many versions of the product samples to be able to have front crease without the pitcher literally splitting in half. This becomes even harder to do when you are trying to make thousands of consistent creases.
It was also a challenge to figure out a way to make the ribbon handle as consistent as possible, as we wanted the handle distance from the body to be a very specific measurement based on feedback from users.
Do you think Eddy will be showing up in a barista champs competition near you?
Definitely. I think the fun part about latte art and milk-based drinks is that baristas are always coming up with incredible new techniques and cool new ways to perfect the process. Eddy is another tool to help push the boundaries on what baristas can do. Really, at the end of the day, it’s about having fun and taking pride in your coffee craft and Eddy helps support that.
Eddy Steaming Pitcher is available in graphite and polished steel and in 12 oz and 18 oz sizes. Grab one for your collection!