With a never-ending cycle of coffee products launching without solving a new problem or improving on the old solution, I was shocked and impressed when I came upon LOCA, the reusable ceramic coffee filter. The beauty is in its simplicity and sustainability. It is, on the one hand, just a coffee filter, which we already have. On the other hand, however, this coffee filter is exceptional. First, it is completely opaque and looks like a stone, so there are no holes to be seen which makes it seem quite magical when the water smoothly and evenly drains through as if it was a colander.
The next significant aspect is that the holes are finer than a paper filter, so when brewing, as a pour-over, the water flows through at a slower speed, and the filter absorbs more, as LOCA puts it, “impurities”. The slower flow creates a natural timing mechanism while brewing, which is nice for the novice or those who detest a timer when brewing first thing in the morning. Finally, the LOCA is solid, so it does not need the aid of a V60 or another apparatus; you can brew directly into your cup with the included stand or simply by resting it on your cup. The V-shaped filter fits perfectly into a Chemex or Clever brewer if you prefer a carafe or full-emersion brew.
There is one divisive feature of the LOCA, which is the filtration itself. The supporting sales literature explains how this ceramic filter removes “impurities” and creates a smoother, sweeter coffee. I find this to be true. I tried multiple coffees with multiple brewing methods and found that all the coffees came out very sweet without any bitterness. That being said, the coffees all lacked acidity as well. The coffee came out flat and round even when brewing a lightly roasted Ethiopian Duromina, which previously contained complex acidity that included citric and malic acid. It tasted oddly similar to an espresso blend I used earlier.
My next experiment was to brew two identical coffees side by side using a Chemex. I used the same coffee, grind, ratio and brew time; the only difference was LOCA and a paper filter. My findings were that the TDS came out lower with the LOCA filter (1.51% with Chemex paper filters / 1.36% with the LOCA). However, when it came to the sensory aspects, there were apparent differences. The coffee I used was an espresso blend at a medium roast.
Paper Filter Tasting Notes: present roast characteristic, dark chocolate, caramel, light acidity, slight bitterness as it cooled and a sweet finish.
LOCA Tasting Notes: caramel, creamy milk chocolate, no bitterness, almost no acidity and no roast characteristic. Sweet milk chocolate finish.
I found this to be an interesting phenomenon: no matter what coffee you brew with LOCA, they all taste very similar. They are all mild, round, sweet coffees. I truly enjoyed using the LOCA filter in every way, and I very much appreciated the sustainability element; however, if you are buying unique subtle coffees, you should not use this filter. For example, brewing a high-quality Kenya on this filter would be a waste of money. On the other hand, if you want a sweet, delicious, enjoyable coffee without having to work too hard at it, this is a great fit. If you have a pour-over and cannot master it or do not want to, this filter will up your game and help you make every coffee better. If better is, sweet, round, and gentle. For the acid-head coffee drinkers, you will not be happy. LOCA is very upfront about this aspect as they share similar findings with their flavor chart highlighting only the sweetness.
Akiko Yasunaga of Fun Projects Inc., the company helping to market the product, shared some of the history of the filter with me, “They are all made by Kubota Minoru Ceramics in Arita on the island of Kyushu. This area of Japan is famous for its porcelain ceramics with a 400-year-old tradition.” Akiko also shared that they have had a version of this filter for thirty years; however, it never really took off as the artisan ceramicists did not have a path to market. This is where Fun Projects enters the picture and creates a path to market with a Kickstarter and an importer from the US. They also gave the product Its new name, LOCA, which means “filtration” in Japanese.
For the first time in its thirty-year history as a product, the LOCA filter will finally be available in the United States by the end of 2021.
For more information on the product, visit here: LOCA
To pre-order your LOCA before they are released in the US, visit Here: LOCA Kickstarter
For detailed cleaning and care information for the delicate filter, visit here: LOCA MAINTENANCE