A pre-order campaign for the machine is scheduled to launch later this year.
The Ratio Four+ Brewer
The working prototype of the Ratio Four+ brewer stands 11 inches tall with a compact footprint and a boiler-free design. Water is heated on demand through a built-in flow-through heater for brews up to 20 ounces (600 milliliters) in volume.
A John Guest-made push-connect fitting built into the brewer’s back panel allows for direct plumbing. Alternatively, a built-in pump can draw water from a tank.
Either source allows for the Ratio Four+ to complete its multi-cup brews in as little as four minutes, including continuous, back-to-back brews for the extended periods required of a commercial cafe or mobile bar setup, according to the company.
“In the commercial space, a lot of equipment tends to be pretty big, difficult to move around and expensive,” Ratio Coffee Machines CEO and Founder Mark Hellweg told Daily Coffee News in Portland. “This unit is obviously light — It’s well built, it’s substantial, there’s some heft to it — but it’s not a very large, heavy thing that you need two people to set in place. I could see throwing this into a pelican case, taking it to an event and setting it up on a table.”
Control over variables such as water temperature, total volume and the timing and volume of individual pours will be accessible through an upcoming iPhone or Android app. The machine maintains Ratio’s hallmark single-button interface and screen-free design.
“You don’t need the app to make it make tasty coffee,” said Hellweg. “This has just the right amount of precision and control that we want to offer to a light commercial application, but Ratio’s approach is that we really focus on the beauty of the ritual of filter coffee, in a form that is beautiful with well-built materials.”
Out of the box, the Four+ will perform similarly to the existing, home-focused Raito Eight and Ratio Six brewers, with rails alongside the shower head holding a slide-on flat-bottom brew basket.
Also like the Eight and Six, the Four+’s brew basket can be placed directly on top of Ratio’s custom smoked borosilicate glass carafe for an open-air, pourover-style brew. Yet unlike the Eight or Six, the Four+ has no magnet-and-sensor safety system preventing water delivery in the absence of a Ratio carafe. Thus, the brewer can be used with any carafe and filter holder that might fit.
“Because this is a light commercial machine, we decided to just go away from that and let people activate it,” said Hellweg. “We took a hybrid approach here. We designed it to be very flexible.”
Four+ users will be able to program the physical buttons for their own usage needs.
Ratio is also developing a simplified version of the machine for the home, office, and hotel markets called the Ratio Four. That model will not be user-programmable and will only draw water from an included external water tank, Hellweg said.
A Portland Coffee Story
Ratio Coffee Machines was founded by Hellweg in 2012, approximately five years after he founded the consumer espresso equipment company Clive Coffee.
Ratio initially focused on the Ratio Eight, a premium home coffee maker that continues to be assembled by hand at the company’s Southeast Portland headquarters. In 2019 Ratio rolled out its follow-up brewer, the Ratio Six.
In August 2021, the company expanded its Portland facilities, adding approximately 5,000 square feet of adjoining warehouse space to its original 4,000-square-foot office and assembly plant.
“We’re so grateful to be in a historical building a few hundred yards from the Willamette River, just across from downtown Portland,” said Hellweg. “Who knows how long light manufacturing will be possible this close in, but we’re enjoying it while we can.”
Following initial plans in 2018, the development of the Ratio Four and Four+ shifted into high gear in 2020, Hellweg said. The project has been supported by multiple investors, including from VEA Ventures, the Italian holding company that made an undisclosed minority investment in Ratio last year, and individuals such as Geoff Watts and Brant Curtis.
Currently, Ratio projects sales of the Four+ to launch at $595 for single units, with wholesale discounts available, while the Four is expected to launch at $295.
“Being a home equipment manufacturer that’s going into the commercial space, we recognize we’re going to have one chance to get it right and to produce good value, good quality, good coffee,” said Hellweg. “We see that. This is an important project for us.”
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.