Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

press, drip, syphon, clover

Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Christopher Schooley on Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:47 am

Digging my new Clever Coffee Dripper, one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had at home.

"There is no skill required when you use Clever Coffee Dripper to prepare your coffee. Everyone with no experiences can enjoy making the perfectly filtered coffee bring out all the coffee aroma and flavor without bitter but not bring out the unwanted residues. Never worry about not perfectly control the moist and brewing process. The Clever Coffee Dripper makes the absolutely great coffee effortlessly"

Way good.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby IanClark on Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:26 am

Well,... as long as you weigh/measure your coffee/water and get your grind and extraction time correct =)

I'm extremely excited about the potential for easy & amazing coffee for the home brewing consumer using this technology. The most crucial variable that most home brewers will have difficulty controlling is measuring the water properly (note I'm talking about "total opposite of coffee geek" home brewers here). I've tried eyeballing the water level (as the typical home brewer would do straight out of the kettle) on a few Clevers while aiming for a 10.5-11oz yield typical of the average coffee mug and have generally added too much water, resulting in a weak cup. If you're aiming for a 14oz yield it's much easier obviously.

I've also underextracted (16%-17%) a number of brews when extracting for 5 minutes before draining with a lid on top to retain heat. The grind and brew time still has to be somewhat precise.

I don't intend to pick on any organizations or individuals here, but I think it's also important to say that if specialty coffee is to come closer to its full potential we can't be reliant on brew methods that require the production of elaborate instructional videos to give home brewers a chance at making their coffee taste great. I don't have a lot of experience with the Clever yet, but its simplicity gets me excited.

Here's a neat trick for the Clever: use the coaster it comes with as a lid. It's actually for the better that it doesn't fit the full diameter because you can use it to squish the floating grinds into the slurry while preventing heat loss. Just had a delish cup @ press pot grind, 6 minutes, 65 g/l, 1.5%/19.25%
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Matthew P. Williams on Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:47 am

Some of the best extractions (to my tastes) I have ever had have been on the Clever. Due to the small batch size and, consequently, the tighter margin of error, fine portion control is crucial. But for the average home user... even sloppy eyeball brews I have made to approximate the home user experience have been relatively good!

One of the best things about it for the home consumer... it's cheeeaap. Gear investment can be a really hard sell to entry-level home consumers. Yes, a french press is a foolproof way to make a good cup at home, but when it's almost twice as much as a Mr. Coffee for a glass beaker and some metal bits, it's not an easy sell. The Clever is at a really nice price point (the "it wouldn't hurt to try" sub-$20 price point), it's nearly fool proof, and makes a cup that is superior to french press (in my opinion - but you can also argue that a sludgy cup is a hard sell to the Mr. Coffee crowd). My point is... the Clever is a really good "downsell" to gateway home coffee consumers, and I am really excited about getting our retail customers on board.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby phaelon56 on Thu Sep 10, 2009 5:06 pm

IanClark wrote: The most crucial variable that most home brewers will have difficulty controlling is measuring the water properly (note I'm talking about "total opposite of coffee geek" home brewers here). I've tried eyeballing the water level (as the typical home brewer would do straight out of the kettle) on a few Clevers while aiming for a 10.5-11oz yield typical of the average coffee mug and have generally added too much water, resulting in a weak cup. If you're aiming for a 14oz yield it's much easier obviously.


I'm waiting for my Clever to arrive but have been playing with a one cup Melitta pourover and plugging the hole to get my desired extraction time. Water is easy although perhaps many home brewers would disagree. I already keep both 8 and a 16 oz Pyrex glass measuring cups on the counter for cooking use. Add 8 or 10 oz of filtered water... pour it into an empty tea kettle... boil and pour.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby theotherone on Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:05 pm

I'll start by saying that I dig Clever. A cheap yet effective brew system which can yield impressive results if used properly. I've spent the last year and a half playing with mine and I have tried many, many different parameters and techniques.

Today, however, I stumbled apon something which absolutely blew my mind. I have been experiencing longer than normal drawdown times, and I was having trouble sorting out why. After looking at the paper particles from my #2 Melitta filter swirling around in the Clever during it's warmup, I thought I'd see if there was any difference in the drawdown if I poured the warm paperwater out of the top instead of through the bottom using the release. The logic here: "paper particles don't collect in the bottom and slow the drawdown". Made a huge difference. 30 seconds shaved off of the total brew time! Funny thing is, that I used to pour the water out of the top because it was faster, but for some reason stopped. I'll be pouring off the top from now on.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby phaelon56 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:22 pm

I have always poured my paper rinse water out the top. I'm using it nearly every day in an office where I share it with one other person. We typically brew with roughly 22 to 24 grams of water and about 14 oz of water. The coffee is pre-ground once every four or five days and kept in a zip-loc (I know... I know... but I'm not "loaning" a grinder for this.)

I have also play with Clever at home but over time have reached the conclusion that I get better results with a V60 cone and a very carefully controlled pour-over technique. have not done TDS measurements or any other quantifiable measurement, and need to do an A/B blind test with a few people but for me the big sell of Clever is convenience and simplicity.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby theotherone on Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:51 am

I get better flavor clarity from my v60 as well, but I tend to get a bigger body from my Clever. Any recommendations on filters? I haven't tried bamboo yet, but I've heard good things. I currently just use the white Melitta #4. Mostly because they're easier to get, and because they taste better than the natural colored ones.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Mat Derago on Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:40 pm

I have been using the clever at home and started using the formula from the sweet maria guys. I have tweaked it a little using 23g of coffee and 365g of water and brown Filtropa #4 filters. I do a quick stir at about a minute and drop it at 2:30. Finishes in about 3:30. I have had great success with formula after trying many different dosages. I would really like to read what others are doing and what filters they use because I plan on using these on occasion at the cafe.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby theotherone on Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:03 pm

Mat, try this:

I use a one to seventeen ratio.
A 1:17 ratio puts you at 14g of dry, ground coffee mass to 238g of near boiling water.

Here is how I do it on the Clever.

Start by heating your water. Weigh out 14g of coffee. Grind it slightly finer than "drip". Place a #4 filter into your Clever and wet it with hot water to remove any excess paper particles and then dump the water out of the top. Right before your water starts to boil, place the Clever with wetted filter on the scale and add your dry, ground coffee mass ensuring you are still at your target weight (14g). Tare your scale, and after removing your kettle (boiling) from the heat, let it sit for about 30 seconds.

Now pour directly from the kettle into the dry, ground coffee in the Clever. Start your stopwatch when you begin pouring. Pour between 90g-100g of water and then stir the blooming slurry with 4-5 passes with a spoon to ensure that all of the grounds are wetted. Then fill to your finish weight of 238g. Try to do this in about 30 seconds. After you hit 238g, immediately cover the brewer with a small plate or something similar to retain as much heat as possible (the new Clevers have their own lid). At 50 seconds, uncover the brewer, and use a spoon to swish/stir the grounds (4-5 passes with the spoon). Place the Clever on your cup at 55 seconds and stir the grounds once more as the drawdown begins (again, 4-5 passes with spoon). Cover the brewer again. I have my grind size set so that it finishes the drawdown at about 2:10-2:20. You may have to give it a couple of tries to find the proper grind size to match that. The spent coffee should be in a flat or slightly domed mass at the bottom of the filter. The idea here is to keep all of the grounds in contact with the water for the entire brew. The swish/stir frees the coffee from the sides of the filter to let it fall to the bottom with the falling water. If necessary, give the water another quick stir around 1:15 to keep the grounds from sticking to the sides. This may be necessary with lower quality grinders, but not as much with grinders with more consistent particle distribution.

Last step is to drink up. The resulting cup should have a balance of sweet and body, with decent flavor clarity. If you want to change the resulting cup, your main variables to experiment with will be grind size, dwell time, and throw weight.



I spent a lot of time trying many different variables in order to come up with this method, but a lot of this came from talking with Scott Rao. I recently have been able to measure my extractions, and this method has yielded extractions around 19% and 1.27% TDS.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Sun May 08, 2011 2:23 pm

A different perspective on the Clever. I think it's a decent one mug (~12 fl. oz) filter cone that does indeed Cleverly get around the basic problem of Melitta filters and cones: they're designed for over-extraction (Melitta recommends 1T. of ultra-fine coffee per 6 oz. of water), while real drip coffee is made using a much coarser CBC drip or urn grind and appropriate water contact times (4-6 minutes for drip grind, 6-8 for urn). To put it another way, the Clever "solves" a problem that's created by trying to do something pretty silly: brew an individual cup of drip-strength coffee and expect it to taste great. Great drip coffee is all about maximizing the ground coffee mass to paper filter ratio, coarse-ish grind combined with relatively lengthy contact time and of course perfect 195-205 degree temp during the entire contact time. That's why truly great drip coffee comes from 1-3 gallon commercial brewers, with the 3 gallon urn still being the gold standard.

Reading theotherone's excellent instructions provoked a couple of reactions: one, how cool that someone is this serious about optimizing the Clever; two, this so totally does not translate into something that'll work for non-geek coffee lovers at retail. What does? Get yourself a 1 quart Nissan stainless steel thermos, an RSVP #6 size Melitta thermos cone and some white #6 filters (all available at Amazon.com). Preheat the thermos with very hot water and rinse the filter. Bring a liter of filtered tap water to a boil and meanwhile grind about 60-66 grams of coffee drip grind (or to make it really easy, fill up the blade grinder you have sitting on your counter and grind for 15 seconds). Wet the grounds once the water boils, then keep pouring until the water's gone. The result is a meaningful morning's coffee for a couple with no fooling around with weighing water, setting stopwatches, etc. The coffee is hotter and better-extracted than anything from a Clever and it stays hot, while the thermos is indestructible and will last the rest of your life. And, you can own a half dozen of 'em for the price of a Technivorm.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby nick on Sun May 08, 2011 5:33 pm

1-3 gallon commercial brewers do have many great attributes. While they definitely have a great number of advantages over most manual-brew methods, there's always a trade-off.

The #6-size Melitta cone is indeed useful... for making a larger batch of coffee. But what if you want a single-cup (~12 fl oz)? What if you want a single-cup for a single coffeebar customer? "Go find some friends" isn't an acceptable answer. 8)

For better or for worse, you can't type-out a truly decisive argument about brewed-product quality... there has to be critical tasting involved. I would argue against your claim "The coffee is hotter and better-extracted than anything from a Clever," and "...something pretty silly [is to] brew an individual cup of drip-strength coffee and expect it to taste great," but I'd be equally silly to attempt a counter-argument with just words.

So Kevin, I'm looking forward to seeing you compete next year at the Brewers Cup! 8)
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Mon May 09, 2011 12:36 pm

Hi Nick,

At the risk of further diverting or hijacking this thread, part of what I'm talking about falls under "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." I don't think anywhere near 100% of the the "third wave Pouristas" out there with their Tru Bru bars know who the CBC was, own a Ro-Tap or roller-mill grinder or have spent hours playing with brewing parameters on a pulse-brew Fetco or ideal holding temperature American Metal Ware urn. Had they done so the Luddite regression to single-cup filter drip brewers simply wouldn't have happened, since such brewers violate the basic principles of drip brewing. This is not to say I'm not sympathetic to the need for drip strength just made coffee!

As an old timer in the business I'll say that in terms of theater and perceived value I knew that as soon as we put the first espresso machine in a Starbucks store (1985) the writing was on the wall that drip strength coffee, or coffee by the cup, also needed to be made fresh and to order in order to have equivalent perceived value to what came out of the espresso machine. 48 oz. To give you a sense of history, we were talking seriously at Starbucks around 1990 about putting in premium coffee bars with Japanese-style banks of Bunsen burners with Cona vacuum pots and dedicated operators so that those who wanted to connect with the actual taste of coffee rather than steamed milk could do so. Didn't happen of course, and I think you'll agree that Via instant French Vanilla is not exactly a substitute.

French Presses decanted into airpots a la Stumptown and Lighthouse didn't fully meet this need, the over-engineered Clover was swallowed up by the Green Menace and killed off. Other excellent automated single cup brewers (e.g. Filterfresh, Wittenborg, WMF) are captive products owned by not very good roasters. Bunn's Trifecta shows promise but may also be over-engineered and over-priced relative to the need. The Aeropress in my opinion ought to enjoy the kind of popularity the silly one cup cones do now, but we need a version with a lever that baristi can use in a higher-volume context. We need more innovation in this area, but one cup Melitta cones and cold papery swill from probably the worst manual coffeemaker ever invented (the Chemex) are a big qualitative step backwards from real drip coffee brewed on professional equipment.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Jesse Crouse on Tue May 10, 2011 4:04 am

Kevin,

Oh boy.

I'm having an awfully hard time trying to figure out a reason why a "pourista" wouldn't have the means necessary to be able to work with the equipment you've detailed (e.g. Ro-tap, roller mill, etc.). Can you think of ONE reason why?

I worked in a lab for 2.5 years that couldn't find it in the budget for these items, so it seems to be that any working barista should be able to find room in the pocket books for them.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Jesse Crouse on Tue May 10, 2011 6:38 am

Also,

since you have so little faith in the people that believe so fully in manual brewing:
I don't think anywhere near 100% of the the "third wave Pouristas" out there with their Tru Bru bars know who the CBC was, own a Ro-Tap or roller-mill grinder or have spent hours playing with brewing parameters on a pulse-brew Fetco or ideal holding temperature American Metal Ware urn. Had they done so the Luddite regression to single-cup filter drip brewers simply wouldn't have happened, since such brewers violate the basic principles of drip brewing.


How much time have you really spent using a Chemex, v60, or other methods that you seem to hate? I don't mean just putzing around with them not really wanting to make great coffee with them, but using the sound techniques of people that have spent more hours with them than could be counted. I want to know that. Please enlighten me.

And I would love to know the model of roller mill grinder you have. I've only ever heard of industrial models, and would love to know where to find one for a lab setting.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby nick on Tue May 10, 2011 8:50 am

Kevin Knox wrote:probably the worst manual coffeemaker ever invented (the Chemex)

And by "Chemex," you meant "Hario V60," right? :lol:

Seriously though.

Kevin, as usual, you do have some valid points. However, by making such extremist statements, you've argued yourself into a corner with words that flies in the face of my experience, clearly Jesse's experience, and those of many others reading this thread.

That said, I'm a "third wave Pourista," I have a TruBru, I know who the CBC was, I have spent hours on Ro-Taps and pulse-brew Fetco brewers (both the version that severely over-agitates the slurry, and the newer version that only moderately over-agitates the slurry), the ideal holding temperature for an American Metal Ware urn is approximately Get-that-shit-out-of-the-urn-as-quickly-as-possible-degrees-Fahrenheit (I don't know the conversion to Celsius off the top of my head), and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a single-cup brew can absolutely taste as good as a batch-brew if not better. I know because I've taken the time and trouble to explore this.

What you do point to is that many (if not most) of the tools available for making single-cup filter-coffee do not setting the user up for success. However, this is due to attributes related to design, geometry, and materials, NOT due to the single-cup nature of the brew method.

I will also agree that the vast majority of baristas making manual-brewed single-cup coffee do not understand the basics of coffee brewing. I might, however, argue that the forebears in the industry did not establish a culture of such education, and that the still-growing industry today is built on an un-sound foundation because the leaders in the specialty coffee industry during the 80's and 90's did not commit yourselves fully to conquering the ideas that perpetuated abominations like 30 g/L frac-pak throw ratios and 12-month-out use-by dating. Having inherited such perplexities, you then wonder why baristas of today seem not to understand the fundamentals of brewing?

While the culinary world, the specialty tea industry, and of course the wine industry have decades-old legacies of scholarship and traditions of education, what does the average barista today have access to if they wish to learn about the meaningful and relevant fundamentals of coffee brewing? The obvious answer is that there's the Lingle book, but we all know that to a fresh, new entrant to the craft of coffee brewing, that book reads like a Middle English version of the book of Deuteronomy.

All said, Mr. Knox. Your long reputation as a specialty coffee luminary deserves much more than such broad-brush statements that are, quite simply, false. In fact, I'm enjoying a cup right now of what you've decried as a big qualitative step backwards. And it's absolutely delicious!
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby trish on Tue May 10, 2011 12:15 pm

Nick, the coffee you made me this morning was too strong. Did you take a reading? just fyi
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Tue May 10, 2011 5:22 pm

Hi Jesse and Nick.

I apologize Jesse for being insensitive to the realities you cite, which I know all too well since it was only after quite a few years in the business that I was lucky enough to have access to things like Ro-Taps and Modern Process roller mill grinders.

I've spent lots of time brewing coffee on manual drip brewers as well as commercial ones. I think most of the Hario products are beautiful and many very cool functionally (especially the hand grinders). On the other hand, my dislike of the Chemex is shared by most industry folks I know, since the ratio of paper to coffee is overwhelming - trading off total clarity for lack of flavor. And the coffee is usually cold. It's a beautiful looking brewer, but for me that's the end of its appeal.

Thanks Nick for your long and thoughtful post. I appreciate the time and effort you've put into perfecting single cup brewing to your satisfaction. When you talk about "attributes due to design, geometry and materials" those parameters include the very basic fact, which you know from the CBC standards, that a drip grind is for brewing methods that take 4-6 minutes to brew. The Clever is a good work-around which because it's a full-immersion brewer isn't drip, strictly speaking. Otherwise you look at what's out there and I don't think it's any surprise that the one hole Bonmac, in tests that Tom at Sweet Maria's and others have done, is the only one of the current one-cup drip set-ups that comes close to delivering the kind of extraction and flavor of a good commercial drip brewer. Compare the cup both objectively (temperature, extraction) and in tastings to what you get from a well-calibrated Fetco with bypass and an electronic thermostat, let alone a three gallon urn with a well-seasoned muslin urn bag and there is truly no comparison, because those brewers make drip coffee at it is intended to be made and have a ratio of coffee to paper filter that's the exact opposite of these tiny drippers.

As for the culture of education in coffee, the reality is the crucial skills in this industry have always been learned by apprenticeship. I wish we had a trade association that took a stand on quality and (as in Norway) trained folks in how to achieve it, but we don't.

The abominations of frac pacs and absurd shelf life claims were ever-present in the industry when I started in 1980 and they still are. At the risk of truly fanning the flames what people in my generation really ought to be blamed for was putting espresso machines in retail stores, thereby setting back the cause of appreciation of the actual flavor of coffee (not to mention support of the farmers who grow the best) back by 20 years or so and creating a culture of harried fast-food workers (aka baristas) who developed incredible hand-eye coordination and other skills but little coffee knowledge (through no fault of their own!).

That has of course changed in recent years and I think it's totally cool and wonderful that people brought up on espresso want all the coffee they serve to be made precisely and to personally control all the variables. But I think that much of that ambition would be better funneled into learning what the current state of the art is from companies like Technivorm, Fetco and Bunn, learning about grinding from Modern Process, and even reading the Lingle book, though I agree with you 100% about its style being a major problem. The bottom line is drip coffee isn't meant to be made by the individual cup. Rather than downsizing it, we need to get rid of it (in a bar context).

I knew from the time the first espresso machine was installed in a Starbucks store in 1985 that in order for drip-strength coffee to have equal perceived value to espresso it'd need to be made freshly, by the cup and to order. Unfortunately then as now the more promising automated single cup brewers (Filter Fresh, Wittenborg, WMF) were owned by huge companies and you had to buy their crappy coffee to get the machine. The over-engineered Clover came and went in yet another Starbucks debacle, and the Bunn Trifecta, good as it is in a lot of ways, is far from the plug-and-play machine at a good price the market really needs.

I'm actually quite surprised that more pressure hasn't been put on the espresso machine manufacturers to deliver what would amount to the manual lever espresso machine version of an Aeropress, with the ability to combine water at optimum temperature with a dose of coffee in a chamber, agitate for 20 seconds and press it under moderate pressure through a stainless disc or individual paper filter. That's commercial single cup brewer technology in a nutshell.

The ability to do this, with a centrifuge to speed up extraction, has been around and in use for a long time, especially in Europe. The goal should be a sediment-free 12 fl. oz cup of coffee brewed precisely in less than 30 seconds, with ability to dial in temperature, infusion time, piston pressure and fineness of filtration. As a stop-gap, as well as to satisfy the commendable desire for low-cost and hands-on control, someone ought to do a Tru Bru style set-up with cup clearance and decent ergonomics that can accommodate 3-4 Aeropresses, which assuming you've got a hot water machine installed and a good grinding set-up yield much better coffee than a one-cup dripper in one-sixth the time, resulting in meaningful through-put in a busy bar.

Talk about hijacking a thread. Sorry for that, and for being unduly provocative.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby nick on Wed May 11, 2011 9:13 pm

Kevin Knox wrote:I appreciate the time and effort you've put into perfecting single cup brewing to your satisfaction.
A backhanded compliment, no?

Kevin Knox wrote:the one hole Bonmac... [is] the only one of the current one-cup drip set-ups that comes close to delivering the kind of extraction and flavor of a good commercial drip brewer
I can name at least half-a-dozen others.

That said, the main problems with "the current one-cup drip set-ups" are, as I mentioned, "design, geometry, and materials." The other problem is that most people use them for brewing quantities that they're not optimized for. Just like you wouldn't want to brew one-half gallon with a brew funnel from a 1.5 gallon brewer, it is my theory that you can't brew a GREAT-tasting 8-12 ounces from the classic 8-cup Chemex... but you absolutely CAN brew 20 ounces that tastes EXCELLENT.

As you know, bed-depth matters, and matters a lot. If you can optimize the bed-depth in a manual pour-over brewer, you can absolutely hit the sweet-spot of that coffee as well as a commercial auto-drip brewer. Some devices make this more accessible than others.

Kevin Knox wrote:Compare the cup both objectively (temperature, extraction) and in tastings to what you get from a well-calibrated Fetco with bypass and an electronic thermostat, let alone a three gallon urn with a well-seasoned muslin urn bag and there is truly no comparison, because those brewers make drip coffee at it is intended to be made and have a ratio of coffee to paper filter that's the exact opposite of these tiny drippers.
Kevin Knox wrote:The bottom line is drip coffee isn't meant to be made by the individual cup.

"Intended to be made?" "Meant to be made?" Who intended? The bean? Ted Lingle? The goat? Allah? Are there preparation instructions printed on the coffee parchment that we're all missing out on?

But wait… ratio of coffee to paper filter? Some paper filters absolutely have papery-taste, but most can be rinsed (right before brewing) to eliminate perceivable paper-taste.

If a manual brew dripper were used in a way that optimized bed-depth properly (like a batch brewer), water was poured on it carefully and in pulses, and temperatures managed and maintained... what problem would you still have with it?

Kevin Knox wrote:I wish we had a trade association that took a stand on quality and (as in Norway) trained folks in how to achieve it, but we don't.

Yes, we do. Have you not been paying attention the past few years?

Kevin Knox wrote:The goal should be a sediment-free 12 fl. oz cup of coffee brewed precisely in less than 30 seconds, with ability to dial in temperature, infusion time, piston pressure and fineness of filtration.

Kevin, as far as I'm concerned, you've just undermined your entire effort on this thread with this single statement. You're basically advocating the mating of a Clover with a Trifecta. I'm a pretty liberal, open-minded guy, but I don't know that I can accept even the idea of such an abomination. Two wrongs don't make a right.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Thu May 12, 2011 7:10 pm

nick wrote:
Kevin Knox wrote:I appreciate the time and effort you've put into perfecting single cup brewing to your satisfaction.
A backhanded compliment, no?

No, just a compliment.

Kevin Knox wrote:the one hole Bonmac... [is] the only one of the current one-cup drip set-ups that comes close to delivering the kind of extraction and flavor of a good commercial drip brewer
I can name at least half-a-dozen others.

So do name them, because they aren't the Hario, Melitta, etc.

That said, the main problems with "the current one-cup drip set-ups" are, as I mentioned, "design, geometry, and materials." The other problem is that most people use them for brewing quantities that they're not optimized for. Just like you wouldn't want to brew one-half gallon with a brew funnel from a 1.5 gallon brewer, it is my theory that you can't brew a GREAT-tasting 8-12 ounces from the classic 8-cup Chemex... but you absolutely CAN brew 20 ounces that tastes EXCELLENT.

Uh, maybe, but what good is that going to do you? 20 ounce...a super-Venti..oh my God you're into Super Sized drip (should I rat you out to Morgan Spurlock or just get you a job with Starbucks?). And, it is still a Chemex so the brew still tastes like paper (or sludge if you "customized" your Chemex with a $50 Coava filter).

As you know, bed-depth matters, and matters a lot. If you can optimize the bed-depth in a manual pour-over brewer, you can absolutely hit the sweet-spot of that coffee as well as a commercial auto-drip brewer. Some devices make this more accessible than others.

Agreed except for the "as well as," 'cause that's what commercial brewers are built to do.

Kevin Knox wrote:Compare the cup both objectively (temperature, extraction) and in tastings to what you get from a well-calibrated Fetco with bypass and an electronic thermostat, let alone a three gallon urn with a well-seasoned muslin urn bag and there is truly no comparison, because those brewers make drip coffee at it is intended to be made and have a ratio of coffee to paper filter that's the exact opposite of these tiny drippers.
Kevin Knox wrote:The bottom line is drip coffee isn't meant to be made by the individual cup.

"Intended to be made?" "Meant to be made?" Who intended? The bean? Ted Lingle? The goat? Allah? Are there preparation instructions printed on the coffee parchment that we're all missing out on?

Nope, just Drip 101 and basic CBC extraction stuff.

But wait… ratio of coffee to paper filter? Some paper filters absolutely have papery-taste, but most can be rinsed (right before brewing) to eliminate perceivable paper-taste.

Rinsing's necessary for small quantities but not necessary for larger ones for the exact reason I mentioned: favorable ratio of coffee to paper. Even with rinsing, a tiny amount of coffee in a big ol' wet filter is lacking in character - thin- overly filtered. Conversely, a nice big dose of urn ground coffee in a three gallon urn (something Peet's has been perfecting for over 30 years) with dialed-in bypass is as full-bodied as the best French Press coffee but with no sediment.

If a manual brew dripper were used in a way that optimized bed-depth properly (like a batch brewer), water was poured on it carefully and in pulses, and temperatures managed and maintained... what problem would you still have with it?

Nothing, but that is not what is out there in retail land.

Kevin Knox wrote:I wish we had a trade association that took a stand on quality and (as in Norway) trained folks in how to achieve it, but we don't.

Yes, we do. Have you not been paying attention the past few years?

Yes, and in terms of quality standards there's been zero progress since Don Holly's ill-fated attempt to define "specialty" in 1999, unless you count latte art, barista competitions and the like as progress.

Kevin Knox wrote:The goal should be a sediment-free 12 fl. oz cup of coffee brewed precisely in less than 30 seconds, with ability to dial in temperature, infusion time, piston pressure and fineness of filtration.

Kevin, as far as I'm concerned, you've just undermined your entire effort on this thread with this single statement. You're basically advocating the mating of a Clover with a Trifecta. I'm a pretty liberal, open-minded guy, but I don't know that I can accept even the idea of such an abomination. Two wrongs don't make a right.


Actually, I could've just been advocating that people use an Aeropress instead of a Clover so they or their customers don't have to wait for minutes for a better cup made in 30 seconds. At the end of the day, I'm advocating respecting drip coffee for what it is, good and bad, but basing what we offer in single cup brewing on what we have learned from nearly three decades of working with commercial espresso machines.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Thu May 12, 2011 7:50 pm

Nick et al,

So having hijacked the thread I guess I owe Christopher Schooley, at a bare minimum, a case order for Clever drippers, which in all seriousness isn't an unpleasant prospect as long as they're destined for brewing a great mug of quasi-drip coffee in somebody's home.

On the other hand, waiting (and putting up with a bunch of attitude while doing so) for precious, handmade cups of mediocre drip in a coffee bar when far better coffee in meaningful quantity could've been made with a commercial drip brewer in the same amount of time is not my idea of fun or progress. All of my critical comments are about that reality, which I got a chance to experience once again at the SCAA Symposium coffee breaks in Houston, where I tasted everything on offer and had exactly one (~2 ounce cup) of something I'd have willingly paid money for.

Historically drip coffee (by which I mean the real stuff, brewed in 1/2 gallon to 3 gallon batches) was a dumbed-down, convenience-oriented substitute for vacuum pot coffee, which was and is, in my opinion, the holy grail of this particular cup style: optimal for nuanced, aromatic, city to full city roasted complex single origin coffees. Commercial drip is no substitute for that, and tepid, papery one cup drip is no substitute for the other substitute.

In the coffee bar context I think it's important to develop ways to offer drip-strengh coffee with the same control of the variables - AND the same efficiency and speed of service - as we've gotten used to with espresso. The technology exists. Spending more time trying to turn the sow's ear of one cup drip into a silk purse is not the way to get there, in my opinion. Everybody involved - baristas, consumers - deserves better. I know this is a provocative, minority opinion, and if it stimulates fresh thinking and creativity I'll be very happy.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Jesse Crouse on Fri May 13, 2011 3:42 am

How is coffee inherently tepid because it has been brewed on a single cup maker?

I brew 400ml chemexes with 205 degree water that produce a cup around 185-195. It would burn just about anyone's mouth. How is this tepid? And also, what the heck is wrong with producing coffee that is at a lower temperature but brewed with ideal temps in mind. I.E. extracting at the right temp, but then losing temp as extraction vacates the coffee bed.

From what I know ideal temp for nuances in the cup is 140-160.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Kevin Knox on Sat May 14, 2011 12:20 pm

Hi Jesse,

Not inherently tepid but a major challenge because the amount of hot water you're using is so small and the contact time between grounds and water so brief, plus it is an open-top system (open bed of grounds vs. fully enclosed brew basket on a larger drip brewer).

You know the drill: IF you preheat the filter with boiling water (and the beaker, in the case of the Chemex) and pour 205 degree F. water over the grounds you might indeed have ideal temperature coffee for a short while. Not so likely with a Hario, Melitta, or Bonmac, where the cone itself will absorb and retain a lot of the heat of the water. And all of these approaches are at a great disadvantage in terms of retention of heat and preservation of aroma to a fully-enclosed brew basket being saturated with ideal-temperature water over the 4-6 minute brew cycle of a commercial drip brewer.

Getting back to the original topic of this thread, I think the Clever dripper is probably the best way to brew ~ 12 ounces of drip-style coffee because unlike the Chemex or any of the one-cup cones you can get adequate dwell time and by preheating the cone and covering it avoid the loss of heat and aroma during brewing of the other approaches to a great extent.

If I'm understanding your other point correctly then yes, it's interesting that while ~200 degree F. water is necessary for optimum flavor during brewing, really tasting the nuances of properly brewed coffee only occurs when it cools to about 140-160 degrees as you say. No nuances to enjoy, however, if the brewing happened with sub-200 degree water as so often happens.

All of this fretting over temperature just underlines the incomparable superiority of the vacuum pot for the style of cup that we are trying to achieve with drip. Ideal temperature all through the brewing process and all you have to monitor assuming correct ratio of grounds to water before brewing is the infusion time. That's the sort of retail "theater" that results in a cup of coffee that's actually worth paying a premium for, IMHO.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Chris Kornman on Mon May 16, 2011 11:06 am

Oh man, this is awesome. It's like coffeed ca. 2007 in here.

So, Mr. Knox, Mr. Cho, Mr. Crouse, Mr. Schooley (still here?) et al.,

I wonder how much of this is perception vs. reality. These days, I wander into a coffee shop and see a giant urn, I anticipate mediocre coffee... but if I see baristi feverishly sweating over prepping fifteen individual pour-overs at once, I assume I'm going to have an enjoyable experience. I used to sling drinks in the Intelli cafe back in the days when we still brewed on urns (whaaaaat?!! that's right!) and have seen the rise & fall of the Clover first-hand in a retail setting, and there is very little to me that makes more sense for a high-end retailer than to have a barista working hands-on with an individual consumer's product. It showcases an investment of quality on the part of the brewer, the retailer, and the roaster... it's a little like a rosetta on a latte - a visual indicator that presumes a fair amount of care and quality underneath.

So, whether you're right, Mr. Knox, about the inherent superiority of a large-batch drip brew as compared to it's baby single-cup sibling, may not even really be the point, I think. Don't get me wrong, quality is important (and I think everyone else here has done a great job of debating the finer points of quality as it pertains to Clever/Pour-over/Urn/etc.), but so is the perception of quality -- they used to tell me back in my restaurant days that presentation was 1/2 of taste. You'll have a hard time convincing me that the 'theater' of watching an urn brew 3 gallons of coffee is more entertaining than dueling buona kettles. Would you be willing to pay more for the ability to chose your cut of steak and have it prepared by a dedicated chef, or do you feel that service is comparable to a similar cut prepared behind the scenes by a 8.50/hour line cook at the Lone Star Steakhouse?

With all the emphasis we try to put on the craftsmanship of growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, etc., etc., why shouldn't this extend to brewing? It's a little difficult for me to conceive of a way to explain the inherent craftsmanship of a large urn. And, Mr. Knox, I'm not really sure your espresso-to-drip technology comparison really holds that much water, so to speak, seeing as how espresso by nature requires an element of pressure unachievable without specialized equipment, yet drip coffee needs little more than the aid of gravity.

One other qualm... in a high volume shop, sure, urns make a certain amount of sense simply in terms of economy and efficiency. But for the more average-volume cafe that wants to serve high-end beans, what are they going to do with all that brewed coffee? It'll either sour on the urn heater, sour in an over-used-under-cleaned airpot, or sour in the garbage.

A few thoughts, as few judgments as possible. Keep the good stuff coming; this is a great discussion and it's fantastic to hear the perspective of Mr. Knox amongst a hoard of voices championing brew-by-the-cup.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Christopher Schooley on Tue May 17, 2011 3:49 pm

So the one thing left out of this discussion so far is one of the things that most attracts me to the Clever in the first place: showing a customer how easy it is to use and to get a really nice cup of coffee so that they'll spring for the $14-$15 dollars for the device as well as become a regular whole bean customer.

I mean, this discussion became about manual brewing in a bar setting, and we're thinking only of the one cup customer and not of the bean customer. I feel like this has been a major problem in specialty coffee especially for roasters with retail operations. So much of the focus of the retail operation has been about not just taking the act of brewing coffee at home but also the enjoyment of that act and of the finished cup of coffee out of the hands of the consumer. As a roaster selling whole bean coffee, I really want to empower my customers to brew at home/office/camping and to feel confident about the cup that they brew. The single service cup is also a great way to be able to prepare on the spot any of your available whole bean offerings, thusly creating customers for coffees that might not have taken that chance. The "slow bar" probably doesn't work as well as it could in the retail reality that exist at present, but back by the bean counter or over at the bean shelf it can be a very useful tool. When people see that it's cheap and easy (the Clever), it makes it really easy to pick up on a whim, and with it maybe even more than just 1 bag of coffee. We should be thinking of these manual brew devices as a way to get people excited about brewing coffee outside of the cafe, not just as a way to transmogrify the cafe itself.
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Re: Today, the Clever Coffee Dripper

Postby Christopher Schooley on Tue May 17, 2011 5:33 pm

I also find it wholly refreshing to have an honest to goodness debate up in here.
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