French Drip

press, drip, syphon, clover

French Drip

Postby Bob Arceneaux on Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:10 pm

I've had my grandmother's two porcelein drip coffee pots for 20+ years, just as a part of the coffee paraphenalia that I collect and display. I decided to clean one of them up and see how well it worked.
This thing has 4 parts, the base, which you brew into and serve from, a middle section where the coffee grounds rest, a water difuser that sits on the middle section, and the lid.
I cut out a piece of a Bunn coffee filter and set it on the bottom of the middle section (which has small holes in the bottom, obviously. Put 3 tablespoons of ground coffee in there, set the difuser on top and brewed a few small pots of water. (It can only brew 16 oz of coffee per pot.)
I'm writing in hopes of getting some insight. It takes forever to run the water through this coffee maker. I'm wondering if this was meant to be used without a filter or if (in the old days) there was a different material to act as a filter. Any thoughts?
I have to say, it's pretty cool to be using my grandmother's coffee pot that hasn't been used since (circa) 1975. The coffee was quite good, but like I said, it took forever to brew.
Bob Arceneaux
Bob Arceneaux
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Re: French Drip

Postby Phil Proteau on Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:48 am

The French Drip, according to "All About Coffee" (William H. Ukers,1922), was one of the first brewing devices ever patented. There were no paper filters in those days, and your grandmother's brewer was not intended for use with a paper filter either. That is probably what slowed it down so much, maybe in conjunction with too fine a grind.

The genius of the thing is that the designer was very aware of the necessity of proper coffee bed depth, elimination of over agitation, and perfectly even extraction with the use of the diffusion device (rendering a lot of that fancy kettle pouring technique and skill quite moot). It was also designed with little "feet" to keep the diffuser a little bit elevated off the surface of the coffee for some head space. It actually addresses very nicely most, if not all, of the fine points of brew science that get debated and ruminated over in Barista circles. Not bad for a coffee pot patented over 200 years ago!

Try it with a pretty coarse grind, almost French Press. The fact that there are very few holes means that you can still get a good long extraction (3-4 minutes) at a coarse setting, which tends to make coffee more yummy. It wont actually put very many fines in the coffee liquid. Grounds particles will form a "dam" of sorts at the location of each hole, and the coffee bed will, itself, filter out much of the dust you usually see ending up in pressed coffee. If you get your grind just right to create the best dwell time, it ought to make spectacular coffee.

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