In Coffeemaking, Drip Is Now Hip

| 8/27/2009 1:04:07 PM

Drip brewing at Blue Bottle Coffee Company

For today’s coffee connoisseur steeped in the finer points of French presses and Italian espresso machines, the latest trend in coffeemaking may seem a bit déclassé: drip brewing. That’s right, the brewing method that our moms used is back, but this time it’s not Folgers in a Mr. Coffee machine: It’s of course being presented as an artisanal experience.

The August 12 Chicago Reader profiles the Asado Coffee Company, where proprietor Kevin Ashtari serves up manual-drip coffee. He roasts his own beans in-house and then practices his patient craft:

For each order of drip, he grinds half a cup of beans somewhere between fine and coarse. He then wets an unbleached, conical Melitta filter, to wash away any potential paper taste that could pollute the coffee. He inserts the filter into a porcelain dripper, set on a rack above a cup, then pours in the coffee and a dollop of hot water, just under the boiling point. Grounds bloom up in the filter and he stirs, slowly adding more water, still stirring and scraping the grounds down from the side of the filter. In about two minutes he’s made a bright, full-bodied, perfect cup of coffee, without a trace of bitterness.Manual drip is probably most primitive and inconvenient way to make a cup of coffee, but because it allows absolute control over water temperature, proportion, and extraction, in the right hands, it can be dangerously good.

Ashtari become a drip-brew disciple after a 2005 visit to the San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee Company, where baristas served up a cup of drip coffee whose body and clarity blew him away. But don’t expect the trend to spread to every java hut in the land: The Reader points out that Ashtari gets only about seven cups of coffee out of each pound of beans. Despite charging “two bucks a pop” for 12 ounces, “the only reason he makes any money is that he’s roasting his own.”

Retailers are already catering to newly reconverted drip brewers. Bee House sells Japanese-made porcelain coffee drippers, and the “liquid culture” magazine Imbibe writes in its September-October issue about the “coffee sock pot” that will make you a great cup of drip coffee—or should I say “maintain greater control over your coffee extraction”?

Kit Kellison
9/1/2009 1:48:16 PM

I read a review of my Bunn at and found out that it doesn't get the water up to the proper brewing temp, hence the weak, thin results. So I just took the grounds basket off and brewed it into a tea pot. Although I forgot to mix the grounds up while pouring, I did get them all reasonably wet and kept the water level above the original grounds level. It turned out really well. I had the old Chemex coffee system back in the day, but after breaking a few of them, I gave and went back to machine drip. The Cook's Illustrated site recommended a drip maker ($240 bucks, ouch!) by Technivorm. Supposedly it gets it quickly to the right temp with a copper heating coil. Copper is expensive, nobody's using it anymore. I'd REALLY have to give up my venti lattes to justify getting this. Still, I wish it didn't have a plastic coffee basket which tends to hold on to those quickly degrading coffee oils. I kinda like the Beehouse porcelain dripper for that reason. It doesn't take that long to heat water on the stove...

julie kate hanus
8/27/2009 2:37:08 PM

Oh, ho! I always knew if I used my Melita-drip-through things long enough I’d be vindicated! ;) In all seriousness, though, they’re sort of the jam for making a small amount of coffee (I’ve got a single-cup and a several-cup strainer). I don’t use the quantity of beans described above, but the coffee always brews sufficiently strong (and tasty). Plus, no electrical cord or messy french press to clean out. I’ve always been surprised how few people seem to use them.

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