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”?