The problem of drip

We at Backporch are avid French Pressers. When we were given a commercial airpot brewer to play with, we were a little lost. So, Dave and I spent a couple of days trying to figure out if it is possible for drip to do justice to the coffee. As far as I know we’re the only shop in Bend that doesn’t drip our coffee. We do this for a few reasons:

1.) Coffee generally needs about four minutes of contact between the water and the grounds for proper extraction. (Unless under intense pressure such as in an espresso machine) In most drip coffee makers you’re lucky if you get one minute of contact. This leaves the coffee seeming thin and under-extracted.

2.) Drip machines are generally hard to keep clean. In addition to a sprayer which gets all sorts of grimy build-up on it if not properly cared for, I’ve found that there’s always a delicious metallic taste that comes from drip. 

3.) Those darn filters. I don’t like tasting paper in my coffee. Period.

Now I would love for everyone to be daily french pressers, and to have a vacuum pot for the weekends, but I also know that it’s very hard for some people to leave the comfort and convenience of their drip coffee makers. To those of you who can’t let  it go, here are a few tips for getting the best out of your drip coffee:

1.) Keep it clean! Clean your sprayer thoroughly after every pot. It will keep you from tasting your old coffee in your next brew. Also, remember to keep hard water from building up in your system. I recommend taking some distilled vinegar to it every month or so, This will help avoid that metallic taste and help you taste more of the coffee and less of the brewer. 

2.) Rinse your filters! It’s not okay to have paper as one of your flavor profiles. Pour about one liter of hot water through your filter before each pot. This will diminish the paper taste quite a bit.

3.) Figure out your dose and grind! This is probably the biggest issue with home drip users. It seems everyone makes coffee the exact same way that their grandma taught them when they were twelve. Hopefully you aren’t making Maxwell House anymore, and you should put the scoops away. You should use approximately 60 grams of freshly ground, amazingly roasted, Backporch Coffee, per liter of water. Not a big fan of metric? Well, I’m sorry, I like it. It’s just so precise. A cool gram scale is a good investment for any coffee lover. As far as grind goes, I can’t tell you. It depends quite a bit on the amount you’re brewing. My advice is to start on the drip setting of your grinder, and go coarser the larger amount you brew. Avoid the temptation of saving coffee by brewing less grounds on a finer grind. You might get some strong coffee, but you’re losing out on all of the flavor nuances that hopefully you spend the extra money for. 

4.)Lose the electricity! If you can’t be swayed from your drip, try a pour-over system. This is a much more hands on and precise brewing method than electric brewers. (sorry mr. coffee.) You can find a lot of pour-over systems out there, (also known as swiss gold) but the general consensus is that chemex makes the best. This is because of the functional (and swank) glass design and because of it’s specially designed filters that allow for appropriate contact time (about 4 minutes) and are unbleached. If you just ran to your local kitchen store and purchased your first chemex. Here’s a great video to show you how to use it: Pourover Video.


2 Responses to “The problem of drip”

  1. 1 Scott Rao February 13, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Please plug in your brewer again. Chemex and pourovers are flawed and do not allow even extraction without a lot of modifications.
    There are many factual errors in your post above, I’m sorry to say. Among them are:

    1. Coffee does not need 4 minutes of contact time to extract properly. We use a very modified one-cup system at our cafe and get 20% extraction (and 1.4% brew strength) every cup.
    2. The Chemex’s paper filter is not repsonsible for the 4-minute dwell. You could have a much more porous filter and accomplish a 4-minute dwell with a finer grind.
    3. Chemex is badly flawed for several reasons:

    -It loses too much heat due to the top being open for 4-5 minutes of brewing (stick a probe in the slurry and it will drift from 200-ish to the 180’s during extraction.
    -Unless you pour slowly and in stages over the course of almost the entire extraction time, you will get uneven extraction. With a typical pour (such as James Hoffmann’s video) The grounds at the center and bottom will have much more contact time and hence more extraction than the grounds near the top that stick to the sides of the filter early in extraction.
    -The only known solutions are to do a lot of stirring (but this is very difficult to control and replicate brew-to-brew) or to use a slow flow rate during pouring, such as that provided by, of all things, your lowly autodrip brewer.

    If you end up with the wet grounds looking indented like a valley, you have definitely created an uneven extraction. I have used extractMOJO to measure extractions using hundreds of pourover variations to derive the above ideas, for what it is worth.

    Respectfully yours,
    Scott Rao

    • 2 jerrywillya August 29, 2009 at 4:47 am

      Hi Scott,
      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while, as I was feeling over my head. I would like to say, first off, I greatly respect your work, especially the handbook. I’m not sure how you found my lowly blog, but hopefully you will keep reading, and giving me feedback along the way as there are not too many experts of your caliber in Bend, OR. Now, on the drip issue, the more and more I’ve played with chemex, the more dissatisfied I’ve been with the results. They are very inconsistent, and the only cups I can get that I am even remotely satisfied with are always slightly over-extracted. Melitta is a little easier to get a consistent cup with, but I’m still not satisfied with the result. In spite of this, I’m not completely sold on the fact that you can get good, balanced, and properly extracted coffee from a commercial drip brewer. I’ve had one decent cup of drip in the last 6 months, and that was from someone who owned an extractmojo. At Backporch, we exclusively french press because of this. I am in constant dialogue with a few customers who like french press, but are looking for something a little cleaner (One customer even going as far as saying he would buy us a clover, just for his personal use) and I’m not sure what to recommend to them. Any ideas?

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