company - education - coffee

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mis-understood drip

Drip Coffee, photo by Ben Kaminksy

To many, drip coffee is the ugly blemish that they want to forget. I mean, no self-respecting "waver" will ever allow that dreadful Fetco compared side by side with Clover at their shops. The truth is, drip coffee accounts for quite a bit of business and is probably the most common method that home users (the normal kind, not your "geek" type that make up very small percentage of the market) utilize to prepare their daily coffee.

I have to admit that we too had our own bias against drip a while back. From our earlier experiences, the drip cup profile just did not have the intensity and flavor that a Syphon or Espresso profile possessed. It was not until we started to dabble in manual pour technique and have a better understanding of the roasting process that we finally understood the potential and power in drip coffee.

Just like ANY other coffee brewing techniques, when tuned with proper dose, temperature, time and roast, a cup of drip coffee can be just as flavorful, intense and satisfying as a vacpot cup. In fact, at a recent home gathering, a coffee drinking friend told me the cup of drip I prepared for him is nearly as intense and flavorful as a shot of espresso.

The following is my drip brewing technique. This method is based on the one presented in Simon Hsieh's book with my tweaks to tune for my machine/coffee/roasts.

The gears:
- Presto Scandinavian with modified shower head
- Mazzer Kony
- Melitta #4 filter - white (note 1)

- Use 10~14g per 6oz of water. Adjust if the cup is too intense for you...
- A fine grind (10~15 small notches from espresso on Mazzer SJ, 18~21 notches from true zero on Rocky).

Grind Setting, photo by Ben Kaminksy
1. Fill the machine with approximately 8oz of water. Start the machine without coffee/filter in it. This preheats the machine.
2. Grind coffee while the machine pre-heats.
3. As soon as the machine is done pre-heating, place coffee in the basket, level the grinds (note 2), and start brewing immediately (before the machine cools down).
4. Turn the machine OFF after about 20 seconds. For me, this is about 3 "gurgles". The purpose of this is to pre-infuse the coffee and allow all the grinds to be saturated(bloom) before starting the remaining extraction. You will have to experiment with the timing of this cut-off - just pull the basket out to see if all the grinds are properly wet at various time.

Pre-infusion, photo by Ben Kaminksy

5. Turn the machine back on after 20 seconds of wait time(the end of pre-infusion).
6. Complete the brew within 3~4 minutes if possible. Play with the dose to find out the optimum capacity of your machine. For my Presto, the upper limit is at around the 5 cup mark.
7. Remove the carafe immediate after brewing and serve.

Spent ground, photo by Ben Kaminksy

That is it. With a little bit of care, this simple method can produce just as good of a cup as with most other brew methods!

Cup of Drip, photo by Ben Kaminksy

note 1: I like Melitta filters because the small holes in the paper seem to allow a bit more oil to pass thru; not as much as a cloth filter but is better than any paper filter I've used. To me, the natural/brown paper filters are quite foul and imparts a very strong brown paper bag taste to any liquid that passes thru. If you insist on using it, please rinse it with some hot water first to reduce as much of the off flavor as possible. And for those of you who just have to use a gold/metal filter, please be aware that your brew time will be altered due to the different flow rate. It will flow a bit faster than the paper filter and will most likely require a even finer grind setting to achieve the same dwell time (which puts even more sludge to the cup... hmmm... gritty...).

note 2: Simon advocates shaping the coffee mound in the basket to match that of the shower head - putting divots where the exit holes are located (imagine using the shower head to make an indention on the coffee mound). Since I have modified my shower head to have near full coverage, it does not make much of a difference for me. For those machines with limited water exit holes, try Simon's recommendation to see if it makes a difference.