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Brew coffee like the pros

Batdorf & Bronson's Jason Dominy brewing coffee with the Clever Dripper

Batdorf & Bronson's Jason Dominy brewing coffee with the Clever Dripper

Have you ever hoped to brew a perfectly balanced, full-bodied cup of coffee — one like you can only get in a coffeehouse? You can. But first, you’ll need a little insider information and a gadget or two.

I was recently exposed to the world of coffee and brewing gadgets after taking a tour of the Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roastery with Atlanta Culinary Tours. The tour was led by Batdorf & Bronson’s Jason Dominy, a man fondly referred to as Atlanta’s “coffee evangelist.” Jason is also the chair of the Barista Guild of America and writes industry standards for manual-brewing techniques.

After a lesson on coffee growing, drying and roasting, our tour ended in the “brewing lab.” This is where Jason spends entire days brewing coffees to test for flavor and consistency as he evaluates the best roast for teasing out the subtle flavors of each bean.

This brewing lab houses the gadget museum, Jason’s impressive collection of manual-brewing devices. I’d never imagined there were so many techniques for brewing a single cup of coffee.

The brewing lab also plays host to a monthly manual-brewing battle which draws serious baristas from all over the Southeast and from local shops such as Dancing Goats, Aurora, Octane, Empire State South, Rev Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee. Here, baristas hone their skills using the museum’s array of brewing devices. As a judge at last month’s battle, I was enlightened by each barista’s description of his/her brewing techniques and devices, every one told with fervent passion for the craft.

Given my fondness for gadgets, I zeroed in on two particular brewing devices used in the competition: the AeroPress and the Clever Dripper. Yes, I am now the proud owner of both and the experimentation has begun.

AeroPress

AeroPress

The AeroPress ($26 on Amazon) brewing process begins with hot water poured over coffee in an oversized syringe-like device. Using a steady hand, depress the stopper to force the coffee through the special filter at the bottom. The Aeropress is very clean, user-friendly and less labor intensive, similar to a French press. In fact, it’s so easy to use, Jason uses it to make professional-quality coffee on airplanes.

The Clever Dripper

The Clever Dripper

The Clever Dripper ($21), Jason’s current favorite manual-brewing device, is a little fussier but makes a strong cup of coffee. To use it, follow his carefully timed and precisely measured sequence of pouring and stirring. At the conclusion of the brewing process, the Clever Dripper can be placed on top of a mug, which causes its lower valve to release the brewed beverage through a standard #4 filter. My husband prefers the Clever Dripper because he says, “it feels more like a science experiment.”

Which brews a better cup of coffee? Well, that depends on what you like. Both brew a cleaner cup of coffee than a French press, leaving no sediment or an oily surface behind. The Clever Dripper allows more control of the brewing process, especially if you experiment and vary the brewing sequence. The Clever Dripper also seems to brew a stronger full-bodied cup.

Both gadgets brew great coffee and are worth a shot. If I’m going to make a cup on my own, I’d probably opt for the AeroPress simply for the ease of use and clean-up. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys the precision of the Clever Dripper. And because he’s both the appointed house barista and dishwasher, it looks like our Clever Dripper will see more action.

Pick up one of the brewing devices and watch one of Jason’s tutorials to start making your own coffee like the pros make.

Atlanta Culinary Tours has additional tours of the Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roastery scheduled for the coming months.

Atlanta’s Batdorf & Bronson hosts monthly manual-brewing battles. Follow their Facebook page for details.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team.

53 comments Add your comment

mrmambo

August 30th, 2011
6:59 am

I love the Clever Dripper; have been using it since Christmas after retiring a very-similar $2 Melitta dripper. The Melitta works great but: 1) doesn’t hold as much; 2) doesn’t have the lid to hold in heat; 3) doesn’t have the plunger mechanism, which on the Clever Dripper lets you hold coffee for a great 4-minute brewing time. It’s really like using a french press, but with a paper filter–very quick to clean, easy to use…and it looks cool!

During the summer I’ve been making “japanese iced coffee” with the Clever Dripper: 29g (about 6 TB ground coffee), 8 ounces of 205-degree water, brewed for 4 minutes and then released over 8 ounces (by weight) of ice. Makes 14-16 ounces of great, fresh iced coffee that’s not watered-down.

mrmambo

August 30th, 2011
7:10 am

And Jason’s directions are great, but I’ve found that at 5:30 in the morning that’s a little more ritual than I’m ready for! :-)

I simply:
1) put 25g of ground coffee in the unit, after pre-wetting the filter (helps the flow);
2) slowly add 12 ounces of 205-degree water;
3) stir gently;
4) place the lid on top and start the timer for 4 minutes;
5) maybe stir once or twice (if I feel like it) and then let it drain directly into cup. Very easy.

The unit comes with a top lid/cover and bottom coaster, which helps catch any drips. Generally, I find that I don’t get much on the counter, but it is a plunger-activated pour so you have to watch and place the unit on a flat surface. I’ve missed and let it hit the edge of the coaster and watched it pour onto the counter.

Bradley

August 30th, 2011
7:52 am

Hey mrmambo, its not the ‘Food and More’ blog with mrmambo. Thats great you enjoyed the article and enjoy the product too; but no one requested you to list out your procedure for making coffee. Geez, too many chefs these days, where have all the indians gone?

indigo

August 30th, 2011
8:08 am

Hey mmambo, unlike Bradley, I appreciated you sharing with us your procedure for using the Clever Dripper. Thank you!

John Kessler

August 30th, 2011
8:11 am

Thanks for the detailed comments, mrmambo! I’m drinking a wonderful cup of (yep, Batdorf & Bronson) coffee right now. I asked my wife what she did differently, and she said she took the kettle off just before the water boiled. Makes a big difference.

Rodney

August 30th, 2011
8:29 am

Ok, I’ll admit it – I’m an auto-drip kinda guy at home. I’d MUCH PREFER a well crafted cup but I just don’t have the time or the energy.

I do have a couple of rules that I follow, based on the America’s Test Kitchen results of how to brew a good auto-drip cup, but aside from grinding the beans fresh that morning and pre-heating the (filtered) water, I don’t do a whole lot to improve my at-home coffee experience. Flog me, if you must. :)

I think I may take the tour – thanks for the info, Jenny!

Jenny Turknett

August 30th, 2011
9:14 am

mrmambo – thanks for sharing. We can all learn from hearing other techniques! When I judged the manual-brewing battle, it was amazing to try the range of flavors that resulted from seemingly minor variations in brewing methods.

Bob from Accounttemps

August 30th, 2011
9:45 am

Yet more pretense – next we’ll have “artisnal” coffee houses using only “farm to table” beans. Just like vodka snobs who have to have Belvedere or Grey Goose in their vodka and cranberry — as if a difference could even be tasted after the mix. After messing around with this, I ended up back at Costco with their Colombian, ground fine, my gold filtered Krups drip thermal and Brita filtered Dekalb tap water. Absolutely perfect! Oh, and I keep the coffee in the freezer.

Kordie Green

August 30th, 2011
9:53 am

Why is it that to have a great cup of coffee takes so much time to prepare? As we know we live in the fast pace, moving quick and fast. To have coffee that taste great and is great for you is available. Check out Ganovia.com Coffee is the second most consumed liquid behind water.

Matt Snyder

August 30th, 2011
10:14 am

Great article, Jenny! I’m a huge fan of the Clever. Also, it was great meeting/judging with you two weeks ago!

JRC

August 30th, 2011
10:26 am

I have my own collection of coffee nerd accessories, including 4 brewing methods:

– French press,
– Bialetti,
– Bodum vacuum pot,
– my beloved Technivorum

I love the vacuum pot coffee more than any, but it is a true pain when trying to get a pot brewed while hustling a 4 year old. The Technivorum allows you to control the drip into the pot, so I let the coffee chamber fill up and stir, steep, drip out, repeat. Though not the best I can make, it is damn close, takes one hand, and is done in 6 minutes. If your morning routine requires some convenience(and volume), look at a Technivorum.

mrmambo

August 30th, 2011
10:40 am

Sorry Bradley didn’t get his cup of coffee this morning…Mr. Grouchy certainly needed one! ;-)

I wasn’t trying to hijack the column, but get his point–I love when I go to get a recipe off Food Network.com and all the feedback focuses on what changes people made rather than comments on the recipe as is.

My point was simply that the Dripper works great and you don’t have to go thru a lot of ritual to use it–pour in hot water, stir, steep, and serve. No pretense and easier for me than a big machine on the counter.
(And, Kordie, it doesn’t have to take forever–takes me 5 minutes, same as a basic drip machine.)

Off to brew some coffee in my teepee…

Karen

August 30th, 2011
11:00 am

“Coffee is the second most consumed liquid behind water.”
WRONG. that’s called tea, so if you’re gonna advertise something you should try it with actual facts.

Lee Sill - Prima Coffee

August 30th, 2011
12:29 pm

Great article. I’m surprised that folks are complaining about this taking a lot of time and preparation! The brilliance behind both the Clever and the Aeropress is the fact that the Clever is so hands off, and the Aeropress is so quick (1-2 minute brew time!). With the Clever, just grind, dump, pour hot water in, and walk away and do your other morning routines for 3-4 minutes, coming back to set it on your mug and walk away again while it’s drawing down.

Jason is a great guy; catch him when you get a chance if he’s doing a class in the Atlanta area!

James

August 30th, 2011
12:33 pm

Yes, the amazing thing about these methods is how brilliantly simple they are. Makes you wonder how we all ended up with auto drip coffee makers in the first place.

Jason Dominy

August 30th, 2011
1:34 pm

Great post. One thing to note for those who think it’s too much work, the method you see in the Clever Dripper video that was made is the best for exact extraction, as I was preparing for the Brewers Cup competition, which I came in second in. You can certainly put in the 24grams of grounds, fill to the top 340 grams of just off boil water, stir, put a lid on it, and set on top of your mug at 2 minutes 30 seconds in. But I’m showing you the best way to extract best using the Clever, pulling many of the nuances of coffee out you may normally miss. Happy brewing all!

Dave

August 30th, 2011
2:00 pm

Bob, it’s not pretense. This is Jason’s job – to get the best product possible into the consumer’s hands. And as Jenny pointed out, it all “depends on what you like”. I work with guys that like low-grade coffee brewed so thick and bitter that it leaves sludge in the bottom of your cup. It’s what they like – but they’ve probably never had better (or know that it can be better – which is why we do the tours!).

I work the tours with Jason and I’ll admit that I haven’t bought a Clever or a scale yet. I’m still using my 10+ year old Melita pour-over, a 9-year old Zojirushi water boiler and a teaspoon. What I did learn from Jason was that a little attention to detail and using quality coffee makes all the difference in the world. It’s not hard or slow – I can make a cup quicker with this method than with my (expensive) drip maker or my (cheap) moka pot.

Bob from Accounttemps

August 30th, 2011
2:29 pm

@Dave — I’m just not buying it. I watched another video for the Clever Dripper where you have to measure water by weight (not volume mind you because that’s not accurate enough), measure in just the right amount of coffee, heat the water to 205 (212 boiling is too hot, I guess) and stir from the top (not the middle or bottom). And then at the precise moment, drip, provided the dripping process doesn’t take too long. For competition, fine (tallk about geeky, though). But for everyday drinking, gimme a break. Are you folks that delusional? What great chef in the world do you know that cooks food like it’s a science experiment?

James

August 30th, 2011
2:51 pm

“What great chef in the world do you know that cooks food like it’s a science experiment?”

All of them, Bob.

George

August 30th, 2011
2:51 pm

I love my Keurig machine.

Bob from Accounttemps

August 30th, 2011
3:13 pm

@James — so you see chefs actually measuring 1/4 tsps, 1/2 cups and measuring “med high heat” to an exact degree? I must be missing something when I eat at Antico and they spread on “just enough” cheese on the pizza.

James

August 30th, 2011
3:20 pm

Bob, you seem to have an awfully narrow view of science.

That said, if it requires measuring ingredients, just drive to your nearest pastry chef for a demo.

Beth Robinette

August 30th, 2011
3:31 pm

I just bought a Clever and really do love it. It’s easy and inexpensive too. Actually easier that the stupid Mr Coffee I am now donating to GoodWill.

Dave

August 30th, 2011
3:52 pm

Bob – again – no one is asking you to buy it. It’s a method that works for some and not others. It does make a damn fine cup of coffee (Twin Peaks reference is unintentional). Jason has come up with a very precise baseline (again, it’s his job) and users can vary the process to fit their tastes/level of patience. YMMV.

“What great chef in the world do you know that cooks food like it’s a science experiment?” – Feran Adria, Jose Andres, Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller to an extent, probably most of the chefs that bought Myhrvold’s book, all of the chefs that worked on Myhrvold’s book. The list goes on…

Bob from Accounttemps

August 30th, 2011
4:11 pm

…I guess I need to stop watching Food Network and the Cooking Channel…

Reggie

August 30th, 2011
4:53 pm

I love a good cup of coffee. I love it very very hot. I have a G.E perk but does not get hot enough. (electric).It’s ok but I am thinking of getting a stove top perk. Water with coffee on top percolating. Hell I like the coffee friom Starbucks but can’t afford to go there anymore. I go to the local Quick Trip. I just want a good cup of coffee that I can make myself. Any suggestions???

Truth Squad

August 30th, 2011
4:58 pm

I find using Dunkin Doughnuts coffee, 99-cent filters from Kroger (non-bleached, of course), filtered tap water, and a Mr. Coffee, gets me to a righteous cup of coffee every time.

Jessamine

August 30th, 2011
5:07 pm

My favorite coffee accessory is my burr grinder (Breville). I don’t know if I could use the single cup makers, since I like to drink the equivalent of 3 cups in the morning (when I’m home, on weekends). Maybe I’ll try one for work though, instead of shelling out $2+ at my local coffee shop each day.

Bacchus

August 30th, 2011
5:43 pm

Cuisinart burr grinder and a french press from IKEA is how I brew my best joe.
Good whole 100% Arabica beans are absolutely key – avoid robusto coffees like anything mass-market, unless you want your coffee to taste like mud or charcoal. I usually buy beans from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks but sometimes pick up some at the Dekalb Farmers Market.

coffeegeek

August 31st, 2011
10:02 am

I’m a self professed coffee geek and appreciate all the gadgets, techniques and discussion surrounding producing a perfect cup of coffee.

I can attest to the simplicity of the aero press. It’s a wonderful tool and sooo easy to use. I frequently take it on business trips to ensure I can have a descent cup of coffee whenever necessary. I do suggest flipping it over and pouring the hot water into the well with the coffee, stirring and then putting the filter and flow cap on. This prevents run off during the steeping process.

I also own a Toddy, which is excellent for producing a coffee concentrate through a cold brew process. The coffee has much less acid and is excellent when making iced cofffees

BlondeHoney

August 31st, 2011
3:26 pm

Nothing like a good old-fashioned percolator, filtered cold water, and beans stored in the freezer for a great cup of joe. LOVE my percolator! :)

Moammar

August 31st, 2011
3:47 pm

Oh, how I wishing I had good cup coffee in the spiderhole I’m hiding in but I settle for chewing beans – no hot water here to brew Great Arabian Coffee thanks to you infidels!

Coffee Tawk

August 31st, 2011
3:48 pm

Tea is for women who own too many cats.

DAG

August 31st, 2011
3:55 pm

I’ve read that you should NOT store your coffee in the freezer, not sure why but they say it does affect the fresh taste

sandy

August 31st, 2011
4:03 pm

Bob, you made yourself look like a fool when you suggested (by your use of them in the sentence) that Grey Goose and Belvedere are good vodkas. Both are mass produced crap. It shows you know nothing about vodka, and you are cranky. BYE!

Kevin

August 31st, 2011
4:23 pm

BlondHoney–I’m with you. Percolators rule.

Dave

August 31st, 2011
4:28 pm

For those of you that ARE interested not only in Jason’s method of brewing coffee, but quality coffee in general – Atlanta Culinary Tours has another tour of Batdorf & Bronson on 9/13/11. Join us and taste for yourself.

CPS

August 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

I’m a big fan of the aeropress. It’s perfect to have on the road or at the office when I just want to brew a single cup at a time. It makes a strong cup of joe.

Jaine

August 31st, 2011
5:40 pm

some of you people are downright mean on here. Drink/dunk your head in some coffee…some tea…some water…some vodka -something…and GET OVER IT! Thanks for the article. Ahhh…if coffee only tasted as great as it smells!!!

Patrick

August 31st, 2011
5:46 pm

Well, I must be doing somethign wrong. I’ve tried drip and French Press and lately spent some money on beans flown in from Peet’s coffee in San Francisco, ground by me in a burr grinder just before brewing, but the results were blah. People have described miracles coming out of a French press but it didn’t walk on water for me. Kinda just made coffee. woooh.

We just got a Keurig B70 at work. Oh no, the K-word. This thing is fast, easy, simple, and good enough. It may not be the best coffee ever but it’s a lot less work and it’s really fast. And I can still use up all this Peet’s coffee with it.

oldtimer

August 31st, 2011
5:50 pm

Does anyone have information on the cold brew method and equipment…..I keep hearing good stuff and forgot the name.

Phil

August 31st, 2011
5:52 pm

Wow!
and I thought i was high tech with my gold plated filter and a KM7000 Krups !

;-) Bob might whip me for burr grinding my beans

Creegah

August 31st, 2011
5:54 pm

Anyone who thinks that brewing coffee in an AeroPress or Clever Dripper is fast and/or easy is living in an alternate universe.
In answer to the gentleman who wondered where “Mr. Coffee came from” it is pretty much the last method of a process developed over hundreds of years and was preceeded by the electric percolator. The reason that the Mr. Coffee type became so popular is that it is fast, brews an acceptable cup, and, its biggest selling point…cleanup is quick and non-messy. It has ruled the market for about 40 years but the Keurig type may eventually present a challenge.
As for me, I prefer a wet-processed Yirgachefe from Sidamo ground with my Breville Burr and brewed in my Sunbeam Coffeemaster Vacuum which I bought in 1968.

Bob from Accounttemps

August 31st, 2011
7:19 pm

@Sandy — I never said they were good — I just said people drink them because they are “supposed” to be super-premium and look to be “in the know” for ordering it — and then mix it with juice and ice to the point it doesn’t matter anyway. That’s being pretentious. Just like insisting the water for the CD be 205 when you pour it, never minding that it cools immediately depending on many factors, including air temperature. Oh, and stirring the slurry at the top. I assume tests have been done if you stir it 2/3 the way down? What about the grind? Do we measure that in microns?

@Phil — grind away! I respect your choice in coffee makers!!

We’ll all just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Abraham

August 31st, 2011
7:23 pm

Making a great cup of coffee is not nearly as complicated as you folks try to make it. Most of you get pleasure in talking brand names and differing brew methods. You sound like you are gadget attentive rather than coffee lovers. Those gadgets are made to sell, not to improve the coffee flavor.

dan.....k

August 31st, 2011
7:28 pm

+1 for the Technivorm Moccamaster!!

clever dripper?

August 31st, 2011
8:02 pm

A little clarification: how is the clever dripper different from a normal coffee maker with a stopper? My “Mr. Coffee” comes with a built in stopper. If the pot isn’t under the coffee, it won’t pour.
I agree good coffee is worth the effort, but how does the clever dripper differ from a “Mr. Coffee” that steeps a little longer?

Victorious Sakrete

August 31st, 2011
8:21 pm

Dear mrmambo:
29g (about 6 TB ground coffee) = wrong

29 grams is about 6 teaspoons or simply 2 tablespoons

GA_Observer

August 31st, 2011
8:50 pm

Bob, Using a steady hand, depress the stopper to force the coffee through the special filter up your bottom.

SP

September 1st, 2011
7:33 am

I’d like to try one of these out – are there any local retailers that carry these?