Comparing Common Coffee Brewers – Part I
By Nate Lumpkin, Crown Barista
As you all know, everything’s closed down for a little while to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, and the Crown is doing its part by staying closed. In the meantime, I have a lot of time on my hands. I’ve been curious about all the different drippers and brew gadgets we have all over the Crown, and now is the perfect time for a deep dive into and review of each of them! I’ll be using as many different devices as I can get my hands on, posting a quick review of each one, and sharing my favorite recipes for you to adapt and use at home! Today I’ll be starting with three pour-over devices: the Hario v60, the Kurasu Origami, and the Fellow Stagg.
ABOUT THE COFFEE
I chose to use Colombia Buesaco Franco Lopez Parabolic Dried Caturra for this project due to its blend of fruity and chocolate notes. It tastes equally delicious on batch brew, pour over, and iced coffee, and I suspect it would taste just as good as espresso. I searched for a coffee whose fruitiness would not predominate or overwhelm, and whose darker chocolate and cocoa notes would shine through depending on the brew method. We’re planning to serve this coffee at the Crown as our batch brew light roast, and have been serving it as the base for our Sparklefritz, a sparkling iced coffee with a botanical infused syrup. I ground this coffee on the Mahlkonig EK43 at a uniform grind setting of 8.
HARIO V60 GLASS DRIPPER
Originally created by glass manufacturer Shibata Works in 2004, the Hario v60 is well known and widely used. Its main features are its walls, angled at 60 degrees (hence the name) and the hole in the center, which the paper v60 filter protrudes through. Other notable features include the curved ridges along the inside of the dripper, which apparently speeds the rate of water flow, as well as the detachable plastic base with a hook-shaped handle. Furthermore, its instructions suggest that the flavor of the coffee can be manipulated by adjusting the flow rate, though I haven’t done any experiments to investigate.
We often use the v60 in the Tasting Room, and I like it a lot. It feels solid but lightweight, and it’s easy to understand and easy to use. It’s not very flashy or pretty, and because it’s made of glass, I worry about breaking it, especially in a shared living situation like my own.
It also makes a delicious cup of coffee. With my recipe it brewed through in exactly 3 minutes, with notes of cranberry and baker’s chocolate, an aroma of mild almond, and a delicious lingering finish of dark chocolate and lemon.
A beautiful dripper from Japanese manufacturer K-ai Co., Ltd. The Origami looks like a big crinkled flower, and is made of Mino porcelain, a type of sturdy ceramic. It’s really wide, cone-shaped, has deep ridges and, like the v60, a hole in its center. One of its main features are its ability to take different kinds of filters: a cone-shaped filter (like the v60) will protrude through the hole in the bottom, while a flat-bed filter (like the Kalita or Stagg) will create a more even coffee bed.
I like this brewer a lot. I was prepared to find it cumbersome and annoying, but I actually love its size and versatility, as well as its lovely color and shape. At first I thought it looked a little silly, but now it reminds me of cotton candy and springtime. It has a wooden base that’s sold separately, but the dripper fit on its own into the mason jars I used as carafes, and ended up being stable and easy to use.
I brewed coffee with both the conical v60 filter and the flat bed Stagg filter. The v60 filter brewed about 15 seconds faster than the Stagg filter. Using the v60 filter, I experienced a sweet pomegranate aroma, with complex and juicy flavor notes of red grape, apricot jam, and dark chocolate with a lingering cocoa finish. The Stagg filter, which brewed a little longer, had a simpler flavor profile with a heavier body, with aromas of almond and marmalade, and tasting notes of cocoa powder, vanilla, and navel orange, with an almond flour finish. Both ways were delicious, though my experiments suggest that the Stagg brewer created a more complete extraction.
The Fellow Stagg [X] Dripper, designed in San Francisco, is a teeny tiny flat-bed dripper with steep vertical walls. It has insulated double walls, a vertical slope, and a special hole pattern in the base. According to the Fellow website, this all allows hot water to stay in contact with the coffee grounds for longer, creating a higher extraction and less clogging. The dripper also comes with a small cup with dose markings on the walls, which can be used for fast and loose dosing on the fly (either 20 grams or 40 grams), or for catching drips after you’re done making coffee.
I actually find the Stagg a little difficult to use. Because it’s so small, I often spill the coffee grounds unless I use a special tool to get them in, like a little spoon or one of the special ring-shaped dosing devices we have all over the Crown. It’s a little hard to pour into: even with a goose-neck kettle you have to keep really fine control over the kettle to keep an even brew bed. On the plus side, it works wonders with coffees that require a more complete extraction, or that need to be ground really fine. At the Crown we often use the Stagg for really bright Ethiopian coffees, and they come out tasting spectacularly. Because of the extra care this dripper requires, I would probably only reach for the Stagg under these circumstances.
True to expectations, using the standard recipe of 18g, the coffee brewed longer and tasted more extracted. This brew contained notes of mandarin, dark chocolate, cranberry, and green grape, but with a sensation of bitterness and astringency that I associate with over extraction. Lowering the dose to 17g gave it a light and sweet aroma, with notes of mandarin, white grape, and cocoa powder, and a delicate and juicy body.