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The long pour.

Much time is spent picking and choosing the perfect bean to roast, or the perfect roast to sell, or even the perfect roaster to perfect your craft. But how much consideration is put into the preparation? Drip, or filter coffee, has somewhat of a bad reputation in the specialty coffee world. But when the prime product is chosen and the proper practices are carried through, this technique can deliver equally stunning results.


In southern India, filter coffee means a foamy beverage made from a coffee/chicory blend of Arabica and Robusta beans often from local in-country coffee districts. In western coffee culture, filter coffee is a beverage produced when water is introduced to a bed of coffee, passes through a filter and is collected in a vessel below. It sounds simple easy and cheap. After all, the U.S. Navy has been serving up rivers of the stuff for years, but filter brewing has been reborn in Japanese coffeehouses and now is catching on in U.S. coffee bars where taking the time to please by making a distinctly personal beverage is moving beyond the espresso machine toward a brewing method that can weigh in at an equipment cost under $20, and produces a beverage that is sold at between $4 an $7 a serving. It is time we all took new notice of filter coffee.

Filter coffee (until recently referred to in the U.S. as "drip" coffee) goes back a long way. The Neapolitan drip pot (with a coffee chamber containing a perforated metal floor) and the French drip pot (made of metal or vitreous china; whose upper chamber contains a perforated floor) may pre-date later filtering devices, but hand poured filter coffee is most probably one of the oldest brewing methods. In 1922, page 632 in Ukers' All About Coffee carried a photo featuring more than 30 dip coffeemakers offered by American manufacturers. The method has been the primary brewing device for commercial coffee in the U.S. for more than a century, and the primary home brewing device in the U.S. for over 40 years.

The filter itself is key to the success of the device. The first filters appeared in Europe in the late 1600s when boiled coffee infusion was strained prior to being brought to table. Around 1710 according to Edward and Joan Brahama in Coffeemakers, 300 years of art & Design, 1989, fine ground coffee was tied into a cloth bag and suspended by a string in a large coffeemaker, and boiling water was poured over it. According to Bramah, "Jean Baptiste de Belloy, Archbishop of Paris and a renowned epicure, is usually given credit for first popularizing filter coffee and even for designing the filter brewer." The internet's insistence not withstanding, Dresden housewife Melitta Benz, who started making paper filters for coffee in 1908, did not invent the paper coffee filter, for Frederick Cauchois' introduced the Private Estate coffeemaker in New York in 1905 featuring Japanese "rice-paper" filter disks. It is uncertain if Couchois was the first. It is fair to say in Mehtta's defense that the firm was among the first to successfully promote disposable paper filter brewers for coffee for U.S. home brewing, and that along with the U.S. Chemex coffeemaker invented by Peter Schlumbohm, patented in 1941, they helped to improve the quality of coffee Americans were able to brew at home in their old stove-top percolators.

Flat filters, as Cauchois used, are often cut from smooth filter paper and usually seen held in place by a frame at the bottom of a brewer's cylindrical reservoir top. Cupcake-paper shaped filters of fluted smooth paper are found in brands of American manufactured automatic drip brewers for both commercial and home use. Filter tops may be cylindrical or conical in shape, and are fitted with filters made specifically for that shape. Conical shaped brew chambers are fitted with creped paper filters while cylindrical filtering chambers accept cup-cake shaped fluted filters made from smoother surface filter paper. The wrinkles of the creped paper, and the fluting of the smooth cup-cake filter paper hold the filter away from the filter chamber walls (ridges on the interior of the filter chamber or metal cages within the chamber prevent the filter from clinging to the interior walls of the filter chamber, making for an easier flow of liquid through the filter cone and into the vessel below). The older tradition of cloth filters is still used by some; particularly those who are attempting to be more environmentally sensitive in their equipment choices. Filters are produced to fit the various standard size brew baskets of brewer manufacturers.

Most foodservice operators do not give filters a thought. Their coffee supplier provides them with paper filters and they use them. Where the operator takes the time to analyze and agonize over his choice of filter thought is given to beverage quality, cost and environmental sensitivity in addition to compatibility with the brewing system and case of use.

Hand-pouring an individual pot or serving of coffee is of ancient heritage. Choosing a kettle with a narrow spout produces a thin precise steam of hot water to be directed over the grounds at the cost of lost degrees of temperature. Choosing a wider mouth kettle increases water flow, cutting time and conserving temperature, but at the expense of being able to micro-manage the water stream. Individually controlling the rate of flow, and the wetting of the grounds produces a hand crafted individual cup of coffee. It takes several minutes to produce a serving. The results are often very delicious, but replicable cup after cup only within wide parameters.

Paper filters are widely used in the culinary industry including in most coffee bars where filter coffee is made on brewers made by Bunn, Fetco, Grindmaster-Cecilware and Curtis. Some coffee bars hand-pouring individual cups of filter coffee are using paper filters while others use strainers of man-made fibers (usually stainless steel or nylon) or cloth.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of filter available, and different filtering materials produce a different taste in the cup. Paper filters and cloth filters retain some natural oils of the coffee, while man-made fibers let everything pass through their mesh into the cup making a murkier brew with a heavier body. Paper filters come white (often labeled "oxygen whitened") and in natural kraft color. Some cuppers believe they can taste a paper filter in the cup, while others perceive a metallic taste from steel filters.

What is gained and lost in taste qualities when brewing with cloth filters to some degree depends on the choice of cloth used. Brushed cotton, often called "flannel" filters hold back more than muslin or hemp cloth filters, and there are issues of rancid tastes that can develop in cloth filter bags if not handled and stored properly between uses. Under controlled conditions cloth does not impart an off-taste to the beverage.

In my youth, when cloth was still the filter of choice for commercial brewers be they Silex vacuum style, T. J. Topper urn type brewers or Cory automatic drip coffeemakers, proper care of the filters bags could mean the difference between a satisfied chef and a lost customer. I remember that my Dad's supplier and friend Mr. Dick, of Royal Urn Bag Co., now Urnex brands, counseled that cloth filters stain with their first use, but will last weeks, smelling fresh, if they are rinsed after each use in fresh water, and stored in fresh water when not in use, and overnight. He recommended letting his filter bags soak in a shallow pan of water, today a zip-lock bag will do just as well, for keeping the filter wetted, and preventing the oxidation of oils that have collected in the fibers of the cloth. Refrigerating the soaking filter will also help extend its fresh-life. Some wags recommend boiling the filter to help retain freshness for a longer period.

Cloth filters are believed by some to produce a beverage that is less astringent than paper or man-made filters, with little if any sediment passing through the filter into the beverage. Hemp is today's fashionably green cloth filter choice as cotton is often grown using environmentally questionable chemicals. Cotton can be grown under organic farming conditions.

In 1945, The U.S. Navy, prodigious consumers of filter coffee, published their recipe in Cook Book of the United States Navy. Basically, the Navy poured 2 gallons per pound, and then re-poured 4 gallons of the brewed coffee again through the spent grounds. I remember the dear very dark ruby red/brown color heavy body of brews of that family; as better "tablecloth" restaurants and hotel kitchens in New York were still brewing with recipes similar to this in the early 1960s. Restaurants and hotels served their coffee from heavy "hotel plate" silver servers, with heavy cream (36% butterfat) and light cream (18-36% butterfat) as whitening choices. The advent of automatic urns and paper filters introduced by Cecilware, Topper, Continental and others in the early 1960s out-of-home beverage service in the U.S. changed dramatically; By 1970 the old "battery" style and "combination" pour over urns were a thing of the past. A lighter beverage emerged as the national standard, and this trend continued until the influence of the specialty coffee revolution, and the move back to richer coffee to water ratios. You can find the Navy's filter brewing instructions along with those for other brew methods and the care and feeding of coffee equipment at

Around 50 years ago all industry efforts were on producing a consistent cup. Effort was expended to eliminate the "human factor" in coffee brewing for restaurant/institutional use as these were the largest purchasers of coffee. Then as now coffee preparation was often left to less skilled kitchen workers. It was believed that anything that minimized the effect of potential human inconsistency on the resulting beverage was a plus for the beverage. Today many coffee bars are reintroducing an individual "craft brewed" beverage to their menu. In some cases the hand-brewed beverage is the only beverage offered.

The commercial automatic brewer manufacturers are adapting hand-brew techniques to their equipment. Bunn calls their system Pulse Brew, while FEDCO calls their system Extractor.

Filter brewers for the home were overshadowed by other brewing methods until the introduction of the automatic drip brewer just before specialty coffee began to appear in bean shops and specialty food stores. The automatic drip brewer helped spur the discovery and acceptance of specialty coffee, and It continues to be an important brewing device in the home, along with its late 20th Century cousin the Keurig coffeemaker, a filter brewing device with added convenience, and additional controls to eliminate the potential effects of human cup-to-cup inconsistency in single cup brewed coffee.

The filter method today, as in the pour-over days, is to wet the grounds evenly, pause to let the water percolate through the grounds, and then continue to pour, in a circular motion, wetting all the ground evenly and filling the brew basket with fleshly drawn hot water. Stirring the slurry gentle with a wood spoon or other implement not likely to damage the filter facilitates a more even extraction of the grounds. Continuing this process at intervals as the water passes through the grounds until all the measured water has passed through the brew basket. Remove the basket/cone and spent grounds, and stir the finished brew. Stirring the finished beverage encourages consistency within the brew; a filter coffee collects in layers in the receiving vessel, with the first brewing heaviest coffee at the bottom and the lightest beverage at the top. There is one element of the hand-pour that does not appear to be carried into the present tradition, and that is covering the filter cone between pourings to prevent the loss of aroma from the brew.

In today's application, drama is often added with the use of a long neck water pourer held high above the waiting filter cone, and used to control a thin stream of hot water into the grounds below. Today the pourer of choice is made by Hario with others offered by Tiamo, Copco and others. The media's pick of coffeehouses to spotlight are those that choose the hand-pour trend as Steady Hand Pour House, Atlanta GA, Barefoot coffee, Santa Clara, CA, and Jack's Stir Brew, New York, NY and where the media shine their spotlight, attention is paid. We can expect to see more coffee venues adopt hand-brewed filter coffee to their cuisine.

It is de rigueur to say "filter" coffee, and not "drip" coffee now, and hand-poured filter coffee has come into its own as a specialty brew in the last two years. It joins espresso, and French press as the preferred delivery systems for the cup with cache both in the home, and at the coffee bar.



* Melitta unbleached white, and natural tan paper filters, Eco-Filter cotton filters.

* RockLine / Brew Rite / Mr Coffee brand paper filters and gold mesh filters.

* Riensch & Held stainless steel and nylon coffee filters

* SwissGold Gold Foil

* Goldtone Filter Cone

* Beyond Gourmet

* Chemex

* Hario Cloth Filters

* Bradshaw International (nylon/plastic) reusable filter baskets

* Mr. Natural reusable hemp filters


* Coava Kone Metal Chemex Filter

* Hario Ceramic Coffee Dripper V60-02

* Chemex

* Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper

* Melitta Plastic or Porcelain

* Freling USA Cilio Porcelain

* HIC Porcelain


* Brevelle Variable Temperature Kettle

* Braun Electric Kettle

* Sunbeam Electric Ketle

* Cloer Electric Kettle

* Dualit cordless electric Kettle

* Cheff's Choice Cordless Electric Glass kettle

* Kalorik Electric Jug Kettle

* Toastess Electric Jug kettle

* Westbend Cordless Electric Kettle 53783

* Presto

* Hamilton Beach

* Black & Decker

* Aroma Electric Water Kettle

* Proctor Silex Electric Kettle

* Presto heat & Steep Electric Kettle

* Sanyo Electric kettle U-K170S

* Saeco Electric water kettle


* Tiamo (various sizes)

* Hario V60 Buono

* Copco Cambridge Stainless-steel Teakettle

* Paico Coffee Tea Pot kettle

* Caferry Industrial Ltd


* Barefoot Coffee, Santa Clara CA

* Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco CA

* Chinatown Coffee Co., Washington DC

* CoffeeBar, Los Angeles CA

* Coffee Commissary, Los Angeles CA

* Eternity Coffee Roasters, Miami FL

* Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago IL

* Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco CA

* Steady Hand Pour House, Atlanta GA

* Jack's Stir Brew, New York NY

T&CTJ Contributing Gourmet/Specialties Editor Donald Schoenholt, still recalls the gleaming battery of hand-pour urns in the great underground tiled kitchens of the Astor Hotel in New York, where his father's coffee was brewed. Mr. Schoenholt can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Proper Preparation; filter coffee
Author:Schoenholt, Donald
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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