By Angela Manners
I've been making coffee (espresso-based coffee) at home for years but it’s only recently that I’ve started using alternative brew methods. This post will be about my current favourite tool which is my Mr Clever dripper. Prior to this, I would wonder why anyone would spend more money at a café for a pour over. What makes it so special?
Now I know. It all comes down to the bean, the alchemy that occurs when hot water touches the magical substance we call coffee. Alternative brewing is sometimes called manual brewing and I would say it is because it’s down to the basics. There are no fancy machines. It’s down to hot water and the bean. This is where the term “pour over” gets its meaning. You are basically pouring hot water over coffee.
There is no comparison to the flavour and aroma that freshly roasted, high quality beans can give you when brewing at home.
Why has it taken so long for me to appreciate this process?
Simply because I thought it was too hard for me to replicate at home. When talking to baristas and true coffee experts, I was mystified by the chemical compositions, the mathematical equations of water-to-coffee, the down-to-the-gram weight ratios that they told me about. I watched many a hipster-bearded or man-bunned barista (sorry to generalise here) artfully making their coffees and I would wonder what their secret was.
Yes, there is a bit of magic that occurs when going bean-to-cup but as for the secret, that’s a different matter. What is the secret to making that perfect cup that people pay more for? The secret to wonderfully smooth and silky, perfectly brewed liquid gold?
In this, my previous post (Instant vs Homebrew), and my ongoing posts, you can forget the mysticism, the snobbery and the turned up noses at however you want to drink your brew. You will need to be open to a bit of trial and error but honestly, keeping it simple is the best way to go. Here is the secret… there is no secret! Perfectly home-brewed coffee is within your reach.
Firstly, I will admit to getting some key information from a pro. I have done some research online but there is so much varying info out there, down to milligrams and degrees of temperature. Paul, the homebrewing expert at Perk Coffee was the first person who didn’t look at me like I was an idiot. He was the one that clued me in on the importance of coffee/water ratio, grind and temperature. He said, “you need to get those things right to ensure a consistent cup of coffee”. But then he laughed as my eyes glazed over and said, it’s really easy. Stick to these basics.
- For coffee/water ratio, in general, use 6 grams of coffee per 100 grams of water. Huh? You ask? Basically, one very loosely packed tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee (grind it fresh if possible) to half a cup of hot water. I measured and weighed these out myself using common household baking cups and tablespoon measures. It’s not exact but for this novice, it will do. The ratio always stays the same so just increase or decrease depending on the amount of coffee you’re making.
- For grind, there is a bit more of a trick but if you’re not terribly picky, you’ll get by with a grind that is roughly the size of sea salt. However, to really geek out about this and perfect your technique, follow the Pro Tips (by Perk Coffee) at the bottom of each of these Novice Guides. Also have a look at the picture below as a visual guide.
- For water temperature, while it’s nice to have a fancy thermometer to test the temp (something I have purchased, tried and got annoyed at because it was too fussy), Paul said to boil the kettle and wait for a minute (60 whole seconds), making sure the cover is open, then pour it over the coffee. That should give you the perfect temperature to brew your coffee. If the water is too hot, it burns the coffee grounds and produces something that neither smells or tastes very good.
The Mr Clever’s ideal grind size would be somewhere between the pour over and French press sizes (last two on the right). Image provided by Perk Coffee.
Mr Clever dripper
The Mr Clever dripper is a cross between an immersion tool (where the coffee is immersed in water, like the French press) and a pour over dripper (like the Hario V60 dripper). Of all the contraptions I’ve tried, this is one of the easiest, most mess-free ways to make a lovely, consistent cup of coffee. It has a mechanism that holds the liquid in the dripper until you are ready to drink it. You can brew your coffee in the Mr Clever on a flat surface like your table or countertop without worrying about the water flowing through. Placing the Mr Clever onto a cup triggers the release and allows the coffee to pour into your vessel.
I look forward, every morning, to my ritual of grinding my coffee beans and then making coffee in the Mr Clever. It’s simple, quick and easy. I also find that the process is relaxing and letting the aroma drift in the air is the best thing in the world. I also love trying out different beans because each region, how the beans are processed, each roast produces different flavours and I love discovering what each one tastes and feels like on my tongue.
From left, clockwise: Mr Clever, lid (have no idea what it’s for), coffee cup, kettle, measuring spoons and filter paper, coffee
What you’ll need:
A Mr Clever dripper – I got mine at grouphunt.sg a year ago. I love this community focused group buying website.
Check them out! To receive a $5 credit when you sign up, use this link: Vanilla Beige $5 Credit and in the interest of full disclosure, we (Vanilla Beige) will also receive a $5 credit. Once you’ve signed up, just search for Clever Coffee. You can also follow this link here.
This is how to do it:
- Boil the kettle.
- Wait for a minute to let the water cool to an ideal temperature (remember to open the lid).
- While you’re waiting, freshly grind your beans.
- Fold your paper filter then place it in the Mr Clever.
Fold your filter. This is so it sits properly in your Mr Clever.
- Rinse the filter out with hot water to get rid of that papery taste. Empty the Mr Clever by placing it on your cup and letting all the water drain through. Throw out the water.
- Place your coffee grounds into the washed out filter.
- Pour hot water over the ground coffee until it reaches about 2cm to the top (or until it reaches the top of the plastic strips you can see on the outside of the Mr Clever).
If you want to be tricky, pour in a little bit of water to cover the grounds. Wait and count to ten. This is called blooming. Then pour in the rest of the water. I don’t know what exactly this does but it certainly makes me feel more baristary.
First cup poured.
- Let the coffee steep for about two minutes. I don’t actually wait that long because I like a lighter cup.
- Set the Mr Clever on top of your cup and fill it up. I love the hold and release mechanism because it means no mess! You should be able to get about two good cups of coffee from one brew.
This is the second cup from one full Mr. Clever. The magic of the Mr Clever is that it will stop pouring as soon as you lift it off the cup.
- Drink that beautiful, beautiful brew.
If you want to be fancy, weigh out the grind – 6 grams per 100 grams of water. I know that the Mr Clever holds a little over 400 grams of water so I adjust the amount of coffee to suit.
Pour clean water to cover the filter. I usually do this just after the kettle is boiled so by the time I’ve rinsed it out, the temperature is just right for coffee. It also heats your cup, which is a nice touch for the connoisseur.
PRO TIPS (from Perk Coffee):
Grind size: Medium-course to course grind (about the size of sea salt).
Recommended beans to try: Try an Ethiopian bean like our Aramo which tends to be fruitier. The use of a paper filter will highlight the berry notes because it pulls out all the oils.
If you like a medium dark roast, try a bean like our Urbanite from Brazil. The immersion aspect of Mr Clever will highlight the deeper, chocolatey and nutty notes.
Top tips: Always try and grind fresh (right before brewing).
If the coffee comes out bitter, adjust the steep time or the grind. A finer grind will produce a stronger coffee and a courser grind, a lighter one.
Give it a stir after pouring water on the coffee grounds. It’s all about extraction so stirring the coffee will help release all the flavour.
Don’t let it the coffee sit in the Mr Clever for too long. The longer the coffee soaks in the water, the stronger and more bitter it will become.