April 2011: Clever/Technivorm Comparison; New Look for Sweet Maria’s Library

Are Clever Coffee Drippers good because they are an inexpensive way to make coffee? Do Technivorm brewers make good coffee because they cost almost $300? After all, don’t both brewers infuse water with ground coffee? We thought it would be interesting to compare what the two brewers do well and expose their differences, especially since there is such a wide disparity in their price. On a chilly Oakland day (the ambient temperature in the warehouse was about 52°) we decided to brew the same coffee side by side using our office brewer, the Technivorm KBTS – 8 Cup Thermal Brewer, and a Clever Coffee Dripper. For best results with both brewers, we find that you need to use the correct technique. For this comparison test, we used the recommended amount of water and coffee. We did reduce the amount of coffee and water for the Technivorm in order to keep the final amounts brewed about the same in both methods (we made a half pot instead of the full pot we normally make). For a somewhat mysterious reason, filter-brewed coffee tastes better the more you make.

Clever Coffee Dripper Brewing Technique – A #4 paper filter was inserted into the Clever and rinsed with hot water. – We pre-heated the dripper and cup with hot water. – 22g of coffee (El Salvador Maragogype), medium grind, was added into wet filter. – We added 12 oz (360 mL) hot water (at about 202°) and covered the brew. – At 1.5 minutes, we lifted the cover, stirred and replaced the cover. – After 4 minutes infusion the coffee was allowed to drain out.

Technivorm Brewing Technique – After placing a #4 filter into the brew basket, we rinsed the filter with hot water. – 31g of coffee (El Salvador Maragogype), medium grind, was added to the brew basket. – We added 17 oz (503mL) cold water to the Technivorm reservoir (this is about a half pot). – With the drain switch in the closed setting, we stirred the coffee as hot water entered the basket. – The drain switch was set onto the slow drip setting. – The entire brew process took about 4 minutes. These steps might seem pretty fussy, and I guess they are in a way. But each of these small steps, like rinsing the paper filter, changes the flavor of the brew in a small way. The ultimate test with any technique, fussy or not, is to try it both ways, once with a rinsed filter and once without, and see if you can taste a difference. I am definitely opposed to fussy-ness for fussy-ness sake.

The Results

Tom cupped the brewed coffee and found the cups were very close in quality. The brew from the Clever Dripper was a lower temperature, due probably to the heat lost while transferring the hot water from kettle to measuring cup to brewer. The Clever produced a great brew, but you could taste the effect of the lower water temperature. The Technivorm KBTS provides a consistent flow of hot water throughout the brewing process so there is less heat lost. (The water goes from the cold water reservoir down to the heater, and then boils out and up. So instead of boiling all the water at once, the water is boiled in small amounts and delivered to the grounds throughout the process.) Overall, the Technivorm is an automated drip brewer controls many variables (i.e. the rate hot water is added, heat retention and extraction time) that are all manual with the Clever, so results are likely to be more consistent with the Techinvorm than with the Clever. In the end, both brewers make a great cup of coffee. The amount of money and space that one could save by brewing with a Clever makes it a great choice for a person who is willing to keep their technique consistent from one brew to another. The Technivorm is a wonderful machine that allows a bit more automation and consistency in the brew process. – Maria

New Look for the Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library

It has been a goal of Sweet Maria’s Coffee since Tom started the business in the fall of 1997 to provide a BOATLOAD of information about coffee. Like we say on the front page of our website – “We are more than just another on-line shopping cart, we are a virtual coffee university.” After all, that is what keeps us interested in this business; otherwise we could be selling widgets or diapers or bolts.

Over the years, as we have amassed a large pile of photos and articles about all things coffee (from multiple travelogues with hundreds and hundreds of photos, to opining on the state of coffee), it has grown to be an unwieldy mass of stuff. All of the pieces reflected our thinking at the time, but some of that now seems out of date. So a major revamping was in order – not just to freshen up the look of the pages, but to build in a structure that would ultimately make it more functional too. Now, if one were to proceed from a purely rational point of view, this would be fairly easy. The more Tom and I thought about it though, we started to think of the Coffee Library as a bookstore, and the sort of bookstore that we would like; a sort of funky independent bookstore where books and photos are piled willy-nilly and it is super fun to browse and browse from one thing to the next, seeing where looking takes you.

We were not interested in a mainstream bookstore like Barnes and Noble or Borders Books where the aisles are wide and well marked and it is all somehow less interesting. So we wanted to keep something of that tension, keeping our library accessible (since otherwise what’s the point?) but having enough there that browsing is fun. I hope we have struck the right balance. You can see the results at www.sweetmarias.com/library The library is built on the Drupal platform, so we can tag images and articles s that they are internally searchable. You will also be able to log in and comment on articles, photos and videos. The log-ins are the same between the cart and library – so if you have a cart log-in, you will be able to use the same name and password.

The Coffee Library is organized around topics and types of information, with these headings: Roast Coffee, Make Coffee, Taste Coffee, Green Coffee, Travel, Science, Coffee Trade, Science, Oddness, Forum, Glossary and Blog. It should be pretty obvious what these categories represent, especially the Oddness! Ultimately, we hope that the library will have cross-referenced information – so if you are looking, say for a description of wet processing, you can pull up a definition and photos of the process, as well as cupping notes on the range of flavors common in those coffees, and an idea of where wet processed coffees are produced. Pretty ambitious I know, but we can get there eventually I think. It is a good goal anyhow. – Maria

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