Clever Coffee Dripper Experiments and More Tips

Here are some tips, and methods to brew based on our Clever Coffee Dripper tests

We have tried a few different methods of brewing in the CCD (Clever coffee dripper) and cupped the results… Here are some tips and comments based on our tests. We invite your own input on this via the SM Forum (RIP!) We still have some brew variations to try out, so this page will grow… So here are some of our Clever Coffee Dripper experiments .

Clever Coffee Dripper; Techniques and a Twist (Video)

This is an older video but the Clever has not changed much, so it holds true 10 years later! There are many approaches to the Clever brewer, but the point of this device is to SIMPLIFY pour-over technique, not add a bunch more rules for brewing “correctly”.

That said, pre-rinsing your paper filter really well before brewing is important, as is covering the brewer while steeping.

Clever Coffee Dripper: Techniques And Tips with a Twist

Don’t use a Swiss Gold permanent filter …but perhaps another type will work?

In theory using a permanent filter sounds like a very good idea … just somehow the Swissgold brand and the Clever didn’t play well together.

We couldn’t produce a good cup with one. We tried several times to get good results by using the Clever Coffee Dripper with a permanent gold filter. The results were a brew with poor texture (mouthfeel) and muddy flavors as well. The problem isn’t specific to the Clever, it’s a general Swiss gold issue, that too many fine particles of insoluble solids pass through the filter into the cup.

But the idea of a permanent non-paper filter is very attractive because an issue with the CCD is it can have a stronger “paper taste” than other brew methods. That’s because the coffee steeps with the paper filter in there, rather than just flowing through like regular pour-over brewers. So maybe we just need to find the right non-paper filter to use. In any case, thoroughly rinsing out your paper filter before use (as is good with all pour-over methods) is especially important with the Clever Brewer

Showing the translucent cup of paper filter brew on the right and the opaque Swiss Gold brew on the left.
Showing the translucent cup of paper filter brew on the right and the opaque Swiss Gold brew on the left.

So what went wrong with our permanent filter tests? Here’s some ideas:

Soluble solids in coffee are the oils and other compounds dissolved by the hot water, whereas insoluble solids are small particles in the grounds and are comprised of the woody cellulose structure of the bean itself. These are normally trapped by paper filters, but make it into the cup with the French Press, espresso brewing or the Swiss gold type filters.

A little theory: There are 2 general ways of thinking about drip brewing: coffee ground particles suspended in liquid, or coffee particles forming a bed in the bottom of the filter, and the water percolating down through though them into the cup.

Swiss Gold Sludge in the bottom of the cup. We used a moderately coarse grind for drip brewing, and a nice Mahlkonig grinder.
Swiss Gold Sludge in the bottom of the cup. We used a moderately coarse grind for drip brewing, and a nice Mahlkonig grinder.

You can have good results with a Swissgold brew if, after the brew phase is over, you let the coffee sit for about 4 minutes undisturbed, and carefully pour from the top of you cup or carafe. The turbidity settles out in this time, and you can see some layering in the cup of clean, sediment-free brew at the top, muddy and turbid liquid at the bottom. (This is true with French Press too!)

I think Swissgold works best in brewers where the grounds are not stirred, where it forms a bed and the water percolates through it. But in our brew method with the CCD, we stir the coffee at 1:30 minutes, and this makes for a gritty brew. So you might say, “just don’t stir with the Swissgold!” Well, we found that result cleaner in terms of sediment but lacking in overall cup flavors.

Rinse Rinse Rinse that paper filter!!!

As mentioned above, you really need to rinse your paper filter to get rid of possible “paper taste” in the brew. You want to do this with all pour over methods. With the Clever its important because the water is immersed with the coffee and paper for longer than other manual drip brew methods.

Cover the dripper

We like to cover the dripper during brewing; use a small plate or or pot lid. One of the advantages here over a standard filter cone holder is that you can maintain a thermal mass of hot water steeping the coffee. Covering it helps to reduce heat loss.

Clever Coffee Dripper covered
The Clever Dripper comes with a cover now. If you don’t have one though: Cover the dripper while steeping the water and grinds; use a small plate or or pot lid.

Optimal Grind

We tested for cup quality and brew strength using a range of grinds. One of the nice things about the CCD is that grind and brew timing are no longer linked. Consider this: in a standard filter cone, you usually need to grind coffee ridiculously fine in order to extend brew times, to slow the rate at which the coffee drains into the receptacle. The CCD frees up the process from using grind in this way: you can grind to your preference, a French Press type grind if you like that, or a filter grind. To the right is an image of the range of grinds we tested, and the middle was the best.

Clever Coffee Dripper Grind Test
These are the range of grinds we tested, and the middle was the best. No surprises here; the best grind was a fairly typical drip grind.

No surprises here …the best grind was a fairly typical drip grind. We liked the French Press type grind for the clarity and cleanliness of the cup. But we found a little less body. The fine grind tasted slightly acrid, over-infused. I fear that those used to a typical filter cone brew have also ground coffee very fine out of habit, so you might want to err on the side of coarse, then go progressively finer if you think the coffee lacks body.

Keep it Clean

Do not allow residue to build up in the filter; lightly scrub the cone with very hot water and a sponge or brush, taking care to clean shut-off mechanism lightly from the top. If you can clean it with very hot water for 5 minutes, scrub with a brush and rinse with very hot water, that is ideal. I would NOT use strong coffee brewer cleaners, especially those made for espresso machines. I might use mild ones made for drip brewers, but if I could just use hot water and soap I would opt for that. Some strong coffee cleaners can change the surface porosity of plastics. I want to avoid that!

Clever Coffee Dripper backlit - coarse grind versus fine
Too fine grind (left) and too coarse grind (right) comparing opacity in the cup with back lighting . Not very scientific, but telling.

Ideal Brewing: the “1.5 Minute Stir” method.

Here are some more specific recommendations for exactly how I use the brewer

  • Step 1: Put the paper filter into the dripper.
  • Step 2: Add coffee into the filter
  • Step 3: Add all the water at once and cover, wait 1.5 minutes, then lift the cover and stir to fully mix the grounds and water. Re-cover for remaining infusion time and drain.
  • Step 4: When infusion time is up, place dripper on top of a mug or other vessel. Coffee will drain for approximately 1.5 minutes or less. To stop the flow, simply lift the dripper off the mug.
Amount of Ground Coffee2 scoops/22g
Water used12 oz/350 mL/361 grams*
Infusion time3 – 4:00 min
Amount of Filtered Coffee Made10 oz/300 mL

* We have found that for the most accurate brewing, it is best to measure your water by weight. This is easily done by preparing your coffee on a scale. For 22 grams of coffee, you want to use 361 grams of hot water.

** These recommendations are based on using a regular drip grind. If you use a coarser grind, you may need to lengthen extraction time.

Clever Coffee Dripper tests
Our brew testing of various grind types Clever Coffee Dripper

Other little notations

  • The dripper is made from BPA-free plastic. The jury is out on BPA, and most of the concerns have focused on baby bottles, but it’s good to know it has no BPA in the plastic
  • The cone is brittle enough that if you drop it, you can break off one of the 4 little “feet”. Breaking of a foot makes the brewer unstable and if it leans it will activate the drainer. You can super glue a foot back onto it – it doesn’t contact the coffee brew. But it’s one fragility on the device that is otherwise fairly bullet-proof.
  • I have used one for months and noticed absolutely no drips during brewing, or occasionally one little drip. Twice (out of scores of uses) the stopper seemed stuck after I had cleaned it, and it started to drain when it shouldn’t. A quick tap to the bottom solved that.
  • The dripper can be used with any glass, mug or thermos bottle. The dripper will fit on cups and thermoses with tops between 1.5″ and 3.75″ in diameter. Of course, if you put the dripper on a very narrow thermos, you should make sure the dripper is stable. If you want to place something on top as a lid (which we highly recommend!), it needs to be at least 5.5″ in diameter

2 Responses

  1. Hello
    I recently bought the Clever Coffee Dripper. The coffee is not full bodied. The flavor
    is not there either. It can seem strong, ever a bit bitter. But not the full bodied
    flavorful coffee I like. I do not use milk or any other liquid in the coffee. I use a
    grind a little bit less than French Press. I use 12 ounces of water and 23 grams
    of coffee. It brews for four minutes. Before brewing I pour very hot water over the
    filter that is in the coffee dripper. I also cover the coffee dripper while brewing.
    I don’t want to scorch the grind so I wait until the boiled water reaches 202 F
    and then pour. Any suggestions ? Thankyou

    1. Usually body and intensity are really about the brew ratio of coffee: water. Clever should actually give you better body than other pour-over drip methods because of the longer steep time. But if you are used to something like French Press, it will have less body as the paper filter is taking out particulates that add to mouthfeel. You get more of that in a method without paper filter. Like French Press. Anyway, I think just increasing the about of coffee would help. (Also I think brewing a small amount, like 12 ounces, doesn’t work as well. I used an aeropress for single cups.)

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