Brewing Coffee Manually

Better coffee. One cup at a time.

Hario Woodneck Drip Pot (Nel Drip) Intro and Tutorial

The Hario Woodneck Drip Pot is one of the less championed but more interesting manual brewers. Also known as the “Nel” drip (an abbreviated reference to it’s cotton flannel filter), this brewer consists of a glass carafe with a wood collar, a reusable cotton flannel filter and a wooden handled hoop to give the filter structure. It is a pour-over style brewer that comes in two sizes, the larger of which can hold around 480 mL of coffee.

Despite some extra maintenance and cleaning quirks, it is currently one of my favorite manual brewing methods. It produces a flavorful and full cup that has more body than traditional paper filtered coffee but less “sludge” than some of the metal filter options.

Brewing With the Hario Woodneck- My Nel Drip Method

As a manual pour-over device, I treat the Hario Woodneck a lot like I would treat some of the more common pour-over brewers. The flow rate is going to be a little slower than a traditional V60 brew, so I grind a little courser. I typically find myself one or two clicks to the east of my V60 setting on my Virtuoso grinder.

There is an impressive Blue Bottle Nel Drip method on their website. I recommend that you give this method a try when you first get your brewer. It makes a syrupy, delicious and concentrated cup of coffee.

I have also had good success with using the Blue Bottle method but changing the ratio to a more “realistic” amount (1:15). Some of us can’t burn 50 grams of coffee every afternoon.

Brewing Coffee Manually Nel Drip Pour-over Recipe (Using 375 mL water)
  1. Start with 25 grams of coffee ground medium fine (As mentioned above, I typically use a setting a little courser than my V60 setting).
  2. Use a dosage of 25 grams of coffee to 375 grams of water.
  3. If this is a brand new filter, boil the cloth filter for five minutes in a pot of water before use.
  4. Place the filter on the hoop and rinse with near boiling water. The seam goes on the inside with the coffee.
  5. Discard the rinse water.
  6. Place your ground coffee in the filter and add 75-80 grams of near boiling water (Around 195 degrees fahrenheit for the measuring type) for the bloom. Wait 30 seconds.
  7. Slowly add the rest of the water to bring the total up to 375 grams. I typically aim for a 2:30 – 3:00 brew time (including the 30 second bloom).
  8. Decant, enjoy and as always, tweak the recipe to suit your tastes.

Using the Nel Drip for Immersion- An Interesting Aside

On occasion, I have used the Nel drip as an immersion brewer instead of a pour-over device. The process can be a little finicky (I’ve made a mess or two while experimenting), but I’ve gotten some good results. Using the Nel Drip as an immersion style brewer produces a cup of coffee that is reminiscent of a French press but a little less murky and no fines.

The key to this method is finding a mug that is appropriate size and shape. You need a mug that can hold your water volume and keeps the ground coffee submerged inside the filter. A good rule of thumb is to start out with a mug that lets the cotton flannel filter touch the bottom and will only be around 3/4 full at your desired water volume.

When you have found a mug that you think will do the trick, do a little experimenting. Place the cloth filter and support hoop on top of the mug (without coffee) and fill it about 3/4 full of water. Measure the amount of water and move forward from there.

When you are confident in your mug selection and water volume, it is time to get brewing.

Brewing Coffee Manually Nel Drip Immersion Recipe (Using 200 mL water)
  1. Start with 14 grams of coffee ground course. I will typically use the same grind as I would for a French press.
  2. Use a dosage of 14 grams of coffee to 200 grams of water.(If you are using a different amount of water simply adjust the coffee to be around a 1:14 to 1:15 coffee to water ratio).
  3. Rinse your filter and discard the rinse water. (If your filter is brand new, you should boil it in water for five minutes prior to use).
  4. Start a timer.
  5. Place your ground coffee in the filter (the filter seam goes on the inside with the coffee) and add 40 grams of near boiling water for the bloom. Wait 30 seconds.
  6. Pour the rest of your volume of water over the coffee and give it a stir. Wait another 3:30.
  7. At the 4 minute mark, lift your filter out of the mug and let the remaining coffee drain out into the cup.
  8. Enjoy and adjust the ratios, grind setting and brew time to suit your tastes.

A Word on Cloth Filter Maintenance

Whether you are brewing the Nel drip as an immersion or a pour-over brewer, there is the inevitable 500 pound gorilla in the room. How do you clean it when you are done?

Unlike paper filters which can be discarded and metal filters that are easily rinsed, cloth filters present a special challenge. The fabric has the ability to retain flavors and oils from previous brewing sessions. This can make your current brewing session taste funky or a little off.

The manufacturer’s instructions are to rinse the filter until the water runs clear and then store the filter submerged in water refrigerated until the next time you are ready to use it. I have also heard of placing the damp, rinsed filter in the freezer (in a small ziplock) instead of the refrigerator.

I have tried both of these methods with mixed success. At times I have felt that my coffee tasted a little off and suspected my cloth filter. If you feel like you have an issue your filter, you can either replace it or boil it in a pot with water. Try adding a little Joe Glo to your boiling water for a deeper clean.

My current method of cleaning the filter is to dump the spent coffee grounds and rinse the filter inside-out in the sink. I will rub the fabric a bit and try to remove as much of the oils as possible. I then put the filter back on the hoop and rinse the filter with water just off of boil until the water appears clear. I let the filter air dry then thoroughly wet and rinse the filter next time with hot water before use.

I could find no good reason to not let the filter dry. It is the easiest and most efficient way I have found. Your milage may vary. If you know a reason you should keep the filter damp, please share in the comments section below.

In Summary

Overall, the Hario Woodneck is a great manual brewing device for those who are looking to experiment some with their filtering mediums. Based on the fact that taking care of the filter is enough of a hassle that it could dissuade someone who is just starting out, I would not typically recommend it for a beginning manual brewer. (Keep it simple to start).

It is not super expensive to get into and can actually be purchased sans the glass carafe for under $15.00. The filter/ hoop combination can be used in conjunction with a brewing stand or even the large glass carafe from a Bodum French press.

The “Nel” makes a great cup of coffee when proper care is taken to clean the filter and is a nice departure from the more popular brewing devices on the market. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Do you have experiences or questions about the Nel drip? Does anyone have a recipe or want to weigh in on the filter cleaning issue? Please join the conversation below.

5 Comments

  1. We have a filter almost just like this that we were given in Brazil. All of the coffee we saw was brewed essentially as a pour over using a cotton filter. There’s one pic up of someone making us coffee when we were there on our Instagram feed. Good memories!

    • Matt,
      I seem remember quite a few instances where I have seen the “coffee sock” being used in Central and South America. It must be pretty popular there for it’s reusable nature. I went back into your feed and found the picture. It looks like a great cup of coffee based on the experience alone. Sometimes the setting makes the best cup of coffee there is. Thanks for adding to the convo.

      John

  2. In Costa Rica, the traditional way to make coffee is with a cloth sock much like the Nel drip filter and a wooden stand. – supply your own pot or mug. We make our coffee this way on the weekends and it truly does make the best coffee.! I wash the filter much like you describe above and invert it on an empty wine bottle to dry. Works great! I have always placed the coffee in a dry net but I will try wetting it before adding the coffee as you suggest. The sock also works great for filtering cold brew coffee.

    • Vicky,
      I have seen the Costa Rican coffee sock and some really cool wooden stands. It looks like a fun way to brew some coffee. I am going to have to try drying out the filter on the top of a wine bottle. That is a good trick. Let me know if you notice a difference between starting with a wet or dry filter.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment,
      John

  3. Caffeinated Tom

    May 28, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    The best reason to refrigerate or freeze a cloth filter vs. drying is mildew. In the dry hills outside of Tucson I would dry, in Portland or Seattle I would refrigerate or freeze. Refrigeration also keeps the retained oils from going rancid quickly. If you refrigerate good olive oil because of experience you will also keep coffee oils under control.

    At home a paper filter rinsed in scalding water then used with correctly ground coffee is my go to solution. No clogged drains, easy cleanup and they compost.

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