In light of my Brewing Coffee Manually challenge, I thought I would review my best-loved dripper and long-time manual brewing companion. The Bee House Dripper.
The Bee House is a ceramic dripper made in Japan. It comes in two sizes, large and small, as well as a variety of colors (ten to be precise). It retails for around twenty dollars. The elegant design and wide availability have made it one of the favorite drippers of the manual brewing world.
What I like about the Bee House dripper
It is made of ceramic
Ceramic brewers are an upgrade from the inexpensive plastic Melitta dripper that I often recommended for the manual brewer who is just starting.
Ceramic is better at retaining heat than plastic. If you are preheating your brewer and brewing vessel, the Bee House helps to keep your grounds and water at a fairly consistent temperature while brewing.
Additionally, some people have serious qualms about brewing with plastic. If you don’t relish the idea of pouring 205 degree water over a plastic dripper and then drinking the results, a ceramic brewing may be for you.
Coffee culture has a long history with coffee alternatives and additives. It seems that nearly since it’s discovery, people have been trying to replace, alter and enhance it. In Mark Pendergrast’s book Uncommon Grounds, he names more than 65 things that have been used for coffee additives. Some of my favorites are brewery waste, burnt rags, and dog biscuits.
“The list of coffee adulterants indeed is amazing: almonds, arrowhead, asparagus seeds and stalks, baked horse liver, barberries, barley, beechmast, beetroot, box seeds, bracken, bran, bread crusts, brewery waste, brick dust, burnt rags, burrs, carob beans, carrot, chickpeas, chicory, chrysanthemum seeds, coal ashes, cocoa shells, comfrey roots, cranberries, currants, dahlia tubers…” (Uncommon Grounds, 60) You get the picture.
Of all the things that have been added to coffee over the years, chicory, a blue flowered plant native to Europe, is probably the most familiar and successful. The leaves of the plant are sometimes use as salad greens. The root is roasted, ground and used to produce a bitter “coffee substitute.” It is probably most well known in New Orleans style coffee which can be up to 40 percent chicory.
A genuine handmade cup of coffee
One of the most widely known and popular methods of manual brewing is the drip brewer, also known as a pour over. This method is comparable in concept to what a standard coffee maker does with some very important exceptions.
An important difference between an automatic drip coffee maker and a manual drip brewer is the water temperature. Most automatic coffee makers simply do not get the water hot enough to extract all the flavors you want out of your coffee. You want water that is just off the boil, around 200-205 degrees. This is pretty widely accepted as the ideal water temperature range.
You don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive equipment to start down the road of manual coffee brewing. The most basic drip brewer that I recommend is the Melitta drip brewer. You can purchase it online for around 5 dollars. I have seen them at most grocery stores as well. While this is not the most elegant and aesthetically pleasing drip brewer, it will get you good results. It is also light weight and not easily broken.
Don’t let the simplicity of the drip brewer fool you. It is not something that is easily mastered. There are lengthy YouTube videos, heated forum debates, and even a manual brewing championship. Don’t get too caught up in all the technical details either. You are just brewing a cup of coffee.