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The Clever Coffee Dripper was my first manual brewer and for a long time it was my only manual brewer. When I first started getting into specialty coffee, it was my go-to for a hand made cup of coffee.
Over the last few years, I have added quite a few brewers and brewing methods to my arsenal and the Clever has gotten pushed to the side.
A month or so ago, I was wandering around a store with my wife and saw the newer model on clearance. A wave of coffee nostalgia rushed over me and I decided to bring this brewing method back into my manual brew bar rotation.
What is the Clever Coffee Dripper
The Clever Coffee Dripper is a BPA-free plastic immersion brewer that can also double as a manual drip brewer. It has an interesting and, pardon the obvious, very clever design that gives simple but exceptional control over coffee steep time.
The Clever is basically a filter cone with a stopper built into the bottom. There are little feet on brewer to keep the stopper from being engaged unless it is set on a mug. This means you can release the coffee out of the brewer and into a mug whenever you are ready. Lifting the brewer off of the mug will instantly stop the flow of coffee.
Included with the brewer is a lid and plastic coaster for setting the brewer on.
What I like about the Clever
The Clever is a great brewer from someone who is just getting started with manual brewing and does not have a lot of money to spend on gear.
It is generally around twenty dollars and has the benefit of being two brewers in one- The Clever can be used as designed or the stopper can be removed from the bottom and it becomes a filter cone.
A gooseneck kettle is really not necessary for using the Clever- You can make consistently great coffee with a normal kettle.
You have a lot of freedom to experiment, tweak and find a recipe that works for you- Because you are in control of the steeping time, you can use a variety of grind sizes and extraction techniques to customize your brew. If you are interested in a lot of body, you can grind the coffee fine and have a short steep time. If you want a clean and smooth cup, you can grind coarse and steep longer.
If you use it as a manual filter cone, you can brew large batches- The conical filter portion of the Clever has a larger capacity that many of the other manual drip brewers. A #4 filter fits entirely inside the brewer.
Some Clever drawbacks
I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the Clever, but there are a few things that are worth noting.
The Clever will stain over time- While this should not have a negative impact on the coffee taste, it does start to look less appealing. After many uses, my old model Clever is brown tinted and a little scary looking.
There is a new Black (Stain-Free) Clever Coffee Dripper on the market. If staining is something that concerns you, view my April 2017 review of the Homewara Black Clever Coffee Dripper.
It’s made of plastic- There is something less than appealing about plastic for me. It doesn’t retain heat the same way as ceramic and it won’t last forever. If you like the idea of the Clever but aren’t crazy about the plastic, there is the Bonavita Porcelain Immersion Coffee Dripper. It operates on a similar premise.
A simple brew guide
As I stated above, the Clever is pretty versatile when it comes to customizing the cup of coffee you want. The packaging also has some very good brewing instructions and tips as a starting point.
Here is my usual method, although I will at times tweak some of the variables based on the strengths (or weaknesses) of the particular coffee I am using.
Dosage- I use my standard 17:1 water to coffee ratio (by weight) for the Clever Coffee Brewer. I use a medium coarse grind, coarser that I would for a standard pour-over but not a coarse as a French press grind.
Filter Rinse- Like most manual brewing methods, it is a good idea to rinse your filter. Place the Clever on top of your mug and thoroughly wet the filter. Discard the hot water from the mug. You may want to leave the hot water in the mug for a few minutes while you are brewing to keep your mug warm.
Bloom- Take water just off of boil (around 205 degrees) and slowly wet the grounds with about 10 percent of your total water. The Clever should not be sitting on a mug at this point. It should be resting on the feet so the stopping mechanism is engaged. Wait about 30 seconds.
Brew- After the bloom, slowly pour the rest of your water into the Clever. Place the lid on top of the device and wait another 90 seconds.
Draw Down- After 90 seconds or so, carefully pick up the Clever by the handle and place it on your mug. (Make sure your mug is big enough to hold the amount of coffee you are brewing.) I shoot for around 60 seconds for a draw down time. If your coffee is taking longer than that, you may have ground the coffee too fine. If it goes too fast, you may have ground too coarse. Don’t jump to conclusions though let taste be the final determinate of your grind size.
Enjoy and Tweak- Sit down and enjoy your coffee. If it needs some tweaking, you can adjust the steep time, grind particle size, water temperature and water-to-coffee ratios. It is much easier if your make a few notes, indicating how you would like to brew your coffee next time.
If you are happy with the drawdown time but feel the coffee is still a little under extracted. Try stirring the coffee a few times during the steep to agitate the filter bed and increase extraction.
The Clever Coffee Dripper is a fun brewing tool with a variety of recipes and techniques. It is fairly easy to be consistent with the way you brew and equally easy to pick one variable to change for experimentation purposes. At the price of around 20 dollars, it is a great place to start manual brewing as well as a way for the more advance manual brewer to add some variety to their brew bar.
Is there a Clever Coffee recipe or technique you would like to share? Does anyone use this brewing method consistently to make their manual coffee? Feel free to comment, share tips or ask questions below.