A Coffee Lover's Perfect Mate

(James M. Thresher - For The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When it comes to making coffee, I've been a serial gadgeteer. I've gone for the next best thing so many times I can barely keep track: the vacuum pot, the one-cup pod gizmo, the steep-overnight cold-press thing, the electric drip, the old-style percolator; of course the French press in glass, plastic and insulated variations. And when I take on a new method, I don't necessarily give up on another, instead going back and forth like a highly caffeinated gadget-loving polygamist.

I tend to vacillate between high and low tech, so when my $200 Capresso electric drip coffeemaker started sputtering again (it was time to run the decalcifying cleaner through it), I gave it away and felt the pendulum swing back toward the stripped-down end of the spectrum. For the first time in maybe ever, I think it won't swing again.

Here's what I do now: Measure beans into a grinder. Fill a teakettle with water. Put a ceramic dripper on a mug, insert a paper filter. Pour in the ground beans, pour not-quite-boiling water over them. Watch and inhale as coffee drips into the cup.

The dripper, by Japanese company Beehouse, is similar to the age-old plastic Melitta one-cup filter I remember from my mother's kitchen, only much better designed.

The result is the best cup of coffee I've ever had, a perfectly rich but smooth brew. Unlike a French press or Melitta, the device is a breeze to clean.

I'm not the only coffee geek who has come around. I got the idea two years ago from the revered Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in San Francisco, where employees set up a shelf holding several drippers at their station at the Ferry Building Marketplace farmers market. I had never had such a fragrant, fresh, intense cup. I forgot about the method until I went to Peregrine Espresso on Capitol Hill last fall and saw the same system, which, as it turns out, Cowgirl Creamery downtown also uses. It all traces back to Blue Bottle.

I already had the teakettle and the grinder. Peregrine sold me the Beehouse dripper for a mere $15, and now I can't imagine making my morning brew any other way, no matter what gadget comes along. I guess I've finally settled down.

-- Joe Yonan

Beehouse ceramic dripper, $15 to $17, at Peregrine Espresso, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 202-629-4381, http://www.peregrineespresso.com; and online at http://www.sweetmarias.com.

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