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All About Coffee – Hand Drip Coffee Basics

Seeking to get the best of the morning brew or simply bored of bad coffee? Check out the basics of hand drip to kickstart the morning spree!

The rich and aromatic coffee beans that are enjoyed worldwide are derived from the seeds of coffee cherries. These cherries are carefully cultivated and handpicked in over 50 countries, with Brazil and Vietnam leading the production of coffee, yielding millions of pounds annually. After harvesting, the seeds are meticulously washed to eliminate any remaining fruit fragments and then spread out to dry. This is what we refer to as green coffee, unroasted beans that are poised to unveil their full flavor profile.

Hand drip coffee offers a distinct approach compared to French press, espresso machines, and standard coffee makers. This technique involves the manual pouring of hot water in a circular motion over coffee grounds held within a filter. This controlled process is said to result in a less acidic and bitter brew compared to other methods.

Hand drip coffee basics

  1. Water Preparation
    Heat water using a gooseneck kettle to around 205°F / 96°C. This ensures the pouring temperature remains around 200°F / 93°C, ideal for brewing.
  2. Filter Rinsing
    Rinse the coffee filter paper placed in the ceramic dripper using hot water. This removes any paper taste and preheats the brewing equipment. Discard the rinse water.
  3. Coffee Grinding
    Grind 20 grams of coffee (approximately 3 tablespoons) to a consistency resembling sea salt. This is crucial for proper extraction.
  4. Coffee Placement
    Place the ground coffee in the filter paper, ensuring an even distribution. Pour a small amount of hot water (around 50 grams) over the grounds to facilitate an even bloom. Wait for approximately 30 seconds.
  5. Water Pouring
    Slowly pour the remaining water (300-350 grams) in a circular motion, ensuring an even extraction. The entire pouring process should take roughly 2-3 minutes.

Benefits of Hand Drip Coffee

  • Control
    This method allows for expert control over factors like water temperature, flow rate, and extraction time, potentially leading to a more personalized cup of coffee.
  • Flavor
    The slow, circular pouring method fosters a more even extraction, potentially resulting in a smoother cup with a balanced flavor profile, potentially reducing the need for added sugars or creamers.
  • Minimal Equipment
    While specialized equipment is recommended for optimal results, hand drip coffee can still be achieved with minimal gear, potentially making it a more accessible and cost-effective option.

Of course there is much more to hand drip coffee than just pouring hot water over ground coffee beans. As they say, the devil is in the details so let’s dive right into them.

Choosing Coffee Beans

Arabica vs Robusta

The journey to a perfect had drip coffee begins with selecting the right coffee beans. Freshness is of utmost importance. Coffee beans start to lose their flavor and aroma within two weeks of roasting.

In the world of coffee beans, there exists a clear distinction between Robusta and Arabica, two varieties that differ significantly in their characteristics and appeal. While Robusta beans are easier to cultivate and produce, they tend to possess a less refined flavor profile. Arabica, on the other hand, is renowned for its delicate and nuanced taste, earning it a reputation as the superior choice among discerning coffee enthusiasts.

Arabica: A Symphony of Flavors

The oval shaped Arabica coffee beans are prized for their complex flavor profiles, often encompassing notes of chocolate, citrus, floral, and nutty. These delightful flavors arise from a combination of factors, including the bean’s origin, altitude of cultivation, washing process, and roasting method.

Caffeine content: 0.8 – 1.5%

Robusta: A Caffeine Boost

The circular shaped Robusta coffee beans contain approximately twice the caffeine content of Arabica beans, making them a popular choice for those seeking a stronger energy boost. However, Robusta beans often have a bitter aftertaste and lack the aromatic complexity of Arabica beans.

Caffeine content: 1.7 – 3.5%

Roast level

The coffee roasting process spans a spectrum from green to light, medium, and dark roasts, each stage fundamentally altering the bean’s characteristics, including caffeine content and flavor profile.

While dark roasts dominate the market, particularly in commercial and café settings, many people find greater appeal in medium or light roasts, as darker roasts although mask bean imperfections, they also destroy aromas making darker roasts less exciting experience.

  • Light Roasts
    These highlight the coffee’s natural flavors and acidity, offering fruity and floral notes. They’re perfect for showcasing the unique characteristics of different coffee origins.
  • Medium Roasts
    Balanced with moderate acidity, a touch of sweetness, and a richer body. They are a versatile choice for most people.
  • Dark Roasts
    Bold and intense with notes of chocolate, nuts, or smoke. While less common for hand drip, some people might prefer them.

Equipment for Hand Drip Coffee

Acquiring the necessary equipment and ensuring proper preparation are crucial for optimal results. Hand drip coffee allows for brewing with various filter types. Understanding the characteristics of each type helps selecting the right tool to our preference. The selected coffee grinder significantly impacts the grind consistency and ultimately, the flavor of the hand drip coffee. Two primary grinder types are available.

Hand Drip Coffee Filter Types

  • Paper Filters
    These disposable filters offer a clean, bright coffee taste due to their ability to trap most oils and fine particles. Rinsing the paper filter with hot water prior to use is recommended to minimize any paper taste in the final beverage.
  • Permanent Filters
    Constructed from metal or nylon, these reusable filters are more environmentally friendly. They allow for the passage of more oils and fine particles, resulting in a fuller-bodied coffee. However, maintaining their effectiveness necessitates regular cleaning.
  • Mesh Filters
    Typically crafted from stainless steel, these reusable filters permit a greater presence of oils and sediment in the coffee. They require meticulous maintenance to ensure optimal performance.

Coffee Grinder for Hand Drip Coffee

  • Burr Grinders
    Utilizing two burrs, these grinders crush coffee beans into a uniform size, ensuring a consistent grind crucial for hand drip coffee. They are available in both electric and manual models.
  • Blade Grinders
    While more affordable, blade grinders chop rather than grind coffee beans, resulting in an inconsistent grind size. Considering the importance of consistency in hand drip coffee, burr grinders are the preferred choice.

Hand Drip Coffee Maker

The selection of a suitable coffee maker plays a crucial role in the hand drip brewing process. Several popular options exist, each offering unique advantages:

  • Pour-over Devices
    These simple, manual coffee makers necessitate the slow pouring of hot water over the coffee grounds, facilitating even extraction of flavor. Renowned and reliable choices include the Hario V60 and Chemex.
  • Automatic Drip Machines
    These machines automate the hand drip process by regulating water temperature and pour speed. They ensure a consistent result and can produce larger coffee quantities, but typically come at a higher price point compared to manual pour-over devices.

Coffee Grinder

Selecting the appropriate grind size is essential for hand drip coffee to maximize flavor extraction from coffee beans. Generally, a medium to medium-coarse grind is recommended for optimal results. This allows water to pass through the grounds at an ideal speed, facilitating the extraction process.

  • Coarse Grind: Suitable for French press and cold brew methodologies.
  • Medium-Coarse Grind: Ideal for Chemex and hand drip coffee brewing.
  • Medium Grind: Recommended for flat-bottomed drip machines and AeroPress brewing.
  • Fine Grind: Primarily used for espresso and Moka pot brewing methods.
Blade grinders

Blade grinders use a spinning blade to chop coffee beans into smaller pieces. They produce less consistent grinds than burr grinders, and the grind size can vary depending on how long we grind the beans. This can lead to uneven extraction and poor-tasting coffee.

Burr grinders

Burr grinders are considered the gold standard for quality coffee grinding. They use two grinding surfaces, called burrs, to crush coffee beans into uniformly sized particles. Burr grinders produce consistent and even grinds, which is essential for making good espresso. They also typically have more precise grind settings than blade grinders, allowing us to fine-tune the grind size for different types of coffee and brewing methods.

  • Conical Burr Grinders
    Conical burrs, characterized by their distinctive cone shape, are prevalent in both commercial and home grinders. They are the preferred choice for manual grinders, with some exceptions. These burrs consist of an inner cone-shaped burr that fits snugly within a ring-shaped outer burr. The inner burr rotates, while the outer burr remains stationary. The distance between these burrs determines the fineness of the ground coffee. As the distance decreases, the grind becomes finer. Gravity plays a crucial role in this process, as it guides the coffee beans from top to bottom. The beans slide between the burrs, where they are ground and then transferred down the chute into the grinds receptacle or portafilter.
  • Flat Burr Grinders
    Flat burrs, characterized by their flat, disc-like shape, are typically encountered in commercial espresso machines and are also available in higher-end home grinders. These burrs consist of two round, serrated discs that align horizontally with one another. Similar to conical burrs, one burr remains stationary while the other rotates. Coffee beans are pushed through and crushed to the desired size based on the distance between the burrs. However, unlike conical burrs, the ground coffee is expelled through the sides.
FeatureConical BurrFlat Burr
Grind ConsistencyGenerally good, can be very good in high-quality modelsGenerally excellent, especially in high-quality models
DurabilityDurable with proper care, material dependent (ceramic vs. stainless steel)Durable with proper care, material dependent (ceramic vs. stainless steel)
Suitable for EspressoGood, especially with high-quality modelsGood, may offer slight edge in consistency for espresso in high-quality models
Suitable for Other Brewing MethodsExcellentExcellent
EfficiencyCan be efficient depending on design and motor powerCan be efficient depending on design and motor power
Noise LevelGenerally quieterGenerally noisier
PriceCan be less expensive in lower-quality modelsCan be more expensive in higher-quality models

A good grinder ensures consistent grind size, meaning most coffee particles fall within a similar range. This allows for even extraction, where all the grounds release their flavor and aroma at a similar rate during brewing.

  • Uneven grinds lead to uneven extraction.
    Some particles might over-extract, becoming bitter, while others might under-extract, resulting in a weak and under-flavored coffee.
  • Grind size directly impacts the taste profile of the coffee.
    A finer grind will extract more quickly, resulting in a stronger and potentially more bitter cup. Conversely, a coarser grind will extract slower, yielding a lighter-bodied and potentially under-extracted coffee.


  • Hand drip coffee can still be achieved with minimal gear.
  • Brewing method offers smoother cup with a balanced flavor profile.
  • Medium Roasts offers moderate acidity, a touch of sweetness, and a richer body.
  • Consistent grind size provides consistent results.

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