It has become my favorite travel brewer, backcountry brewer and even daily kitchen brewer. It’s low maintenance, fool-resistant and produces a great, well-balanced cup of coffee.
The Clever Coffee Dripper, most commonly referred to as the Clever, is a very simple, manual, single cup coffee brewer. It combines two brewing styles to yield a well-balanced cup, and has arguably the highest effort to quality ratio of any manual brewer (it’s very easy to get a high-quality cup of coffee).
The two brewing styles the Clever combines are immersion — similar to French press, where the grounds sit, or steep, in water — and percolation, where the water passes through the grounds, aided by gravity, and through a filter, similar to an auto-drip machine, or manual pour-over. The process is sometimes referred to as “steep-and-release”.
It achieves a favorable compromise, yielding some of the body of an immersion-brewed coffee, lost with filtered percolated brews, and some of the flavor clarity of a percolated brew, lost with immersion brewers.
The Clever works by holding water until it is placed on top of a cup, at which point a valve opens, allowing the contents to drain through the coffee bed and into the cup.
No specialty equipment, other than the Clever and a filter, is required. Unlike most other manual brewing methods, the whole process can be described in one sentence (I’ll use my daily recipe as an example): After placing the filter and 15 grams of ground coffee into the Clever, pour 242 grams of near-boiling water, letting it sit for about 3 minutes before placing the Clever on top of your cup into which a great cup of coffee will pour.
Ok, typically I’d want to break that up into multiple sentences, and obviously I can go into more detail, but you get the point (hopefully).
Here’s a quick rundown of my process, in more detail. I would like to note, this is my process and recipe for a cup to my taste. I encourage experimentation with coffee grind size, coffee to water ratio and steep time. But this is a solid place to start, in my opinion.
- Clever and filter
- Timer (your smartphone is perfect)
- 15 grams of coffee, medium-coarse grind
- 242 grams of near-boiling water (plus some extra for filter rinse and clean-up)
- Something to stir (small spoon or butter knife)
- Your favorite coffee cup
- Fold the seams of the filter and place it in the Clever.
- Grind 15 grams of coffee and heat your water (don’t weigh your water pre-heated!).
- Pour just enough hot water into the Clever to wet the filter, then place on your cup to drain.
- Put the Clever (without your cup) onto the scale, tare (zero out the scale) and add your coffee. After confirming you added 15 grams of coffee, tare the scale again. Give the Clever a little shake back and forth to even out your coffee grounds (the “bed”).
- Set your timer for 4 minutes.
- Start the timer and pour about 30 to 40 grams of water, fully wetting the bed. Give it a little stir to make sure all the grounds get wet.
- Let the bed “bloom” for about 30 seconds. The bloom and bubbling is the release of CO2, the intensity of which will vary depending on the coffee’s freshness (fresher, more CO2).
- Pour hot water until the total water mass is 242 grams, give it a gentle stir (two to three laps) and place the lid on top.
- Remember the hot water you drained into your cup? Pour that out.
- When the timer reaches 1:00 to 1:15, place the Clever on your cup and the “drawdown” will begin! Give it another gentle stir. The drawdown should take about 45 seconds (if it takes significantly longer, you probably have too fine of a grind).
- Once the Clever has drained to a point where the bed is still glisteningly wet, put the lid (now a coaster) on counter/table/rock, lift the Clever off your cup and place it on the lid/coaster.
- Toss the filter full of grounds in the compost, pour some hot water in the Clever, swirl it around, drain it and let it air dry.
- Enjoy your coffee!
If you have any questions or problems, I’m happy to help!
Don’t have a Clever? Get one!