December 19, 2016

Review of the Clever Coffee Dripper

A small cup of coffee
By Julius Schorzman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
When different aspects of who we are come into conflict, it can sometimes be challenging to resolve them. One one hand, I am cheap. I often have a difficult time spending money on myself for things I want but do not really need. I can end up obsessing over or even talking myself out of making small purchases that would benefit me in some way. On the other hand, I am something of a coffee snob. I love my coffee, and I enjoy the ritual of grinding the beans, trying to get the brew just right, and learning about the latest in coffee-related gadgetry. These aspects of myself are rarely easy to reconcile because the pursuit of good coffee can easily become expensive.

My Coffee Background

I use a Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200 coffee maker each morning, and I am perfectly willing to sacrifice the superior tasting coffee I could obtain from other means for the convenience, speed, and flexibility it offers. In the mornings before work, I rarely have time to mess around and need a speedy coffee delivery system that will brew unattended while I am getting ready. The machine is programmable, offers a 1-4 cup setting that improves the taste when one is making the amount I usually make, and has the capacity for a 12-cup pot when I have family visiting or haven't been sleeping much. It does everything I need, and I have not had a single problem with it.

The thing is, I know I can produce better coffee than what this machine is capable of when I have a bit more time to invest. In 2006, I bought a Gaggia Carezza Espresso machine and used it at least a few times a week until it died on me last week. It worked well and provided me with wonderful, albeit inconsistent, espresso on most afternoons and many weekends. I found espresso to be the perfect solution when I needed a pick-me-up because making it was just enough of a pain in the ass to prevent me from drinking too much of it. I will be replacing the Gaggia with something else very soon, though probably something less expensive.
Clever Coffee Dripper

The Clever Dripper

I bought a Clever Coffee Dripper (large size) in 2014 for $22 after reading about the benefits of full-immersion brewing. There are times when I want a single cup of coffee (rather than espresso), without the temptation to drink any more. While I could certainly use my drip machine, I was curious to see whether I could find a better tasting option. According to the packaging, the Clever Dripper combines the benefits of a French press with those of filter drip brewing. In essence, it is supposed to provide better-tasting coffee than what one would get with either a standard drip machine or a typical single-cup pour-over filter. It sounded perfect.

How Does It Work?

The Clever Dripper is a simple plastic contraption into which one places a paper coffee filter and freshly ground coffee. One then gently pours boiling water over the coffee, covers it with the lid, waits 1.5 minutes before briefly stirring then re-covering to wait the remaining time. The total recommended immersion time is approximately 4 minutes. At the end of the 4 minutes, one simply picks up the Dripper and places it on top of one's mug. The freshly brewed coffee drains through a one-way stopper, resulting in sediment-free coffee.

How Do I Use It?

I use the Clever Dripper on some afternoons when I want a single cup of coffee instead of espresso. In these situations when I only want one cup, I far prefer it to making a single cup with my drip machine. I've also used it specifically to fill 20oz and 30oz insulated travel mugs before getting on the road. When I use the Clever Dripper, I boil the water in an electric tea kettle, saving time and making the pour-over process quite easy.

How Does the Coffee Taste?

Obviously, taste is a highly subjective matter. Using freshly ground coffee (a fine filter drip grind is recommended), I find that the coffee produced by the Clever Dripper is more flavorful than what comes out of my drip machine. And by varying the amount of coffee, the fineness of the grind, and the amount of water, I can easily control the strength of the coffee produced. While the Clever Dripper is no substitute for an espresso machine, as it does not make espresso, it does a great job of producing single cups of coffee that I find superior to what comes out of my drip machine.

What About Clean Up?

I'm not sure this could be any easier. I empty the filter and coffee into the trash, rinse the Clever Dripper and its lid under cold water and set them in the dish drainer. After every few uses, I'll do a quick hand wash in hot water to prevent any build up around the stopper. That's it.

How Does it Compare To Other Products?

There are many coffee-related products against which the Clever Dripper competes. Unfortunately, the only ones I have used enough to provide meaningful comparisons at this point are a couple of automatic drip coffee machines (including the Cuisinart mentioned above and a couple of less expensive options) and a couple of the inexpensive pour over drippers I have tried that brew without immersion. I prefer the taste of the coffee produced by the Clever Dripper to these options.

I am particularly eager to compare the Clever Dripper to the AeroPress but have not yet had the opportunity to do so. Depending on what I decide to do with replacing my espresso machine, I might pick up an AeroPress in the not-too-distant future. If I do, I'll be sure to update this. I will say that I did deliberately pick the Clever Dripper over the AeroPress when I bought it because I found the flexibility of being able to make 10-30oz at a time to be appealing. From what I recall, the AeroPress can brew only up to 10oz at a time.

What Are the Drawbacks?

There are two things I do not like about the Clever Dripper. First, it is not dishwasher (or microwave) safe. While I'm not sure why I would ever put it in the microwave, it would be nice to be able to run it through the dishwasher after every few uses. Still, with cleaning being as easy as it is, this is a minor issue. Second, the downside of immersion brewing where the coffee and water mixture sit for a few minutes is the loss of heat during the process. It is not that the coffee it produces is not still hot, but it is not quite as hot as I like it. Anyone who prefers his or her coffee to be close to boiling when it goes in the cup may not like the Clever Dripper for this reason.

Would I Buy Again?

Yes, and I would be sure to get the large size again. It is capable of making 10-30oz of coffee, which offers the flexibility to fill a standard coffee mug up to a much larger travel mug.
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