I have a confession to make: I haven’t owned an automatic drip coffee maker, or consumed automatic drip coffee (at home, in both cases), in more than a decade.
Sure, I drink “drip” coffee at our shop. Technically, our FETCO Extractor is a drip brewer. Of course, any similarity between that machine and a home drip brewer is coincidence. Or imagined. I also occasionally make “drip” coffee at home with a manual pour-over cone, but this method is at best a kissing cousin to auto drip, as it requires good technique and is really a PITA, truth be told.
So in the last decade, there has been no automatic drip brewer worthy of gracing my home countertop. I usually drink espresso at home. And when I do make something other than espresso, I have at least a half-dozen better devices at my disposal, ranging from a French press to the Royal balance brewer that Jack Nicholson made famous in the movie The Bucket List. I never needed, or wanted, an automatic drip brewer.
Until this week.
This week, we started stocking the Technivorm drip brewer. Anybody who has shopped for a high-end home drip machine lately knows about Technivorm. Handmade in the Netherlands, it is the only home drip brewer endorsed by credible organizations such as Cook’s Illustrated (who accepts no advertising), and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (full disclosure: there may be one or two other brewers endorsed by SCAA, but none that I would have for a variety of reasons).
Even though we stock something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I want one for home. Don’t get me wrong – whatever we stock, I try to make sure it’s best of class, but I just don’t need absolutely everything we sell. I’m here to facilitate your needs, but they may not match mine. And so I thought it would be with Technivorm – lots of people told me they wanted to buy one, but I couldn’t imagine owning one myself.
Then they sent me a red one.
Truth be told, I ordered the red one with the skid we got in last week. It was a limited edition, and I bought the only one left in the United States. Honestly, I expected to sell it for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t expect to be smitten with it myself. It’s the same thing as the silver ones, just red.
In the end, I had to have it. Part of the reason is that red is my favorite color. Partly, it’s because I know there will probably never be another one like it available in the United States. But neither of those reasons are sufficient for it to warrant precious real estate on my home coffee bar. No, the real reason I wanted it is that it makes damn good coffee. Being red was just icing on the cake.
So now I’ve had some opportunity to experiment with it, and I’m to the point where I can make coffee at home that’s indistinguishable from our FETCO-brewed shop coffee. (This is not just my subjective opinion – I’ve brought home the instrumentation to physically test it.) My observation is that Technivorm makes excellent coffee right out of the box, following the manufacturer’s instructions. For 99% of people, that will be good enough. I, of course, felt the need to press the envelope, and have developed some techniques to put that coffee just over the top.
Here is my guide to making the world’s best drip coffee at home in 6 easy steps:
If we’re talking auto drip machines, this is the only one worth having. Yeah, you can do pour-over a lot less expensively. But if you value cleanliness and convenience, this is your only real option. Not to mention clean cup – the usual substitute for drip is a French press, which is a great method, but you will always have sediment in that cup. The Technivorm cup is clean, which is great for many highly nuanced coffees. I know Technivorm is a little pricey, but take comfort in the fact that they have a great track record of durability, a great warranty, and you will save a ton by buying less coffee out of the house.
2. Use More Coffee
Technivorm instructions call for “6 scoops” to brew a full pot. The scoop they supply yields about 10 grams per scoop, so that’s about 60 grams per pot. No matter what I did (within reason, and some things outside the bounds of reason), I couldn’t get the total dissolved solids over 1.2% with just 60 grams (1.4% is the target). No, what I’ve found is that you need 85 grams.
3. Use a Finer Grind
In addition to more coffee, I’ve found that a finer grind than most people’s auto drip grind is required. On our Bunn grinders (the kind they have in the supermarket), there is a setting for “drip”, which is slightly finer than the “auto drip” setting. This setting works pretty well. Obviously, you’ll need to experiment, but the answer may wind up being “finer than you initially think”.
4. Use a Gold Filter
Paper filters taste bad. Period. I have read all kinds of reviews from all kinds of coffee people making recommendations about which paper filter is least bad. Invest $30 and get yourself a gold filter. It’s not as convenient at paper, but it makes a better cup. And it’s better for the planet.
5. Agitate at the Beginning of the Cycle
Technivorm has a nice spray head. Best in class, I would have to say. But it’s no FETCO Extractor with Cascading Spray Dome, and a basket large enough to bathe a small puppy. So it still helps to stir the grinds in the first 20 seconds of the brew cycle. I use a chopstick. Beyond the first 20 seconds, there is no need to continue agitation.
6. Use the Funnel Shutoff to Increase Extraction at the End of the Cycle
As you see the last of the water leave the tank, shut off the flow control on the brew basket, and let the water hang in the basket for about 30 seconds. This increases the TDS about 0.05%. Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a difference you can taste.
Now, tips #2, 3 and 5 are a bit of a double-edged sword. The problem is, following my guidelines, you are pushing the limits of the Technivorm basket. Be careful not to overflow it, cause that’s a mess. I recommend you work your way up on the amount of coffee, and work your way down on the grind size till you find the edge yourself, for your setup. Because I did my experimenting in a shop with a concrete floor and a floor drain. I wouldn’t want to jump into this too fast over my wooden kitchen floors.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but these are some concepts to help you get absolutely everything out of yout Technivorm brewer.