A Clever-er way to drink coffee

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.05.12
French press coffee is one of the world’s caffeinated wonders. Pour water directly over fresh-ground beans and let it steep, then press the plunger. Then let the French press sit on your counter until it grows a coffee forest of its own, because it’s like cleaning a storm drain.
Coffee from a pour-over cone is almost as good. Buy a Melitta cup-top plastic cone for a few bucks, put in a paper filter and drizzle water over the grounds at a speed that suits you. The best part of the pour-over cone? Just throw the filter away. The compromise? The water drips through too fast, and you lose some of the flavor a longer extraction time affords.
I started using a pour-over cone at work because nobody, and I mean nobody, ever cleans the office coffee pot. It sits there until the last few drops cook to the bottom like pre-meth residue.
How do you combine the extraction of a French press with the convenience of a pour-over cone? Here’s the you-got-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter moment: The Clever Coffee Dripper. It’s a cone with a pressure-sensitive valve that holds the water in the cone for a longer extraction time. It lets the coffee through only when you place it on top of the cup. You get your steeping time — and you get to toss the paper cone, rinse and repeat.
I tried coffee from the Clever first at Houndstooth Coffee on North Lamar, where they work like chemists with gram scales and beehive water kettles. But my a-ha moment for home consumption came at Texas Coffee Traders. I was shooting with the crew from the TV show “Eat St.” at Osaka Soul behind the Scoot Inn on a ragged patch of East Fourth Street, and the aroma of roasted beans drew me like a cartoon sheik to the warehouse. I didn’t know they had a retail store and coffeeshop, so I was astonished to walk into a cool, bright two-story space with a long table of espresso machines, racks of gadgets and a display of coffee beans stacked in bins like a tinkerer’s menagerie of nuts and bolts.
It’s a Home Depot for coffee do-it-your-selfers, but with more staff on the floor. My eyes hadn’t even adjusted from the summer glare before somebody offered me coffee. It would happen twice more while I shopped. That’s how they do it at Texas Coffee Traders: You shop for beans, they give you coffee. “It doesn’t look right to see somebody without a cup in their hands,” one man said. Then we opened, sniffed and talked about a dozen kinds of beans — each one roasted on-site — before we settled on Papua New Guinea at $14 a pound and Nicaraguan Bella Aurora at $20 a pound. On a side note: If they're good, I don’t care how much coffee beans cost. Coffee is still the best per-cup value in the world for a luxury product.
Then the Clever happened. I get in trouble for bringing coffee gadgets home. I already have 38 vintage percolators, plus French and Vietnamese presses, Italian stovetop espresso pots, pour-over cones, a fancy espresso pump, a robo-Keurig and three or four drip machines. At $17, the Clever was a trophy find. Here’s how it works.
 Heat your water just off-boil.
 Outfit the Clever with a No. 4 paper cone. Soak the cone with water. Pour out the water. Set the Clever on a flat surface on the supplied plastic coaster.
 Add ground coffee to your liking. Too coarse and the water will fly through. Too fine and it will stall. Somewhere between drip grind and espresso works for me. The Clever holds about a pint of water. The final yield is about two six-ounce cups.
 Pour water slowly into the cone, working from the center of the grounds outward, soaking the grounds and filling the cone to about a half-inch from the top. Cover with the supplied plastic lid and let the coffee steep for a minute and a half. Uncover, stir and let the coffee steep another two to three minutes, covered.
 Rest the Clever on a cup. This opens the valve and the coffee drips through.
 When the cup’s full, put the Clever back on its coaster to stop the drip.
 Discard the paper filter, rinse the Clever with hot water and air dry. Don’t put it in the dishwasher.
 Pat yourself on the back for being so ... resourceful. (And you thought I was going to say clever.)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking. All products described were bought and paid for by the writer.)
Texas Coffee Traders
1400 E. Fourth St. 512-476-2279, www.texascoffeetraders.com.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.