As long as people have brewed pour over coffee, they have argued about drippers. Many factors need to be considered such as whether a bottom is flat or conical, the ideal size, and selecting the right filter or the right dripper materials.
One of the less discussed points is the material used in the dripper’s construction. Most people do not realize that this actually has an impact on how your coffee extracts. My research included contacting a few specialists on how drippers affect the quality of your brew. Learn about their opinions in the following paragraphs.
Which Variables Affect The Pour Over Process?
It is a percolation brewing method where hot water is poured over coffee grounds and filters through them into the cup. Through the passage of water through the grounds, the soluble flavour compounds in the coffee are extracted.
It prevents oil and sediment from passing through the filter, which generally makes the cup lighter and cleaner. The filter (which is usually paper, but can also be mesh or cloth) is often made of paper. Oils, acids, and carbohydrates (among many other components) contribute to the final taste and aroma of a cup. Their development and extraction depend on a number of variables, including your brew ratio, brew time, water temperature, and the material of your dripper and filter.
It is possible to create a different cup of coffee even when you use the same beans by adjusting these elements and other factors. By brewing a coffee for a longer period of time, it will naturally spend more time interacting with the grounds and extract more flavour compounds. As well, if the brewing temperature increases, the solubility and extraction will increase.
Dripper Materials & Brewing Temperature
Temperature is recognized as an important factor in extraction. As a result, different dripper materials retain more or less heat during brewing, which will affect your cup.
Jonathan Gagné is an astronomy expert and coffee enthusiast from Montréal, Canada. He runs a blog called Coffee ad Astra and is working on a book about the physics of filter coffee.
According to him, the material of a dripper affects its heat retention. Different materials conduct and retain heat differently, because they have different “thermal masses” and levels of insulation.
“Thermal mass” refers to the amount of heat a material must absorb before its temperature increases. Concrete and stone, for example, must absorb a lot of heat energy before they increase in temperature. This means they are thermally dense.
Wood and straw, on the other hand, have low thermal masses, so they increase in temperature more quickly (and in some cases, catch fire).
Plastic and stainless steel drippers have lower thermal masses than other materials and weigh less, says Jonathan. Consequently, they absorb less heat from the brew because they heat up more quickly. Meanwhile, materials such as glass and ceramic take longer to reach the same temperature, thereby taking more heat away from your coffee.
Jonathan notes, however, that insulation (retention of heat) is also crucial. Ceramic, glass, and stainless steel are all bad at thermal insulation, so they will lose some of their heat to the surrounding air, and then take more heat from the brew in order to reach equilibrium again. According to Arnout de la Rambelje, Moccamaster’s sales manager, it is only a matter of time before there are some lightweight materials that are good thermal insulators. In Europe, where the winter temperatures can plummet, the Moccamaster is popular. Therefore, users tend to want to keep their brewing temperature high.
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Since 1994, the Moccamaster’s filter holders have been made of polypropylene. Arnout explains that the holders consist of two plastic layers (flat and ribbed) that form an “airbag” between the coffee filter and its holder. According to him, this offers superior heat retention.
During winter, when temperatures drop, the Moccamaster’s polypropylene holders maintain a constant temperature throughout extraction, improving consistency and coffee quality.
Temperature’s Effect On Stability
Cava Sperling owns and operates Fora da Lei in So Paulo, Brazil, as well as being a barista, instructor, and co-owner. In his café, he offers a variety of drippers to customers.
Cau* explains, however, that he aims for consistency and “thermal balance” across drippers. Thermal balance is when “a brewing system’s elements stop interacting with one another and extraction stabilises… it’s what we strive for during manual brewing”.
Jonathan agrees that thermal insulation contributes to stability. With a better insulating material, your temperature will be stable from the start to the end.
“Even if you lower the kettle temperature and use a high insulation dripper, you might get a different cup profile compared to what you get with a higher kettle temperature and a dripper with low insulation.” Cauã says that this also ensures a repeatable result. “It’s easier to repeat a coffee recipe in a stable dripper.
“At the end of the day, [it’s about] what demands less effort from me and allows me to brew coffee the same way over and over again.” This doesn’t mean, however, that a non-plastic dripper will guarantee poor results. Heavy materials like glass and porcelain can be preheated to keep them from drawing heat from the brew.
Copper and stainless steel can also be preheated, but because they dissipate heat quickly, they should be preheated just seconds before use.
Lau says: “Plastic drippers are more reliable and require less effort to maintain a temperature. Ceramics and glass are nearly the same in that they require more energy to heat up.
If this happens, then I adjust the brewing, and my first pour tends to happen at a lower temperature.” Jonathan says that with “more experience” and “better control of variables”, he notices that different materials produce vastly different cup profiles.
He explains that some materials, such as glass or ceramic, produce a weaker and more sour cup than plastic. Lower heat retention results in a lower brew temperature throughout, which emphasizes acidity while reducing sweetness and body.
Which Dripper Materials Is For You?
In addition to some dripper materials keeping your brew stable and changing the extraction, you need to keep in mind some more practical concerns. Your dripper’s life span, for example, is important. Are you able to bend, damage, or break this material easily? This might not be an issue if you only use it in your kitchen. It might be useful if you plan to travel with it.
What is the material’s susceptibility to high temperatures and chemical agents? Upon prolonged exposure to your coffee and cleaning products, does it absorb the acid? They are light and have a clean design, which means they can be used frequently, but they are more prone to staining. Last, but not least, are the costs. Resin acrylic and polypropylene drippers are affordable, but they have a shorter lifespan. Ceramics and copper last longer, but are more expensive. If you are looking for best pour over coffee maker recommendation, we have a list for you.
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