Rocking the Coffee Sock: How to Brew Coffee in a Woodneck Dripper


[Photos: Liz Clayton]

I had my first cup of "Woodneck"-brewed coffee at London's great, temporary Penny University, a coffee space that functioned more of a class—a fun class, no nodding off—than a cafe. Drinking coffee brewed from a device with deep aesthetic conflicts (beautiful carafe with wooden collar, inexplicably married to a very hippy-like hoop with, well, a dingy sock hanging from it) required a slight suspension of disbelief. But then again, when you're this far down the coffee tunnel, your disbelief is pretty much on hold indefinitely. (The coffee, by the way, was delicious.)

And thus we come back around to the Woodneck dripper, or as it is also known, the Nel Pot (not to be confused—please don't—with a Neti Pot.) Though the name "woodneck" does little to distinguish it from, say, a similarly collared Chemex, the 'za-like nickname of "Nel" for its flannel filtration sock is far more disturbing. But enough teasing the little guy—our friend Woodneck is a charming, efficient little brewer for making an aromatic, clean cup of coffee without wasting filters or risking any incursion of sedimental sludge.

Manufactured by Hario in Japan, the mid-priced brewing device has been favored by many who believe the fabric sock-style filters are unrivaled in clarity of taste in the cup. Though maintaining the filter itself is a bit of a hassle—you'll want to keep it moist and as clean as you can post-brews, which means a good rinse and storing the unsightly thing in a cup of water or ziploc baggie in the fridge—you may still find that the end result is worth it.

How to Brew

1. As with all coffee preparation, starting with good water is key. Bring some good quality filtered, but not distilled, water to a boil.

2. Rinse your flannel filter in hot water over the Woodneck. This preheats the vessel while also readying the filter. (Then be sure to empty this water out!)

3. Measure out your coffee. For the small, 1-cup sized filter, measure approximately 18 grams.

4. Grind your coffee to a drip setting.

5. Place grinds in the flannel filter basket, shaking the basket lightly to distribute coffee evenly so that pockets of air—that water will show a bias toward running through—are not present while brewing. You can also make a little indentation in the center of the grinds at this time to ensure even extraction.

6. Preinfuse by carefully pouring 30 mL of water that's just come off the boil, and let the coffee bloom for 20 to 30 seconds.

7. Slowly pour in another 210 to 240 mL of water, using a good kettle with enough control for a slow, circular pour. Be mindful not to "rinse" down the sides of the filter while pouring. Stay in the center, just move the stream of water slowly around in an even circle. As with all pourover methods, coffee-to-water contact time is an important part of the process, so try not to dump the water all in at once—it should take about a minute and a half to complete this part of the brew.

8. You're done! Rinse that flannel sock out and put it back in its cold, wet storage place, and enjoy a spectacular cup of coffee with an immense amount of aroma, clarity and body.

Of course, you're encouraged to attenuate your water-to-coffee ratio, grind size, brew temperature and time to get exactly where your own ideal cup should be. Above all, remember to maintain your filter, and replace it with a new one after a few months—taste will tell you when.