Serious Eats: Drinks
Bonavita's Porcelain Immersion Coffee Dripper: The Best of All Worlds?
There are a great many coffee lovers who've embraced the idea of a full-immersion brew combined with a cone filter. And there are many people who hate the idea of plastic making contact with their hot water or their coffee. Until now, these people have not had a lot of options. Times have changed.
We've talked in these pages before of the lauded Clever Dripper, an invention from Taiwan's Abid (who appear to have advanced from "clever" to "miraculous" coffee-making though the latter requires use of "magic" spoonfulls—but I digress). The principle behind the Clever dripper is a Frankenbrewer-hybrid between a French press and a filter cone: you steep your coffee in the conical vessel for a matter of minutes, allowing the grounds and water to be in complete contact and the sweetness and fragrance of the coffee to develop—and dispense a clean, sludge-free cup of delicious coffee at the end, via the ingenious gravity valve built into the bottom.
But many of us don't prefer to mix hot water with plastic, for any number of reasons, including taste, residual oils, temperature control, and health concerns relating to the plastic itself. Though the party line on the Clever has long been that it's made of "Japanese medical-grade plastic" that won't leach bad chemicals, what many full immersion enthusiasts have long since longed for is a ceramic version of this delight.
And lo, enter Bonavita, answering yet another call from the coffee world with yet another solution. (You may recall this European/Chinese company's prior adventures as fulfilling the need for an electric pourover kettle in North America, or their affordably priced Technivorm knockoff). The Bonavita porcelain immersion dripper does everything what the Clever does except with very little plastic—there is a lid included for heat retention, and the assembly of the open/shut valve is plastic-built but only the stopper contacts your coffee itself—and with a fair bit less theater, too. (Unlike the Clever, which "magically" dispenses your coffee into a cup or server when you set it down on top of said vessel, the Bonavita dripper actually requires that the user flip an "on/off" switch...you can't win 'em all.)
Is it a success? Yes. It does exactly what we wanted—it makes a clean, full-bodied and full-flavored cup like the Clever. Of course, it's heavier and more likely to break than your workaday Japanese medical-grade plastic, but you're willing to take chances in this life, right? And since it's opaque you can't actually see when you're going to overflow the cup: Bonavita's perfect excuse to sell you their dripper stand, I guess.
It's no prettier than Clever, that's for sure, with a blocky black BONAVITA logo clouding up the bone China landscape, but on the other hand it's dishwasher safe, which is a good thing for its rather complex valve assemblies that can become a bit coffee-covered (and hopefully, though time will tell, will hold up durably over time.) For now, we're happy to report this three-way compromise between the French Press, cone dripper, and plastic Clever dripper is a win-win-win.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.