Earlier this year, I spent some time reading about Japanese coffee culture. I came across the Nel drip (short for "flannel drip") which is a cloth-filtered pour-over brew. Cloth filters have been on my mind since then—and even before—but I never went ahead and bought one. This changed when I saw Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters, based in Aberfeldy, sold cloth filters for the Aeropress. I thought it was worth buying the cloth filter because I was: (i) already buying from Glen Lyon and; (ii) curious about the flavour profile of cloth filters. The cloth filter I purchased is from The Cloth Filter Co., which makes cloth filters for a range of brewers.
The filter came in a card sleeve with a link to the care instructions for the filter, which I later browsed before starting to brew with my new filter. The care instructions recommended that I thoroughly washed the filter with warm water before the first use (which I do with all of my equipment which is coming in contact with water or coffee anyway). The instructions also state that you need to wash the filter after each use to remove as much coffee as possible. In James Hoffmann's video on cloth filters, I was reassured that I will never get the filter completely clean, but a thorough rinse is enough to keep the filter in a good condition. The care instructions also came with information on storage, which I shall discuss later in this article.
Last night, I put my cloth filter into my Aeropress filter cap and locked the cap into the brewing chamber. This is supposed to make it easier to use the filter. I cannot say for sure whether this worked but I can say that the filter cap is quite hard to screw on the first time you use a cloth filter. I could not screw the filter cap on to the extent I normally do, although there was still a good seal between the brewing chamber and the filter cap. I waited overnight and this morning came back to the filter, ready for its first use.
I did not want to leave the filter wet overnight so I rinsed the filter this morning, just before its first use. I then brewed a cup of coffee using a version of Tim Wendelboe's Aeropress recipe. I used a higher dose (15 grams) and more water (250 grams) than the recipe suggested but I followed all of the other recipe instructions. After following the instructions, I had a cup of coffee ready to drink.
The idea behind cloth filters is to keep the oils in the coffee but to filter out the fine pieces. I noticed that my cup of coffee was incredibly clear, similar to that of a cup of coffee brewed with the V60 or a Kalita Wave. I am happy about this because I do not like cups of coffee with too much silt. I sometimes get a bit of silt in my Aeropress brews but this was not the case when I used the cloth filter.
The final cup of coffee was, in a word, delicious. The cup of coffee was easy to drink. I thought to myself that the cup of coffee was almost buttery in texture; a bit thicker than a traditional cup of coffee. I suspect the mouthfeel was caused by both an absence of fines as well as the oils being let through the filter.
After I brewed by coffee, I had to deal with the cloth filter. Unlike I would when using a regular paper filter, I could not just push the puck of coffee from the Aeropress into the bin. I first had to remove the cloth filter and then I was able to push the puck of coffee into the bin. Next, I rinsed the filter thoroughly under warm water. This took about 20-30 seconds. I rubbed the filter repeatedly to remove as much coffee as possible.
Washing the filter was not the last step in the cleanup. I had to find somewhere to store the filter. The Cloth Filter Co. recommends either storing coffee in some water in the fridge or in a bag in the freezer. I chose to store the filter in the fridge because I suspect I will be using it a lot and storing the filter in the fridge is convenient for me. There are a lot of containers in one cupboard in the kitchen, many of which are small and ideal for snacks. I chose one of the smallest containers and filled it with water. I placed the cloth filter in and made sure the filter was submerged in the water and then put the container in the fridge.
A filter paper was a bit more work than usual for an Aeropress brew but I do not mind. I am used to quite convoluted work flows when I am brewing coffee, especially considering the time I have spent brewing coffee with a lever espresso maker (which I am still not ready to continue!). The taste of the final cup was most certainly worth the time I spent washing the filter and preparing adequate storage. I suspect I will be making a lot more cloth-filtered brews with my Aeropress in the near future as a result of the taste of the brew. I may even try brewing the geisha coffee I have in the cupboard with the Aeropress and a cloth filter.