My post regarding shopping for manual coffee brewers gets into this topic in a little more depth, but there are two basic styles of manual coffee makers: pourover and immersion. Both have their pros and cons. This dripper from Java Maestro is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds into one brewer.
Disclaimer: I received this product gratis in exchange for a fair and honest review. Even though I received this for free, I treat and test it the same way as if I had paid for it out of my own pocket. You’re still getting my unfiltered (get it? haha) opinions.
First, before we get into testing the Java Maestro, let’s review the pros and cons of pourover vs. immersion brewing.
– Easy to clean the brewer (just lift and toss the paper filter)
– “Clean” cup of coffee (no sludge)
– Less flavor without the coffee oils (since the paper filter absorbs them)
– Must buy filters
– Need a good burr grinder and gooseneck kettle ($$$) for best result; not the easiest method for beginners
– Flavorful, rich cup of coffee (due to the presence of coffee oils)
– No filters to buy
– Grind size and kettle specs less critical (larger margin of error)
– Fussier cleanup
– Sludge usually present at the bottom of the cup
– Glass carafe is easy to break
I love my Hario V60, and I love my Bodum Chambord french press. I use both very regularly, and I do enjoy the different results in the coffee from both brewing methods. But, occasionally (like when I wrote this review), I wish there was a middle ground between the clean, sludge-free brightness of the V60 and the rich, thick, viscous goodness of the french press. I was pretty curious to see if the Java Maestro would fit the bill!
The Java Maestro looks a lot like the Hario V60, except that it’s made completely out of metal. I’ve already broken one ceramic V60, so the idea of a dripper made of non-breakable stainless steel is appealing. Most of the dripper is constructed of a fine mesh, so a handle on the side of the dripper (like the V60 has) is not an option – instead, the Java Maestro has a small tab-style handle on the rim. I find this tab a little short and small for my taste, but it’s a minor quibble.
Compared to my ceramic Hario, the Java Maestro feels quite light, and I was wondering about its sturdiness/durability. However, the construction seems quite sound, and the fact that it is nice and light means you can perch it over just about any mug/glass for brewing. I don’t use my Hario V60 over some of my travel mugs because I worry about the whole setup falling over from being too top-heavy, but I’d be comfortable using the Java Maestro on any of my travel, ceramic, or glass mugs.
The unit also comes with a coffee scoop that doubles as a bag clip. I initially wasn’t all that excited about the coffee scoop; after all, I usually brew my coffee by weight, not volume. However, I know not everyone uses a scale to micromanage their morning coffee, so it was a nice touch for those that prefer to brew by volume. Plus, as it happened, the next bag of coffee I purchased after receiving this dripper did not have a bag fastener, so the clip-style handle of this coffee scoop came in handy! Universe, your timing is impeccable.
For someone that is used to very specific brew parameters (water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, coffee:water at a 1:16 ratio, etc.), the instructions on the box were more vague than I am used to, but it is in keeping with its more “user-friendly” vibe. The steps are actually pretty similar to what one would use for a typical pourover setup.
- Rinse the dripper with hot water. On a Hario V60, this serves to wet the filter and preheat the cone. Here, it’s just to preheat the cone.
- Measure out 2 scoops of medium-ground coffee for every 6 oz of water.
- Gently tap to level out the coffee grounds.
- Bloom the coffee with a bit of hot water for 20 seconds.
- Pour the water slowly and in circles to the “level of strength you want your coffee.”
I initially started experimenting using my Hario V60 brew parameters (25 grams coffee, 400 grams water). I wasn’t sure how long of an extraction I should be aiming for (and to be honest, I’m still not sure!), but there seems to be a pretty wide range of deliciousness possible from this unit. At a 2:30 extraction, the coffee had a nice, full body that tasted like French press coffee without the objectionable sludge, and the flavor was deep, toasty, and smooth. As I tightened up the grind to 3:00, tangier, brighter, more intense flavors began to appear. I tried a few different coffees with this brew method, and all of the cups were tasty, even the cup where I accidentally had the grinder set so fine, the total brew time ended up being 6:00!! That wasn’t my favorite cup of the bunch, but it was still surprisingly drinkable.
Summary: Refreshingly hard to mess up. The Hario V60 is a lot trickier to use than this is.
One of the biggest objections people have to the French press is the effort it takes to clean it. You have to dump the spent grounds, disassemble the 3-part mesh filter, clean it, the plunger, and the glass carafe with hot, soapy water, dry everything, and reassemble the whole thing before making another cup. In comparison, the cleanup for the Java Maestro is pretty easy: You dump the spent grounds by knocking the inverted cone over a trash can (remember, it’s unbreakable!), and clean off what grounds are left on the unit by giving it a quick wash with hot, soapy water. The box even says that the unit is “dishwasher friendly.” I would assume this means it’s safe for occasional cleaning in the top rack of a dishwasher, but honestly, this thing is so easy and quick to clean by hand that I wouldn’t even think to bother with the dishwasher. It’s maybe marginally more effort than tossing a paper filter, but much easier than cleaning a french press. I would just be sure to rinse this very well, because the mesh is so fine. You don’t want to be drinking soap.
Summary: Easy-peasy cleanup.
Bodum Chambord: $30
Hario V60: around $16-18, plus the cost of filters
Java Maestro: $23
Summary: Comparable to other manual brewing methods, and conceivably cheaper in the long run than methods that use filters.
I like this brewer a lot! If you enjoy the rich flavor of french press coffee but dislike the grit/sludge that can come with it, the Java Maestro will fit your needs beautifully. It’s unbreakable, easy to clean, requires no filters, and makes for a rather forgiving brew method that produces a tasty cup of coffee. The only drawback is that it only brews 12 oz at a time, but the cleanup is so fast that making a second cup is not a big deal at all.