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FOOD + DRINK

The December Dripper

Brewing experts in San Francisco and Seoul collaborate on a new way to make coffee

by Julie Wolfson
on 11 April 2017

Nicholas Cho and Youngmin Lee's December Dripper, launching on Kickstarter today, aims to revolutionize coffee brewing through a new adjustable brew flow. Together, Lee and Cho have over 35 years of combined professional coffee experience. The December Dripper, made of 1810 stainless steel with a layer of PTFE (aka Teflon) for smooth turning, is the duo's first product as a design team. With its global launch through the crowdfunding platform, coffee geeks can ready their gooseneck kettles to experiment with brewing recipes aiming to achieve their ideal full-flavored cup.

Both founders already have illustrious coffee-based careers. Known for his commitment to and enthusiasm for the specialty coffee world, Cho’s career has spanned coast to coast, from Murky Coffee in Washington DC to the opening of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the way he has published articles, spoken at countless coffee events around the world and created the World Brewers Cup. His partner Lee, the founder and CEO of Cbsc International Coffee Lab in Seoul, is known as a talented educator in the Korean coffee scene, especially for barista competitions.

The shape of the December Dripper has been designed to work with flat-bottomed Kalita wave filters for a very particular reason: “If you went to a butcher and they handed you steaks cut into a cone-shape, how would you grill that evenly?" Cho asks. "Grilling is a lot like brewing coffee, actually, so just like with steaks, you want a nice, even cut whose top and bottom run parallel," he says. Further, the December Dripper addresses the limitations of the other coffee brewing drippers on the market. Cho explains that there are many variables that need to line up to brew a great cup. One thing he’s learned, after a lot of research and testing, is that every drip-brewing device can be good at making a certain amount of coffee, but not as good at making other amounts. "Usually, it's about two-thirds of however much the device can hold,” says Cho. “That means that for most people in most situations, they're compromising taste quality for convenience and efficiency."

When Cho first discovered the Kalita filter, he loved it so much he introduced Kalita to the European and American specialty coffee markets and now owns Kalita USA. The initial idea for the December Dripper began when he started modifying a Kalita Wave filter to reduce the flow of liquid through the bottom—which he hoped would result in better brew quality. He discovered that his theory worked. From there and in partnership, Cho and Youngmin designed a dripper that would have the flat-bottomed geometry they liked with adjustable flow. They made four different prototypes aiming for the proportions to be able to provide a range of yields from ten to 24 ounces of brewed coffee. The design addresses some of the limitations they find in other brewing methods.

“The December Dripper is about starting with the mind-numbing complexity of what happens inside the slurry of water and coffee grounds when you're brewing coffee, and working backward to understand what it means to set things up for success,” Cho explains. He aims to simplify the process in a way that’s repeatable. “My philosophy is that when you're brewing coffee, your focus should be on simultaneously making the cup as sweet as you can while minimizing the introduction of bitter, unpleasant flavors,” he continues. “If a cup is brewed really well, it can naturally taste like someone snuck a bit of sugar in it, and the spectrum of other flavors in the bean will pretty much fall into place.”

A few months ago, Cho and Lee launched the December Dripper in Korea as a public beta test. They wanted to limit the first production runs to that geographic area, as they're manufacturing there. It quickly took off and has developed a strong fanbase. For the global launch, they have further tweaked elements of the design. They've turned to Kickstarter to fund parts of the final production processes.

You can support the December Dripper now on Kickstarter, where an early bird pledge price is $40.

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