How to Make Kyoto-Style Slow Drip Coffee
So you’ve never made Kyoto-style slow drip cold brew at home? That’s understandable. The brewer is expensive and looks complicated. Coffee brewing can take an entire day, and it doesn’t seem like it would be worth your while.
But I’m here to tell you that preparing it using a slow dripper is a great use of your time and money if cold coffee is your thing. It’s the only cold brewing method that maintains the subtle complexity of the best specialty coffees. And while you’ll need to be patient, the actual effort required to brew coffee this way is minimal.
Keep reading if you’re ready to be shocked by just how flavorful a cold brew can be.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Kyoto-style slow drip coffee maker
- Paper or metal coffee filter
- 50 g – 70 g coffee beans
- Coffee grinder
- A coffee scale
AT A GLANCE
4 to 24 hours
6 to 8 cups of coffee
A FEW NOTES:
- There are a variety of different slow-drip Kyoto style coffee makers, but each consists of three stacked chambers – one for water, one for coffee grounds, and one for the finished brewed coffee – and a sturdy frame to support the towering structure. Besides those basics, you can choose any Kyoto-style dripper that fits your budget and space restrictions.
- You can use either a paper or metal filter when brewing slow drip, but the outcome will be slightly different in each case. Choose paper if you prefer a cleaner cup of coffee, or choose metal if you prefer a heavier-bodied coffee.
- You can prepare a drip coffee with any good quality coffee beans. It works with blends and single origins of any roast level, so feel free to use a favorite you might have on hand. However, this brewing method is generally used to showcase coffees with complex and delicate flavors. And if you’re going to spend up to 24 hours brewing a coffee, you might as well opt for a really stand-out brew. We recommend a light or medium roast single origin coffee bean from Central America, South America, and East Africa.
- While it is possible to use pre-ground beans for slow drip brewing, it’s always better to start with whole coffee beans and grind your coffee right before brewing to ensure the most flavorful cup of coffee. The best choice is to use a burr coffee grinder, which will give you a far more consistent grind when compared to a blade grinder. If you love coffee, a quality burr grinder is a great investment, but if you can’t afford one, try to buy your beans at a coffee shop or roasterie that will grind them fresh to order.
- The manufacturer of your Kyoto-style slow drip brewer will provide a guideline for the best water to the coffee ratio for brewing. While measuring by volume is possible, using a scale to weigh both the water and the coffee guarantees accuracy. Any kitchen scale that is precise to 1 g will work in this case, but a dedicated coffee scale measuring 0.1 g is even better.
- Filtered water is always best for coffee. However, if you live in a place with good tap water that’s also just fine.
If you’re interested in other types of cold coffee, you can watch Steven from Home Grounds compare slow drip with cold brew, iced coffee, and more in this video:
How to Make Slow Drip Coffee
Looking at the towering piece of equipment required for brewing Kyoto-style slow drip, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a complicated method reserved for coffee professionals. And coffee shops are happy to take your money and let that myth persist. But in fact, it’s simpler than many other brewing methods, because that fancy-looking brewer is going to do all the work for you.
Ready to get started? Okay, let’s go ahead and make ourselves a perfect cup of coffee.
1. Measure and grind the coffee
Weigh the amount of coffee recommended by the manufacturer. This can vary, but it’s usually between 50 and 70 g depending on the specific design of the brewer, the intensity of coffee you’re after, and your taste. So follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the first try, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different water to the coffee ratio in the future.
How should you grind coffee for a slow drip brewing?
Grind the coffee using a burr grinder, ensuring that you knock any stuck coffee grounds out of the grinder. Ideally, you want the same mass of coffee out of the grinder that you put in. If the bean hopper of your grinder is already full of coffee beans, you can just as quickly weigh the ground coffee output.
Grind the coffee to medium, about the same grind size as you would for an automatic drip coffee machine.
If you’re uncertain what that looks like, consult this chart. Even though this is a slow brewing method, you don’t need to use a coarse grind as you would for a French Press coffee or standard cold brew because it is not an immersion method.
If you don’t have a burr coffee grinder, don’t be tempted to pull out your blade spice grinder instead. Blade grinders yield very poor grind consistency; some of the coffee will be very finely ground, while some will still be in large chunks. You might be able to get away with this in specific brewing methods, like an electric coffee machine, but it is very noticeable in cold brew because of the long steeping time.
Pro tip: Instead of resorting to the spice grinder, see if a local coffee shop or roasterie will sell you whole beans and grind them for you in-store. You can also buy pre-ground coffee and just look for a brand labeled with its roast date so that you know it’s reasonably fresh.
2. Add the coffee to the coffee maker
Place a coffee filter at the bottom of the ground coffee chamber, then add the fresh coffee grinds on top to prepare the coffee bed.
With Kyoto-style drip coffee, you can use either a paper filter or a metal filter, and each will give you a slightly different brew. Using paper filters will give you a cleaner cup with a lighter body, similar to what you expect from a pour-over coffee. On the other hand, a metal filter lets through all of the coffee oils and some fines, resulting in a heavier-bodied cup, more like a French press coffee.
Pro tip: If you are using a paper filter, especially an unbleached version, be sure to rinse it with hot water first to remove any possible paper taste.
3. Measure and add the water
Measure the amount of water you need based on the ratio given by the manufacturer. This will likely be somewhere between 5:1 and 10:1 water to coffee, as measured by weight. Add the water to the water chamber of your drip coffee brewer and top off the chamber with ice.
Pro tip: The best choice when brewing any coffee is to use cold, filtered water from a Brita jug stored in the fridge. But even room temperature tap water is okay in this case, thanks to the ice.
4. Start the brewing process
At the base of the water chamber is a valve that controls water flow. The more you open it, the faster the drip-rate. Changing the drip rate is the primary way of controlling the flavor of the cold coffee you produce, so you may want to experiment. Of course, the flow rate also controls the brew time.
A typical starting point is to aim for 1 drip per second, but some baristas prefer a faster rate of 1.5 drips per second.
The brew time will vary depending on how much coffee you’re brewing, your drip rate, the design of your brewer, and the ratio of water to the coffee you used. Some brewers are as fast as 4 hours, whereas others take up to 24 hours. Either way, if you want Kyoto-style slow drip, patience is the name of the game.
For the most part, brewing by this method is hands-off, but it’s not entirely as hands-off as regular immersion-style cold brew. You may want to check back a few times during brewing to ensure the drip rate is staying consistent.
Pro tip: Want to enjoy an iced coffee without waiting until tomorrow? You’re in luck. We have a recipe for that too. Check out this version of Japanese-style iced coffee.
5. Dilute and enjoy a great coffee
The slow drip method produces a coffee concentrate just as brewing a more traditional immersion cold brew. You will then dilute the concentrate to yield a standard strength cup of coffee. How much you dilute your concentrate will depend on the brewing ratio you used, so add cold, filtered water to taste. After dilution, the coffee is typically poured over ice in a coffee cup to serve.
Kyoto-style cold brew is known for yielding a crisp and refreshing cup, with cleaner flavors than you would expect from a traditional cold brew, according to the experts at Perfect Daily Grind (1).
The technique emphasizes any floral or fruity notes because the sugars from the coffee are extracted but not muddled by a long immersion.
Traditional immersion cold brew is often prized for being low in acid and mild in flavor. Still, Kyoto-style cold brew is for those who appreciate specialty coffee’s bright and acidic notes. This brewing technique preserves those subtle flavors.
Pro tip: Slow drip is usually served black, allowing you to really taste those nuanced flavors you worked so hard to maintain. But if that’s not to your taste, you can always dilute using milk (either dairy or non-dairy) or add cream or sugar.
Preparing Japanese-style slow drip cold coffee is not the fastest, cheapest, or most practical way to brew iced coffee. But that’s not why you should be doing it. Instead, you should be making slow drip cold brew coffee to tease out flavors from your coffee that you would lose in other cold brew methods. And the fact that the towering glass brewer will wow any brunch guests is just a happy bonus!
Slow drip cold coffee, as prepared, is very strong. Like regular immersion cold brew, it is brewed as a concentrate with the expectation that you will dilute it. You can drink the concentrate, but the flavor profile will be off, and the caffeine content will be exceptionally high. While you might think that less caffeine is extracted when hot water isn’t used, this is not the case. The longer brew time ensures that cold brew is just as caffeinated (2).
The history of Kyoto-style slow drip is fascinating. Dutch traders brought the idea of cold coffee to Japan in the 1600s. Still, the drip coffee maker is a Japanese invention. It was particularly popular in Kyoto, so we now call it Kyoto-style slow drip (3).
More recently, the method has gained favor in specialty cafes worldwide. This is partly due to the flavorful cold-brew it creates and partly due to the showy nature of the brewing apparatus, which makes customers feel they are getting their money’s worth.
Compared with cold brew, slow drip is similar but offers more flavor complexity. Cold brewing often muddies a coffee’s “high” notes, muting the acids and brighter flavors, whereas slow drip does not. Iced coffee tastes very different because you brew it hot and then chill, and the hot brewing water extracts different flavor compounds than cold water.
- Boydell, Hazel. (2018, October 10). ColdBrew Coffee: Different Brewing Methods Compared. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/10/brew-methods-compared-how-should-you-make-cold-brew-coffee/
- Brown, A. (2021, November 15). How much caffeine is in cold brew? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/11/how-much-caffeine-is-in-cold-brew-coffee/
- Kasperowicz, M. (2019, September 13). A Brief History of ColdBrew Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.drinktrade.com/blog/education/cold-brew-coffee-history