Does the world need another pour-over dripper? There’s never been more options available, most of which, when properly used, do a pretty decent job of making a cup of coffee. But sometimes it’s not so important to reinvent the wheel as it is to make incremental improvements, which is what Fellow has set out to do with their Stagg Pour-over Dripper. We recently got our hands on the X and XF models and enjoyed putting the devices through their paces.
Fellow has made a name for themselves in specialty coffee circles for their widely-embraced Stagg Kettle. Now with a variable temperature model on the market, it’s become an instant classic– a standard fixture of design-conscious cafés and kitchens around the globe. The Stagg dripper is clearly a companion piece to the Kettle, with the same textured finish over stainless steel.
At first sight, the Stagg Pour-over Dripper is not altogether different from other drippers, most noticeably the Gino dripper, which shares its handless, double-walled design. Aesthetically, the cylinder shape looks less like a pour-over dripper and more like thermos mug, or perhaps a Vietnamese coffee maker. Compared to its glass and ceramic competitors, the sturdy stainless steel construction makes this a dripper that can take some abuse.
A New Angle
The main difference between the Stagg brewer and virtually every other flat-bottom dripper on the market is the geometry of the device. While the Kalita Wave, December Dripper, Gino Dripper et al. have virtually identical geometry, the sides of the Stagg Brewer extend at a much sharper, almost vertical angle.
From an extraction theory perspective, the tighter, more narrow geometry has the effect of deepening the bed depth, while also maintaining a more uniform bed shape. The deeper bed depth will slow down the movement of water through the brew bed, allowing for more contact time. The more uniform bed shape, in theory, will allow for a more even extraction, as the surface area of the bottom of the brew is more similar to the surface area of the top of the brew bed. This, of course, is difficult to prove and conical brewing devices still have their advocates (and continue to do well in brewing competitions).
Certainly, the geometry of the device will call for coarser grind sizes, a move many brewing theorists believe lends itself to tastier brews.
Top it Off
The larger XF dripper is designed to be used with a fill-up method. Rather than slowing adding the water in small increments, like a conventional pour-over, the XF can be filled to the brim and left to let gravity do the rest. The result is something like a cross between a pour-over dripper and a Walkure brewer. After finding the right grind size, we had some surprisingly tasty brews with this simple technique. Specialty coffee professionals have long paid lip service to making better coffee more accessible to consumers, and the concept behind the XF aims to actually do that.
For anyone accustomed to using a Kalita Wave 185 or a Hario V60, the Stagg drippers feel narrow. In the case, of the smaller X model, it feels a little tighter than pouring into to a Kalita Wave 155. In the case of the larger XF model, it feels a little bit like brewing a pour-over in an Aeropress. The devices are so narrow they come with a funnel to help add the coffee grounds. Unlike the Aeropress, which also comes with a funnel which we never use, we found the funnel to be pretty much essential to adding the grounds to the device neatly (mostly due to the folds in the filter, which seem to invite stray coffee grounds). For lovers of streamlined workflow, it’s kind of annoying to need an extra article just to dose the coffee.
Although I’m sure many home brewers will be relieved to have a device they can simply fill up and let drain, we’re not entirely convinced the XF is as user friendly as advertised. While it’s always essential to have a proper grind size, with a conventional pour-over the barista can pour slower or faster to manipulate contact time. With the Stagg XF dripper, we found having the perfect grind size for the chosen dose was essential, as the grind size is the sole determiner of contact time with this method.
Would we rush out to buy a Stagg X or XF dripper for our collection? Probably not. The steep geometry might lend itself to better extraction, but we found it less user friendly. The XF is an interesting device for its simplicity of use, and might find a niche somewhere between the home barista and the autodrip enthusiast. Certainly, the drippers are a nice addition to Fellow’s thoughtfully curated product line, and will likely find a customer base of design-conscious connoisseurs.