Excellent single-cup brewer that takes only 5 minutes to produce a cup.
Positive Product Points
Easily brews a cup of coffee on demand
Allows full control over all coffee variables
Uses standard filters, very easy cleanup
Benefits of infusion brewing (like french press) without the mess
Negative Product Points
Only brews 16oz max
Loses heat (below optimal brew temps) quickly
Silicone valve seat discolors quickly
Not dishwasher friendly
The Clever Coffee Dripper is an easy-to-use device that is made of a sturdy hard plastic, and brews a cup of coffee in four minutes or less. It combines the benefits of infusion brewing with the convenience of drip.
The CCD is really a large filtercone with a "clever" release valve at the bottom. The release valve only opens when the brewer is set on a support that is narrower than its base-- e.g., a coffee cup. It takes standard #4 filters and allows you full control over all the brewing variables: grind fineness, water temperature, and brew time. You take the filter, add your coffee grounds, fill with hot water, wait for the infusion to take place, and place on top of your cup. The whole process takes less than five minutes, once your water is hot. It's easy and intuitive for anyone who has ever used a drip brewer-- not too scarce a breed.
My usual method is to heat the water, put the filter in, do a preheat for a minute or so, grind the coffee, pour the preheat water out, put the grinds in and refill with hot water, stirring the bloom out as I go, cover with the included lid, and wait three to four minutes depending on the grind. A note here: a quality grind makes a lot of difference here. A more consistent grind gives more even extraction and makes it less likely for coffee dust to slow the filtering down. I use a Baratza Preciso grinder here, that produces a low-dust grind and allows a quick filtering of the brew.
There are minor nits with the product, but only a couple have to do with design or quality. The others are just the nature of the drip-brewing beast:
Unit is not dishwasher friendly: when turned upside down, the valve release area collects water that doesn't drain out. The instructions tell you that it's not "dishwasher safe", but the issue is not safety for the product. I would rather run it through the dishwasher and do an extra rinse of the valve release area. I haven't seen any deterioration or discoloring from doing this over the past year.
The release valve seat is silicone rubber and discolors quickly with use. This is especially true if you don't de-filter right away and the last bit of brew sits over the valve seat for an extended period of time. Dishwasher cleaning mitigates this somewhat, and the discoloration doesn't seem to be a problem, so this is mostly a cosmetic issue.
Wide mugs might not work, or might require an offset-alignment to let the coffee drain properly.
You're only going to get one cup at a time from the brewer, unless you drink small cups, then maybe you'll get two.
The temps drop quickly below optimal brewing range. I've measured 180F at the end of a 3-minute infusion, even with preheating. If you can find a means of insulating it (CCD cozy, anyone?), do so. The brew is still acceptable, even so. *Late*update*: I have found that wrapping the dripper in a kitchen towel does indeed improve flavor-- of course, this requires good coffee beans, but it works. Temps still get below "optimal brewing", but it obviously stays up there for a longer period of time. Be very careful not to get the towel caught under the brewer, or you'll open the valve. This would be Bad.
The valve is opened easily by anything caught under the brewer-- even things you wouldn't think would affect it. This might leave a trail of late-drain coffee wandering down your counter.
Sweet Maria's is excellent, as always.
Three Month Followup
After dropping my unit on a hard floor and chipping off two of the riser feet from the bottom, I ordered another from Sweet Maria's. The new unit is an updated model, and has a few improvements. They've widened the bottom so that it will fit over larger cups; the previous model wouldn't cover my large mugs and I had to use an offset to drain the filter.
It also comes with a tighter-fitting lit that, with condensation from the hot liquid, will provide an air seal at the top. I don't think this is desirable; you will have to break this seal to get a normal drain from the basket.