The Woodneck is a gorgeous manual brewing device. It is all one piece of glass with a two piece wooden collar around the neck that is held together by a leather tie. The cloth filter is attached to a metal hoop, also with a wooden handle, and rests on the rim of the glass carafe. Taking a step back to admire the Woodneck, I am constantly amazed at how simple and elegant this brewer is. The glass is sturdy without even the slightest hint of fragility. It is hard not to notice the perfection present in the Woodneck. From the hand crafted pouring lip, to the overall design of the carafe, the Woodneck is extremely well built. At $40 for a 480ml carafe, the Woodneck may seem a touch expensive, but it is worth every penny, especially because the quality of the glass is so high.
As with all manual pour over devices, there can be a bit of a learning curve. While it is as simple as grinding coffee and pouring water over the coffee to make a cup, there are variables to take into consideration. Correct grind size with good consistency, a good brew ratio, proper water temperature, and a good kettle with water flow rate control are all important in producing a good cup. The cloth filter adds a bit more difficult to the equation, as its shape does present the possibility for air pockets around the edges of the grounds when they are dumped into the filter. It is a very deep filter with steep edges. Because it hangs from the rim of the carafe, there can sometimes be bumps are a slight unevenness to the filter that creates little spaces that can create channeling of water out the sides without actually properly extracting. I am including this bit about side-channeling, because I have seen some users mention it, but I personally have never encountered it. I will touch on my method below and what has worked for me. The best part of the Woodneck is the type of cup that it produces. For the longest time, I used a V60 with a paper filter most mornings. The resulting cups were sweet, clean, and highly enjoyable. When you make the move from paper to cloth you notice the difference immediately. The Woodneck has the ability to produce full, silky, and juicy mouth feels while accenting all the bright juicy fruit notes in a cup. The depth filtration of the cloth allows for more oils to pass through into the cup and finds a great balance in between an unfiltered french press/Chemex Kone and a paper filtered brew. Just a note - depth filtration is defined as filtration medium where fines are allowed to pass into the filter, but are not allowed to pass fully through, thus allowing for more oils to enter the cup. As a result, depth filtration produces clean full-bodied cups.
Now, I would like to talk a bit about the filters and how I personally care for mine. I have been using the same filter for the three months that I have owned the Woodneck and it has not yet given off any rancid flavors. Before using it for the first time, I boiled it in a saucepan for a few minutes. The first cup or two definitely helped season the filter a bit and each consecutive cup got better and better. Before each brew, I wet the filter/in the carafe with boiled water (that I will then be brewing with) in order to warm up the filter, but also give it a wash. Afterwards, I dump the grounds, remove it from the hoop, and give it a good 10 second hand scrub under some hot tap water. Then I soak it in a hot pyrex dish of leftover brewing water while I clean everything else up. When I'm done cleaning up my coffee station, I dump the cleaning water that the filter sat in, pour some cold tap water in, pop the pyrex top on and put the filter in the fridge. *Note* There are different ways to take care of the filters, but this one has worked extremely well for me and adds no more than a minute to my brewing time. I should also say that I soak the filter in a hot JoeGlo/water mixture every couple weeks. If the filter seems especially dirty, I will soak it twice. These soaks get the filters looking brand new and ready to go again.
Now, on to the brew method that has been working wonders for me.
- Bring water to a boil and heat/wet filter. This not only preps the filter, but heats up the glass carafe.
- Grind coffee to a medium/medium-fine grind. I use a 21F on my Preciso (take that for what it is). My grind is a bit coarser than a fine drip and helps me keep the brew slurry low in the filter for better temperature stability and more consistent.
- Dump coffee into filter and tap the side of the hoop to level and fill any air pockets inside the filter.
- Once water has cooled down to desired temperature (I use between 91-92C), begin a pre-infusion pour. I use a Hario Buono with a flow restrictor to give me an extremely slow, consistent, and controllable pour. I start in the middle of a small divot in the grounds (that I made using my pointer finger) and slowly begin spiraling outwards until all the coffee is covered. For a 240ml yield, I look to pre-infuse 30-35ml. If done correctly, as the water rises out of the divot and your pour spirals outwards, all of the coffee will be covered. I am for a 2min brew time, so I pause for a 20 second bloom. If the coffee is very fresh (1-2 days), I will wait an additional 10 seconds before starting my timer.
- Once the bloom period has ended, begin the main pour. Start in the center and work your way out to the edges of the dome being sure to keep a buffer between the water and the wall of the filter. Keep a SLOW and CONSISTENT pour moving out and in (concentric circles) until 240ml is reached. I tear my scale after my pre-infusion, which makes aiming for 240ml more simple (no weird addition or subtraction as my pre-infusion can be a few ml different from brew to brew).
- If I have maintained the correct flow rate, I will hit 240ml with 20 seconds left on my timer. If my grind is correct, my brew will finish draining and turn from a steady stream to drips right at 2 minutes. Going a few seconds over or under has never given me off flavors in the cup, but does help you gauge whether you should grind finer or coarser for the next brew.
- Allow the brew to cool a couple minutes before enjoying, as this helps bring the coffee's flavor out a bit more. Enjoy!
Overall, the Woodneck is a world class brewing device. Yes, it requires some practice, patience, and attention to detail, but the end result makes it worth it. Patience. I use mine alongside my V60 for my morning cup and love each of them. That said, the Woodneck produces an equally clean cup when compared to the V60, but with far more emphasis of the body. I cannot recommend the Woodneck enough for those that enjoy manual pour over methods.