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How the Japanese Make Their Coffee

Sampling the Japanese tradition of nel drip coffee, which utilizes flannel filters for a dense, velvety cup.

Jack Seemer

6:23 p.m., Fukuoka, JapanCafe Bimi is the kind of Japanese coffee shop you sometimes hear about overseas — those small, dimly lit institutions where old men have devoted their lives to making coffee by nel drip, a very Japanese convention utilizing a flannel cloth filter. The result, posit subscribers, is a dense, almost velvety cup of coffee, when done correctly. (They also say that it takes decades to master.) There is no music playing in this old, two-story building, and little chatter about the upstairs cafe. Only the sound of the lone man behind the counter, draped in a loose linen shirt, as he progresses cup, by cup, by cup — each of which is made individually for the round of customers watching him. A thin, clear stream of water runs from spout, to nel, dripping softly into demitasse, for five to seven minutes per cup. It’s methodical, almost hypnotic — and, when the coffee finally lands in front of you, pretty damn memorable.

Photo Info: Nikon F3 | Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 | Ilford Delta 3200

Want to Try Your hand at Nel Drip Coffee?


Hario, the brand behind the infamous V60 coffee dripper, is the only mass market manufacturer of cotton flannel brewing systems, which are available for under $30 on Amazon. To learn the correct method of preparation, head over to Blue Bottle Coffee.

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