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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.

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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?

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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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