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Vertical Innovation: Proper Coffee’s New Cylindrical Pourover Brewers

Proper Coffee manual brewing

Images courtesy of Proper Coffee Company unless otherwise noted.

The optimal structure and geometry of a brewer for the manual pourover method is an ongoing conversation, with time-tested options differing in pointed, flat or wedge-shaped bases; various numbers and sizes of drainage holes; walls that are flat, fluted, ridged, or completely absent; and so on.

The angle of the brew column is another question that dates back at least as far as the 3-cup Chemex, which brews in a markedly narrower cone than its 6-, 8- or 10-cup counterparts. That question was reinvigorated in 2015 with the release of Saint Anthony Industries‘ Phoenix70 brewer, which brews through a 70-degree cone-shaped brew column. This stands in contrast to the dominant Hario V60, a longstanding conical brewer that gets its name from the 60-degree angle of its cone.

Proper Coffee manual brewing

Earlier this year, the Proper Coffee Company, based in Novi, Mich., followed this discussion to its logical conclusion: A fully vertical, cylindrical brew column. The Proper Coffee Pour Over Drip brewer consists of a 6-inch-tall Pyrex glass cylinder that’s 1.5 inches in diameter, held by a steel framework that balances on top of a cup or brew station. At the bottom of the column is a stainless steel mesh filter, variants of which are available from 20 up to 100-micron mesh, rising in increments of 10. Plugging the bottom is an aluminum “drip tip,” through which the coffee ultimately passes after the filters.

With the right balance of grind and filter selection, an approximate 12-ounce cup is brewed in the same 2-3-minute period as can be done on a conventional pourover yet with purportedly much less dependence upon technique and equipment such as a spiral pour from a precision gooseneck kettle.

“When you have a paper filter and it’s spread across, you have to work it all the way around,” Proper Coffee Founder and CEO William Abbe told Daily Coffee News. “Here, you can get more of a consistent pourover.”

Proper Coffee manual brewing

William Abbe. Photo by Wesley Nardoni.

Abbe said that when ground coarsely enough, water flows through rapidly and evenly enough to provide an even saturation that leads to an even and thorough extraction, though for finer grinds some agitation of the grounds can be helpful. To that end, Proper Coffee will soon be issuing a stir stick accessory.

All of the work in manufacturing the Proper pourover is done in-house. Abbe, essentially the one man show behind Proper, personally cuts and flame-polishes the glass, cuts the steel frames and does the CNC lathe and mill work to create the aluminum drip tips. The 1,000-square-foot shop on the same property as his home also includes a 60-watt CO2 laser for cutting and engraving wood, which he uses in fashioning and branding the walnut veneer on 8-cup commercial Proper pourover racks.

Proper Coffee manual brewing

Photo by Wesley Nardoni.

While the home-friendly single-cup pourover device is new as of this year, Proper Coffee has set its sites primarily on commercial adoption, offering 4- and 8-cup pourover stations that provide not only a fascinating display but also an efficiently minimal footprint. Other upcoming accessories include a stand for holding additional tubes, either dosed and waiting to brew or dirty and waiting for a wash. The tubes are dishwasher safe, though Abbe will soon sell a specific brush on the Proper website for cleaning by hand.

Proper Coffee’s original design — a tall, aesthetically striking Kyoto-style cold brew slow-drip tower — was oriented to the commercial market, just as subsequent slow-drip towers of various heights and diameters in the intervening years have also targeted cafes.

“Australia’s been huge on the cold drip. I probably have 50 or 60 just in Australia,” said Abbe, adding that his designs have shipped as far and wide as Dubai, London, Tokyo and elsewhere. “They’re going all over the world.”

Proper Coffee manual brewing

Abbe’s background, though not in professional coffee, is in digital marketing and engineering, including work in 3D modeling, 3D printing and other elements of modern innovation.

“Coffee’s been a big thing for me, so it was kind of fun to go down the path of being able to build my own coffee maker,” said Abbe. “I wanted to do a very cool, unique cold drip, and then it progressed into pourover because I like pourover coffee. I thought I could take a new spin and re-engineer the pourover into something new.”

Apart from the eye-catching aesthetic of Proper brewers, Abbe also strives to build into them a greater sense of flexibility for users to play with.

“My goal is to make this very unique and experimental,” said Abbe, “give the brewer a little more of a science to it.”

Photo by Wesley Nardoni.

Photo by Wesley Nardoni.

Abbe intends to roll out the tube stand accessory within the next couple weeks, then the stir stick and brush shortly after that. Going forward, Abbe intends to continue expanding and refining the Proper Coffee device portfolio, particularly with the goal of making it easier for coffee shops to brew, clean and move their Proper equipment in the busy retail coffee setting.

Said Abbe, “I’m constantly thinking of the next design iteration.”

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