Are you a cold brew fanatic? Then I’ve got something for you that’s going to take you back to where the cold brewing method started: slow-drip coffee, just like in Kyoto.
I’ll walk you through everything there is to know about brewing Japanese-inspired cold drip: from detailed descriptions of each drip-tower piece used in the recipe, the ingredients, the exact techniques, and tips to achieve great results whether you’re a beginner or a coffee pro.
Let’s do this!
What is a Kyoto-style slow-drip coffee?
Kyoto-style slow-drip coffee is made using a three-section drip tower by dripping cold water onto coffee grounds over an extended period of time (8 to 12 hours). The design of slow-drip towers differs by brand, but each will have 3 sections that hold the water, the coffee grinds, and the final brew. The traditional cold drip originated in Kyoto, Japan, hence the name.
This slow, meticulous extraction process creates a coffee concentrate similar to cold brew coffee. It brings nuanced, subtle flavors out of coffee beans, and results in lower acidity compared to hot brewing methods.
The first time I saw a Kyoto-style drip tower in action was completely mesmerizing. The slow and steady drip of the water, and the way the grounds slowly darkened felt meditative. Like watching an artist at work. And the resulting brew I went back for in the afternoon? It was like nothing I had ever tasted before.
Even though a Kyoto-style brew is said to be similar to cold-brew, they are very different:
- Cold brew involves steeping extra-coarse coffee grounds in water for 18-24 hours and filtering it before serving. Brewing vessels can vary from French Press to glass pitchers or mason jars. There’s also Nitro cold brew which adds nitrogen gas into the mixture.
- Cold drip uses a percolation method which is slightly more complicated and requires the use of a drip tower. The process can take 8-12 hours, depending on your equipment’s grind size and drip speed.
And don’t mistake both for Japanese-style iced coffee either, which is brewing strong coffee directly onto ice, often using a pour over method with the carafe already filled with ice to rapidly cool down the coffee.
But regardless of how you choose to brew it, cold coffee has become increasingly popular worldwide, thanks to its unique flavors and excellent health benefits. The slow infusion process extracts all the beautiful coffee flavors, while eliminating any bitter aftertaste found with other extraction methods.
Now as I mentioned, this slow-drip coffee recipe is different than traditional filter drip coffee in that it drips cold water on the bed of coffee grounds for 8-12 hours. By slowly dripping water from a glass globe into a chamber filled with coffee grinds, the resulting drink is far more potent than traditional drip methods, while still retaining a nuanced flavor profile.
You might think it sounds complicated, but actually, preparing this delicious concoction requires only minimal effort. You don’t need any fancy techniques or culinary skills are required – all you need is patience and dedication.
As someone who has tried all ways of coffee brewing, I must say that this is one of the most delicate and interesting ways to make coffee. Watching the drops slowly fill your carafe over several hours gives off a calming “zen” vibe that’s therapeutic for busy folks like me who wants to slow down. Of course, you don’t watch it for hours, but you get what I mean 🙂
Equipment and Ingredients for a Kyoto-style slow drip coffee
Here’s everything you’ll need for iced coffee inspired by the Japanese:
- Slow Drip Tower – is the main equipment used in the recipe, giving the coffee its unique taste and texture. Coffee towers from brands like Oji, Tiamo, and Yama are reliable and look great.
- Digital scale – is needed to measure the exact amount of coffee and water required for this recipe.
- Coffee grinder – is needed to grind coffee before being added to the chamber. Freshly grounded coffee beans are always ideal.
- 35 g of coffee – determines the strength and flavor profile of the final product.
- 245 ml of room-temperature filtered water – always use filtered, not tap water, as it affects both flavor and texture.
- Ice cubes – for serving.
The coffee-to-water ratio in our slow-drip recipe is 1:7.
Step-by-step Guide to Making a Kyoto-style slow drip coffee
Let’s get started on how to make Kyoto-style iced coffee:
1. Remove the carafe and the grounds chamber, and insert the filter
Remove the carafe, lift out the grounds chamber, and insert the filter flannel side up.
Place the chamber back into the carafe.
2. Grind 35 g of coffee
Grind the coffee on a coarse setting similar to that used for a French press or a Chemex. Any good-quality beans will do.
Authentic Kyoto cold drip coffee is known for its high notes and complex flavors, which is why light to medium roasts are better than dark roast beans here. This is another way how this method differs from cold brew.
I’ve become a big fan of Ethiopian beans for this method – the fruity, wine-like flavors really shine.
3. Add the coffee grounds to the chamber
Take the coffee grinds chamber out, fill it, and give it a gentle shake to level out the coffee. Once the grounds are evened out, slowly nestle the chamber back into its place.
4. Make sure that the water valve is in the off position
Before you proceed with the brewing process, make sure to turn the spigot (water valve) clockwise to the off position.
5. Lift the glass water chamber off the tower
Remove the rubber stopper at the bottom of the glass globe.
6. Fill the globe with 245 ml of room-temperature water
Mind the 1:7 coffee-to-water ratio, it’s what works best.
Once you fill the globe, put the stopper back.
7. Place the glass globe back into the tower
Carefully invert the globe as you put it back. This position will cause water to flow in to fill the spigot.
8. Place the carafe assembly beneath the spigot
Ensure that both the carafe and the spigot are correctly aligned, and you’re ready to start the drip cycle.
9. Turn the spigot valve slowly
Your drip rate should is usually 1 to 1.5 drips per second, but this depends on the tower you use. If yours has more than 1 spout, just focus on the cadence from one spout to dial in the drip rate.
10. Allow the coffee to drip slowly over an extended period
This step should take between 8-12 hours, depending on your tower.
Make sure to monitor the drip rate every now and then to make sure there aren’t any significant changes in volume of water passing through. You may need to adjust the drip rate a few times during the drip cycle.
How to Serve and Drink Cold Drip Coffee?
The final result is a strong, spirit-like cold-brewed beverage best served over ice. You can drink it as is, or add some water to dilute.
This method of making coffee brings out the origin characteristics of your beans, especially if they are light-medium roast. For this reason, I don’t recommend adding milk or any condiments cold-drip coffee.
What kind of cup should a Kyoto cold brew be served in?
A Kyoto-style cold drip coffee is traditionally served in a small, clear glass.
Helpful Tips for Brewing a Kyoto cold brew
Based on my experience using this recipe, here are some insights you can use:
- Once you brew your cold drip coffee, store it in your fridge for aging purposes; longer age time tends to bring out the sweeter flavors, usually around 5-7 days max.
- Regarding filter types, paper filters are my go-to choice for a cleaner cup.
- For coffee origins, I prefer natural or honey-processed single origins from Central America, South America, and East Africa.
So why not give the Kyoto-style drip a go? The process is simple enough, but the tower itself will set you back some. These towers are beautiful and make great coffee, but they are priced accordingly. The brewing process also takes your typical iced coffee and cold brew to another level.
Be sure to comment below on how this recipe worked for you if you try it.