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Guide to Japanese Coffee Makers + 5 Best Products for Your Home

Coffee Geek Lab / Guide to Japanese Coffee Makers + 5 Best Products for Your Home

Last Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Japanese Coffee Makers

The coffee culture in Japan is able to fascinate almost any coffee lover. 

I mean, who wouldn’t like to try a cup of coffee made with so much precision and care? The Japanese take their coffee seriously, and that results in impressive taste and flavor.

If you are as intrigued as I am, you might be curious to try one of those coffee brewers yourself. So, let’s take a look at 5 top models, followed up by a comprehensive guide to Japanese coffee makers.

ProductDetailsRatingPrice
Hario Woodneck Drip PotBest Overall – Editor’s Pick – Hario Woodneck Drip Pot
  • 2 size options;
  • fine cotton flannel for slow extraction and clean flavor;
  • wooden neck for a more convenient grip (and a stylish look);
  • reusable coffee filter.
9.5Check current price on Amazon
Yama Glass Cold Brew MakerBest Japanese Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Yama Glass Cold Brew Maker
  • 3 colors available;
  • 8-cup ice water reservoir;
  • faster cold brew system (the process requires around 3-4 hours);
  • hand-crafted glass parts;
  • natural wooden tower construction.
9Check current price on Amazon
 Gaggia Classic Pro RI9380-46Best Japanese Pour-Over Coffee Maker – Osaka Pour-Over Coffee Maker
  • 3 color options available;
  • reusable double mesh filter;
  • heat-resistant glass carafe;
  • glass lid to maintain the temperature of the coffee;
  • colorful collar to protect your hands from the heat when pouring the beverage.
8.5Check current price on Amazon
Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee MakerBest Japanese Syphon Coffee Maker – Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee Maker
  • 5-cup capacity;
  • high-quality heat-resistant glass;
  • stainless steel stand, filter, and burner cover;
  • includes an alcohol burner.
8Check current price on Amazon
Nispira Iced Coffee Cold Brew DripperBest Cold Brew Maker for Brewing Size Variety – Nispira Iced Coffee Cold Brew Dripper
  • two brewing capacity options for those who want more coffee at once;
  • stylish vintage look;
  • easy to assemble;
  • sturdy wooden frame;
  • adjustable valve for controlled brew strength.
8Check current price on Amazon

Our Reviews of the Best Japanese Coffee Makers: Top 5 Picks

Best Overall – Editor’s Pick

Hario Woodneck Drip Pot

Hario Woodneck Drip Pot
  • 2 sizes available: 240 and 480 ml;
  • reusable cotton filter;
  • heatproof glass carafe;
  • convenient spout for non-spill pouring;
  • wooden neck and filter handle.

The combination of simplicity, quality, and style in this little device managed to win me over. The Hario drip pot looks super classy and can be used to brew an incredibly delicious cup of coffee. Plus, it’s very affordable, which makes it a great option even for beginner home baristas.

The cotton coffee filter is a unique solution for pour-over brewing. The filter can be used multiple times, which means you save on paper filters and, consequently, make a more environmentally-efficient choice.

Using a cotton filter allows for a slow coffee extraction that results in impeccable flavor. Additionally, the cotton cloth does not trap the precious coffee oils. This means you get both: a ton of healthy nutrients and a rich flavor. The Hario doesn’t require that much effort on your part to brew delicious beverages and would work for all levels of experience.

ProsCons
Super easy to useMight be too small for more avid coffee drinkers
AffordableSome users might not like washing the cotton filter and would prefer regular paper ones instead
Quality made, can easily withstand heat and regular use
Easy to clean
Stylish design, would fit into any kitchen interior
Two sizes available
Reusable coffee filter

All in all, this little device can help you step your coffee game up. The Hario was designed to brew delicious coffee with minimal effort and just a bit of patience.

Best Japanese Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Yama Glass Cold Brew Maker

Yama Glass Cold Brew Maker
  • wooden tower construction;
  • borosilicate glass parts;
  • non-porous materials, does not absorb odors;
  • adjustable valve for controlled drip frequency;
  • spiral chamber for an even flow.

Looking for a cold brew maker of your dreams? Well, look no more, as the Yama got you covered. This coffee brewer is ideal for those who love the cold brew but don’t want to wait for it for too long, as the Yama allows for a much faster extraction process.

This cold brew maker is quite convenient to use thanks to its design. It brews directly into the decanter, which you can cover with the lid (included with the purchase) and store your delicious coffee to enjoy it later.

The Yama allows users to bring the cold brew to the next level. Thanks to its special construction, you can use ice to extract your coffee with cold temperatures and get the smoothest taste possible. Plus, there is an adjustable valve. It allows users to control the drip speed and, consequently, adjust the boldness of the brew.

ProsCons
Reliable construction and top-quality materialsQuite tall and may not fit under some users’ cabinets
Allows for faster cold brewingFragile, as some parts are rather delicate and thin, has to be handled with care
Adjustable valve for boldness controlMay be too expensive for some shoppers
Comes with a decanter lid for easy storage
Consistent performance every time

Overall, the Yama cold brew maker is a real gem. It is stylish, made with top-quality materials, and brews excellent coffee. What else is there to wish for?

Best Japanese Pour-Over Coffee Maker

Osaka Pour-Over Coffee Maker

Osaka Pour-Over Coffee Maker
  • borosilicate glass carafe;
  • laser-cut double steel filter;
  • heat-resistant collar;
  • glass lid to prevent accidental spills and to keep the coffee warm;
  • curved flow channels in the filter for optimal extraction.

This little guy may seem simple to you, but don’t let it fool you. The Osaka pour-over coffee maker is capable of brewing a great-tasting cup of coffee. Plus, it’s super easy to use, includes a reusable filter, and comes at a very attractive price.

The filter in this pour-over device is quite peculiar. Featuring the double-wall design, it can sift out even the tiniest coffee grounds. Additionally, it features special curved channels that allow for a more even extraction.

The Osaka is a stylish glass pour-over coffee brewer that would fit in any kitchen. There’s a convenient collar to protect your hands when pouring, which comes in 3 different colors. Plus, the brewer includes a glass lid. It tightly covers the carafe to prevent spilling and to keep your coffee warm longer. 

However, if you feel like the glass carafe will not keep coffee hot enough for you, you can also check some of the top-rated thermal carafe coffee makers here.

ProsCons
Super affordableThe filter might clog occasionally and may be challenging to clean
Unique filter design for a better extractionThe glass is quite thin and might break easily
Sleek glass carafe
Easy to use
Reusable filter (will save you a lot of money on paper filters)

All things considered, the Osaka is a worthy find. It can brew delicious coffee, preserving all the precious oils and allowing you to save money on coffee filters. Additionally, it’s very affordable and stylish.

Best Japanese Syphon Coffee Maker

Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee Maker

Hario Glass Technica Syphon Coffee Maker
  • heat-resistant borosilicate glass bowls;
  • stainless steel filter, stand, and burner cover;
  • brass fasteners;
  • aluminum windbreak;
  • 5-cup capacity.

Syphon coffee makers are not everyone’s cup of tea, but this model by Hario can win almost anyone over. This syphon coffee brewer can boast of excellent quality and it’s able to produce an exquisite cup of coffee (five cups, actually).

The build quality of this device is impressive. The reason behind that is Hario’s history. The company has been working with heat-resistant borosilicate glass for almost a hundred years, including making laboratory equipment.

The Hario syphon might require a bit of a learning curve, but it would certainly be worth it. This model can produce a clean, smooth cup of coffee with an incredibly rich flavor. It uses a cloth filter that allows for a smooth extraction and doesn’t trap the rich coffee oils. Plus, the glass and steel parts of the device do not retain odor, which means your coffee will always taste clean.

ProsCons
Extremely well-madeMight require a learning curve
Brews delicious, high-quality coffeeMay be a bit challenging to clean
Does not affect the flavor of the beverage
Comes with all needed accessories

To sum up, the Hario syphon may not work for everyone, but if you want an impressively good cup of coffee, you should definitely try this device.

Best Cold Brew Maker for Brewing Size Variety

Nispira Iced Coffee Cold Brew Dripper

Nispira Iced Coffee Cold Brew Dripper
  • wooden frame;
  • adjustable valve for controlled drip frequency;
  • stainless steel filter screen;
  • 2 brewing capacity options;
  • borosilicate glass containers.

If you drink a lot of coffee (or live with a family of coffee lovers) and need a larger cold brew maker, the Nispira would suit you well. This model comes in 2 brewing sizes, 600 and 2,500 ml, so you can brew more coffee at once.

The wooden elements of this cold brew maker give it a classy vintage look. However, there’s also a steel frame used for more stability and increased durability.

The Nispira can brew coffee fast and won’t require you to wait for more than a few hours. There’s an adjustable valve that allows for the drip speed control. It can help you find the perfect configuration for your desired coffee strength. Additionally, the Nispira is very well-made and promises durability.

ProsCons
Can brew more coffee at once, suitable for large families of coffee drinkersNeeds to be handled with care due to the glass parts
Quality components and materials usedThe wooden frame seems a bit cheaper than the rest of the construction
Adjustable valve allows for controlled drip speedMight be too tall to fit under the cabinets
Easy to assemble and to clean

Despite some minor flaws, the Nispira makes incredibly good coffee. And it can brew a lot of it, which some users would really appreciate!

The Peculiarities of Japanese Coffee

Coffee has been considered an ordinary beverage in Japan since the early 1900s (1). Such a long history of coffee in Japan is probably one of the reasons why the Japanese managed to master brewing this rich beverage to perfection.

Now, there are many types of coffee (and brewing methods) you can find in Japan. However, the most popular ones are pour-over, cold brew, and syphon coffee makers. These are considered more traditional as well. Of course, you can still find those fancy Italian espresso machines in almost any Japanese coffeehouse (2). Still, they aren’t as popular as the previously mentioned brewing devices. 

When it comes to coffee, the Japanese prefer the slower brewing methods as they result in more flavor. While a top-notch espresso machine can brew a bold, full-bodied beverage, traditional Japanese coffee makers perform a bit differently. Whether you are using a cold brew maker, a pour-over, or a syphon, your coffee will taste smoother, richer, with more complex notes in its flavor, and maybe even a fruity aftertaste. After all, coffee beans are seeds, essentially, and slower brewing can help those flowery, fruity notes bloom.

Japanese Pour-Over Coffee Makers Explained

The secret behind delicious Japanese pour-over coffee is quite simple: quality. And this includes all the components: equipment, beans, water, etc.

However, there’s also the process itself. In Japan, coffee doesn’t tolerate to be rushed. That’s why pour-over coffee makers are so popular there. This coffee type is also known as the “hand pour”, as it’s usually made by hand, one cup at a time (3).

Japanese pour-over brewers are usually made of glass, although you can find ceramic options as well. There are larger models with a carafe (glass, typically) and single-cup versions that include the dripper only and go over your mug. The over-the-mug drippers can be made of glass, ceramic, metal, or even a combination of mesh and plastic. 

The way to use a Japanese pour-over is very simple. You need to place a paper filter into the drip section, fill it with the needed amount of grounds, and pour water over them. It’s important to control the temperature and the flow of water. You want to be slow here, so try not to rush the process. Pour-over coffee typically has a deeper flavor than your regular drip, so it’s really worth the wait.

However, if you aren’t that patient, you can always try using an automatic pour-over coffee maker. Such machines mimic the hand-pour process but brew coffee much faster.

How Do Japanese Cold Brew Coffee Makers Work?

Cold brew coffee has a ton of benefits. It is less acidic, sweeter, and fruitier. And yes, it does require much more time to prepare. But most coffee drinkers agree that it’s a small price to pay for such a rich, diversified flavor.

Cold brew coffee recipes benefits

Source: https://venngage.com/gallery/post/cold-brew-coffee-recipes-benefits/

Now, the first thing I want to remind you of is that cold brew coffee and iced coffee are two different beverages that involve discrepant processes (4). Many coffee drinkers (me included) give their preference to cold brew over iced due to one simple reason: iced coffee often tastes bland or diluted. Plus, the cold brew involves a more complex brewing process that results in a bolder, more intricate flavor. 

Here’s the deal: there are two main methods of making cold-brew coffee: the immersion and the slow drip. The immersion involves leaving the coffee grounds to steep in cold water. It isn’t that common in Japan, as this method can result in sediment and a less distinct flavor.

The slow drip method is common for Japanese coffee. During this brewing process, the water is slowly dripped through the coffee grounds and the filter. It is not allowed to gather or stagnate in the filter. It is always moving, slowly trickling through the ground coffee and allowing it to be extracted. The process may take around 6 to 12 hours to complete and requires a lot of patience on your part (and devotion).

However, what makes this brewing method worth your time is the result, of course. The beverage you receive at the end should have a clean, well-rounded taste with a complex flavor and an amazing variety of notes. The slow drip cold brew typically tastes less acidic, but bold and rich. It often has fruity and flowery notes, and a distinct lingering aftertaste.

Japanese Siphon Coffee Makers Explained

Syphon coffee makers are widely popular in Japan. Also known as vacuum pots, they may remind you of some sort of equipment from a chemical lab. The syphon coffee brewing method involves mixing coffee grounds with hot water that ascends from the flask through the special funnel. The extracted coffee then goes through the filter that catches the grounds and prevents them from getting into your mug.

Lab-inspired coffee

Source: https://br.pinterest.com/pin/84935142958568143/

While syphon coffee makers are also used in North America quite often, the Japanese brewing is different. It involves stirring the coffee twice during the process (preferably with a wooden spatula). The first time you need to stir the grounds is after the water ascents to the funnel. This is done to help the degassing process, plus to ensure that the grounds are incorporated with water evenly. The second stir is done 30 seconds later, to ensure complete degassing and to promote a more even extraction. After that, you can separate the syphon from the heat source, turn your burner off, and let the coffee descend into the lower bowl. Remove the upper bowl, and pour yourself a cup of a delicious beverage.

Just like any other brewing method, syphon coffee results in a distinct, peculiar flavor. Typically, the beverage turns out smooth, rich, and full-bodied. Syphon coffee usually has a very “clean” flavor, with crisp, obvious flavor notes. Thanks to the low-pressure extraction, syphon coffee rarely has any sediment. It is favored by countless coffee lovers for its unique flavor.

How to Find the Best Japanese Coffee Maker: Buyer’s Guide

Now when you know what makes Japanese coffee brewing so special, you might feel enthusiastic about trying it yourself. Trust me, I’ve been there. It costs me a lot of mental energy and self-control to prevent myself from buying an extra kettle for my pour-over (even though I already have 3 of those) every time I pass near my favorite coffee place. If you are only starting your Japanese coffee journey, you may be wondering about which option would be the most suitable for you. Well, to make the best choice possible, you need to narrow your options down. To do that, you can take the following steps when shopping:
  • Set your budget. Japanese coffee makers come in a variety of styles, materials, and of course, prices. It’s easy to get overly excited and go way past your spending limit. So, it’s better to decide how much you are willing to spend on your new coffee maker beforehand. Keep in mind that single over-the-mug drippers are cheaper than carafe pour-overs or syphons. Also, plastic coffee makers and their components are less pricey than models with glass or metal parts. 
  • Cold or hot brew? As you already know, Japanese coffee can be brewed in two ways. You need to decide which one would work for you. Keep in mind that cold brew takes much more time and results in a more concentrated beverage. However, cold brew coffee is typically smoother and less acidic. It’s also sweeter and doesn’t taste bitter at all. Hot brewed coffee has that slightly bitter zestiness, subtle fruitiness, and an obvious rich aroma. Cold brew takes time (and more sips) to reveal all of the notes in its flavor.
  • Consider how much coffee you typically drink. Japanese coffee brewers come in different sizes and can offer various capacity options. If you are a solo drinker who wants a fresh cup of coffee every time, you might want to consider an over-the-mug dripper (single-serve pour-over that you place on top of your cup). If you want more coffee at once (or live with someone who loves this beverage as much as you do), then a pour-over with a carafe or a syphon would suffice. Cold brew coffee makers would also work, as they don’t typically come with a single cup capacity and tend to be larger. If you aren’t sure what capacity you will require, you might want to consider getting a dual coffee maker. And if you know that you won’t require too much coffee daily, check out these single-serve coffee makers.
  • Check the materials. Great coffee makers of good quality (and most Japanese brewers fall into this category) typically use such durable materials as glass and steel (sometimes also wood for some details). However, you can still find cheaper plastic pour-overs with mesh filters (over-the-mug are the most common ones in this case). Of course, if you are not very tight on budget, you should give your preference to glass or steel models. They will certainly serve you longer (plus, they look much more appealing).
  • Consider how much kitchen space you have. Keep in mind that some Japanese coffee brewers are quite tall and might not fit under the cabinets. If that’s the case, perhaps a smaller pour-over or a syphon coffee maker would be more suitable. 
  • Think about the coffee filters. Do you want to buy new paper filters for your pour-over? If not, a syphon with a reusable filter would be better. Many cold brew makers also come with washable coffee filters. Some pour-over models may include a reusable filter as well, although cheaper models typically come with no filter at all.
  • Don’t forget about the accessories. If you buy a syphon, for example, you are likely to get all the needed parts and components with the purchase. However, for a pour-over, you will need a kettle, filters, and a water thermometer (if you want to brew at proper temperatures). It’s not such a big deal, but this aspect can upset some shoppers. Not only do you have to spend more money, but also you need to spend more time searching for quality accessories. And let’s not forget about the most important one – a grinder. Quality grinders are quite pricey, but they are worth it. As an alternative, you can also check some of the best grind and brew coffee makers that come with integrated grinders. 
  • Think about portability. Again, some Japanese coffee makers are tall and bulky. Others have multiple glass parts. You should take these aspects into consideration if you are planning to move or to transport your coffee maker, for example. In this case, a smaller over-the-mug dripper might be a better idea (they can be made of glass, mesh, and ceramic). 
A quick note: if you are looking for a great SCAA-certified coffee maker, you aren’t likely to find a Japanese model that falls into that category. Why, you may ask? Well, the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) tests home coffee makers and checks the proper brewing temperature, extraction time, and other technical specs like that. Most Japanese coffee makers are manual (or semi-manual), so there’s nothing really to test when it comes to technical features the SCA finds important in home brewers.

Conclusion

Some may say that Japanese coffee makers aren’t for everyone. Yes, using them requires patience and more time than you typically spend with your home drip machine. However, the results are well worth it. If you agree, you might want to try using a Japanese coffee maker yourself. Just remember that each of them has some peculiarities, pay attention to the materials used, and decide what brewing process would be the most convenient for you in order to make the wisest choice. And if you need any help trying to make up your mind, allow me to give you a recommendation. The Hario Woodneck Drip Pot is a simplistic yet elegant coffee brewer that can help you get the most out of each cup. It is a quality piece of equipment that doesn’t cost that much and can work for all experience levels. Plus, it looks super stylish! Which Japanese coffee maker managed to catch your eye? And which one do you prefer, cold or regular brew? Share your thoughts in the comments!

References:

  1. Laura Brehaut (February 01, 2018). Coffee is king in Japan: Experience one of the world’s most fascinating coffee cultures. Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/life/food/coffee-is-king-in-japan-experience-one-of-the-worlds-most-fascinating-coffee-cultures
  2. Live Japan (June 26, 2020). Is Coffee Weird in Japan? From Trendy Cafes to Crazy Vending Machines – We Check it Out! Retrieved from https://livejapan.com/en/article-a0001993/
  3. Oliver Strand (February 09, 2011). Coffee’s Slow Dance. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Food-t-000.html
  4. Karen Hart (June 13, 2020). The truth about Japanese iced coffee. Retrieved from https://www.mashed.com/217557/the-truth-about-japanese-iced-coffee/

Yurii Brown

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