Posted: 05/04/2019

Do you do filter coffee?

Michael Lane discovers the merits of serving filter coffee, instead of espresso-based drinks, with Dark Woods’ Paul Meikle-Janney

The whoosh of the espresso machine has become such a common soundtrack to people’s lives that it might seem odd to suggest a different method of serving coffee in delis – but here goes.

Filter coffee has a fallen out of fashion but it could be just the ticket for independent retailers who are looking to start serving coffee but on a tight budget, or for those looking for something to sit alongside their menu of espresso-based drinks. It even has queue-busting and milk-reduction benefits.

It might surprise you to know that Paul Meikle-Janney – a man who sits on the education committee of the global Specialty Coffee Association and devises the exams for its barista qualifications – is a big advocate of filter coffee.

 “The reason why filter has bad press is because you’ve got people doing it badly,” says Meikle-Janney, also a co-director at Dark Woods Coffee. “It’s associated with that tar-like stuff you see at the end of the pub counter.”

He says that, too often, those preparing filter coffee are steeping the wrong grind of poor quality, dark roasted coffee in too little water for too long. 

“Imagine you were going to make an espresso and have already made one an hour ago with pre-ground coffee. That’s the equivalent of what people are doing to filter coffee.”

However, if the coffee is a light-medium roast, ground fresh and the quantities are right (55-60g per litre of water) you can produce a “fragrant, tasty, well-balanced cup of coffee”.

It’s the kind of brew that many consumers are looking for when they ask for a black coffee but end up with an Americano. Plus, it only needs topping up with a drop of milk, unlike espresso drinks which will get through a lot more pints each day.

At Dark Woods’ roastery in West Yorkshire, the team serves cups from 4-litre batch brews of two types of coffee on busy Saturday mornings and it has proved to be popular with customers. They have also helped Leeds University install a filter brew bar in one of its new facilities. Customers just choose from a craft beer style menu (with flavour profiles of each coffee) of batch- and hand-brewed drinks.

Retailers could take the individual cup idea further – grinding coffee to order and serving it with a filter and hot water for the customer to brew themselves – to add more theatre in their cafés.

“People are realising that filter’s not just a poor man’s coffee,” says Meikle-Janney. “A lot of big brands are looking at it and if Costa is, then there’s a market for it.”

Required kit

Filter brewers

Low-cost: A domestic sized MoccaMaster (£200-250) will do 6 cups

High-cost: A batch brewer (£850-£1,000), like those made by Bunn


Low-cost: Wilfa grinders cost around £100

High-cost: Retail grinder. The Mahlkonig EK43 (£2,500) is considered the best

This story appeared in the April issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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