by Firefly Coffee


by Founder Ray Murakawa

An in-depth, living, breathing, constantly outdated, TLDR manual for understanding melodrip brewing.


Safety First!

At the time of writing, melodrip v.0.1 is an experimental tool.  Although we are using 100% food safe Stainless Steel, Adhesive, and BPA Free Tritan Co Polyester plastic, you may be using melodrip in applications where very hot or cold liquids are involved.  In this case there are several precautions we need to communicate before use.

  1. Pour lightly, and keep away from vitals!  When pouring fluids onto melodrip, keep sensitive body parts (Face, Eyes) approximately 24 inches away from the dish.  There are 31 individual drainage chambers on the melodrip dish.  Each chamber is designed with a specific dimension to deliver an even drawdown with gravity.  Although splashing should not occur with proper usage, if fluids are poured onto the chambers too quickly, droplets may fly out of the dish.  Before using melodrip for the first time, we recommend pouring cold water onto melodrip with the kettle of choice to become familiar with the optimal pour strength necessary to minimize any splashing.   
  2. Use water for coffee!  We recommend using a Re-Mineralized RO/Distilled Water (Visit Barista Huslte Water for simple recipes), Regular Filtered Water, a combination of Tap and Filtered Water, or Soft Tap water.  Depending on your location, water from your faucet may be very hard (>200ppm), in which case a buildup of Limescale can develop and clog the drainage spouts of the melodrip dish, ruining its performance.  You can observe the hardness of your water by checking to see if there is buildup of Limescale in your kettle or faucet.  The mineral content of water determines the balance of flavors  “extracted” from ground coffee, so understanding the your brew water is a great investment towards realizing the potential of your coffee.

Preparations (Passive Variables).

  1. Brew on a stable surface!  Place a cup of water onto your brewing surface.  Assume regular brewing position.  Place your kettle on and off of the surface.  Place your hands on and off of the brewing surface.  Observe the surface of the water.  If you see substantial movement, secure the brewing surface until there is no noticeable movement.  Brewing with melodrip preserves a large percentage of the brewbed’s initial porosity because of minimal agitation.  Additionally, the shear strength between particles is vertically strong, but is relatively weak horizontally.  So anytime there is lateral movement to the brewing surface, this can collapse the architecture of the brewbed resulting in a loss of porosity and ultimately affecting the drawdown rate.
  2. High water load!  Many users do not map temperature decline.  No matter if your kettle reads a specific temperature, the moment water is poured, the temperature of the water declines immediately.  This can be controlled by beginning each brew with atleast ¾ of the kettle filled, and the same amount of water in the kettle for repeatability.  To ensure stable temperatures throughout the brew cycle, we recommend having at least 2x the amount of target brew water in your pouring kettle.  This ensures that the water temperature declines at slower rate throughout the brew cycle, and extraction can progress evenly.
  3. Use a mirror.  Using a brewing mirror allows you to observe the drawdown rate of your brew throughout the course of the brew cycle.  For any brewing device we recommend that coffee“drip” out in a beaded stream or steady droplets.  Although quickly streaming coffee can produce satisfactory results, we have found that if coffee exits the brewing device as strong and steady stream, there may not be sufficient water to coffee contact time reducing the strength of the brew.  If streaming occurs at the beginning or anytime throughout the brewing cycle, momentarily refrain from pouring until dripping has come to a full stop, then resume pouring.  This allows gravity to flatten the brewbed and slightly increase flow resistance.  Another method of slowing down a quick drawdown is to pour 10g of water in a circular motion using a bare kettle (without melodrip).
  4. Saturate your filter paper!  The average filter paper can absorb roughly 3x its weight in water.  When pre-infusion is performed with a dry filter, a portion of these initial extracted compounds will be absorbed by the filter and may not flow into your cup.  Also, filter paper is designed to perform optimally when fully saturated as pulp fibers expand and reduce the filters’ porosity improving its filtration properties.  We recomment using less than 100ml of +200f˚ water to both hydrate and remove traces of lignin odor.  
  5. Aim for a 4-5 minute brew time!  Brewing with melodrip preserves the porosity of the brewbed.  This results in a steadier flowrate, reduced filter load, and minimal clogging, regardless of grind size or particle size distribution.  This being the case, we recommend grinding a notch or two finer on your grinder, to increase coffee surface area, and lengthen water contact time to hit the recommended 4-5 minute brew time.  Although over-extraction is more of a subjective evaluation rather than something that can be objectively measured, longer contact times using melodrip do not necessarily influence the increase of dry and bitter flavor characteristics of a lengthy extraction.  Proper roast development, grind quality, water chemistry, and pour technique should all be considered when attenuating quality of extraction.
  6. Minimal dosage of 12~15g of coffee! The size of the melodrip dish is designed to cover a large area of the surface of a typical single serve brewbed.  The minimal recommended dose of coffee should be 15g for both cone and wedge shaped brewers.  Additionally, we do not recommend brewing with recipes intended for 2 or more cups of coffee.

Best Practices (Active Variables)

The goal of melodrip brewing is to increase flavor clarity through decreased ‘Particle Discharge’ which is the passing of insoluble particulate matter through the filter paper.  This is performed by minimizing particle suspension (particles swimming) in the brewbed.  Finer particles suspended in fluid are more likely to be influenced by the outward flow of exit currents because of their small size and lighter weight.  This is common during the blooming phase when the filter paper is more likely to pass particles, due to optimal porosity, increased flowrates, and minimal cake filtration.  

Although there is no right way to enjoy any beverage, the flavor of brewed coffee is typically affected by particulates that may block sensory receptors on the tongue, effectively reducing our perception of flavor clarity.  This is easiest to detect between melodrip and non-melodrip brews at cooler temperatures.  A coffee with less particulate matter will continue to taste vibrant, clean, less dry, and less bitter.

There is no right way of using melodrip, but here are the recommended steps to get the best results.

  1. Grind >15g fresh coffee and brew at 1:15-17 coffee:water ratio.  Although less coffee can be used with a flat bottom or trapezoidal dripper, we recommend using at least 15g of coffee for any sized cone dripper.  This recommendation is based on the optimal brewbed coverage of melodrip and it’s relation to the average single serve dose.
  2. Grind finer.  Grind coffee a couple of steps finer than your are typically used to.  This will typically create more fines, though reduce large boulder particles.  
  3. Homogenize the dose.  After grinding coffee, use a whisk to mix the grounds.  This allows many of the fine particles to grab onto larger particles to prevent clumping of hydrophobic (water resistant) masses during the bloom cycle.  Depending on grind quality and particle size distribution, excessive clumping can cause water channeling and uneven saturation while brewing.
  4. 210f˚ water and target a 4-5 minute brew time.  Agitation is the most optimal way of delivering heat and hydration for brewing coffee.  Since the melodrip method takes agitation out of most of the equation, it is absolutely imparetive that proper Time, Temperature, and Hydration are controlled.  So we recommend an average of 5min of brewtime and a 210f˚water teperature, to compensate for the limited agitation.  
  5. Pre-infusion and bloom time.  We recommend pre-infusion with 3x the water mass per coffee mass for blooming.  Our tests show that using 2.5~3x water mass for blooming can result in stronger concentrations, but this may also result in undesired particle suspension or water flowing too quickly through the coffee brewbed, reducing contact time.  What works best will depend on the water retention characteristics of your coffee and brewer combination, coffee solubility, freshness, and grind quality.
  6. Saturating the bloom.  The first half of poured water is typically where a majority of the coffee extraction occurs (for <800microns), and is also when the filter paper is most porous.  As a result, this is a period when the filter paper can continue to discharge small particulates and when many small particles migrate with the flow of water.  In regards to clarity and body, the bloom is also the most crucial period where clarity and body characteristics can be greatly influenced.  To reduce the amount of particulates from being discharged, it is recommended that water be added in 2x coffee mass (i.e., 15g coffee 30g Water).
  7. Saturate slowly!  Sprinkling water onto coffee should be gradual, and occur once the waterline is close to falling right above or "touching" the surface of the brewbed.  Aim to develop a completely flat and fully saturated brewbed surface.  We recommend applying 2x coffee mass in water onto the slurry when pouring.  Also, after one application of water, aim to sprinkle another area of the brewbed that appears less saturated. It is recommended that water be applied in a slow circular pours onto the melodrip dish for an even saturation of the brewbed.  Although the melodrip dish covers a large majority of the typical 15g brewbed surface, be sure to position the melodrip dish over areas where water can be evenly sprinkled accross the entirety of the surface; edge to edge.
  8. Maximum height of the waterline should be 1/4in. (6.5mm) above coffee!  At any given time, the waterline (surface height) should not exceed a quarter inch over the surface of the brewbed to maintain optimal contact time with the coffee grounds.  This is recommended since drawdown rates of many popular drippers increase as waterlines increase.
  9. Refill moderately.  While adding water, pay attention to the the lowering waterline.  As the waterline drops closer to the surface of the brewbed, begin refilling water immediately before the surface of the coffee grounds begin to peek through the water.  This will show you where uneven ‘peaks’ exist in the brewbed, and where the subsequent saturation should occur.  Additionally, time between pours should be roughly 5 seconds apart.  If water drains quicker than this, there is either water channelling (grind is too fine), or inadequate resistance (grind is too coarse) resulting sub-optimal contact times throughout the entirety of the brewbed.
  10. Finishing pour.  Using an average medium-fine grind size, after reaching 50% of poured water, the average filter paper has likely reached a load capacity to where minimal amounts of particle discharge can take place.  At this point, conventional bare-kettle pouring will not result in excessive amounts partical discharge into the cup.  Therefore if you wish to increase beverage strength, body, or sweetness, we recommend pouring with a bare-kettle for the final pour, or roughly 20% remainder of the brewing recipe.

As we are fully aware that many of the above prescriptions describe usage of an experimental brewing method before public beta testing.  We consider this to be a living document.  Therefore we can only guarantee that the effectiveness of these techniques is only proven to deliver results within OUR lab.  We understand that melodrip is being developed in an environment that comprises of different tools, water, and experience levels compared to yours and we hope that this can be a starting point for questions, answers, and newer approaches to using melodrip!


Ray Murakawa.