Have you heard of the HARIO Switch dripper? Or does the term immersion dripper ring a bell?
What is immersion brewing? I’ve heard of it but what is the benefit of it? How does it differ from other methods? Does it brew good coffee? How is it like actually using the Switch? These are some questions I will try in address in this post.
To begin with, the Switch is the name of a dripper released by HARIO. Here is the official page.
There are 2 key points to note about the Switch.
- Immersion paper dripper
- 2 way use
These 2 points allow the Switch to brew excellent coffee easily and stably, making it a very suitable dripper especially for beginner coffee enthusiasts. Let me explain.
Immersion paper dripper
The first key point is that this dripper is an immersion dripper. Immersion brewing refers to brewers where the coffee grounds hang out with the water during the brew.
Usually with pour-over drippers, you pour the hot water on the coffee grounds. And the coffee is extracted as the water passes through the grounds. This in general is referred to as percolation brewing.
With immersion brewers, the water does not pass through immediately, but hangs out with the grounds for a while. The grounds are immersed in the water for a longer period of time, hence the name. After the extraction the grounds are somehow separated from the coffee. A well known immersion brewer is the french press.
I have written a post about different extraction methods here.
The benefit of immersion brewing is its ease of use. Just pour water and wait. There is no need to worry about how to pour to not disturb the bed of coffee. You don’t even need a fancy pour-over kettle to slowly and carefully pour.
Another benefit is that immersion brewing tends to be more forgiving to the imperfections in mesh or grind size. For beginners the grind size is a tricky topic. It is a very difficult thing to explain using images or measurements, making it difficult to know what the “correct” size is. Also with entry level grinders beginners usually have, the distribution of the grind size tends to be wide.
With normal pour-overs, if the grind size is too fine you could get over-extraction from your coffee where you get unwanted flavors from your coffee. On the opposite side, when grounds are too coarse you get too little extraction leading to a very weak watery cup, which no one likes…
The overall trend is the same with immersion brewers, but the window for good grind size is wider. It’s easier to avoid over or under extraction. (Visit this page for more about grind size and its effect on extraction)
The Switch has a very well made mechanism to enable immersion brewing. The dripper is made up of the glass cone part and a silicone stand. In this silicone stand, there is a stainless steel ball placed beneath the hole of the cone. This ball acts to stop the water from falling through. I was a little bit worried about the reliability of this stopper, but it turns out that it does a fantastic job. I can comfortably move the dipper filled with water without any drippage.
By the way, the glass used for the cone is pretty thick and substantial. I accidentally dropped the switch from roughly a height of 50cm, but is was perfectly undamaged. Just a side note, the glass carafe it landed on was shattered…
With the switch you don’t need pour-over skills or a special kettle, nor a high end grinder. Also having an accurate grind size is not a very big issue. For these reasons I feel it is a must have dripper for beginner coffee brewers.
The fact that it is a paper filtered dripper is also a key benefit. As mentioned before the french press is a standard immersion brewer. It has all the benefits raised above enabling you to brew good coffee easily and stably. But personally cleaning up a french press is just too frustrating. With a french press you usually separate the coffee grounds using a metal filer on the plunger. Although the grounds stuck on to the metal filter can be rinsed off by running water past it, you cant just drain this grounds/water mixture down your sink. So you end up having to pass this mixture through a paper filter anyway… please leave a comment if you know of a better way.
On the contrary, the Switch allows you to seamlessly use a paper filter to begin with. The immersion extraction happens right in the paper filter cone, and your coffee gets filtered with just a press of the button/leaver. The only thing you do after that is pop the paper filter in the bin. How so convenient! I just love this.
By using a paper filter, the Switch produces a very clean cup with out any fine coffee ground particles. It also filters away a significant portion of the coffee oil, this may be a good or bad thing depending on personal preference. Metal filters which keep this oil tend to have more body in the cup, but it can get a little bit silty.
2 way use
I have extensively written about the benefits of immersion brewing you can do with the Switch, but I do also love normal pour-overs as well. The great thing about the Switch is that, by keeping the steel stopper raised, you can use it just like a normal pour-over style V60.
When you get bored of immersion brewing, or if you have some time to try normal pour-over brewing, it is great that you don’t need to buy another dripper for that. I bought a normal V60 before the Switch, but I wish I knew about the switch before hand. Even if you do have a normal dripper, keeping both in your cupboard takes up space. In that sense having the two-in-one Switch is nice.
In order to hold enough water for immersion brewing, the cone of the Switch is made pretty big. It is larger than the normal 1-2 cup V60. Here there is a minor point to watch out for. With normal pour-over style brewing it is best to use the smallest size dripper you need for the amount of coffee you want. This is so that the spout of your kettle can be as close to the bed of grounds as possible so that you have maximum control of your pour. The capacity of the Switch when you use it as an immersion brewer is about 150g~200g, which is roughly 1 cup. But if you want the same amount of coffee, the cone is slightly bigger than optimal for pour-over style. Having said this, it really isn’t a major drawback.
If I was forced to raise a negative point about the Switch, it would be that it can only brew a single cup of coffee at a time, due to its capacity. It would take time to prepare multiple cups of coffee using immersion. And your first cup may get cold before you finish brewing the last one. If you regularly enjoy your coffee with many people, this may be a point to consider. No one else in my family drinks coffee so this hasn’t been an issue for me, although this is kind of sad…
If drinking coffee with a crowd is an occasional thing, you could just switch over to normal pour-over style brewing. This will easily get you 3-4 cups.
On that note, I would be very interested in a larger Switch dripper. HARIO, please do consider. I guess you would need a very large paper filter as well so that might be difficult…
To sum up, I truly believe that the Switch from HARIO is a very simple to use dripper, producing very stable cups of coffee. I would especially recommend it for beginner coffee enthusiasts. If you are interested please give it a try.
I also have a brew guide using the Switch, please give it a visit as well!
See you again!