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Pour-Over Coffee Brewers

Published March 2013

How we tested

Coffee enthusiasts love manual pour-over brewing devices because they let you control water temperature and steeping time—both key to a good cup.

The most flavorful, aromatic coffee is brewed with water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, steeped for six minutes, and many people prefer a Melitta cone since it offers control over these variables. The Clever Coffee Dripper is a plastic cone similar to the slightly smaller Melitta, with a couple of improving twists: It has a lid to keep water hotter than the open cone, as well as a shutoff valve that holds back the dripping coffee so that it can steep more fully, as in a French press. But because it uses a regular coffee filter, this device gives you full-bodied coffee without the French press’s sediment. The coffee releases only when you place the cone on a cup, and it stops flowing when you lift it off.

One quibble: The manufacturer claims that the Clever Coffee Dripper can make 10, 15, or 30 ounces of coffee. We brewed 10 ounces with good results; 15 ounces was trickier, as the amount of fluid lifted the grounds dangerously close to the rim. For 30 ounces you must fill it twice with water, making the first half of the coffee turn out too strong, the second too weak. But for smaller batches, the Clever Coffee Dripper is a success.

The Incred 'a Brew pour-over coffee brewer has a brewing chamber that you fill with ground coffee; you add 195- to 205-degree water and then let it steep. It uses a built-in wire mesh filter (similar to a French press) instead of paper filters. After steeping, place the carafe atop a mug to open the valve that releases the coffee (and closes when lifted from the mug’s rim). The tool produced 2½ cups of flavorful, full-bodied coffee with some sediment, just like from a French press. Using this product means that we’ll never have to worry about running out of filters—a big plus.

One caveat: It won’t work with mugs wider than 3½ inches in diameter, since they won’t engage the valve to dispense the coffee.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*