Can World Coffee Champion Tetsu Kasuya Make Me Like Drip Coffee?

De gustibus non est disputandum (“In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.”)
Latin maxim

A shared love of coffee and a challenge is what brought Tetsu Kasuya, the 2016 World Brewers Cup Champion, and me, Zoria, a coffee-obsessed writer, together for an afternoon in Chiba. While Tetsu has turned coffee making into an exact science, I scoop that goodness and measure it with my heart. He is a master of pour over coffee, and I am a master of calling drip coffee mean names. I am not a fan of that caffeine soup, if you couldn’t tell from the title of this article.  

I was asked by the Tokyo Survival Challenge to give drip coffee one last shot by meeting Japan’s master brewer and trying his revolutionary 4:6 brewing method. Will that drip drop down to my espresso loving heart?

A Masterclass on Coffee with Tetsu Kasuya 

The day I meet Tetsu Kasuya, I am wide awake from pure adrenaline — I don’t even need coffee to wake up. It’s not every day you meet a world champion of… anything. Tetsu holds the title of 2016’s World Brewers Cup Champion, an international competition for manual coffee-making (not to be confused with the World Barista Championship by the same organizer). He is the first Asian winner of this cup.

The golden kettle trophy is displayed in Tetsu’s Philocoffea Roastery & Laboratory in Funabashi, Chiba, where we meet. I’m riveted by his espresso machine inscribed with autographs from other coffee masters before he comes to greet me.

After I cringe worthily introduce myself as a coffee lover, Tetsu takes me around the small roastery where staff picks through the freshly roasted beans. We peek into his temperature regulated storage and even smell some of the high-quality fermented, unroasted coffee beans he keeps in stock.

Tetsu has just recently come back from Ethiopia, where he oversaw a crop at a coffee farm he works with. He’s involved in every aspect of the coffee he brews, from the plants’ roots to the shape of the porcelain cups that are now in front of us. He has even collaborated with Hario to create the elegant Kasuya V60 model dripper and kettle, designed to bring people closer to making a great cup of coffee at home.

With everything laid out on the counter in preparation for my visit, Tetsu measures 20 grams of Ethiopia Sakicha Natural beans, throws it in the grinder, and presses the button. The challenge is on.

Tetsu Kasuya’s 4:6 Method for Drip Coffee

Tetsu loves working with numbers. An IT consultant turned coffee barista; he obsesses not only over learning how to brew the best coffee but quantifying his findings into a formula that anyone can replicate.

It’s Tetsu’s signature method that shook up the Brewers Cup in 2016 and has gone on to become a preferred pour-over technique among many professional baristas across the world. It came as a shock to onlookers when Tetsu stopped pouring mid-brew at the competition as conventionally it was thought coffee grounds should always be immersed. His method proved that assumption wrong. 

In the 4:6 method, Tetsu divides the water into five pours with pauses in between, measuring every pour and timing the whole affair. By experimenting with how much water you pour each time, you can achieve different flavor profiles and strengths from the same beans.

Ingredients

  • 20 g coffee beans
  • 300 ml of purified water

Method

  1. Coarsely grind the coffee beans.
  2. Heat the water to 92°C (198°F).
  3. Wet the paper filter with heated water; discard the water from the carafe.
  4. Pour the ground beans into the paper filter.
  5. Measure 60 ml of water and pour over the beans. Let the water completely filter its way through the beans before proceeding to the next step.
  6. Repeat Step 5. You can adjust the water ratio between Steps 5 and 6 to experiment with sweetness and acidity; the total volume of water between the two steps should equal 120 ml.
  7. Pour in the remaining 180 ml of water. The standard is to add 60 ml at a time, but you can adjust each pour’s volume as long as the total volume is 180 ml. Dividing the entire volume into more pours will make the coffee more potent while adding more water at once will weaken it.

Other tricks include the spiral ribs on Tetsu’s Hario V60 Dripper and wetting the white paper filter first so that it doesn’t soak up the coffee’s flavors.

Did Tetsu’s Award-Winning Drip Coffee Win Me Over? 

As we wait for the last 30 seconds of brewing to pass, I finally muster the courage to bring my preferences to the table. “Drip coffee is not my thing. I neither drink it nor make it.” Thank goodness Tetsu laughs at my confession. He tells me that there is no one correct way to drink coffee — it’s all about preferences — and those change, too. Acidity was trending in 2016, but now sweetness and juiciness are sought after, he explains as he pours the freshly brewed coffee in a cup and slides it over to me. Dozo.

The smell of pour-over coffee being brewed always causes mixed feelings. I love the overall fragrance, but the thin, acidic odor hangs over me like a cloud of disappointment. For a moment, I question whether I should lie if this coffee doesn’t win me over, but what meets my lips is not what I expect; it has more body and sweetness, less acidity. I enjoy smelling a good drip coffee but never tasting it. “I don’t like this type of brewing method,” I remind Tetsu again, “but I drank it all!”

Yes, I finished the cup — willingly. And I didn’t hate it.

A Master of More Than Drip Coffee

“So, what’s your favorite coffee preparation method?” Tetsu asks. I respond with a long-winded answer: espresso and Vietnamese coffee, and post-Ottoman coffee made in the Balkans.

This is intertwined with a soft rustle of dry beans, followed by the whir of the grinder in the background, a clink and tap of the handle, and the mechanical purr of the espresso machine. Before I can finish my ode to the cezve pot, the world champion is in the middle of making espresso for me. It’s like watching a ballet. I have happily watched many baristas prepare exactly what I want, but this is a level above.

And finally, a third cup lands in front of me, a macchiato, because Tetsu knows bitter dark coffee is enhanced by adding a little bit of milk. “I know Europeans love their coffee more intensely,” he says. He’s not wrong. Like anything, coffee is a preference, and there is no one correct way to make it or drink it.

“What’s your favorite style of coffee?” I ask.

“It’s drip, of course,” confirming my hunch.

Recreating 4:6 Coffee Method at Home

I popped over to Rudder Coffee inside JR Funabashi Station for a fourth cup on my way back home, this time a latte. In collaboration with Tetsu’s Philocoffea, Rudder Coffee sells freshly brewed coffee, coffee beans, and drip coffee equipment. Together, the two ventures are on a mission to make Funabashi famous for coffee and worthy of a train ride for the chance at enjoying a great brew. They educate coffee baristas and customers alike, with Tetsu Kasuya being incredibly passionate about elevating Japan’s coffee culture.

The moment I get home, I order everything I need from Philocoffea’s online shop in preparation for replicating the 4:6 coffee method, including the 092 Ethiopia Sakicha Natural medium-coarse grind, and wait for my package to arrive.

Once I have everything I need, I take the challenge head-on. The 4:6 method is more complicated than it looks, especially when keeping track of both the scale and the timer. But the more I get the hang of it, the better the results. I even unearthed an old bag of ground coffee left over from the last time I gave drip coffee a chance, and surprisingly it tastes better with Tetsu’s method.

But I need someone else to confirm, in case I was just starstruck by Tetsu Kasuya’s awesomeness. And that brings us to the most challenging part of this whole affair.

Can I Win over a Fellow Drip Coffee Skeptic?

I need someone as vehemently anti-drip as myself to see if I can get them to say a good word or two about the 4:6 coffee method. There are many of us, espresso fiends, out there, so I invite my espresso dragon friend and fellow writer Phoebe Amoroso. She has had her own encounters with master craftsmen (like a sake brewer and an ikebana teacher), so I know she will be brutally honest, and she sure is.

“I get images of ripping open coffee sachets in business hotels while balancing the kettle next to the hairdryer,” Phoebe retorts when I ask her what she thinks about drip coffee, “It’s the coffee of desperation.” I know this is going to be a tough one. We’re both harsh judges when it comes to pour-over, but I am no barista champion, unlike Tetsu.

But I brave my inexperience, rely on my new equipment and beans, and start brewing a cup of 092 Ethiopia Sakicha Natural. An acidic smell spreads across the room, and Phoebe seems to regret agreeing to be my taste tester instantly. However, the surprise of the 4:6 coffee method is in the taste, so I encourage her to suspend her verdict.

It’s not a great sign when even the first sip only tastes like hot water to her. However, she reports milk chocolate and fruity notes soon after, and she’s surprised at the smooth mouthfeel and better-balanced acidity than she initially dreaded. 

The Verdict

And yes, she finishes her cup! We are both known for walking out of cafes upon discovering that they don’t have an espresso machine, so I count this as a small win. She probably won’t drink drip coffee again, whereas I don’t think I would mind as much as I used to as long as it’s Tetsu’s method that’s being served, and especially if I am back at Philocoffea or Rudder Coffee in Chiba.

In the end, Phoebe is rewarded for her efforts in much the same way that I was at Philocoffea. I open a bag of wonderfully chocolatey 093 Ethiopia Sakicha Anaerobic Natural beans and, much less elegantly than master brewer Tetsu, make Phoebe a velvety concentrated espresso. I couldn’t change Phoebe’s mind about pour-over coffee, but we both definitely have a new favorite source for great coffee beans. How we drink them is up to us.

Philocoffea Roastery & Laboratory

Address: 2-3-29 Honmachi, Funabashi-shi, Chiba 273-0005, Japan

Business Hours: 10:00–17:00 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Tel: 047-460-9400

Access: 7 minutes walk from JR Funabashi Station

Homepage: https://philocoffea.com/

Rudder Coffee

Address: 1F, Chapeau Funabashi South Building, 7-1-1 Honmachi, Funabashi-shi, Chiba 273-0005, Japan

Business Hours: 10:00–21:00

Tel: 047-409-5655

Access: 30 seconds from the JR Funabashi Station’s Chapeau Exit ticket gate

AUTHOR: Zoria Petkoska

Zoria Petkoska

Facebook: @zborigami.zoria
Instagram : @zoria_in_tokyo
Portfolio: here

Zoria is a neo-Tokyoite and loves all the obvious things: neon lights, coffee, cats, travelling. And concrete. Concrete wasn't too obvious, was it? She's a travel writer and photographer, as well as a published poet and her work has appeared in many languages.

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