No Tolerance for Bad Tolerances: How 3D Printing Improved My Coffee

Summer is upon us and with it, San Francisco’s famously frigid fog. And what better way to contemplate the misery of unseasonably chilly temperatures than with an equally chilly beverage? Fortunately, I happen to be the proud owner of a cold drip coffee brewer, perhaps the most time-consuming and impractical way of making coffee on the planet. Unfortunately, it suffers from an even more serious problem: bad tolerances. And by “bad” I mean low, which equates to large (opposite of high). Anyhow, here it is in pictures:


Since the parts are, after all, stacked, the worst-case scenario for the topmost part combines the worst-case deviations of all the parts under it. This tilt could result in uneven extraction, since the dripping water will tend to drill down the same path through the column of grounds. While the actual effect on the end product is probably imperceptible, the important thing is I’ll know. As I’m shivering my way through morning coffee, I’ll be haunted by the thought that it was produced by something with avoidably substandard aesthetics.


Its getting pretty worst up in here.

…which means I’m more than willing to spend disproportionate effort on marginally better ingestibles. Of course, this matters mostly because I also have easy access to a 3D printer. To the SolidWorks!

We reference off the top of the flask and provide separate “shelves” for the grounds container and dripper.  This does away with the water spreader, but that thing never had a chance of working even on its best day (how am I expected to believe anything in this stupid documentary?). Instead, we’re replacing the metal grounds container with a narrower glass infuser, which makes it easier for the water to saturate to the edges and also lets us confirm that visually.

Definitely looking better, but in the end does this thing really make better coffee? Who knows, I actually have terrible taste perception. Yet I do feel like I’m expected to think that it’s supposed to taste better. After all, perhaps what really matters isn’t my own selfish opinion, but that I’ve done everything possible to maximize the coffee’s potential. In this way, we do our part to honor the brave miners, who toil day after day in the dark depths of the Folger Mountains to bring us the world’s best coffee.