Nowadays, when Costa Ricans need to brew a cup of coffee, they have many coffee makers to choose from.
However, back in the days, when there were no electricity and no access to fancy machines, old time Costa Ricans were very resourceful while brewing their coffees.
The most popular, inexpensive and practical way was a pour over drip coffee maker called “Chorreador”. This Spanish word comes from the verb “chorrear” which means Drip. Thus “chorreador” means a device to pour hot water through a filter to obtain a clean beverage.
Actually, to brew coffee using a “Chorreador” you will need 4 things, besides water and a cup:
1. A “Fogon”
The classic Costa Rican fogon or wood stove consists of a mounted wood box and covered with dirt and rocks at the bottom and 3 big rocks on top to put coffee pots or a flat iron pan to cook tortillas. You just have to gather some dry wood from the coffee fields and light it under the coffee pot. Simple!
Yes, these wood stoves generate lots of smoke, but you get the job done boiling the water you need
2. A “Cafetera”
The classic Cafetera or Costa Rican coffee pot is usually blue and made of cast iron. Not fancy at all but very easy to use, just be careful with the handle because it is not heat insulated. Also make sure you don’t spill the hot coffee on you while pouring it.
3. A “Chorreador”
The main device in our list is the Chorreador. This usually consist of a wooden base ( mostly decorated with Costa Rican themes ) and two wires that rise above the wooden base and form a circle at the top, usually is tall enough to put the filter and the coffee pot underneath. the device is quite simple yet very efficient. It should be strong enough to hold the filter, ground coffee and hot water.
4. A “Colador” or “Bolsa”
Lastly, we have the Colador or the traditional Costa Rica coffee filter or bag. No, they are not dirty socks! They are made of “franela” or flannel and a wire to hold the fabric. This soft cotton fabric allows the water to filter through and keep the coffee grounds inside the bag. When brand new, it is of white color, however, after many times filtering, the “bolsas” turns brown because of coffee stains and are ready to discart.
Best practice is to clean and rinse thoroughly to eliminate stains and residues and keep it in a sealed dry place ( Nowadays, people put it in the refrigerator, mostly because of the presence of insects ( yikes ! ) in most Costa Rican Kitchens!
One important tip to remember, when filtering the coffee, if you want stronger coffee, run the hot water twice through the “Bolsa”. Thus, coffee is extracted twice from the coffee grounds and it will make your coffee much richer and stronger.
There is a variety of chorreadores to choose from. From the expensive and fancy to the really simple and inexpensive.
Traditionally, Costa Ricans have used drip coffee makers for generations and still do despite the technologically advanced coffee machines in the market.
Types of Chorreadores
The following are the types of Chorreadores that Costa Ricans most commonly use to brew their coffees:
a. Wood-based Chorreadores
The classic wood chorreador consist of one base, two supports and a top with a circle for the filter. There are many other types using one or two supports and some are very elaborate and beautiful.
Wood is plenty in Costa Rica, and some chorreadores are made of very expensive wood from the rain forests, they even make chorreadores out of coffee tree roots!
One thing you have to keep in mind is that the wood supports should be strong enough and tall enough so the coffee pot and the filter or bolsa fits perfectly underneath. Otherwise you will end up spilling the coffee and risking burns.
1. Wood chorreadores can be very beautiful and people buy it for decoration or souvenirs.
2. Filter is easy to place and holds the weight perfectly
1. It is bulky and heavy and not recommended for small kitchens.
2. Expensive compared to the wire chorreadores
3. Some are made of expensive wood. If you want to export them, there are many hurdles you have to overcome, even government permits depending on the type of wood used.
4. Some are made of standard wood, which in the presence of water, tend to rot, specially around kitchens. Thus, some won’t last long and deteriorate fast if used regularly.
b. Wire based Chorreadores – or Chorreador de Alambre
The wire chorreadores consist of a wooden base and two support wires forming a circle at the top. Sometimes the wires are protected by a plastic cover.
These Chorreadores are the most popular in Costa Rican kitchens and you can find them in any store. They can be real cheap and can last a lot depending on use. Other models are nicely decorated.
1. It is inexpensive and get the job done.
2. It is not heavy and bulky, thus ideal for small kitchens
3. Wire chorreadores are easy to clean
4. They are easy to carry and Export. Some Costa Ricans take them for road trips or trips to the beach!
1. Because of its simplicity, mostly locals buy them. Tourists tend to prefer the wooden chorreadores instead.
2. Wires can bend if not handled properly or if the wire used is not strong enough.
Costa ricans have always invented ways to do things without technology. Brewing coffee is not an exception and the Chorreador is a classic example of that creativity.
People always asks us to recommend what type of chorreadores to purchase.
Usually, our advise is to analyze the purpose of buying them.
If you just want a souvenir, something nice to remember Costa Rica when you are back home, we always recommend the wooden chorreadores. They come in all sizes and colors, and are decorated with beautiful Costa Rican sunsets and landscapes.
If, on the other hand, you want to use them regularly, we advise to buy the wire-based chorreadores. They are not expensive, heavy and bulky, and they are easy to clean.
We also recommend to buy 2 or 3 bolsas or fabric coffee filters. Although they last forever if properly cleaned, there are always times when you need a spare bolsa.
If you have been to Costa Rica, chances are you have seen chorreadores, share with us your photos or experiences in this blog, we will be happy to publish them.