Options- that’s what this magical modern world of the Information Age has brought to the coffee scene. Time was, almost every cup of coffee an American was likely to drink was dripped into existence by the standard coffee maker. The price and quality of the machine might have varied, as might the price and quality of the bean, but the method…the method became standardized.
No longer. The democratization of connoisseurship has done right by coffee, no less so than in the wide availability of pour over brewing systems. The pour over is a revelation to anyone who tries it for the first time, because it makes a drastically better cup of coffee. By allowing you to control the timing and distribution of the water, this method makes it possible to leech the best possible flavor out of a given bean.
Of course, like any skill worth mastering, it takes some practice.
Whichever product you use, the pour over method allows you to control the variables that make all the difference in the final product, most importantly the saturation of the grounds. By carefully timing and placing the pour, you move beyond the act of brewing to the art of brewing, crafting by your own kettle-hand each unique cup in an active process.
Pushing a button can get you coffee, but with the pour over method, you’re making it, and how you do so matters.
Brewing Pour Over Coffee
What You’ll Need
- Pour over coffee maker
- Electric or stovetop kettle (preferably a Gooseneck)
- Coffee beans
- Coffee grinder
- A carafe, cup, or tumbler
- Kitchen scale
Here’s where it gets tricky. There is no set of standardized instructions that will be appropriate for every situation. That, however, is good news. Standardization seeks the lowest common denominator, and we’re here to encourage the kind of coffee that takes time and, yes, effort. It means that every cup you brew this way is going to be unique. Some will be better than others. As you keep brewing and determine what methods are best for each bean and system, the “some” will occur more often than the “others.””
Our advice? Enjoy the process. Ride the learning curve like a winding seaside highway. The worst thing a cup of coffee can taste like is a learning experience. There are, however, some basic steps:
How to Brew it:
Choose Your Beans
The first decision you’ll have to make is the most important one: which coffee you’ll be brewing. This part is entirely up to you. We’d encourage you to consult with your local barista, or simply wander around your preferred shop smelling everything until you find something that speaks to you (this is also a common means of finding a spouse in certain parts of Appalachia).
Once you’ve brought something (and/or someone) home, it’s time to grind. We can’t stress enough the preferability of burr grinders (electric if you like, hand for that quaint Amish vibe) over bladed grinders, due to the blender-like actions of the blades having a pre-roasting effect on the beans from the heat generated. Trust us.
As a general rule, we recommend going with a medium-fine to medium-coarse (around table to kosher salt) grind for pour over coffee. You can (and should) experiment with the grind until you land on one that works for you.
Prep Your Filter
Most pour overs are used with paper filters, though you can use a permanent metal one or a coffee sock if you want to cut down on waste. Paper filters have different finenesses that they can handle, so like we said, you may have to play around with size until you find the right one.
There is some debate as to whether you should or should not rinse your filter before using it. It really comes down to personal preference. If you find that you are getting a paper-y taste in your coffee, we recommend rinsing it though.
Heat the Water
Now, we’re getting into brewing. And as with every part of this process, there is room for you to experiment. To start though, we recommend using about 2 cups of water for every 2 tablespoons of coffee. This will vary slightly depending on the strength you’re looking for.
If you’ve got a nice electric kettle with temperature control, set it for 205 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 96 degrees Celsius for Canadians or whatever). There is some room for preference here, too, both yours and the bean’s.
You can go as low as 195, which will have different effects on the coffee; generally, the hotter the water, the more speedy and drastic the chemical effects. Feel free to experiment.
If you’re heating water on a plain old stove, just bring it to a boil and remove for 30 seconds. That will put it in the right temperature range, though it’s far less precise.
Set Up to Brew
As your water is heating, take the time to set up to pour. You’ll need to set the carafe/cup/tumbler on the scale with the pour over situated on top and the grounds in the filter. Set the scale to zero.
This is so that you can watch how much water you pour over the grounds. That way, you can make sure you’re using the proper amount of water to coffee ratio and avoid over extraction. For your first time, start with a 17:1 grams ratio and go from there.
Bloom The Grounds
Once the water’s done, the filter is rinsed, and the grounds are in place, it’s time for the bloom. Wet the grounds evenly, just enough to saturate them and no more. Sit back and watch as the excess gasses bubble their way out for about a minute. This step is crucial in ensuring that the final pour is able to make its way into and through the grounds, chemically speaking, for the brew.
We recommend using a Gooseneck Kettle for both this step and the next one. It will give you more control both over the speed and precision of the water.
Pour the Water
Wait 30 seconds after blooming to begin this step.
Using a Gooseneck Kettle, start pouring the water in a very slow circular motion, moving from the outside edge, into the center. All the while, keep the spout as close tot he grounds as possible. It’s this pouring technique that separates the pour over from other drip brewers.
Once you’re done pouring, and the coffee has filtered through entirely, toss out the used grounds. Set the Pour Over tool to the side to be rinsed and cleaned after it has cooled (this helps prevent damage from sudden temperature changes and thus damage).
Nows the time! Take a nice sip of your freshly brewed pour over coffee. Even if you like to add little extras, we recommend tasting it before adding anything else to decide if you want it to be any different.
Make note of the strength and flavor of your brew before and after you add anything to it. This will help you decide if you want to change anything in the future. Pour over coffee is as much about the journey to your perfect brew as it is about the individual cups of coffee.
As we mentioned, different combinations of different variables will produce different coffee. Keep note of your process, and enjoy the challenge of finding the perfect “recipe” for each bean. It takes some work, but it’s the kind of work a coffee lover won’t mind.
Pour over coffee is known for being the most customizable of any brew method. You can change everything from the grind concentration and size to the speed of your pour and temperature of your water. All of it will affect your brew, and it can be super rewarding to land on the best combination for your tastes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What ratio should you use of coffee to water?
For the most part, a good place to start when brewing pour over coffee is a 17:1 ratio of water to coffee if you are measuring by weight. Using a scale is probably the easiest way to measure and tweak your brew materials.
For those of you who don’t have a scale yet, try using 1-2 tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water.
What grind size should you use?
As we mentioned earlier, you’re going to shoot for a medium sized grind. If you use something as fine as you would for espresso, the water won’t filter all the way through, and you’ll just make a mess. On the other hand, if the grind is too coarse your brew will be under-extracted and taste flat.
Thus, you should be shooting for something between table and sea salt granules. This size will slow down the water enough to allow for proper extraction without the tool getting clogged.
Do you NEED to get the other equipment?
You may have noticed that most pour over guides are going to mention using things like scales and gooseneck kettles with your tool. But is this extra kit really necessary?
Technically, it is possible to brew pour over coffee with a regular kettle and no scale. You can still get a pretty good brew this way. The issue with this method will be consistency. While you’ll still be able to tweak and experiment with your recipe, you won’t be able to get the same exact results every time even if you keep the variables the same.
The scale and gooseneck give you control and consistency. If you are serious about your brew and want to make sure you get the highest quality results every time, investing in these extra tools is definitely worth it.
Are there other variations for pour over method?
However, you can swap those out for other tools or filters, which can switch up how exactly you achieve your pour over. For example, you can get a metal Kone filter with your Chemex, or you can try a different shape with the Bee House dripper or different material with the metal Kalita Wave.
What other drip brewing methods are there?
The pour over is just one of many drip brewing tools available. Drip brewers work by allowing gravity (rather than pressure or immersion) to pull water through grounds.
In this category, the most common tool is the automatic drip brewer. This showers hot water over the grounds using a stationary head. There are also some cold brewing tools that use drip method. Percolators, Chemex, and Vietnamese drip filters also use this basic technique.
The Pour over (and Chemex) separate themselves from other drip methods by allowing for the utmost of customization. So they have a much wider range of potential brew flavors.