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If you’ve been in any independent coffee shop in the last few years, you might have noticed baristas meticulously and patiently pouring hot water out of a gooseneck kettle over coffee grounds in a pour-over device. This is actually an old-school method of making coffee, one that allows you to manually control where the water goes over the grounds to fully develop its flavor completely.
Though pour-over is more labor-intensive, it often yields a superior cup of coffee. "A pour-over are individual cups, made-to-order and designed to accentuate the complexity in coffee," says Rich Lee, coffee and food program director at SPRO Coffee Lab in San Francisco. "It is usually a lighter roast profile so that the natural fruit, sweetness, nuttiness, and chocolate balance can shine through." During my tests, I found the Kalita Wave Coffee Brewing Kit yielded the best pour-over coffee.
"From the water temperature to contact with the ground-up beans, these devices give you a lot of control when brewing the perfect cup of Joe," says Jerry James Stone, YouTube chef and co-author of "Made with Coffee." "These same variables also create a much more flavorful cup of coffee than say regular drip."
You do need to mindfully pour the water over the grounds slowly and gradually, taking about 3 to 4 minutes to brew one cup. "Two important tools in pour-overs: a good grinder (for even particle size distribution) and an accurate scale (for monitoring coffee to water ratios)," says John Maniquis, former coffee director at Pinterest HQ.
If you want to take your coffee experience up a notch and make the best cup of coffee at home, here’s a list of the best pour-over coffee makers I tested and loved.
Best Overall: Kalita Wave Coffee Brewing Kit
What We Love: Yields rich and balanced cup of coffee, consistent brew, thinner filter doesn’t impart paper flavor
What We Don’t Love: Propriety paper filters, no English instructions included, expensive
The Kalita Wave is one of the standard pour-over systems in independent coffee shops across the country. And for good reason. The coffee filter is slightly thinner with a wavy side, which is how the Kalita Wave got its name. This keeps the grounds from touching the side of the device, helping to retain the heat of the water as it brews.
The three small holes at the flat bottom of the device mean water sits slightly longer in the grounds, creating a richer full-bodied coffee. The flat bottom also means you don’t need to be quite as precise about where you are pouring the water over the grounds. You can use a regular kettle or spouted measuring cup and still get a good result.
All that said, the Kalita Wave does benefit from having both a scale and a gooseneck kettle. They will give you better accuracy with the amount of beans and water to use, as well as better accuracy in where you are pouring the water over the beans. But even without these additional pieces of equipment, making a better cup of coffee is within reach of most folks using the Kalita Wave. If you don't need the whole kit, it is possible to buy the dripper and filters separately.
Dripper Shape: Flat-bottomed | Filter: Propriety Kalita Wave 185 paper filters | Capacity: 16 to 24 fluid ounces | Size (LxWxH): 6 x 4.75 x 6.75 inches | Cleaning: Dishwasher-safe
Best Large Capacity: Chemex 6-Cup Pour Over with Glass Handle
What We Love: Easy to use, beautiful iconic design, easy to clean
What We Don’t Love: Proprietary paper filters, thicker paper filter means lighter body brew, fragile
The iconic Chemex flask was initially created in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm and has become such a classic design, with its chemistry-inspired hourglass shape, that it is part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian. The proprietary paper filter for the Chemex is thicker than most coffee filters, removing most of the coffee oils, resulting in a cleaner cup of coffee with more complex nuance, lighter body, and less bitterness. The resulting coffee tends to be brighter, with a slightly sharper acidity and no muddiness.
The biggest appeal of the Chemex is the ability to brew larger pots of coffee. Most pour-over coffee devices are designed for one or two cups of coffee, but this is great for personal use but less useful for big coffee drinkers, or large gatherings. Chemex flasks come in a variety of sizes from small 3-cup flasks to the extra-large 13-cup handblown version. The thicker paper filter does mean you should pre-rinse the filter with boiling water (and then pour out the resulting water) to help remove any “papery” cardboard flavor it might impart in the brew. But the sturdy filter also means it’s more forgiving of beginners and casual coffee drinkers, creating a consistent brew no matter how you pour the water into the grounds.
Dripper Shape: Cone | Filter: Propriety Chemex paper filter | Capacity: 24 ounces or 6 cups (available in 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 14-cup capacity) | Size (LxWxH): 7 x 5.25 x 8.5 inches | Cleaning: Dishwasher-safe
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Best for Beginners: Clever Coffee Dripper
What We Love: Easy to use, makes a full-bodied cup of coffee, lightweight but durable
What We Don’t Love: Made of plastic, requires specific width mugs, difficult to clean
The Taiwanese-designed Clever Coffee Dripper is aptly named, as it is a hybrid immersion-style coffee brewing system, much like a French press merged with a classic pour-over system. The paper filter is placed in the dripper, and then grounds are added, just like a typical pour-over. But below the dripper is a moveable bottom that seals in the liquid. Water can be added all at once and then let steep Once the grounds have steeped, the dripper is placed on top of a mug, which pushes the bottom, breaking the seal, and releasing the coffee.
The result is a richer, more full-bodied cup of coffee, more similar to a French press because of the immersion style of brewing. Since the grounds sit in water, there’s less need to be precise about how you pour the water over the grounds and less babysitting of the brewing itself. Pour the water, set a timer, walk away, and then come back to a great cup of coffee. The dripper can even be used as a more traditional pour-over style by just placing the dripper on the mug initially, and letting the water and coffee pour through the grounds into the cup. This makes the versatile coffee dripper ideal for those who want to try pour-overs without investing in expensive devices.
Dripper Shape: Wedge | Filter: #4 standard paper filter | Capacity: 15 ounces | Size (LxWxH): 6.5 x 5.25 x 6 inches | Cleaning: Hand wash only
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Best Ceramic: Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper 02
What We Love: Coffee with excellent clarity and balance, different pouring techniques for customization, easy to clean and store
What We Don’t Love: Propriety paper filters, learning curve, ceramic needs to be preheated
The iconic Hario V60 pour-over is the other standard pour-over device you see at independent coffee shops and it has its loyal fans who prefer its lighter brew and the resulting smooth cup of coffee. The conical shape of the device is angled at 60 degrees, which gives the brewing machine its name, v60, and has a single large hole in the middle. This allows for the water to funnel down through the grounds into the cup or flask below.
Unlike the Kalita Wave, the conical shape of the filter and the large hole at the bottom doesn’t allow the water to sit as long in the grounds. So, precision pouring becomes a little more important with brewing. There are a surprising number of methods of pouring the water into the grounds and coffee nerds can get trapped in a rabbit hole of learning the different techniques, all of which result in slightly different nuanced cups of coffee. But once you figure out your favorite method, you’ll be brewing your favorite cup of coffee at home.
Dripper Shape: Cone | Filter: Propriety V60 paper filter | Capacity: 4 to 16 ounces | Size (LxWxH): 5.25 x 4.5 x 3.75 inches | Cleaning: Dishwasher-safe
Best Budget: Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker
What We Love: Comes with a reusable metal filter, produces a robust, full-bodied coffee
What We Don’t Love: Awkward shape, hard to clean
If you are looking for a budget-friendly pour-over machine, the Bodum pour-over with a permanent filter is a great deal. Similar in look to the Chemex, the Bodum is a large capacity pour-over flask that comes with a reusable metal filter that allows you to make larger amounts of coffee than the typical one to two cups that most pour-overs make.
The Bodum flask makes up to 8 cups and because of the metal filter, creates a heavier bodied brew with more texture. You should use a coarser grind than a typical pour-over, as the metal filter has a tendency to let the finer coffee grounds through. You can easily add a #4 filter inside the metal filter if you prefer a lighter-bodied coffee, though you can’t use the paper filter alone, as the filter will stick to the glass, creating a seal and not allowing the coffee to properly brew and drain.
Dripper Shape: Wedge | Filter: Metal reusable filter | Capacity: 24 ounces | Size (LxWxH): 6.25 x 5.5 x 8.25 inches | Cleaning: Dishwasher-safe
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Best Eco-Friendly Design: Hario Woodneck Drip Pot
What We Love: Yields full-bodied cup of coffee, no disposable filters, elegant and handsome design
What We Don’t Love: Cloth filter not the easiest to clean, filter needs refrigeration between use
The Hario Woodneck Drip Pot is made by the same company that makes the V60, but the brew that results from the elegant and beautiful drip pot is nothing like a traditional pour-over. The reusable cloth filter expands slightly you pour the water, allowing the water to fully immerse and surround the coffee grounds. The porous cloth lets some of the coffee oils seep through, resulting in a more robust, rich-bodied but well-balanced coffee, without the sediment or silt found in a French press or a metal filtered coffee.
The cloth filter, made of cotton flannel, does need to be rinsed after use and maintained properly. This means a thorough rinsing once the coffee is brewed, and an occasional more robust cleaning. Some users recommend storing the filter in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness but other say that’s not necessary. If you’re looking for an elegant coffee maker that you can keep out on display and don’t mind a little more upkeep with your pour-over coffee maker, or you desire a balanced full-bodied coffee, the Hario Woodneck Drip Pot is the one for you.
Dripper Shape: Cone | Filter: Cotton flannel reusable filter | Capacity: 16 ounces | Size (LxWxH): 7.5 x 4.25 x 8 inches | Cleaning: Hand wash only
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I picked the Kalita Wave device for its consistent brew and the relative ease in learning how to use it. The Kalita Wave does require a specific proprietary filter but they are easily available online and at most independent coffee shops. If you're looking for something less formal, the Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker is a good affordable pour-over coffee maker.
What Are the Other Options?
Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper: This simple and elegant pour-over maker was in the running as an option for our best ceramic and it is an excellent coffee maker! It produces a nice robust cup of coffee, but the v60 produces a cup that's slightly more nuanced in flavor. But for those folks that want a more full-bodied pour-over or want a pour-over device that uses a more standard filter, this is an excellent option.
OXO Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank: This is a very reasonably priced easy-to-use pour-over coffee maker, especially since you can just pour the water into the water tank and let it drip for you. But during testing, I found the water only drips into the middle of the grounds using the water tank and the brew is very one dimensional. If you use the device without the water tank in a more traditional pour-over method, the resulting cup is much better, but still not up to par with other devices.
Fellow Stagg [XF] Pour-Over Coffee Maker Set: This is a beautiful, well-designed, and well-thought-out pour-over maker that produces a delicious, nuanced cup of coffee. But it is very expensive and locks you into a proprietary filter that you can only get from the company. If you're looking to splurge and have ample space on your counters, we do recommend it.
How We Tested
Our tester and writer Irvin Lin sifted through dozens of highly-rated pour-over coffee makers, closely looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information, to choose his top picks. We then purchased these products for Irvin so he could put them to the test in his home kitchen. After looking over the instructions, he brewed coffees of different roasts with each pour-over maker. He assessed each for consistency in the brew and how easy (or difficult) it was to use.
After testing, Irvin submitted feedback about what he liked and didn’t like about each product and rated each one on the following features: Design, Brew Quality, Ease of Use, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look For in a Pour-Over Coffee Maker
Dripper Shape and Filter
Pour-over coffee devices come in different dripper shapes, including the flat bottom, the cone, and the wedge. Each has its pros and cons. The flat bottom tends to create a more robust coffee, while the cone and wedge a lighter, more delicate coffee.
Choosing a pour-over device can sometimes lock you into specific filters as well. Some pour-over devices require specialty proprietary filters that only the manufacturer makes. Others use standard coffee filters that you can pick up at a grocery store. Pick a coffee device that works with your schedule, whether it’s the convenience of buying filters the next time you do grocery shopping or the knowledge you have to buy the filters online or at the local independent coffee shop where you get your fresh roasted beans.
Some pour-over devices require more maintenance than others. Often this includes handwashing the device, washing the reusable filter, or even having to store the filter in the fridge. Other devices are dishwasher safe and more durable.
Some devices are small and can easily be stored in a cabinet or on a shelf. Others require more space. Keep in mind the storage and amount of real estate your kitchen counters have. And consider the design of the device or vessel as well. A beautifully designed pour-over flask can add sophistication to your kitchen, while a less sleek device might not be as ideal.
What are tips for making good pour-over coffee?
The best pour-over coffee often requires a little bit of trial and error as well as lots of practice. Everyone desires a different cup of coffee, whether it’s a strong brew or less robust coffee, a light-bodied and nuance cup, or a full-bodied and strong-flavored mug. Both the grind and the type of pour-over device you choose will help with finding the right cup for you. To get the best out of any pour-over device, a kitchen scale is recommended, not only to exactly measure the amount of beans you use but also to measure the amount of water you pour into the grounds.
A gooseneck kettle is also a nice to have, but not totally necessary piece of equipment. The long gooseneck spout allows you to slowly pour the hot water over the grounds, precisely directing the water over the area of the grounds in a classic spiral pattern, which wets the coffee in an even manner.
Make sure to use the right temperature water. Don’t brew your coffee with freshly boiled water. Let it cool a bit, 30 to 45 seconds so it doesn’t scald your beans. Ideal temperatures for water range between 200 to 203 degrees for medium to light roast beans and 195 to 198 degrees for dark roast beans.
Because some pour-over devices use paper filters, it’s always recommended to wet and run hot water through the paper filter first. This rinses out any “papery” flavor that the filter might impart. It also helps the paper filter settle into the device better. Finally, the hot water helps warm up the vessel so you aren’t immediately cooling the coffee by brewing it into a cold mug.
Most pour-over coffee also works best with a medium-fine ground, somewhere close to the texture and size of granulate sugar. The Chemex and the Clever can go a little coarser, closer to kosher salt. But you can play around with the grind of your coffee to accommodate the device. Most pour-over devices brew a cup in 3 to 4 minutes. If your cup brews faster, your grind is probably too coarse. Too slow, and your grind is too fine. If you have access to a burr grinder, that’s best as well, as the grind will be more consistent than a blade grinder.
Finally, quality filter water is one of the most overlooked factors in coffee. Water makes up 98% of filtered coffee, so if you start out with good-tasting water, it stands to reason that you’ll end up with a better cup of coffee.
Can you make cold brew with a pour-over coffee maker?
Most pour-over coffee is meant for a hot water extraction. But you can make your cold brew concentrate in a separate container, then filter it through a Chemex or the Bodum coffee maker. You can also use any of the pour-over devices to make a Japanese-style iced coffee.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This article is written by Irvin Lin, a cookbook author of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered and an ongoing contributor to Simply Recipes. He runs his own blog Eat the Love, is a professional recipe developer and writer. His work can be found here on Simply Recipes, as well as in publications like O Magazine, Washington Post and All Recipes Magazine. He is a former barista and continues to be an enthusiastic coffee drinker, along with his coffee snob husband, and has tasted and traveled all over the country and various different continent, sipping and sampling different beans and brews. He has a slight obsession with finding the elusive perfect cup of coffee.
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