If you’ve ever visited a trendy “third-wave” coffee shop, the kind that sports a minimal clean interior, does not stock flavored sugar syrups, and perhaps has a person behind the counter with extreme facial hair or multiple tattoos, you will inevitably see a row of conical devices used for making pour over coffee. And if you actually ordered a pour over and waited the additional 5 to 10 minutes for the barista to make it, you’ll marvel at how much better the coffee is compared to the automatic drip coffee or pod coffee you make at home.
The idea of making pour over coffee at home might seem like a complicated concept. I’m here to tell you that pour over coffee isn’t difficult and can be extremely satisfying to make, a morning ritual that will deliver you coffee shop quality cup of joe in the comfort of your home, all without having to grow a beard.
The biggest drawback of making pour over coffee is the active time involved. Though it takes fewer than 10 minutes to make a single cup of coffee from start to finish, it’s still active time, far more than a simple pressing of the button for a pod machine or an electric coffee maker. But you’ll be rewarded with some of the best coffee you can make at home.
What Makes Pour Over Coffee Different?
Pour over coffee gives you manual control of pouring hot water over the grounds. This ensures all the coffee grounds are equally saturated, leading to the coffee flavor compounds being extracted evenly. It also gives you the option to stir the grounds to help further extract the flavor. Finally, pour over coffee gives you the ability to pause in the pouring of the hot water over the grounds, which lets the grounds bloom and let the carbon dioxide trapped in the beans to be released. This allows you to also help saturate and extract flavor efficiently from the coffee.
Pour over coffee falls under the category of “filter” coffee, where the coffee is brewed by having hot water poured over ground coffee, which then usually filters through a paper filter, though reusable metal and cloth filters are a less common option.
Unlike French press, which has the grounds full immersed in the water leading to a full-bodied cup of coffee, pour over coffee, where the water is manually poured over the coffee grounds, produces a clean, well-balanced cup of coffee, one that is preferred by baristas, coffee nerds, and hipsters. And though the process sounds similar to a standard automatic drip coffee, the manual pour over coffee process gives you greater control, which in turn gives you a more dynamic and complex cup of coffee over the standard automatic drip coffee.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Pour over coffee requires very little equipment, though there are some necessary items, as well as some nice-to-have items that will make the coffee brewing process easier and better.
- Pour over device: There are numerous pour over devices you can use. Some of the more popular ones include the Hario v60, the Kalita Wave, the Chemex, the Zero Bee House, and the Origami Dripper.
- Vessel to hold coffee: This can be a mug that the pour over device is placed on, or a specifically designed coffee carafe. Some pour over devices, like the Chemex, are both the device itself and the carafe to store the coffee.
- Filter: Usually this a paper filter, but reusable metal or even cloth filters exist. Some pour over devices require specific proprietary filters designed for them, while others can take a standard size 2 or 4 conical filter.
- Ground Coffee: Pick the coffee beans you like. Grind them at home if you can, right before making your coffee.
- Hot water: People often don’t think about it, but brewed coffee is more than 98% water. If you start out with bad tasting water, you’ll end up with not-so-great coffee. If you have great tap water, that’s awesome, use it! If not, try filtering the water through an activated charcoal filter (like a Brita) for more neutral tasting water, or try using bottled water and see if that makes a noticeable difference in your coffee.
Nice to have items
- Gooseneck kettle: The more you dive deep into the ritual of pour over coffee, the more this nice to have item becomes a necessary one. The thin neck of this specialized kettle allows you to have more control and precision over where you pour the hot water. But I’ve made pour over coffee using a regular water kettle in a pinch. It’s not ideal but it will get the job done.
- Scale: If you want to nail making pour over at home, a scale is the best way to do it. Measuring out the amount of coffee beans, as well as the amount of water you use to brew the cup, will lead to a super consistent cup of coffee. If you don’t have a scale, you can use volume measurements, which are less precise but will get you in the approximate ballpark.
- Coffee Grinder: Pre-ground coffee often means stale coffee, as the minute the coffee has been ground, it starts to oxidize and lose all those flavor compounds. Buying whole beans and grinding the coffee yourself keeps the coffee beans fresh longer, which leads to fresher tasting coffee. If you have it within your budget, get a burr grinder, which creates a consistent grind as opposed to a blade grinder that can produce coffee powder and big chunks of coffee grounds at the same time. But even a blade grinder is better than buying pre-ground coffee. If a coffee grinder isn’t in your budget, just make sure to store your ground coffee in an airtight container and use the grounds within 1 week. Longer than that and the coffee grounds will start to taste noticeably stale and flat.
- Timer: Timing to see how long it takes to make the coffee can help you customize a better cup for your personal taste. Too short a time with coffee grounds that are too coarse, and you’ll get a weak cup of coffee. Too long a time with grounds are too fine and you’ll over extract, leading to a bitter cup of coffee. Every smartphone has a timer option, so there’s no need to buy an extra one, unless you want to.
- Stirrer: I often don’t use one, but a lot of folks swear by them. A chopstick works, or you can get fancy and find a tiny wooden spoon to do it.
The Best Grind for Pour Over Coffee
For true coffee connoisseurs, a burr grinder is essential equipment for making the perfect cup of coffee. It not only allows for a consistent grind size, but allows you to adjust the grind size to whatever style of coffee making you want, from Turkish coffee (powder fine grind) to French press (chunky coarse grind).
But even if you don’t own a burr grinder and either use a blade grinder, grind the beans at a store/coffee shop, or buy pre-ground coffee, you should aim for a medium ground coffee for most pour over coffee devices like the v60 or the Kalita Wave. Generally, the ground should be similar to kosher salt or granulated sugar—slightly coarser than table salt but not so chunky as sea salt. A Chemex pour over might require a coarser grind, one more similar to coarse sea salt.
Keep in mind this is a general rule. Personal preference, as well as the type of bean used, the amount of coffee being made, how old the beans are, and even the environment you are making the coffee in (humid air might require a coarser grind) are all factors in the best grind for your coffee. The best advice is to experiment, starting with a medium ground coffee, then adjust the grind as needed , making a finer ground if the coffee is weak, flat or one dimensional. Use a coarser grind if the coffee is overly bitter, too sour, or too strong.
Choosing a Pour Over Device
Pour over devices come in a range of materials, including metal, ceramic, glass and plastic. Here are the most common ones you’ll find at coffee shops.
- The Kalita Wave is probably the easier to use for a beginner, as its flat bottom doesn’t require super precision in pouring the water over it. The metal version, which is the most popular, is also fairly indestructible, so if you happen to be clumsy in the kitchen (especially before you’ve had your first cup of coffee) it’s not a disaster of broken glass or ceramic if you accidentally knock it onto the ground or countertop.
- The Hario v60, named after the 60° angle of the cone, makes a beautifully nuanced cup of coffee but also tends to be a little more persnickety, as you have to pay a little more attention to how you pour the water into the coffee grounds, making sure to saturated all the grounds. Still, with just a couple practice cups, you’ll refine your skills enough to be making coffee shop quality coffee.
- The Chemex is an hourglass-shaped vessel, which functions both as a pour over device and coffee carafe. You place the paper filter in top, and the coffee drips down into the bottom. Designed in 1941, its handsome modernist coffee maker, iconic enough to sit in the Museum of Modern Art’s Craft and Design department. It also makes a lovely cup of coffee, with minimal effort.
Coffee Me Up!
How to Make Pour Over Coffee
1 3/4 cups (14 fluid ounces/400g) water
3/4 ounces (21g) medium ground coffee (about 4 scant tablespoons)
Boil the water:
Heat the water to 200°F, if you have a variable temperature water kettle. If you don’t, bring the water to a boil in a kettle, then let it rest for 45 seconds to 1 minute to cool down.
Rinse the filter:
Place the pour over device (like a v60 or Kalita Wave) on top of the mug or carafe. Place a paper filter in it, then pour enough water over the filter, to wet it, about an ounce or 28 grams. Rinsing the paper filter will remove any paper or cardboard flavor that it might impart in the coffee, as well as settle the filter into the pour over device.
Discard the water from rinsing the filter.
Bloom the grounds:
Place the coffee grounds in the paper filter and shake it gently to settle and level the grounds. Carefully pour about 50 grams of water (about 3 tablespoons) of water over the grounds in a spiral pattern, starting in the middle and working your way to the outside edges. Make sure all the grounds are wet, stirring the grounds with a chopstick if desired.
You’ll notice that the grounds should bubble up, releasing gas. This is called “blooming” the grounds. Freshly roasted beans will bloom more than older beans as it has more carbon dioxide trapped in it. Let the water filter through the coffee, about 30 seconds and then add another 50 grams of water in a similar spiral pattern starting from the center to the edge, to help release more gas.
Keep adding more water bit by bit:
Continue to add 50 to 75 grams of water at a time, starting at the center, spiraling out to the edge and working back into the center with your pour. Add more water in this manner, as the coffee drains in the mug or carafe, until you have used 12 ounces of water, 1 1/2 cup or 340 grams. This should take about 4 to 4 1/2 minutes.
Remove the pour over device and enjoy the coffee.
Adjust the grind of your coffee if you are brewing too fast, which means the coffee has been ground to coarse, or if the brew is too slow, which means the coffee has been ground to fine. Use more or less water, or more or less grounds depending on your preferred strength of brew.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
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|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|