How To Make The Best Pour Over Coffee

How To Make The Best Pour-Over Coffee

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How To Make The Best Pour-Over Coffee

August 18, 2020

You don’t need an expensive machine to get a delightful cup of coffee. If you haven’t made a cup of good old-fashioned pour-over coffee at home till now, you need to get brewing as soon as possible.

The biggest advantage of a pour-over coffee maker is that you are in control the brewing process. You make your coffee how you want and you can experiment to get your coffee just right.

New coffee making devices are continuously being launched on the market, but if you want to make a good cup of coffee, without all the electronics, and do it yourself then pour-over coffee is for you.

Table of Contents

What is Pour-Over Coffee?

Pour-over coffee is one of the most basic and classic methods of brewing coffee. 

Human only – No machine needed

When making a pour-over coffee you use a kettle to heat water to the optimum temperature (between 195 and 205˚F) which you pour over the ground coffee in a cone (or funnel) containing an add on, or built in, filter. You have full control over the pour and this includes the time and extent of your brew.

You determine the speed and spread of the water over the coffee, the agitation of the coffee grinds by the water, you observe how the coffee blooms, sense the brewing process, and experience the aroma.

You are an integral, and intimate, part of the coffee making process when you brew pour-over coffee.

Would you like Grammar With Your Coffee?

Before we go any further let me sort our whether you should use a hyphen when writing ‘pour over’ or ‘pour-over’. Why bother? Because I can be a bit pedantic at times.

I use the rule described by ProWriting Aid as follows:

“When you use two or more words together as a single thought describing or modifying a noun and you put them before the noun, you should hyphenate them.”

The bold letters in the definition are my modification and I think is the crux of the matter. 

Pour-over coffee is a single thought! 

Now the only problem as a writer is that I have to search for the hyphen every time I write pour-over and it could be pretty tiresome. That is, unless I use the search and replace function in my word processor! So for this article you will see me use pour-over as a single thought for this manual brewing method. OK?

What is the difference between Pour-Over and Drip Coffee?

Did you know that an expert is a drip under pressure? Sorry, that is an old joke but I couldn’t resist because we are talking about drips (you may be thinking I’m a drip for bringing up an old joke).

When is a drip not a drip? When it becomes a pour! (I’m on a roll) 😏

Drip coffee probably shouldn’t technically be called drip coffee because most of the drip coffee machines I’ve seen pours water, not drips water, over the coffee grounds. Am I being a bit pedantic? Yes, as usual. 

In both pour-over and drip-coffee water is poured into coffee grinds but usually drips out into your cup or carafe (well, initially it may be a pour rather than a drip). And there is no pressure involved except for normal atmospheric pressure.

Difference between drip and pour-over includes

  • Flavor. Pour-over can produce a better flavor
  • Equipment. Drip coffee mainly uses machines.
  • Control. You have complete control in pour-over. No machine needed
  • Temperature stability. Drip coffee machines may not keep the water at the right temperature

The most significant difference between drip and pour-over coffee is that in pour-over you have full control of the brewing process. 

Drip coffee is usually done by a machine that drips/pours water over the ground coffee. You don’t have any manual control of the process, but you can set the parameters of the drip or ‘pour’ depending upon the sophistication of the coffee machine. You don’t get to see the coffee bloom but you do get to experience the aroma.

 

Gravity and Pour-Over Coffee

Gravity plays a big part in the attraction between apples and the earth and also plays a big part in pour-over and drip coffee. Gravity is part of the equation that determines the rate of flow of water through the coffee. The other parts of the equation include the grind size of the coffee and the rate the water pours into the coffee.

Ever thought how you would prepare coffee where there was no gravity – like in a space station? 

Well, astronaut Kjell Lindgren was supposedly the first to brew a `pour-over’ coffee in the space station. Well, he did brew a coffee but it wasn’t really a pour-over. Kjell used syringe pressure to force water through a coffee pod.

Issues With Pour-Over Coffee

Manual pour-over is prone to human error including imprecise measurement of coffee or water, using poor filter paper, and bad pouring technique.

Ground coffee can form clumps where the water doesn’t penetrate and the water simply winds itself around the clumps. This is called channeling and often occurs in infusion methods. Consequently, the coffee is not properly extracted. This can be avoided by skilled pouring but this takes some expertise and practice.

The manual pour-over method can be imprecise and is difficult to replicate by other people. The result is variable extraction and taste.

There are automated brewing machines approved by SCA that make the pour-over process more precise and reproducible no matter the user. However, in this post we will explore just the manual method.

Steps for Making Pour-Over Coffee

Steps For Making Pour-Over Coffee 

A. Prepare Your Equipment

Prepare everything you need for your pour-over coffee. The list of equipment you need is given later in this article with some suggestions to help you make a decision.

B. Choose Your Coffee

You would want to use your favorite coffee wouldn’t you? Or maybe try something new?

In any case choose good quality coffee beans for your brew.

Some roasts are better than others for pour-over coffee, so it is a good idea to either ask your roaster, or read the packaging, to know if your coffee has been roasted with pour-over coffee in mind.

A light roast may be good for pour-over as pour-over can bring out their subtle aromas and acidic flavors. But it is up to you! 

We will suggest some good coffee beans for you to try a little later.

C. Weigh Your Coffee Beans

For a 355 ml cup of coffee you need 20.88 g of coffee beans and 355 ml water to give a coffee to water ratio of 1:17. Please see the discussion below for more insight into the coffee to water ratio.

D. Grind Your Coffee

Try for a coffee bean to water ratio of about 1:17. This means 1 g of coffee beans to 17 grams of water.

You should use a medium to fairly course grind for pour-over coffee as this allows the water to percolate through the coffee for better extraction. If the grind is too fine then it will potentially clog the funnel.

If the water stays too long in the grinds then it will extract too much of the ‘bad’ tasting compounds in coffee (see below). It also makes the brew time longer and result in bitter tasting coffee.

E. Heat Your Water

Heat water to between 90 and 205˚F. If you don’t have a thermometer, then heat the water till it boils, remove it from the heat, and wait for about 2 minutes before brewing coffee (this is the time I need to wait when water is boiled in my kettle but it may be different for your kettle).

A goose-neck kettle is the preferred way to heat and pour your water because it allows you to have more control over the pour. However, you can use any kettle you like as long as you can control the pour. 

F. Pre-wet Your Filter

Place the filter in the cone and thoroughly wet your filter with your heated water.

Empty the water collected in the carafe before adding the ground coffee to the filter.

G. Add Ground Coffee To The Cone

Add the ground coffee to the pre-wetted filter and gently tap the filter funnel to level the surface of the grounds.

H. Pour and Bloom

Pour a small amount of water over the grounds and wait till the coffee is completely soaked with water.

You will see the coffee grounds swell along with bubbles. This is the bloom. The bloom is caused by the release of carbon dioxide from the ground coffee. 

I find it satisfying to see the bloom. It signals the beginning of the brew process and you get the first hint of the aroma of the brewed coffee. 

Watch the following video by Sky Mountain on the pour-over coffee bloom.

I. Pour and Brew

There are two methods for the brew pour. You can pour using an interval ‘pulse’ or a continuous pour.

I think the pulse method offers more control over timing. However, people do have their personal preferences.

After about 15 seconds of the bloom begin to slowly pour the rest of the water over the ground coffee in an evenly spiral movement in about 15 to 30 second intervals over a total time of about 3 to 4 minutes. Again you will need to experiment with the best time for your particular taste.

J. Enjoy Your Pour-Over Coffee!

If you have done everything right then you will enjoy a lovely cup and it is all your own making! No machine involved. Well done!

If you find that something is ‘not quite right’ then try again. Experiment until you get the taste you want.

Why is my Pour-Over Coffee Bitter?

If your coffee doesn’t taste as good as you think it should then check the following: 

  • Water temperature
  • Your pouring technique
  • Time of the pour
  • Quality of Coffee

If you are not careful with your pour then you may swamp your coffee beans and potentially extract more of the ‘bad’ tasting components of coffee. You would also defeat the purpose of a pour-over coffee which is to use the infusion, not the immersion, method for brewing.

You have to pour your heated water over a specific time because the time of infusion determines the extent of the extraction of the compounds in the coffee.

If you take too long then too many of ‘bad’ tasting compounds in the coffee will be extracted and the resulting brew will likely be bitter. 

If you are too quick then not enough of the ‘good’ tasting coffee compounds will be extracted and you end up with a ‘weak’ brew.

Pour-over coffee requires technique, practice, patience, and experimentation. But that is part of the fun of exploration isn’t it? 😃

Have a look at the video by French Press Coffee to see how they make pour-over coffee.

What is a Coffee to Water Ratio?

How much ground coffee do you need for a pour-over coffee? Well, this depends upon two things

1. The number cups you want to serve
2. The strength of your brew
3. The type of coffee bean roast
4. The type and volume of filter you use
5. The required amount of total dissolved solids (TDS)

Generally, a coffee bean to water ratio of about 1:17 is recommended but the ratio can vary from about 1:13 to 1:19 depending upon factors listed above and personal preference.

Often it is a matter of trail and error for your particular roast and style of coffee. Baristas would also look to control the total dissolved solids (TDS) in the final cup to about 1.2 to 1.4 (refractometer measurement) and with about 18-22% extraction.

However, measuring TDS is not something most of us home-brewers can do because we would need to use a refractometer which is expensive to buy. We may discuss TDS in a later post

What is the meaning of the Coffee to Water Ratio?

Good question!

A ratio expressed as 1:17 means that for every 1 of something (and this could be any unit you like) is added to 17 of something.

The important thing here is that the measurement unit needs to be exactly the same for each ‘thing’ in the ratio. You can’t have a ratio that uses two different units.

If you measure coffee in grams then you also must measure water in grams. If you measure coffee in tablespoons then you should also measure water in tablespoons. It gets really confusing when people use different units for measuring coffee and water and that is why it shouldn’t be done.

Another thing is that a tablespoon is really a measurement of volume and not weight so it doesn’t make much sense measuring solid coffee beans with a volume unit. The best thing to do is weigh both coffee and water in grams or oz (not fluid oz).

Thus, if you use grams then 1:17 means 1 gram of coffee beans added to 17 grams of water to give a total of 18 grams (coffee and water).

If you used oz then a 1:17 means 1 oz of coffee added to 17 oz of water to give a total of 18 grams (coffee and water).

Of course, when you make a pour-over coffee you pour water over coffee in a filter. With the extracted coffee leaving the filter funnel into a carafe.

If you were using an immersion method such as a French Press, then you would add coffee to water and both coffee and water would steep together in the same container.

To measure both coffee and water with the same units (g or oz) you need to place both the carafe (or Chemex) and filter on a scale. You then zero or tare the scale to account for the empty carafe and filter. You then measure the ground coffee added to the filter and the water poured into the filter.

If you used a ratio of 1:17 and you measured 1 g of coffee, then you would stop the pour when the combined weight of coffee and water reached 18 g on the scale.

If you would like to make one cup of coffee (say about 12 fl.oz or 355 ml) and you wanted to use a ratio of 1:17 then you would do two things:

  1. Assume that 1 ml of water weighs about 1 gram (it does).
  2. Calculate the coffee and water you need by using the formula below

355 g / 17 = 20.88 g

That is, you gradually pour 355 g of water over 20.88 g of coffee in the cone until the combined weight of coffee and water reached 375.88 g. This would give you a 355 g, or 355 ml, cup of coffee that had a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:17.

Does the 0.88 of 20.88 g really matter? Well, if you want to be precise then it does matter. However, you will need a scale that measures to at least two decimal places.

What if you used 21 g of coffee instead of 20.88 g? I think that most of us wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. However, I don’t know if the coffee professional would be able to tell the difference. Perhaps you can leave a comment about this?

Let’s look at a slightly different scenario. Let’s say you have 36 g of coffee and need to calculate how much water you would need to make coffee that has a coffee to water ratio of 1:16. In this case you would use the following formula…

36 g × 16 = 576 g

That means you would need 576 g of water to make coffee that has a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:16.

Don’t want to do the calculations? Well, don’t worry there is a neat little coffee to water ratio calculator that will do it for you.

Finally, you may also see some authors write a ‘coffee to water ratio of 17:1’. This is incorrect. This should be written as a water to coffee ratio of 17:1 or a coffee to water ratio of 1:17. Too picky? Maybe.

Should you measure coffee beans or ground coffee?

If you measure coffee beans then you should get about the same weight of ground coffee. You will lose some coffee in the grinder but that may not be anything to worry about (unless the grinder isn’t good and traps a lot of the coffee grinds).

However, if you want to be precise then you could weigh slightly more coffee beans than you need, grind the coffee beans, then measure the ground coffee.

Essentially, it is your choice!

For a more detailed and logical approach to the best pour-over coffee we recommend you visit Handground coffee where they asked coffee professionals for their opinion on each step of making a pour over coffee. Javapresse also have useful advice in the ‘Ultimate Guide to Pour Over Coffee‘ (notice the absence of the hyphen?)

Are You Ready for Pour-Over Coffee?

Let us look at some important points to help you to choose your ideal pour-over coffee equipment.

We will detail some of the best pour-over coffee cones and filter/cone combinations a little later (or you can scroll down to read them now).

Your Budget

Setting up pour-over coffee shouldn’t break the bank. The equipment you need is listed below and we will give you some options later so you can choose what suites you and your budget.

  • Coffee beans
  • Coffee grinder
  • Kettle
  • Scale to weigh your coffee beans and water
  • Pour-over cone. 
  • Filters
  • Carafe, Chemex or similar item
  • Timer

Your Expertise

Your choice of equipment will depend upon your skill level. 

A coffee professional would probably use a gooseneck kettle for pour-over coffee but you don’t have to. Of course, if you want to practice and improve your skills then go for it!

Which Pour-Over Coffee Cone?

Filter cones can be made from plastic, ceramic, or metal.

Plastic may have an impact on the taste of your coffee. It depends upon the type of plastic. If you don’t want BPA in your plastic then use BPA-free plastic filter cones.

Plastic is flexible, durable, easy to clean, and usually unbreakable. Some plastics may not be dishwasher proof.

Ceramic filter cones would have less impact on the taste of coffee. They have a good feel and aesthetic about them too. Ceramic cones are easy to clean and usually dishwasher proof. However, they are relatively fragile and can break easily if not treated with care.

Metal filters are strong, easy to clean, dishwasher proof, and durable. However, they may impact the taste of coffee depending upon the metal (see below)

Which Filter?

Filter paper can get costly and may impart some undesireable tastes to your final coffee. Much depends upon how the paper is processed and if it was bleached.

Reusable metal filters have less of an impact on taste but it does depend upon the metal. The filter is also the cone in a filter/cone combination.

The most common, and inert, metal is stainless steel but you can also get filter cones in copper and aluminium. 

Copper seems to be a favorite of people who believe in the heath benefits of dissolved copper in their drinks. I’m skeptical but if that is what you want!

Which Brand?

If you prefer a particular brand, then your choice is obvious? 

Are you a Chemex fan or are you willing to explore? There is a lot to explore!

Best Pour-Over Coffee Equipment

Now let us move on for some suggestions for your best pour-over coffee equipment list.

Coffee Beans

There are so many excellent roasted coffee beans to choose! 

We just don’t have enough space to list them all. 

However, here are four brands of coffee beans we like and found on Amazon that should be ideal for pour-over coffee. All have great reviews.

Coffee Bean Grinders

You may want to take a look at our post on how to grind coffee beans and also our post on quality hand held coffee grinders.

I recommend burr coffee grinders as they give the most consistent coffee grinds. I don’t trust blade grinders just leave these for spices not coffee. 

We like the following four electric burr coffee grinders on Amazon that are great for pour-over coffee. All have good reviews.

Kettle

Gooseneck or not? Up to you! 

We recommend the following four gooseneck kettles that will do the job just fine. All have good reviews on Amazon.

Scale

You need to measure coffee and water together and an electronic scale is best for that job. 

You can get a good precise electronic balance for a good price. 

Here are four electronic scales on Amazon where one of them should be part of your equipment. All have good reviews.

We also have similar suggestions in our home coffee roasting article. 

Carafe

You can choose any carafe with a design that can seat a pour over cone. 

It is also good for the carafe to be transparent and clear so you can see the color of the coffee. 

We will discuss Chemex in the reviews below.

Timer

Any good electronic or mechanical timer will do the job or even just your wrist watch. 

We also have suggestions for timers in our home coffee roasting article.

Let us now look at the main item for manual pour-over coffee – the coffee funnel or coffee cone.

Best Manual Pour-Over Coffee Cones (Funnels)

You can’t go wrong with any of the pour-over coffee cones. Sure they all have their advantages and disadvantages but we think the following list will help give you an idea of some of the best available.

Kalita Wave 185

The Kalita Wave 185 over cone comes in three distinct models: stainless steel, glass, and ceramic. 

A level baseplate stretches out around the base to permit the wave to rest on your cup or carafe and it sports a useful heat resistant handle.

Here is a fun video by Stumptown Coffee Roasters on making pour-over coffee with the Kalita Wave even when camping in the wild!

Hario V60

The Hario V60 is a popular choice for pour-over coffee. It is easy to use and available in various hues and materials. The exemplary white clay, made in Arita, Japan stands out for it’s build quality. The plastic drippers, while they have a comparative shape, don’t have a similar strong feel or warmth. 

The V60 has ribs spiralling down within the cone. The reason for these ribs is to hold the bed of coffee grounds from the dividers. This helps with even distribution and relatively quick water stream. Unlike other cones the V60 has a single large hole at the bottom of its cone. The V60 uses relatively thin paper filters to keep water streaming easily without interference.

Have a look at this video by Homegrounds on making pour-over coffee with the Hario V6.

Chemex Classic

The Chemex pour-over coffee maker is one of the most well known pour-over coffee makers and can be found in most coffee and kitchen appliances stores.

This brewer is a beautiful kitchen tool and a high-quality coffee maker and is a near-perfect balance of aesthetics and performance. 

Regardless of how enormous your coffee needs are Chemex has got you covered. You have the choice of a 3-cup, 6-cup, 8-cup, or 10-cup brewer. 

Chemex uses exclusive double fortified paper filters that are thicker than most other filters. Thicker filters moderate the flow which helps extract huge amounts of flavor from the coffee.

The wood collar is heat resistant and you can easily hold the carafe without fear of geting scorched.

Have a look at this video by Homeground on making pour-over coffee with the Chemex

Clever Coffee Brewer

Is the Clever Coffee Brewer clever? Well, it has a valve that you can adjust. If you close the valve you have an immersion coffee maker. If you open the valve you have the usual pour-over infusion coffee maker.

Consequently, you have two coffee makers in one. Isn’t that clever?

The Clever pour-over coffee maker is made from clear or slightly colored BPA-free plastic with internal vanes. It doesn’t look that great but it is a versatile coffee maker.

Have a look at this video by Prima Coffee Equipment on making pour-over coffee with the Clever Coffee Dripper (watch at 0:16 into the video where the automatic transcription turns ‘dripper’ into something completely different!)

Hario Woodneck

The Hario Woodneck is an appropriately named glass pot framework from Japan that makes top-notch pour-over coffee.

The wood neck and the fine delicate cotton flannel filter makes this coffee maker stands out like Mark Hamill at a Star Trek convention (we even know the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars at goodcoffeeplace 😉 👍

The wood is a great insulator and you can easily hold the carafe without fear of getting burned or scalded.

Have a look at this video by Teraflop on making pour-over coffee with the Hario Woodneck Dripper

Javapresse Pour-Over

The JavaPresse Pour-Over is fine-looking piece of coffee brewing equipment.

The JavaPresse has a double-walled 28-micron permanent cone mesh and this does away with the need for any paper or cloth filters. Consequently, there is little impact of the cone on the taste of the coffee and little chance of any coffee grinds ending up in your cup.

Take a look at this video by JavaPresse on how to use its coffee maker.

Bodum Pour-Over

The Bodum Pour-Over incorporates a really solid product and uses a stainless filter. As with all metal filters this helps extract all of the coffee’s aromatic oils and flavors instead of being absorbed by paper filters. This helps improve the taste of the coffee and eliminates the need for paper filters.

The stainless steel mesh is durable but you need to be careful not to tear the mesh when cleaning.

The carafe is made of nice clear heat-resistant borosilicate glass which means it is also durable and dishwasher safe. The coffee maker also features a cork or a plastic color band – for style.

Have a peek at this video by ACHICA (formally Casafina), presented by Shem Leupin the 2012 SPCA Swiss champion, on using the Bodum Pour-Over Coffee maker.

Conclusion

We have covered quite a lot in this article. From the mechanics of pour-over coffee to the method to the equipment you need.

Hopefully you have a better idea of what is involved with pour-over coffee and this article helps you make informed decisions. That is one of our aims after all!

What is my favorite pour-over coffee maker? Well, I like the Bodum because it has a metal filter, an insulating cork (or plastic) collar, and a decent sized carafe. What is your favorite pour-over coffee maker and why? Let us know!

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