Coffee is the ink-blot test of beverages. Despite what the holier-than-thou baristas at your local cafe would lead you to believe, there is no one right way to drink it. You can brew it up using a drip maker in your home, grab one at a drive through, or you can take the time to whip up an individual cup for yourself every morning. Each way of going about it has its benefits, each with its unique set of drawbacks.
The biggest drawback when it comes to pour over coffee is definitely the amount of time it takes. You really have to set aside ten or so minutes to go through the steps to make yourself just one or two cups of coffee. But the time lost is more than made up for in terms of quality.
When you use this method correctly, you really get to bring out the full character of the coffee. You can notice the different notes – whether they be lemon, stone fruit, or even something as distinct as strawberry. As a result, having the right pour-over tools and know-how makes buying coffee beans a bit more engaging. You are getting more than just something to help wake you up, but some wild new flavor from a far-flung part of the world – whether it be the farms of El Salvador or Burundi. But what is more, when you set aside the time every day to brew coffee this way you get the opportunity to establish your own personal morning ritual.
So much of our days are focused on rushing around and constantly looking to accomplish the next task that we too easily dismiss things that take time. Especially when it is for ourselves. The ritualistic process of waking up bleary eyed and going through the steps of brewing your own coffee – measuring, grinding, heating of water, and brewing- all requires more patience from a person, and as a result can be incredibly calming. Plus, at the end of it all, you get an enjoyable cup of great tasting coffee. So you might be asking yourself, “How do I make pour over coffee?” Fret not my friend, as we take you through our step by step guide of brewing the perfect cup of pour over coffee.
What You Need
For as simple as brewing pour-over coffee may seem, there are a surprisingly wide variety of ways to do it. Depending on the types of tools you pick up and use, you can get remarkably different results in your cup. The essentials are as follows; Pour-over brewer, kettle, beans, grinder, scale, and timer. Each of these pieces can be switched out according to convenience or preference, so we’ve broken down what we think are some of the best tools out there for brewing the perfect pour-over cup.
For the most part, pour over drip brewers are all pretty similar. But while the overarching method used to extract all the good stuff from your coffee grounds is the same, the style of each varies enough to make a note. For instance, the Bee House brewer is not quite the best for traveling given its porcelain build, but unlike most others on the market, its filters are easy to find in your local store given that they are essentially the same as you’d use for an automatic drip. The Hario V-60 has a similar drawback in that it is also made of porcelain, but what sets it apart from the Bee House is that its filters are not as easy to come by in local stores and that it is a bit more open to facilitating the use of slightly different techniques when it comes to pouring. For those who like to get out and bring their coffee with them while camping or at the very least while on the road for work – the Kalita Wave is a solid pick. The flat bottom on the brewer is unlike any other in that it allows for an even extraction of coffee. Yet a real drawback is that the wavy filter requires a more precise pour and attention to detail. Then, of course, there is the Chemex. An obvious drawback is the fact that you can’t bring it with you nearly as easily as the others, but the big benefit it has on everything else is that it can brew more than just one cup. Depending on the size you get, you can easily whip up a few cups for the office in one go.
"I have measured my life in coffee spoons"
- $48 Billion Dollars: Estimated retail value of the U.S. Coffee Market.
- 27.5 Million Bags: Amount of un-roasted coffee transported to the U.S. in 2014.
- 163mg/8 fl oz: Amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee.
- 1.64 Cups A Day: Amount of coffee Americans drink on average.
Control is a big part of brewing pour over coffee. Unlike the automatic drip that most folks use, grinding, measuring and brewing everything yourself means that you can play around and fine-tune variables. One of the most important among which is the water. Outside of how much you are using and how hot and well filtered it is – what is most important is how controlled your pour is. When we say control, we mean speed and accuracy. So generally speaking, your normal old stovetop kettle with its large spout won’t really cut it. Having something like Hario’s Buno Kettle, or the similarly wavy Kalita Kettle gives you the ability to pour out smaller, more accurate spurts of water over your grounds. While these kettles are undeniably handsome, looking good on your stove our countertops no matter the time of day, they lack some key tools. Stagg, for instance, features a thermometer right on the top of the pot so you can keep close track of the temperature – while the electric Bonevita kettle will automatically ‘ding’ off when it hits the target temperature.
Good coffee is literally the most important part of this entire process. The quality of your cup will only be as good as the coffee you buy so it is important that you purchase wisely. As we all know, there are a lot of different roasters to choose from. You can go to Trader Joes to get some French Roast or even over to Starbucks to pick up whatever it is they’re selling – but if you do, you won’t really be experiencing the real benefits of the pour over method. Light roasted coffees are ones that have the most flavor to them. And in our mind, some of the better places to get those coffees are at small micro-roasters like Bird Rock, a San Diego-based roaster that just this last year had its Kenya Guama Peaberry named best coffee of the year. Then there are the larger trendy roasters like Chicago-based Intelligentsia, the PNW’s Stumptown, or the Bay Area’s venture capital funded Blue Bottle. Then of course, if you don’t want to choose just one coffee – a really fun way to get a taste of what everyone has to offer is by checking out the various coffee subscription services out there. So long as you get yourself some freshly roasted whole bean coffee – taking the time to go through this guide, buying the necessary tools, and teaching yourself the process will all be worth it.
Best Gifts For The Coffee Lover
The only thing harder than learning how to become an ace barista yourself is trying to figure out what to get the coffee lover in your life. Whether you are looking for some new mugs, maybe another brewer, or a fun subscription service – you can find them all on our coffee lover’s gift guide.
Kitchen Scale and Timer:
Usually, when you read instructions on how to brew pour over coffee you’ll be asked to put in X amount scoops of coffee per Y amount of water. This is, in our minds, is not the right way to do it. Using volumetric measurement is fine and all – but you simply won’t get as accurate a pour if you measure by the tablespoon or cup. The coffee plant varies so widely from country to country, and farm to farm, that you can’t really standardize a volume measurement for it. The better way to accommodate for all the different shapes, sizes, and densities of the beans is to weigh them out using a kitchen scale. Hario unsurprisingly has their popular eponymous Hario Scale that can both read weight and the amount of time (time brewed is just as important a measurement as anything else). But you don’t have to go with a coffee brand in order to get great quality. Just look at the Jennings Scale. It boasts a 4,000-gram capacity, tare capabilities, and an amazing 20-year warranty. The fanciest option in our minds though is Bonavita’s Scale. With the ability to read out weight in a millisecond and to keep track of brew-time – it is well worth its weight.
How you grind your beans is just as important as any other step in the pour over process. The best way to go about it is to use a burr grinder that crushes beans as opposed to a blade grinder that cuts them. Why? Well, the biggest reason by far is that the burr grinder produces a much more consistent ground than blades do. Just look into your blade grinder next time you make coffee and you’ll see a pretty inconsistent spread of coffee particles. This can ruin a cup. Grind size matters because when you are pouring hot water over your grounds, you are extracting solids into water and transporting it from the beans into your mug or carafe. Those solids have to travel through the cell walls of the coffee grinds – if there is more distance to travel, you risk under extracting, and if there is a very small amount to travel you may over-extract your grounds producing a bitter and unpleasant taste. There is no exact grind profile you can apply to all coffees, each has to be dialed in on a case by case basis, but provided you have the right tools – it is much easier to do it with a burr grinder.
Measure And Heat Water: The first step here, of course, is to bring your water to temperature. While you may not always have access to it – it can really help if you use water that has been run through a reverse osmosis process. Using this type of water can help you control for inconsistencies, and help you dial in a better cup. Ideally, you’ll want to get it right under boiling – somewhere between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer in your kettle, you can simply bring the water to a boil and then take it off the heat for a few moments before beginning to pour. As far as the amount you want, it will be determined by how much coffee you want to brew, but a good rule of thumb is to keep it at a 16:1 ratio – or roughly 370 grams of water to 22 grams of coffee.
Rinse The Filter: This is a simple but important step. Once you have heated your water, wetting the filter will help get rid of the papery taste from your cup and prevent any dry spots from showing up while you brew. Once you have poured the heated water over your filter, be sure not to forget to toss it out of the carafe or cup that you are brewing into.
Measure and Grind Beans: Once you have gone about measuring your water and setting it on the stovetop or turning on the electric kettle, you can start to measure and grind your coffee using your scale. Now, the exact grind is going to be tough to dial in exactly. Each coffee is different, but generally speaking there are some parameters you want to stick to for the pour-over method. Anywhere between medium-fine to medium-course is going to yield good results. Of course, it never hurts if you are brewing locally roasted coffee to ask your local baristas what their recommendation is for any specific coffee. Be sure to grind under a minute before you start brewing. Once everything is ground up, place it into your wetted filter, even the bed, and make a small indent in the center.
The Bloom: This is an often overlooked but incredibly important part of the pour-over process. Before really getting started on your brew, hit the timer and pour water (around double the weight of your coffee) evenly over your grounds. Given that the initial pour should take around 15 seconds, you’ll want to allow the grounds another 30 or so to bloom. Giving your grounds time to rise and expel gas is important because the escaping Co2 makes it difficult for water to get in and start extracting and transport the dissolvable solids into your cup. If you do a good job with this initial pour, you will have fully wetted all the coffee particles and prepped them for extraction.
Extraction : This is the part that you will likely spend the most time re-doing and perfecting. Starting at around the :45 second mark you are going to want to begin pouring in the center of your bed of grounds in a circle roughly the size of a quarter. It takes time and practice to find the perfect balance between pouring too gently or too quickly. Techniques here really vary. Some have strategies to charge at different timed marks, others wing it and pour as they see fit, and still more folks will aim for a continuous pour all the way through. That is all a matter of preference – but what really matters is that you keep pouring until around the 2:00-minute mark or until you hit the desired weight of water.
Enjoy and Improve: First and foremost, enjoy your coffee. This is what all the work you’ve done is for. If you are unhappy with the results or maybe want to push yourself further – be sure to take notes on your process. Buy a small notebook and record the weight of the water, the grind setting, and timing of your pours. All of these, combined with tasting notes on the coffee, will help you hone in on this particular skill set. After enough practice, it’ll all become intuitive, and you’ll be able to brew up a cup without so much as a second thought.
10 Best Cold Brew Coffees
The other seemingly eternal darling of the coffee world is the cold brew. Nothing cuts through a hot morning better than some of this thick, supercharged stuff. Dive into our list of the cold brew coffees.