If you are a coffee lover then either you already know and love the Pour Over brewing style or else you are about to be introduced to a match made in heaven! Coming to life in 1908 through the German entrepreneur Melita Bentz, this simple device is now widely acknowledged as the coffee maker of choice among both hipsters and old school brewers.
What really sets apart this method is the complete control the brewer is given over every parameter in the entire brewing process! Especially for the more technical pour overs such as the V60 and the Chemex, the flavour of the coffee is directly and almost exclusively governed by the technique and recipe of the home Brewer. Another relatively significant reason to love the Pour Over is that it does simply make a delicious cup of coffee that is light and really highlights the flavour profiles of different beans. We have to confess that here at The Coffee Folk the Pour Over is our favourite brewing method!
This article will first introduce you to the world of pour over before giving you step by step instructions on how to brew a terrific pour over. So whether you are about to set out on your first pour over or are an experienced veteran, enjoy!
What is Pour Over?
In technical terms the Pour Over is an infusion brewing method. This means that flavour is extracted as fresh water is continually ‘poured over’ the ground beans. This is significantly different from say the French Press which immerses the grinds and so leads to a far heavier and full bodied cup.
Water is slowly and manually poured over the ground beans (often in a spiral motion) allowing continual supply of water to extract the maximum flavour and nuances of a given coffee bean. This means that Pour Over coffee tends to be a very light and bright drink with almost tea-like consistency and very distinct flavours (making Pour Over a surprisingly gentle way to transition into drinking black coffee for those who haven’t yet made the switch). The majority of Pour Overs also utilise paper filters which operate to catch a lot of the oils released from the beans leading to a very clean cup.
The Pour Over is all about the hands on and intimate process of slowly, carefully, and manually extracting the richest and most delicious flavours by careful technique and very specific ratios and recipes. This makes it a favourite of coffee veterans while still accessible to the beginning brewer.
What Are The Most Popular Pour Over Coffee Makers?
Arguably the three most popular Pour Over coffee makers are the Hario V60, the Kalita Wave, and the Chemex. Each of these are excellent pour overs with diverse strengths and weaknesses
The Hario V60
The V60 is really the iconic Pour Over and the top pick among professional baristas. This is the model most often sported by speciality coffee cafes and enables the greatest depth of flavour while requiring the most technical skill. This makes it a great choice for the experienced home brewer or coffee lover with previous experience around speciality coffee. The large hole at the bottom of the dripper means that the speed of extraction is determined exclusively by the method and technique of the brewer. This leads to the ability to really specify and customise all the brewing parameters but on the flipside makes it a very unforgiving Pour Over for novices. The V60 requires a very specific brewing recipe and technique and necessitates the use of scales and timers (which is advisable for most Pour Overs anyway).
The Kalita Wave
The Kalita Wave was the result of a popular demand for a Pour Over that could challenge the V60 for depth of flavour while remaining accessible for the beginning brewer. In contrast to the V60 it is a flat bottomed dripper with three small holes which regulates the extraction speed and tends to make for a more stable brew. The name comes from the wave-like ridges on the inside of the Pour Over which again contributes to stable brewing conditions. This is a terrific Pour Over which is far more forgiving than both the V60 and the Chemex while retaining a real depth and nuance of flavour. It does still require careful technique and regulation of brewing parameters but tends to still taste relatively good if these are slightly off. These factors in addition to its beautiful and durable design make it, we believe, the coffee maker of choice for the beginner to the world of Pour Over.
This beautiful and elegant Pour Over is somewhat different to the the V60 and the Wave as it is a dripper and decanter all in one. In fact its elegance is a proven fact as it is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Chemex is renowned and really comes into its own for brewing larger quantities of coffee. This is a great coffee maker not just for that morning coffee but for entertaining guests with style. It is also somewhat different as it uses a particularly thick paper filter which leads to a very clean brew (as the filter catches most of the oils from the beans). The Chemex makes a great brew and like the V60 requires careful precision for optimal extraction
For more in depth reviews of these Pour Overs as well as others see our extended article here.
What Equipment Is Needed For Pour Over?
Because of the manual and precise nature of this brewing style Pour Over does tend to require more gear than other methods for optimal extraction.
The gear required to really brew to perfection with this method includes:
How to make Pour Over Coffee
Step One: Bring Water To Boil
The first step is to bring at least 600g/mls of water to the boil. Make sure that the water is clean and preferably filtered as bad water will negatively affect the final taste.
The heat of the boiled water is also going to play a vital role in the extraction process. The golden range for coffee extraction is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 90-96 C). There are a couple of ways to ensure this:
Step Two: Grind Beans
The next step is grinding your beans (so if you are using preground beans feel free to skip this step). As with every other method of coffee brewing there is simply no substitute for quality beans. Even if you are a world-quality barista (which is unlikely if you are reading this article) there is only so far you can go with that cheap packet of beans you got from the local supermarket! So invest in quality beans from a local coffee roaster.
If you are going to grind your own coffee then make sure you do it with a quality burr grinder (otherwise it is better to get a local cafe or coffee roaster to grind the beans for you). Inconsistent particle size will almost inevitably lead to under or over-extracted coffee. Depending on your type of grinder, you should start by setting the grind size somewhere between medium and fine. The ground size is coarser than espresso but finer than french press. This will almost definitely take a few tries and the extraction time and taste will be good indicators of how close you are.
There is lots of discussion in the coffee world about the ratio of water to coffee but most agree that it should be somewhere between 1:15 and 1:18. This recipe for pour over is about 1:16 and we have found it to be a good starting point which you can go on to alter as you grow more confident. The recipe we recommend comes from Market Lane Coffee which is one of our favourite cafes in Melbourne. It is 17g of coffee to 265g (or ml) of water and a 2.5-3 minute brew time for a single cup of coffee.
Step Three: Pre-Wet Coffee Filter
Next pre-wet the filter. Gently take the paper filter out of the packet and place it into the pour over, making sure you keep the integrity of the filter shape. Now place the pour over over your cup or carafe and pour about half of your boiled water in concentric circles making sure that you thoroughly saturate the entire paper filter. This helps to both clean the filter of its paper residue and chemical taste as well as preheating the pour over itself.
Now pour the water out of the mug or carafe and you are ready to brew!
Step Four: Add Coffee To The Filter
At this point you need to pour your measured grinds into the middle of the filter and gently tap the side of the filter to level the surface of the beans. This will help with the consistency of the flow. At this point place the pour over and decanter upon your scales and tare the weight which will help you to keep track of how much water you are pouring.
Step Five: Start Pouring For Bloom
You are now ready to pour ‘the Bloom’. Pour about 30 grams of water over the grinds in a spiral motion starting at the centre and working your way to the edge of the filter. This should take around 10s and needs to go right to the edge of the filter without touching the edge. The goal is to make sure all the grinds are adequately soaked. Now wait for 30s and you should be able to see the beans visibly expanding or ‘blooming’ which is quite amazing to watch.
The science behind ‘the bloom’ is basically that coffee beans are filled with Carbon Dioxide which needs to escape before water can go in and optimal extraction can occur. Consequently, as the initial water comes into contact with the beans, Co2 is released creating a blossoming appearance as the grinds expand.
Step Six: Pour Away
You are now ready to begin the main pour for extraction. The basic goal is to pour the remainder of your 265g of water over the beans over a period of 2 minutes or so. It is here that a gooseneck kettle is really helpful in maintaining a slow and gradual pour that evenly soaks all the beans. The main idea is to pour in slow and gradual spirals from the centre of the grinds to the outside and then back in. Pour the water in small increments and then wait for some to drip through and do it again. Because this extraction method requires the continual addition of fresh water over the beans it is important that you make sure that you are wetting all the beans evenly.
This process should bring your total brew time to between 2.5 and 3 minutes.
Step Seven: Enjoy
By now you should have a delicious dark carafe or mug of caffeinated goodness which you can’t wait to dive into. You are almost there! Give the carafe or mug a gentle swirl to mix it all together and you are good to go!
Now go and make your workmates or family envious, find somewhere relaxing and enjoy a great mug of home-brewed coffee! You deserve it!!
Finally, be as environmentally responsible as possible in the disposal of the filter and used grinds.
Recipe for Pour Over Coffee
Step One: Heat 600ml of water to between 195 and 205F
Step Two: Grind 17g of coffee to a medium to fine consistency
Step Three: Place paper filter in pour over and pour around half of the heated water over it. Pour out water from mug or carafe.
Step Four: Add ground coffee to the middle of the filter and tap side of pour over to flatten surface
Step Five: Pour around 40ml (or grams) of water evenly over the beans for bloom. Wait 30 seconds.
Step Six: Pour the remaining of the 265 ml of water in slow and gradual spirals ensuring you evenly soak all the grinds. This should take around 2 minutes.
Step Seven: Swirl the coffee in the carafe, responsibly dispose of grinds and filter, and enjoy your brew.
Tips to Perfect your Pour Over
Practice your pouring technique
Because this is a manual brewing style the speed and consistency of your pour is going to dictate the speed and quality of your extraction. One common hindrance to a great extraction is an uneven grinds bed. This is when some of the grinds stick to the sides of the filter during the pouring process forming a concave shape. When this happens the grinds in the centre of the pour over end up being extracted far more than the grinds on the edges which negatively impacts the flavour of the brew.
There are a number of ways to work on this but probably the easiest is to focus on keeping the water level relatively low in the pour over and making sure that your pour goes right to the edge of the grinds (without touching the paper filter).
As you grow in your confidence and competency you can also try the difference between continual pouring and pulse pouring, In continual pouring you keep the pour speed relatively low and pour for the entirety of the brew time in spirals that start at the centre of the grinds bed and work their way to the edge and back again. Pulse pouring (which we prefer) is when you pour the water onto the grinds in a number of small increments. This tends to be a slightly faster pour time where you pour a little water in the spiral shape wait for the water to soak through, and then do it again until you have used all your water in the required brew time.
Keep a record of Your Different attempts
No matter how skilled you might be, great brewing is a process of trial and error. So go down to your local book store buy a cheap notebook and each time you make a brew record the ratio of water to beans, the fineness of the grind, and the brew time.
This is helpful because as you grow more confident in your palate and your pouring skills you will want to experiment to find the perfect coffee for you. We highly recommend this and the recipe above we consider mainly as a starting point from which you can begin to alter parameters to perfect the brew for you. It is important however that when you experiment you only change one factor each time. So, for example, you might still use 265g of water and aim for 2.5-3 minute brew time but decrease the grinds from 17g to 15g for a slightly less strong coffee.
There are four main parameters you can alter to affect the strength and taste of your pour over:
The Magic of the Brew
Well we hope this complete guide has been helpful in either introducing you to this absolutely brilliant brewing method or giving you a few tips in your own coffee journey. There is so much to love about pour over coffee and we hope that you come to love its intimate process and refined and nuanced flavour as much as we do.
We would love to hear from you so if you have any questions or comments about your own experiences of pour over, please comment below.