What is Pour Over Coffee?
At a glance, it might sound like all coffee—not made in a press, anyway—is pour-over coffee. And, in a literal sense, it is—but nothing quite reproduces the quality of a lovingly made hand pour.
Here, we adopt a bird’s-eye view of what to know about the pour-over coffee making method.
What are the Benefits of Pour Over Coffee?
The allure of a pour-over method is its capacity to extract flavors from a coffee that are harder to control in a batch drip or in a French press. (French press, by comparison, is an immersion brew method.) Pour-over coffee is a careful, exacting, and sometimes frustrating process that rewards patience and experimentation.
To understand why this brew comes out so much differently is to understand a bit about coffee itself. There are generally an exhausting number of controlling elements to what makes a delightful cup of Joe, but it could be argued there are four major variables to pay attention to with manual coffee brewing: water temperature, grind size, water pressure, and coffee-to-water ratio.
Pour-over brewing allows more control over at least two of these variables.
Water temperature is largely out of your hands when dealing with a drip pot; in most cases, the machine will determine what the pre-set temperature for the water is and you’ll have to trust the water temperature will stay consistent throughout the brewing. Pour-over coffee, meanwhile, typically requires a kettle with settings that give you control over the temperature, and given the short period of time actually spent pouring the water over the coffee, it hardly has a chance to drop in temperature from what you first set it for.
Beyond that, and perhaps most significant, is the pouring style. With a gooseneck dripper, you can carefully control the pressure and stream of the water as it falls over the grounds, and you have an opportunity to evenly cover the grounds. With a machine, there is no guarantee of this—and many machines fail to consistently cover grounds.
This is taking coffee into your own hands.
Pour-Over Coffee Instructions
How to make pour-over coffee: To begin, select a pour-over coffee maker of choice. This could be similar to a Chemex, or something like a Hario dripper that simply goes on top of a cup. Either way, the methods for brewing will be similar.
- Gather materials. You’ll want a well-cleaned coffee maker to ensure no leftover oils from the last coffee brew are finding their way into your current one. You’ll also need coffee that’s been ground to your size of choice—the grind size will depend on what coffee you choose, but this is a good time to toy with finer grinds—along with a filter, timer, and kettle. Rinse the filter to eliminate any paper or chemical taste that may work its way into coffee during brewing. (Note: If looking for a precisely timed and measured pour-over brew, you can use a scale to gauge your coffee pour rate as you brew—but that goes beyond Pour Over 101.)
- Heat water. You’ll want your water to be in the ballpark of 202-205 degrees Fahrenheit, to extract the delicate flavors in the grinds. To go even further in ensuring water temperature consistency, run hot water through the coffee maker and mug before brewing. Your pour-over coffee ratio here should be about 24 grams to 14 ounces of water, though everyone tends to have their own preferred “recipe” that decides how much coffee for pour-over.
- Bloom. With this, we have what is probably the most unique step in the pour-over process. Let the water rest from boiling for just a few seconds before beginning to pour and then cover the grounds evenly. Use the gooseneck kettle to make circular pouring motions that begin at the center and end at the outside rim of the maker; then, set a timer and watch for it to hit the 30-second mark. By this point, the coffee should look engorged into a mound and bubbling. This is called blooming and perfectly sets up the grounds for the rest of the process.
- Finish brewing. Continue pouring the rest of the water over the coffee for approximately another minute and a half, keeping the tip of the gooseneck close to the grinds as you make circular motions. If you’re feeling confident, work grinds into the water using a spoon during the remaining brew time to ensure all grounds are in contact with the water, all the while adding some turbulence to activate and enhance the coffee extraction.
- Dump the filter and enjoy. The coffee will continue brewing for about another minute after finishing with the pour, but afterward it’s time to toss the grinds, pour the coffee and bask in the subtle tasting notes of your coffee of choice.
Pour-Over Coffee Makers
There’s no right or wrong choice for pour-over coffee brewers, but there are some go-to options.
- Chemex. A favorite among craft coffee shops, this hourglass-shaped, glass brewer doubles as its own stylish carafe. It’s an attractive pour-over option with thick and reliable paper filters that has the added benefit of being widely available.
- Hario. This Japanese-designed over-the-mug manual brewer is known to be one of the best options for filtering the coffee, thanks to a swirling design that impressively directs water flow. It’s also very portable.
- Clever. This is a plastic device that rests over a mug or glass and has a stopping mechanism that helps control the flow of coffee. It’s also, frankly, just easy to clean.
Now that you know a bit more about the art of pour-over coffee, you may want to ask for one yourself, or try to master the process yourself. Trust us, it’s worth it!