What is Pour Over Coffee?
Pour-over coffee seems like an intimidating way to make coffee at home. Why? Because pour-over is often touted in specialty coffee shops or brewed in barista competitions. But have no fear! This brewing method is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to make a delicious cup.
This article digs into the definition of pour-over coffee: preparing it and what to expect in the cup. You’ll be longing to give it a try even before you’ve finished reading.
The Pour Over Coffee Definition
Pour-over brewing is very straightforward, and people long considered it the standard means of home brewing. But this was before the specialty coffee industry adopted it. According to Daniel Batalla, executive director of Café Batalla, its popularity persists for several reasons.
Pour over is attractive to the eye and it delivers complex flavors and aromas into a clean cup. It’s a perceived simple method that can enthrall even the most inexperienced coffee drinker.
In this method of brewing coffee, you pour hot water over ground coffee in a filter. The water drains through the filter, extracting the coffee as it goes, into a waiting mug or carafe below.
The two methods have similarities in terms of drip vs pour over coffee. Pour-over coffee may refer to filter coffee or drip coffee, but those are broader terms that encompass other methods. Pour-over coffee is straightforward in concept and execution, but it provides room for error like any manual brewing method. Producing the perfect pour-over brew takes practice.
What is the Equipment for Brewing Pour Over Coffee?
There are many ways of altering the flavor of pour over coffee, which is why it is so popular among competitive baristas. Changing out the dripper shape or material, the pouring rate or pattern, or even the choice of water for coffee brewing can all impact the final cup – not to mention the choice of coffee beans themselves.
Watch Steven from Home Grounds review the 5 best pour over coffee makers on the market:
1. Brewing Device for Pour Over Coffee
When preparing a pour over coffee recipe, the first step is to choose a pour over coffee maker. This choice is essential because different brewers can highlight different flavors, even from the same beans. The material the coffee dripper is made from – metal, glass, ceramic, plastic – will affect the taste of your pour-over brew, as will the shape of the brewer and the number of drain holes at the bottom.
Among the most common are the Chemex, the Kalita Wave, the Hario V60, the Origami Dripper, or the Fellow Stagg, but there are many others. Pour-over drippers tend to be inexpensive compared to coffee machines, so many specialty coffee lovers own more than one.
2. Filters for Pour Over Coffee
The choice of coffee filter can make a big difference for pour-over brewing. Paper filters remove most of the coffee oils, leaving a light-bodied cup. In contrast, metal filters leave in the coffee oils, yielding a brew with a heavy body and rich mouthfeel. Cloth filters lie somewhere in the middle.
Cloth and metal filters have the advantage of being environmentally friendly and cost-effective because they are reusable. However, paper filters make clean-up a breeze and are compostable.
Different styles of brewer also require different shapes and sizes of filters. The most common are conical filters, like those used for the Hario V60. But brewers like the Wave use flat-bottomed wave-shaped filters, which tend to be more expensive.
3. Scales for Pour Over Coffee
Most pour-over recipes suggest an ideal ratio of coffee to water, typically given in grams. While not mandatory, it is beneficial to prepare your pour-over brew using a coffee scale, especially if you want to repeat the same recipe in the future. If you’re measuring your coffee using a coffee scoop instead, factors like grind size and roast level can affect your accuracy.
4. Coffee Kettles for Pour Over
In theory, you can prepare a pour-over coffee with any kettle, but a gooseneck kettle is the best option in practice. Not only do these kettles look stunning and heat your brew water to the ideal coffee temperature, but the long necks that give them their name are crucial for a precise pour.
What Type of Coffee is Better for Pour Over Coffee?
The types of coffee beans will predominantly dictate the flavor of your pour-over coffee. But this method is also known for producing a particular style of coffee. Pour-over coffee yields a very clean cup, especially when brewed with a paper filter. The paper filter strains any oils or sediments; hence, the light-bodied coffee.
1. Roast Profile
Pour-over brewing highlights the more subtle and complex flavor notes of a coffee, which might become muddied or indistinct in an immersion brew. For this reason, light to medium roast specialty Arabica beans is the best coffee for pour-over brewing, as this method showcases their unique flavors and bright acidity. However, there is no reason for you not to make a pour-over brew using dark roast coffee beans. They don’t have the same subtle flavor profiles as the lighter roasts, and they will taste more one-note.
2. Grind Size
The best grind size for pour-over brewing is a medium grind, finer than you would use for a French Press but coarser than what you need for espresso. For larger format pour-over brews, like an 8-cup Chemex, you will want to use a slightly coarser medium grind, whereas a bit finer than medium is better when brewing a single cup.
You can use pre-ground coffee for brewing a pour-over because most pre-ground coffee is approximately the correct size. But it is better to grind your coffee fresh so that you can extract the most flavor. A burr grinder is the best tool for the job.
Why Should You Use Filtered Water for Pour Over Coffee?
Coffee is about 98% water, so the water you use can significantly impact the flavor of your brew. Filtered water is the best choice for any coffee brewing, pour-over included.
Depending on the hardness of the water in your area, tap water can be rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium. Depending on the water treatment system where you live, the tap water likely also contains certain chemicals like chlorine. All of this will affect the taste of your coffee, which is why filtered water is a better choice. However, don’t be tempted to use distilled water. Having some minerals in your coffee brewing water enhances its flavor. Because the science of coffee water is so complicated, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has even released guidelines around the perfect water for coffee.
What is the Best Temperature Water for Pour Over Coffee?
The SCA defines the ideal coffee brewing temperature as between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, lighter roasts are brewed at the higher end of this range and darker roasts at the cooler end.
If your water is too cold, you won’t extract all the flavor molecules, resulting in a bland and watery brew. If your water is too hot, you’ll end up with a cup of coffee that may taste burnt, bitter, or astringent.
What is the Best Water Ratio for Pour Over Coffee?
The best ratio for pour-over brewing is 55 g of coffee per liter of water. The SCA defines this to achieve the Golden Cup standard, which is considered the ideal cup of coffee.
The ideal cup of coffee works out to a ratio of approximately 1:17. So for a 12 oz cup of brewed coffee, you’ll need to use about 21 g of ground coffee with 350 g of water. However, this ratio isn’t set in stone; you can vary it to suit your taste, and you may need to vary it slightly to get the best experience with different beans and roast levels. A ratio of 1:15 may be more appropriate for a stronger cup, whereas if you prefer a weaker coffee, you might want to experiment with a 1:20 ratio.
If all these ratios have you feeling overwhelmed, start by watching Steven from HomeGrounds walk through the basics to get started with pour over brewing:
What are the Pouring Techniques for Pour Over Coffee
There are two main pouring techniques when brewing pour-over coffee: pulse pouring and continuous pouring. In either case, it is common to pour in a circular motion to maintain a steady flow and to ensure all the coffee grounds are evenly wetted. There are also a few other pouring strategies that can improve your cup of coffee, including the bloom and agitation.
1. Continuous pouring for pour over coffee
The continuous pouring pour-over coffee is a continuous pouring of water. In this method, the volume of water determined by the brew method is poured continuously over the coffee grounds. You’re pouring at a steady rate until you use all the water. This method requires excellent control and can be challenging to achieve when preparing large pour-overs. This is especially challenging for professional baristas making many pour-overs per day.
2. Pulse pouring for pour-over coffee
With pulse pouring, you add the water bit by bit to maintain a steady level in the dripper. There are plenty of ways to vary this by changing the time and frequency of the pulses. Importantly, this is an easier method to be consistent, mainly if you are new to pour-over brewing.
3. Agitation for pour-over coffee
Agitation isn’t a pour-over technique; instead, it refers to agitating the wet grounds during the brewing process, either by swirling the brewer or stirring with a spoon. This makes it easier to achieve a consistent brew with a complete extraction because it can break up any clumps and rescue any grounds that might be stuck high on the sides of the filter.
4. The bloom (quick bubbling up)
A coffee bloom is also not a pour-over technique, but it is an integral part of the process. To bloom coffee grounds, pour just enough hot water over them to ensure they’re all wet. Typically, this is a 2:1 ratio of water to coffee. This allows any carbon dioxide left in the ground coffee to escape, which is the bubbling up you’ll observe, allowing for a more even extraction. It is essential to bloom freshly roasted coffee because it will have the most carbon dioxide.
What are the recipes for pour-over coffee?
The recipe for pour-over coffee is very simple, so it is such a popular way of brewing coffee. All you need to do is set your pour-over brewer on top of a mug or carafe, add a filter, add the ground coffee, and then pour hot water over the coffee grounds until brewed coffee begins to drip through.
The variations to this recipe are all discussed in the paragraphs above. You can change your type of coffee, the temperature of the brewing water, the water to coffee ratio, and the pouring technique. But the basic principle remains the same throughout.
Because it is so simple, pour-over coffee is good to make in many situations. It’s easy to brew a single cup, which is not true of many coffee machines, but you can also make larger carafes to serve a crowd using devices like the 10-cup Chemex.
Pour-over coffee can even be an excellent way to make coffee on a camping trip. Pour-over drippers made from metal or plastic are lightweight and durable, so you can easily toss them in your backpack.
Are pour over recipes harder to prepare?
No, compared to many methods of brewing coffee, pour-over recipes are effortless to prepare. The process is easy, and you also don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. For example, espresso drinks, vacuum brewing, and slow drip coffee require much more complicated and expensive brewing methods.
What are the benefits of pour-over coffee?
The main benefit of pour-over coffee is its quality. It delivers a crisp, clean cup with complex flavors and a smooth mouthfeel. But that’s not all. One of the most affordable ways to make coffee is because many pour-over drippers aren’t nearly as expensive as coffee machines. It works well with many coffee beans, though medium and light roasts are best. It’s straightforward to prepare, and you don’t need a lot of skill or experience to make a great pour-over brew. And it can be done in many contexts – for one person, to serve a crowd, on a camping trip, at the office, etc.
Is pour-over coffee healthy?
Yes, pour-over is a very healthy way to make coffee. Most coffee is healthy because coffee beans are rich in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. However, people with high cholesterol often prefer pour-over brewing because the paper filter removes more of the coffee’s oils than other methods.
Another health advantage of pour-over brewing is that coffee prepared is often consumed black to appreciate the complex flavors better. You’ll save calories by avoiding the addition of cream and sugar.
Baristas like to prepare coffee as a pour-over because it allows them control over every variable in the brewing process. Unlike when using a coffee machine, the barista can dictate the pouring speed, the pouring pattern, the brewing ratio, and the bloom timing. This allows them to craft the perfect recipe to showcase each specialty coffee bean. Skilled baristas can even change the pour-over dripper or filter to suit a particular coffee best.
It is also the best method of brewing to showcase the unique flavors popular in current Third Wave coffee shops. Right now, the trend is toward lighter roasts with more subtle fruit and floral tasting notes, and pour over is a perfect way to brew this type of coffee.
Pour-over coffee is not more expensive if you’re preparing it at home. It is one of the cheapest ways to make coffee because you need very little equipment. A simple dripper like a plastic Hario V60 is one of the cheapest coffee makers you can get.
However, a pour-over coffee may cost you more than a basic drip coffee from a coffee machine at a coffee shop. That’s because you’re paying a premium for the time and skill of the barista. But if you want to experience a specialty coffee at its best, it will be money well spent.
Pour-over coffee is growing in popularity concurrently with the growth in popularity of Third Wave coffee and cafes. Third Wave coffee is a movement that puts a priority on coffee quality. This is carried throughout the coffee supply chain, from improved sourcing and traceability to higher quality roasting to emphasize unique flavors. Coffee is more flavorful than ever before, and pour-over brewing is the perfect method to showcase these specialty coffees.
Compared with many brewing methods, pour-over coffee is more stylistic. Because it involves so much hands-on effort from the barista, there is plenty of opportunity for showmanship. Unlike using a coffee or espresso machine, preparing a pour-over brew is a sort of artform, relying on the correct pouring pattern and rhythm.