Hario V60 Review - Everything You Need To Know
Perfection doesn’t always come wrapped in a shiny electronic gadget. Sometimes the simplest tools are better than the most complex machines. If you are a do-it-yourselfer (like me), then manual coffee holds a special place in your heart.
And if you love manual coffee, then you should become familiar with the Hario V60 coffee brewing method. So let’s take a closer look at the pour over professional’s tool of choice in my review of the V60 dripper by Hario.
The V60 'In a Nutshell'
The Hario V60 features a simple design that allows you to achieve an amazing cup of drip coffee by perfecting your own technique. The tool was made to be as “out of the way” as possible, allowing you to focus on all the other parts of the process.
As such, it is not an easy device to master and takes some serious patience and know-how. Even for a pour over coffee maker, the V60 is quite inexpensive and comes in a range of design options. If you’re looking for a tool to highlight your growing expertise, this brewer is an excellent way to go.
Before Choosing a Pour Over Coffee Maker, Consider This
If a steaming mug of “not your grandfather’s coffee" is what you crave, then there is no better brew method than manual drip coffee. With a practiced hand, the slow method of pour over brewing can bring out the subtle and complex flavors of your coffee beans.
Automated methods can do a decent job (for a price), but they won’t give you the flexibility needed to crack open the delicate notes of different roasts. Manual pour over, on the other hand, allows you customize each brew to your specific preferences. Plus there's the satisfaction that comes with learning a new craft, and in enjoying the rewards that come with the skill - in this case, a damn fine cup of coffee.
Though this brew method doesn’t take a lot of time, it does demand your undivided attention. Take your eyes off of a pour over brew at the wrong time and boom, disaster. With that in mind, pour over coffee isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a quick, no-fuss cup of joe, then I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
If you’re still on board for a pour over coffee maker, here are a few things to keep in mind before making your selection:
- How steep is the learning curve for that particular brewer?
- What material is it made out of?
- How much coffee does it make?
The Hario V60 Review
The V60 is the omega in hand-crafted coffee. That may seem like a big claim to make, but with the V60 there is hardly any barrier between you and your beans.
Compared to other pour over brewers, this Hario dripper is extremely simple and therefore entirely open. Think of it as the Chrome to your Safari: not quite as convenient, but a completely open-source platform. A tool like this will let you customize and improve each part of your process to create an unparalleled cup of coffee.
Other brewers can do a solid job, but are more specialized and therefore more limited.
This brewer is best for someone with a good deal of experience, patience, and desire to learn. The V60 is an unforgiving brewer and requires quite a bit of love and attention before it’ll deliver the perfect brew. But when you get it right, the cup is clean, full of flavor, and fully expresses the true complexity of the bean.
- Completely open-source coffee brewer.
- A wide range of product options.
- Upgraded design for improved airflow.
- Steep learning curve.
- Requires undivided attention throughout entire process.
Aesthetic Appeal: 4.5/5
The V60 is available in a number of different colors and materials, and that gives you flexibility. The classic white ceramic, made in Arita, Japan - the center of Japanese ceramic craft since 1616 - has a modest, simple beauty. The plastic drippers (which are much less expensive), while they have a similar shape, don't have the same solid feel, or the same thermal stability. We've taken off half a point for those (but given them full marks in the Price category, below).
The plastic dripper comes in red, white, and clear, and is the least expensive out of all the options. It does not retain heat as well as the other versions, but it is quite sturdy.
The glass V60 has a clear cone but an opaque, plastic base plate that you can get in either black or red. You will want to be careful with this model, as the glass is quite fragile.
A ceramic V60 is a great choice for someone looking for greater heat retention, and who isn't planning to transport the heavier ceramic filter cone. They come in both white and red, and if you preheat these with a little hot water, they will keep your coffee within the ideal 195-205 F brewing temperature.
Finally, the metal version has a design similar to the glass model with the curly hook. You can choose from either stainless steel or copper. Both options will do just as well at heat retention as the ceramic model, but these will be much more durable (and are also lighter, if you plan to travel with them).
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
You've heard things described (usually erroneously) as "user-friendly," right? Well, the V60 is best thought of as "expert-friendly." It's easy to use, but can be tricky to master.
The V60 has a set of raised grooves spiraling down the inside of the cone. The purpose of these grooves is to hold the bed of grounds away from the walls, allowing for airflow along the sides. This in turn aids in even, rapid water flow along the edges, leading to a fast drawdown and a more balanced extraction (1).
"But unless you're the attentive type, the V60 may be biting off a little more than you can chew to brew a perfectly consistent cup." -Liz Clayton, Serious Eats
An important factor in pour over brewing is an even extraction (2). You want the water to flow through all of your grounds at once and at a constant pace. If water sits too long around the edges, you can get a little over-extracted bitterness going on. But because the drawdown is so fast, your first few pours with the V60 might end up weak and slightly sour, because the drawdown is so rapid.
It's worth keeping at it, though, because this fine control means you can taste one or two clicks of the grinder. Case in point: we rely on the Hario when we're developing our own tasting notes for a new coffee we're reviewing. We start with a standard reference grind (37% finer than the exact midpoint, if you're counting), but we might adjust it a notch or two coarser or finer to optimize the extraction. Professional baristas know about "dialing in," coming up with the exact dose and time for a shot with a new batch of beans, and the Hario rewards that same attention to detail with a pour over.
A couple of clicks one way or the other can suppress or elevate the nuances of flavor and aroma that the roaster describes.
We like to think of the Hario like a chef's knife, where an automatic drip maker is like a food processor: the Cuisinart is a great way to get equal slices that are just about right and which are the same every time, but a chef with top-notch knife skills has a range of subtlety and precision no automated machine can match. Allez cuisine!
Brew Control Ability: 5/5
Unlike most other pour over brewers, the V60 has a single large hole at the bottom of its cone. At first glance, this may seem like a drawback. However, it is this large hole that makes this pour over dripper the tool of the pros. Instead of a few tiny holes, a smaller grind size and careful pouring are what determine the rate of flow.
In addition to the large hole, the extremely thin paper filters contribute to this ultra-manual attitude. The V60 uses some of the thinnest paper filters to keep water flowing smoothly without interruption.
Using grind size and pour rate to control the water flow puts mastery of the brew almost entirely in your hands.
All of this may be a bit scary at first, but it means that the quality of your coffee is limited only by your personal skill and not an inflexible machine. Time and contact are two of the biggest factors in coffee brewing (3). If water passes through your grounds too quickly you’ll end up with sour, watery coffee; too slowly and you risk a bitter, over-extracted cup.
Contact depends on the amount of surface area for the water to interact with. The finer the grind, the more surface area and the quicker the extraction. However, a finer grind also slows the flow of the water through the coffee, which further works to increase the extraction. This is part of what makes the Hario such a subtle device: a few turns of the grinder can make a huge difference in your extraction levels. (Think of it as the opposite of cold brew, in which large grinds steep for 10-12 hours to reach full extraction.)
With the V60 you will need a medium-fine to fine grind and a steady pour to score a solid cup of coffee. It can take a bit of practice to find the right balance, but persistence will lead to an unparalleled level of caffeinated perfection. (It should go without saying that maintaining the correct water temperature is equally critical; brewing with too low a water temperature will result in a thin, sour, and under-extracted cup.)
Since I’ve talked a lot about flavor, I’m sure you’d like to know what flavors you can expect from this brewer. Though it ultimately depends on your particular brew technique, the V-60 is known for producing a brighter and more complex cup of coffee.
Done right, notes of sweetness and fruit will shine through, with nearly all bitterness suppressed by the rapid draw down. You shouldn’t expect a very full-bodied cup with this brewer, but instead something clean with each individual note easily recognizable. If you’re used to French press, a V60 brew will look overly transparent, but this allows the more exotic flavors to come out without tasting weighty.
Watch this video for a quick how-to tutorial on brewing with the Hario:
If you can't stand the thought of spending a week in a hotel drinking stale coffee that comes in a bag, the Hario just might be your new favorite traveling companion. The plastic and metal cones are lightweight and sturdy; as much as we love the ceramic Hario V60 dripper for home use, we wouldn't relish the thought of carrying one up and down the steps on the London Underground, or while hiking through the Cascades.
And there's also the oops factor: dropping a plastic V60 on the ground at a campsite, or watching a fellow passenger mash their oversize carry-on into the overhead compartment where you've placed your precious pour over paraphernalia, is going to be a lot less stressful if you know it's more resilient than that white ceramic cone - oh so beautiful, but oh so fragile.
One final consideration about portability: there are three Hario V60 sizes that you can choose from. The 01 is suitable for 1 or 2 cups; the 02 can handle up to four cups, and the 03 is rated for up to six cups. (We use the 02 to brew 600 ml of coffee, enough for two large mugs or four small cups.) The larger cones take up a little more space in your luggage, but with additional capacity. If you only ever brew a single cup, the 01 is a great choice. If you brew for two, the 02 is probably worth the space (you can always pack soft items in the center of the cone).
Here's the best news: the plastic V60 cones which are your best bet for portability are also among the most favorably priced pour overs you can buy, only a couple bucks more than the Melitta Ready Set Joe.
Even the filter papers aren't too spendy - about half the price of the double-bonded Chemex filters, for comparison. You'll need to purchase the proprietary Hario filters, as most standard coffee filters are designed for the linear flat bottom used by Melitta devices, or occasionally a flat basket filter shaped like the Kalita Wave.
You can, of course, circumvent the whole issue of filter paper purchase (and disposal) by getting a reusable metal cone. I'm not convinced, as one of the reasons I choose the pour over brew method is the clean, bright flavor it presents. If I want a chewy cup full of fines (and sometimes I do!), I'll pull out the French press or my longtime favorite, the Bialetti Moka Express.
As one last comment on filters: Hario's paper filters tend to be much cleaner tasting, without the obvious (and, well, skanky) mildewed-cardboard-box taint of an unrinsed Chemex filter. If you absolutely positively have to brew with an unrinsed filter (or you had to get up at an unnatural hour and you're not thinking clearly yet because the caffeine is still in solid form), the Harios aren't all that bad.
Alternatives to the Hario V60 Dripper
Despite how much I love this pour over brewer, it is not for everyone. It can make one of the best coffees you’ll ever taste, but not without some serious trial and error. Here are three other coffee brewers you may want to consider: the Kalita Wave, the Chemex, and the Clever Dripper.
The Kalita Wave
The Wave is Kalita’s solution to the fickleness of the V60. Instead of a large opening, the Kalita Wave has a flat bottom with three small holes. Together, these slow down the flow of water, leading to an even extraction and easier coffee brewing.
These small holes, in combination with the unique rippled paper filters, make the Wave a much more forgiving dripper than the V60. You’ll still need a practiced pouring hand, but you won’t need to be as precise. Though convenient (and a good single-serve coffee solution), the Wave isn’t as flexible as the V60. If you like the sound of the Wave, read our review here.
V60 vs Chemex
This is the most common comparison when it comes to pour over coffee drippers: the Chemex vs V60.
The Chemex is a mid-century modern icon. Designed in 1941 by research chemist Peter Schlumbohm, it has earned a spot in the permanent exhibit of the New York Museum of Modern Art. Technically, it is similar to the V60 in that it uses a large opening, but its overall design and end result are very different. The hourglass-shaped Chemex coffee maker is a one-piece combination drip brewer and carafe. Its paper filters are double bonded, which gives a very slow draw-down and also filters out many of the oils and polyphenols that can contribute to bitterness, even when using darker roasts.
Coffee brewing with the Chemex produces a deep, rich cup with good flavor complexity, if not the bright, clear highlights for which the Hario is favored. We use the Hario and the Chemex on a daily basis in the Homegrounds coffee lab. They both produce quality results, with the Chemex favoring richness while the Hario yields clarity. One other observation: the Chemex is larger and fragile, making it difficult to travel with but very, very good looking. Read our review on the Chemex Here.
The Clever Dripper
If you’re looking for something a little easier to use, but still want a dripper, then the Clever Dripper may be for you. The aptly named Clever is half immersion brewer and half pour over dripper, but all user-friendly.
To use the Clever, simply fill it with grounds and hot water, let it steep for a few minutes. Then, when you’re ready, set it on your cup to begin the drip. A “clever” locking mechanism holds the fluid inside the cone until you place it on a cup.
The Clever is effortless, makes an ideal single-cup solution, and will make a tasty cup of coffee, but it won’t bring out the more subtle flavors like the V60 will. We covered the Clever Dripper in detail here.
With a little practice, patience, and the right tools, you can make coffee better than any coffee shop with this brewer.
The Hario V60 dripper is the ultimate tool in delicious craft coffee.
It is unforgiving, but it puts all the control into your hands, allowing you to change and perfect each step of the process. Additionally, you have the freedom to customize - from single cup brewing with the 01 to the six-cup 03 - with its wide range of product options.
- Clayton, L. (2018, August 9). How Ceramic Coffee Drippers Stack Up. Retrieved from https://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/11/best-ceramic-coffee-dripper-pourover-hario-bonmac-bee-house-kalita-reviews.html
- Scott Rao. (2016, October 9). Some Observations on Hand Pours. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2016/10/8/some-observations-on-hand-pours
- Cho, N. (2019, May 10). Coffee Science: How to Make the Best Pourover Coffee at Home. Retrieved from https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/make-better-pourover-coffee-how-pourover-works-temperature-timing.html