The Beginner’s Guide to Pour Over Coffee
You’ve probably noticed the increasing popularity of pour over coffee in your favorite cafe as of late, and the New York Times says caffeine fiends everywhere have the Japanese to thank for this method of coffee making magic.
But let’s not kid ourselves – if you love coffee, you’re a bit of a snob about it. Are you also a control freak that wants absolute governance over every facet of your demitasse? A bold adventurer who wants to go where no home barista has gone before?
If so, this is the brewing method you’ve been dreaming of. It’s time you learned how to brew pour over coffee like a true coffee hipster.
What is Pour Over Coffee?
You have to think of hand drip coffee this way – master works of art aren’t created in just a few minutes.
Leonardo da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa in a mere moment, Vincent Van Gogh didn’t throw together The Starry Night in a day (or night), Edvard Munch didn’t create The Scream in a few simple seconds, Picasso didn’t – well, you get the point.
The finer things in life take time, and while pour over coffee may sound simple it will require your patience and, more importantly, your time.
At this point, you may be wondering what makes this style of coffee so damn special, am I right? Well, slow your roll because I’m about to tell you.
The pour over method is pretty simple. All you do is grind fresh coffee and then use a brewing system to pour hot water over the grounds and produce a fresh cup of coffee.
It’s preferred among coffee enthusiasts because it allows you to control factors such as taste and strength better than other brewing methods.
After you try it for yourself you’ll definitely be wondering where this method has been all of your coffee drinking life!
In simple terms: you create this style of coffee by drizzling water through grounds a little at a time to extract the coffee from the beans, and it’s all collected by your cup or carafe.
Deceptively simple – but fear not – you are about to learn everything you need to know in order to pull off your pour over without a hitch. Now, Dr. Frankenstein – on to the lab!
Your Grinder: The Secret Ingredient
By now you know that I’ve taken you under by coffee-making wing. You are my protégés, my coffee confidants – and because of that, you already know exactly why a grinder is so damn important. If you don’t you shouldn’t be embarrassed, just remember this: Your coffee grinder is your secret weapon. *cue James Bond music*
The reason we, as coffee geeks (or drips – ha!), go through all of this is for one thing: Taste.
You take the time to pick the right beans and research the process, so you need to take the time to choose the right kind of grinder, but that is even more important when it comes to hand filter coffee.
As with ALL type of coffee brewing, your grind is going to be very important because it impacts the timing. Remember, this is a process and any part of with a hiccup will impact the end product. You have to be able to control the grind in order to control the timing.
A coarse grind will produce larger coffee granules, and that causes the water to flow over the granules at a faster rate.
The opposite is true of a finer grind, since the granules are much smaller and will stop the water from easily flowing over them and extracting the flavor.
For Great #Pourovercoffee, Adopt the Goldilocks approach to Grinding: not too coarse, not too fine, but just right.
Being off just a little will either over-extract the coffee or under-extract it.
You need to find the best burr grinder you can, and you can take your coffee game up a notch by going for a conical burr grinder instead of a flat one.
The reason this is important is because a burr grinder creates grounds that are uniform in size - and remember what I just said about controlling the grind?
Burr grinders give you a better product, and conical burr grinders give you even more control over the grind through speed settings than flat burr grinders.
If you really want to step your game up and beef up those biceps at the same time (or, take your grinder with you wherever you go) you can try one of my favorite hand burr grinders as well.
If you really want to understand grinding (you should) and you want a handy grind size chart - take a squiz at our coffee grind size chart here.
These are great to travel with, are a bit more affordable and show your commitment to one damn fine cup of coffee:
Now that you know you can make all of your coffee grinding dreams come true with a burr grinder, let’s talk brewing tips.
And turn off that James Bond music, we don’t need it anymore.
OK Dr. Frankenstein, put on that protective eyewear and gloves because we are going to make it come ALIVE!
As a coffee connoisseur and soon-to-be pour over expert, here are are 4 critical brewing tips that will take you from pour over egg (aka newbie) to pour over pro:
No pressure here, but the temperature of the water is pretty dang important. You may want to use a thermometer until you get the hang of it.
The optimum temperature for pour over coffee water is 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can find it’s easy to achieve this by bringing your water to a boil and then letting it sit for about 30 seconds to minute. Here’s a rough guide to how you can achieve certain water temps using the boil-and-wait method:
As with nearly every aspect of this coffee making method you will learn to know when your water is at the right temperature without a thermometer eventually.
If you want to bring a little technology into the process, you can easily try a smart kettle. These kettles will bring the water to a certain temperature and keep it there until you’re ready to use it in your gooseneck kettle.
I recommend the Breville Variable-Temperature 1.8 Liter Kettle. It will keep your water at temperature for up to 20 minutes and is super easy to use.
NOTE: I recommend using a temperature control kettle for just that....the temperature. For pouring, using a gooseneck kettle like one of these will help you control water flow, and hence, the brew.
#2 - Rinsing Your Paper Filter
I’m not looking to rain on your arteisan coffee parade, but one thing you have to do in order to ensure the best kind of coffee is rinse that paper filter.
This is an important step to remember lest you end up with coffee that has a hint of paper in the final product.
Get rid of the paper taste by rinsing the filter.
To do rinse correctly, you simply need to place the brewer in the dripper and then pour water around it in a circle (making sure to get up the sides) for about five seconds to rinse the filter, then discard the water in the cup or carafe that ran through it.
This will make a much better tasting cup of coffee with the added bonus of helping your filter stick to the sides of your dripper.
#3 - Wetting/Blooming
You’ll notice in most good pour over brew guide's the concept of wetting, or blooming. Buckle up everyone, because it’s science time!
A by product of grinding those lovely coffee beans is the buildup in the grinds of carbon dioxide.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the carbon dioxide won’t allow the water to penetrate the grinds fully unless it is released first. You release the carbon dioxide by wetting the coffee.
As part of any good coffee making process you will pour enough water into your grounds to wet them, then you’ll watch them bloom – this is when they release carbon dioxide. Do this by:
- Adding just the right amount of water to get all the grounds wet.
- Stopping for about 30 seconds so you can let the carbon dioxide escape.
- Watch the grounds expand and swell with the water – it’s blooming!
At this point, the grounds also happen to release a really wonderful smell, so go ahead and take advantage of this in the wetting/blooming stage of brewing your coffee. You deserve it.
Don’t just take my word for it - check it out here for yourself:
#4 - The Importance of Consistency
OK, listen very carefully - One of the most important things you can do in this process is practice consistency.
Not only will it help you to correct any mistakes you make along the way because hey – you’re only human; it will also allow you to experiment when you get the basics down.
So, for the love of all that is coffee, practice good consistency with these tips:
- Use a good quality scale that is concise.
- Use a quality burr grinder.
- Follow the brewing guide 'to the T' in order to get a glorious final product. Believe me; you’ll only thank me later for this pearl of wisdom.
- If you really want to nail it - record everything in the beginning.
For example - lets say you create a really really good brew. Record how you did it: Maybe you used 'X' amount of coffee, your water was 'X' degrees in temperature, and you spent 'X' minutes pouring; Write it down in a notebook, and slightly change variables to get different results!
How to Choose the Right Pour Over Brewer
Choosing a brewer is like choosing a spouse – you have to make sure it’s the right one so you can navigate the trials and tribulations of the pour over journey together.
We’ve rated the best pour over style coffee makers here, however, to make sure you get the right brewer you’re going to need to ponder over the following:
#1 - Portability
First, you have to think about portability. Do you want a brewer that is able to travel with you? Or is this primarily something you’re going to use in your home?
Portability is usually on the radar of any coffee fanatic, because if you can fine tune this process to make just the right cup of coffee to fit your tastes then you’re going to want to take it with you wherever you go. And you know what? That’s pretty damn brilliant of you if I do say so myself.
I’ve created a rating system for portability on the chart below. It’s on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being if your house was on fire and you had to save one thing, this could easily be taken with you.
1 indicates you should leave it behind. Everything in between you can figure out.
#2 - Serving Size
Another question to consider is how much coffee you drink in one day.
If you’re OK brewing it a cup at a time – and it takes about 4 minutes tops for a pour over – then you can go for a few of the models I like, such as the Hario V60.
If you want to brew a lot of coffee at once you’re going to want to buy something with a larger carafe, such as the Chemex.
#3 - Technique
OK, let’s talk technique. Each pour over brewers process is going to be just a wee bit different.
The basic idea is the same but the timing, the required grinder, the required accessories and the pour over process varies.
Some brewers are easy – just throw in your grinds and water, and wait. In contrast to this, some are a little more involved – requiring accessories, timing and special steps.
Are you just here for a damn coffee? Or are you here to craft a perfect, tasty brew?
#4 - Accessories
Accessories are something else important to think about ahead of time. I’m not talking a nice pair of cufflinks or a posh hat; I’m talking about what you’re going to need in order to use your pour over brewer:
- Some brewing systems will require a carafe, others a cup.
- Some require paper filters, other cloth.
- Some require special paper filters, not just the standard filter.
- You may also need a special kettle to brew the water and pour it out at just the ideal flow rate - here are our favourite pour over kettles.
All of these accessories are a part of your investment, so keep in mind that different brewers will need different accessories and decide how much you are willing to accessories Bling, bling!
Pour Over Brewers
Would you look at that? Check out this handy-dandy table I’ve created just for you that highlights each type of brewer that I’ve found to be worth your time of exploring.
On a mobile or tablet? The table will be cut off - use the scroll bar at the bottom to view the cut off section!
2, 4 or 7 cups
Hario Filter, gooseneck kettle
Ceramic, glass, stainless steel
2 or 4 cups
Kalita filter, Gooseneck kettle
2 or 4 cups
Filters, Gooseneck Kettle
3,6,8 or 10 cups
Chemex Filters, Gooseneck Kettle
Medium to Coarse
Filters, Gooseneck Kettle
Glass, ceramic, plastic
Filter, Gooseneck Kettle
6,8 or 10 cups
Brewer, Gooseneck Kettle
Medium to fine
Cloth Filter, Gooseneck kettle
Now for a few highlights about the brewers in the table above.
The Hario V60
The Hario V60 is a handy little Japanese brewer which in simple terms is the gold standard of hand drip brewers.
It’s relatively inexpensive, available in a range of materials, and gives you plenty of control over your brew. Put your specialized filter in then follow the fairly meticulous brewing guide to get pour yourself a very clean and clear tasting cup of joe.
The v60’s unique design comes from its conical shape and its spiraled walls which funnel your coffee towards a large center hole where the magic (aka the drip) takes place. This whole process ensures the water is equally distributed over your grounds as you pour and hope for the best.
Another silly sounding yet important point are the Hario paper filters: compared to other coffee filters they are thin, but also a little more textured.
The V60’s design combined with the unique paper filters impact the rate at which water drips through the filter and ultimately the final product – which is a darn great cup of pour over.
The ‘Gold standard’ status of the V60 comes from the control it allows via overflow, timing and temperature of the water because let’s face facts - you’re going to screw up. And there’s no shame in that, because this is a skill you have to practice in order to perfect. The easier you can determine what went wrong, the easier it will be to fix - which this brewer makes easy.
The Kalita Wave
Another hot Japanese import, the Kalita Wave, differs from the Hario is in its design; It’s flat-bottomed (rather than conical) with three long holes, which makes for a much more even coffee extraction experience.
These design elements work together to give maximum coffee/water contact, and the specially designed paper filters fit the brewer like a glove; making for a fuller flavored coffee.
Where the Wave really differs from other drippers is in the process: you fill it up to the top and let the dripper control the flow of water itself. You then continue to top it off so that you’re not pouring water on the grounds, but pouring water on water, and that won’t disrupt the bed of coffee as it’s extracting.
What’s the point of it all? Quite simply – it makes for an easier pour with more control and therefore you’ll consistently get a great brew.
If you like slow coffee, but don’t have like the meticulous nature of the V60 – the Kalita wave is the man for the job.
The Bee House
The Bee House is yet another ceramic Japanese import with a lot to offer. It comes in two sizes, large and small, so If you don’t have a lot of room to spare in your kitchen the smaller size can be very handy.
A huge plus of this brewer (which the V60 and the Kalita Wave can’t offer) is the ability to use any old standard cone coffee filter with it. This is important because if (or rather: when) you run out of filters you can easily find them in a grocery.
Lets talk design: It’s wedged-shaped with vertical ridges along the bottom half of the dripper only and two drip holes at the bottom. The wedge-shaped nature of the Bee House means better heat retention more consistent contact between the grounds and the water. This results in an evenly extracted brew with very minimal effort – almost a fool proof pour over brewer.
The main selling point, however, is ease of use.
Forget fancy gooseneck kettles, forget strictly timed pours and processes – the Bee House delivers a great pour over brew without the hard work.
The Chemex is a classic all-in-one glass brewer that only requires your time and some medium coarse grounds.
It’s not exactly portable because of its size, but that’s also one of the highlights of this product since you can brew larger quantities of coffee in one go.
The Chemex Filter is like no other filter you’ve seen before, and it all adds to the magic. It’s the thickest filter you’ll come across, and for two reasons:
- It will keep the bitter oils out of the coffee for a much smoother cup.
- It prevents the water from flowing through the grounds too quickly – meaning you get the opportunity to taste the hidden flavors of the coffee (without the bitterness)
Fun fact about the Chemex: It’s part of the permanent design collection at the Museum of Modern Art. So, having it on your kitchen counter is not only functional but a statement too!
All in all, the Chemex delivers a very clean cup of coffee that is balanced and full of body. Perfect for large households, offices, or art snobs.
The Clever Dripper
The clever dripper is one of the best brewers you can buy if you’re just starting to experiment with pour over brewing. It’s easy to use, even easier to clean and delivers time and time again, regardless of your pour over skill.
The main difference from other pour over drippers is the Clever Drippers lid and a stopping mechanism that stops the coffee flow through until it has been placed on your cup. This allows you to customize your brew based on steeping time, rather than pouring skill.
Think of a French press: but without the silt or sediment. For around $20, my not-so-humble opinion is that you really can’t go wrong giving this one a try.
Melitta Ready Set Joe
Looking for a quick, easy and cheap way to make fancy coffee? Look no further than the Melitta read set joe. This bad boy takes the prize for being the most newbie-friendly brewer, and is the most inexpensive option on this list.
The simple nature of the Read Set Joe is its strong point – but it’s a double edged sword; there aren’t any special features to get excited about. You simply put in a filter, put in your grounds and pour the water all in one go. Easy? Yes. But can you control the final brew? No.
In summary; this un-pretentious dripper is (very) cheap, easy to use and highly portable – meaning it’s a great fit for anyone who likes to camp or travel without baggage. If you value a high quality pour over coffee however, you will be less than impressed.
Kone Filter Brewing System
The Kone is a sexy looking stainless steel filter that you use with your Chemex or Hario V60; meaning its really an accessory for those who prefer to be environmentally friendly coffee enthusiasts (because you don’t use disposable paper filters).
It’s a great way to balance your love of coffee with your love for the environment and, you know, breathing clean air and stuff.
Buy apart from saving the planet n’ shit, why would you use it?By allowing the natural oils from the coffee to seep into the cup, you add a dimension to your coffee that you’ve likely never experienced before. That benefit alone is worth giving it a shot!
As far as the Kone brewing system goes (which came after the filter) - It can serve as a brewer as well as a coffee server through a design that allows you to remove the brewer and use the pot as a server.
Walkure Pour Over Coffee Brewer
The Walkure brewer; it’s the Cadillac of pour over brewers.
Seriously, it looks like it was designed by an artist but still manages to be incredibly efficient and well designed.
Sure, it costs a bit more than your average pour over dripper, but you’ll find the added price is worth it because it’s easy to use, and delivers a very high quality brew thanks to its ability to evenly saturate your grounds with water. Oh, lets not forget – no paper filter needed – meaning one less thing for you to worry about!
Personally, I love the Walkure because it’s a true all-in-one system. Just add your freshly roasted coarse grounds and hot water; no carafe or filter needed.
The even saturation I mentioned earlier comes from the “dispersion plate” that allows the water to spread out and pour over the grounds evenly - ingenious - those Germans really know what they’re doing. First gummy bears, now the Walkure Pour Over Brewer. Danke
Woodneck Drip Pot
The Woodneck is a glass pot system from Japan that creates small quantities of effing high quality coffee. Apart from its very Japanese inspired design, what separates the walkure from the pack is the fact that you use a cloth filter for it. This produces heavy coffee with a lot of depth of flavor – all from a medium-fine grind.
Sounds expensive and hard to use, right?
Wrong – The Woodneck represents great value for money, and is surprisingly easy to use. It comes as a complete system with the mentioned cloth filter, the holder and the serving vessel – all in one. When it comes time to brew, just add your hot water and follow the simple instructions (below) and you’re good!
Pour Over Accessories
Everyone likes to accessorize, and coffee enthusiasts are no different! Of course, instead of a handsome hat or a bit of jewelry we just want all the things to help us brew the perfect cup of coffee.
If you’re really ready to try your hand at pure hand drip (and why shouldn’t you be?) then you’ll need a few extras to make the journey more enjoyable
Forget the measuring spoons, and forget the eye method of measuring – its time to get a scale. The ratio of coffee and water when combined with precise timing allows you to control the taste of the coffee, depending on how you’re feeling.
So, what should you look for in a scale? Well apart from the obvious point of being precise, consider:
- It’s size - If you travel a lot and plan on taking your brewing system with you, you’ll want a more compact scale. If the scale doesn’t fit into your life then it’ll just collect dust in the corner.
- It’s special features - Some scales have timers, some have funky backlit screens, and some have special touch-feel buttons. In the end, all you need is something accurate, so don’t get caught up in the hype of special yet useless features.
- Auto-off feature – Don’t overlook this one! NOT having an auto-off feature is a good thing – for pour over coffee because the process will take 4-8 minutes, depending on your brewer. You don’t want to be in the middle of a crucial step and have the timer shut off - trust me on this.
If you’re in the market for a scale now, check out our reviews of the best coffee scales here. I’d also recommend considering the following two options:
Two Scales That We Recommend
Made of tempered glass with touch sensitive controls (coffee grinds won’t get caught where they are not supposed to go) It’s also super thin, really accurate and affordable.
This one has a built-in timer, which kills two birds with one pour over stone. It’s very accurate and easy to use. Plus, it’s specially made for coffee making – win!
A Gooseneck Kettle
These are called “gooseneck” or “drip” kettles, and they help you to control the flow of the water being poured onto the grinds.
It’s the “pour” of the pour over method, so if you’re serious about pour over coffee, get one of these – which are the best gooseneck kettles around.
I’m serious - get one. You won’t be able to do what you need to do to control water flow without one.
A Serving Vessel
Most of the brewers we’re talking about will require a carafe of some kind or a cup for the smaller brewers. You’ll want to choose something ceramic or insulated so that it can hold onto the heat of the coffee, especially for larger batches.
Remember the Boy Scout motto when it comes life – be prepared.
When you have all the things you need ready and waiting, the process will become automatic and you’ll get more comfortable doing it as time goes on.
The world is your oyster. Or coffee bean. You know what I mean.
Our Most Loved Brew Guides
By this stage you’ve chosen a brewer and added a few vital accessories to your inventory. It’s time to get brewing! For each brewer below, we’ve found the best video brew guides that you could follow:
How to Brew with the Hario V60
I like this video because it’s thorough and it includes a few little known tricks/hacks that will help you go from good to great. Take note of the tip that tells you to make an indentation with your finger in the grounds and then begin your pour from it.
How to Brew with the Kalita Wave
Remember, pour over coffee is about timing and precise measurement. This video shows you every step of the brewing process with the Kalita Wave, down to the finest detail. It also has some fun music in the background, so learn how to brew and rock out at the same time.
How to Brew with the Bee House Dripper
To create the perfect cup of coffee with your Bee House dripper you should follow this brew guide:
This real time video gives you the exact same experience of making a Bee House Brew by watching a video – its in real time. Every step is covered in detail here, so you’ll know exactly what you need to do to achieve the perfect brew.
How to Brew with the Chemex
It’s all about timing with the Chemex:
As we mentioned early – the chemex filter is thicker than normal and it has to be folded just right – this is where many people screw up.
This video does a really great job of showing you how to fold the filter and set it in the Chemex to get the best result.
How to Brew with the Melitta Ready Set Joe
The Ready Set Joe is an outdoor enthusiast’s pour over coffee dream. Who says you can’t brew a great cup of coffee outdoors? This video shows you how to make a cup of pour over style coffee in the great outdoors and highlights the portability of this brewer.
How to Brew with the Kona Coffee Filter
This video shows you the finesse this filter requires and the complexity of the Kone method. Don’t get scared away though - if this guy can do it – so can you!
How to Brew with the Woodneck Drip Pot
This video does a great job in highlighting what separates this brewer from the rest: The cloth filter. I really like how he gives you some tips around the filter and then shows you the exact way to brew.
Pro Tip: The cloth filter requires a bit of extra care to keep it fresh. After you’re done brewing, you should dump the grounds out of it and scrub it under hot water from the tap. Don’t let it dry and place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again.
How to Brew with the Walkure Brewer
This video shows you all the ins and outs of the walkure brewer and the method you need to use with it. I like it because it explains the uniqueness of this brewer as well and gives you a blow-by-blow, or drip-by-drip, of the entire process from start to finish.
How to Brew with the Clever Dripper
This guy over at Elemental Coffee knows his brew, and he gives a great tutorial on the Clever dripper. Does this brewer live up to its name? I guess you’ll just have to watch to find out, huh?
Seriously, though, this video shows you the whole process in real time and the unique features of this brewer too. Check it out!
And that just about wraps it up for this beginners guide to pour over coffee. Once you master the basics as outlined above you’ll be able to start experimenting with new brewers and controlling your brew based on your mood!
Any tips we left out that you’d like to add? We’d love to hear about them - leave a comment below!