Manual brewing has become very popular in recent years. The pour-over method is an art that you can observe – and enjoy – in most specialty coffee shops. But why enjoy it only in coffee shops while with some gear, knowledge, and practice, you can be your own barista at home? Here’s a step by step guide on how to make a perfect pour-over coffee at home.
- What makes pour-over coffee special?
- Preparing your coffee
- The gear needed for pour-over
- Pour-over coffee brewing: step by step
- Step 1: Weighing the coffee and grinding it
- Step 2: Boiling the water
- Step 3: Wetting the filter
- Step 4: Letting the coffee bloom
- Step 5: Pouring
- Step 6: Cleaning
- Keeping records
The pour-over method has been around for centuries but has regained its popularity in the last decade or so and is now regularly practiced in many ‘third-wave’ coffee shops worldwide. It is one of the most popular manual brews and not too hard to replicate yourself at home.
We’ll go over what gear and skills you would need to replicate this in the comfort of your own home, focusing on the three key points in what makes a great pour-over;
- Selection of coffee beans
- Coffee gear needed for pour-over
- Step by step guide: how to brew a perfect pour-over
With a healthy dose of willingness to learn and experiment there is no reason not to enjoy great coffee at home.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in…
What makes pour-over coffee special?
The slow and manual brewing process of pouring hot water over coffee grounds accentuates flavors and allows the aromas.
Pour-over coffee is an infusion method and that helps to extract the coffee oils and fragrances slowly. It doesn’t saturate the water like with immersion methods like the French Press. Instead, the filter catches many oils and impurities, which results in a clear and ‘clean’ cup of coffee.
The difference between a pour-over coffee and a drip coffee
While the pour-over technique and a drip coffee machine may be similar, the result is definitely quite different.
The drip coffee machine’s water stream is more like a shower; many small streams or drops. This cools the water down before it hits the coffee, and because of that, less flavor and aroma is extracted. Also, a drip coffee machine usually doesn’t pour in a consistent flow, which negatively affects the taste due to an uneven brew.
With a manual pour-over, the water is poured onto the coffee faster and consistently. While losing less heat while flowing through the coffee grounds at a steady pace, it results in a more efficient brew, maximizing the aromas.
The art of a good-pour over
Making pour-over coffee may sound easy and while it’s not so hard once you get your technique down, it does take some practice.
One could argue that pouring water over coffee grounds isn’t that hard, and anyone could do it. That would be grossly over-simplifying it. Creating the perfect pour-over coffee does take some skill and practice.
That being said, it can definitely be learned so, read on!
Preparing your coffee
Of course, you can use any coffee to create a pour-over. The choice of coffee will (and should) mostly comes down to personal taste.
However, if you’re gonna go through the hassle of brewing yourself a good pour-over, you might as well put some effort into selecting the best tools and beans for the job. If you’re planning to really enjoy a steak, you’d prefer to choose the best quality available, right? The same goes for selecting the coffee beans.
The right choice in beans will significantly increase the reward after your hard work.
Here are a couple of things to consider when choosing your coffee but if you’re looking for a more detailed overview of bean characteristics, have a look at our post about selecting the right coffee beans and roasts or our top choices of coffee beans for pour-over.
Beans or grounds?
If we could give you one piece of advice only, it would be to always use coffee beans to grind yourself. The reason is simple. The benefit of grinding your own beans is to get the freshest cup possible. Self-grinding gives maximum control over the taste.
Pre-ground coffee is undoubtedly convenient. Although it does have a place in our coffee culture, it shouldn’t be used for anything other than regular drip coffee pots.
Fact is that once beans are ground, they go stale quite quickly due to exposure to oxygen. Even with best efforts and airtight packaging, most of the ground coffee you buy in supermarkets is already stale by the time it reaches your cup.
This is not to say that all ground coffee you can buy is worthless, and there are certainly good ones out there. However, if you want the best possible freshness, taste, and coffee aromas, there is only one choice; go beans!
Even if you do everything else right, using average ground coffee will almost always lead to a disappointing outcome. Any self-respecting Barista will agree that self-grinding your beans is the only way.
In case you don’t want to invest in a coffee grinder, but you’re lucky enough to live close to a coffee grinder, go and see what they have. Let them advise you and try a couple of different beans. They can usually grind small quantities for you to try out.
What roast type is best for pour over coffee?
The roast that you choose comes down to personal taste. Please have a look at this article on our site to learn more about the different roasts.
For pour-over coffee, we would advise a light to medium roast. Of course, you’re free to experiment with different roasts and see what you like.
We prefer beans roasted on the lighter end of the spectrum because the pour-over method extracts many aromas by nature. Using a darker roast could result in a too strong brew, which would overshadow subtle taste differences. Also, lightly roasted beans release the most acidic flavors during the pour-over brewing process, giving the coffee that enjoyable ‘bright’ taste.
The gear needed for pour-over
There isn’t a ton of gear that you need to make a good pour-over, but some are necessary, and to really go for the best results, some investment may be necessary on your part. As with anything, having the right tools makes the job easier, and in this case, your brew tastier.
When it comes to gear, coffee nerds like to go all out. You can certainly do this and it will, in most cases, contribute to a better result. However, there is some stuff that we consider absolutely essential and there is some gear that can be considered ‘nice to haves’.
As a minimum, we would advise you to make sure you have the following items:
- A good grinder, preferably a burr grinder,
- A gooseneck kettle (allowing you to slowly and precisely pour the water),
- A kitchen scale that can measure in grams.
- A brewer and filter
More on each of those below.
Nice to haves include;
- A thermometer
- A serving vessel (if you don’t have this, place the brewer/filter on a cup or carafe)
Among all the tools of a barista, the grinder is likely one of your most important assets. Regardless of what type of coffee you make, everything tastes better with freshly ground beans.
As a coffee enthusiast, we highly recommend you to get a grinder. Although there are many types of grinders available, at as many price points, there are basically only two types of grinders you should be aware of; blade grinders and burr grinders.
The blade grinder
The concept of a blade coffee grinder is pretty simple. It chops up the coffee beans in little pieces by using small chopping knives.
You can easily compare it to how a blender works. You put the beans in a chamber that contains a 2-pronged knife that spins when you push the button.
The problem with this is that the blade indiscriminately chops up anything it comes into contact with. The result of this is that you end up with pieces of coffee beans in all kinds of different sizes. As it grinds, the smaller pieces fall to the bottom where they’re hit by the knives again and get even smaller. The larger pieces often remain on top and are barely in contact with the blades.
The result is a grind that is not uniform in coarseness, often leading to a disappointing brew.
With blade grinders, you have no real control over the grind size of the coffee. As we’ve seen earlier, to really fine-tune the result, having control over every aspect of the brewing process is paramount.
Another downside to blade grinders is that the knives are usually not the best quality and will quickly turn dull. It is impossible to replace them most of the time, and you’ll need to get a new grinder.
Blade grinders are the cheapest option, though, and you can generally get one below 20 USD.
When making great coffee, everything depends on consistency and control. As is clear from the above, blade grinders give you neither of those two things when it comes to your grind. We would very much advise you to stay away from blade grinders and invest in a good burr grinder for maximum results.
The burr grinder
A burr grinder almost always the better option. As the name suggests, it consists of burrs, grinding the coffee beans uniformly a couple of beans at a time.
Burr grinders come either manually operated or electric.
The build quality of burr grinders is much better compared to the blade grinders. The burrs are usually made of ceramic or stainless steel and don’t really wear down over time. This is a much better choice than cheap blades.
With burr grinders, you can effortlessly control the size of your grind. By adjusting the space between the burrs, the beans will grind finer or more coarse. This gives you maximum control over the aromas, and it lets you experiment endlessly with different grinds.
No wonder burr grinders are the most popular piece of equipment for coffee-lovers. You will not regret getting a good burr grinder. Their price point is a bit higher compared to blade grinders, generally upwards of 50 USD.
The Sboly Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is one of the best sellers on Amazon.
To a beginner, weighing the coffee on a scale may seem a bit freakish and unnecessary. Usually, you would probably get a tablespoon and wing it.
However, scales are essential if you want to create a consistently good coffee. Knowing how much coffee and water you used in a good – or bad – brew allows you to replicate or improve the recipe.
I recommend a good and precise kitchen scale with a digital readout. Do make sure you get one that can measure in grams as this is more precise.
I’m using the Nicewell Food Scale myself and I’m quite happy with it. Of course, it’s a multi-purpose kitchen scale and can be used for other things besides measuring coffee as well.
Have you ever seen a real barista prepare a pour-over coffee? You will have noticed that almost always, they use a small (often) copper kettle with a gooseneck. Why?
As with everything, the quality of a cup of coffee depends on consistency. This also applies to the water. The copper helps to keep the water temperature consistent for longer. The gooseneck helps to get a consistent flow of water instead of a gush or a drip.
It’s up to you if you want to invest in a professional kettle. The quality of your brew will likely improve when using a pour-over kettle. On the other hand, you might get away with using a regular, electric, or stovetop kettle as well.
Whatever kettle you choose to use, remember to keep a thermometer handy when brewing. This is to keep an eye on the temperature. Some pour-over kettles come with a built-in thermometer—more on temperatures below.
I can definitely recommend the Barista Warrior Stainless Steel Pour-over Kettle. It has a built-in thermometer to help you make sure you pour at the exact right temperature.
There are many types of brewers, and those are worth having an article of their own. We will discuss the three most popular brewers or drippers.
Which brewer you end up using depends on personal preference. I have tested many different ones and have not noticed a difference in quality or taste.
Most popular for pour-overs are the following brewers.
Hario V60 drippers come in different forms, made of glass, ceramic, or plastic. They are intended to be placed on top of a generic cup or holder and use a paper filter. Some V60’s are sold as a kit, including a matching holder.
You can easily recognize a Chemex brewer by its iconic hourglass shape with a wooden collar. It’s arguably one of the best designs and practical in use at the same time.
The wooden collar provides a good grip and makes it easier to handle the hot glass. The glass consists of ‘laboratory glassware’. This avoids the absorption of odors or chemical components that may affect future brews.
A kone coffee filter is often a metal frame with a plastic or metal mesh that acts as a filter. It is reusable, and you will not need an additional paper filter for a cone dripper.
Personally, I prefer a paper filter since it is better at filtering out oils. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly solution, a kone filter could be the right choice.
Other popular drippers are the Beehouse, Kalita Wave, Walkure, Woodneck, or December Dripper.
Pour-over coffee filters
The filter is often the most overlooked and undervalued piece of equipment. That’s strange because it can have a large impact on the taste of your brew.
There are different sizes and types of filters, depending on what brewer you use. For example, the Chemex filters are heavier than others. They are designed to retain more of the oils during the brewing process.
There is also quite a bit of controversy over whether paper or cloth filters are preferable. The latter tends to affect flavorless and have a smaller environmental impact. When using paper filters, you can choose either bleached on unbleached.
Whatever filter you use, make sure it fits your brewer and does not impede the water flow. As mentioned, we need consistency, and that also goes for the water flow.
Pour-over coffee brewing: step by step
Now that we’ve prepared our coffee and gear, it’s finally time to get down to business and pour our first pour-over. The final preparation is making sure that all of your gear is put within arm’s reach. There is nothing more frustrating than having to search for something in the middle of your pour. This might break your flow and impact your brew’s quality.
Once you’re ready to go, follow the six steps below to perfection.
Step 1: Weighing the coffee and grinding it
Start by grinding about 25 grams of beans for a single cup (350 gr) of pour-over. Set your grinder to a medium-coarse grind for the best results.
The ideal grind size for pour-over coffee
The optimal grind size for pour-over coffee is a medium to coarse grind.
It’s important to get the grind size right because it has a big impact on your brew’s taste. Too coarse of a grind will make the coffee taste ‘thin’ and ‘watery’ whereas a grind that is too fine will make it bitter and almost ‘chemical’ in taste.
The sweet spot for pour-over is a coarseness similar to that of raw sugar. This gives the water enough surface area to extract maximum taste but prevents it from losing complex notes and become bitter.
If you don’t know what grind size is best for you, experiment a bit. Start with a relatively coarse grind and adjust towards a finer grind when needed.
How much coffee to grind for a single cup?
The recommended ratio of coffee versus water is between 1:15 to 1:17. Why is this? Simply because most of us agree that this ratio tastes best.
If, for example, your cup contains 350 grams (or ml) of contents, then you’ll use between 20.5 and 23.3 grams of coffee (350/17 = 20.5 gr and 350/15 = 23.3 gr of coffee).
Always grind a little more beans than you actually need because some of it will be left behind in the grinder.
If you don’t have scales, then use a tablespoon. One tablespoon is approximately 10 grams.
You can experiment with this ratio to find your personal sweet spot. It’s quite simple really, adding more coffee equals more flavor.
Step 2: Boiling the water
As with many things when brewing coffee, seemingly mundane components of the brewing process are subject to a lot of discussions among brewers and baristas. One of such topics is the water.
When you think of it, it’s not that surprising. Us mortals might get some water from the tap, but true coffee gods will use nothing but that best, and therefore, using (bottled) mineral water can be a consideration.
One cannot overstate the importance of water quality. You can surely experiment with this. Although some places have good quality tap water, I would not recommend it, especially if you happen to live in an area that has ‘hard’ water.
If you can, It’s best to use mineral water. Do not use distilled water.
The water temperature
There are many schools of thought out there when it comes to the water temperature for your pour-over coffee. It’s hard to pin down what is the best, and again, it could be down to personal preference.
The table below gives some references. The maximum extraction of taste from the coffee grounds happens at temperatures just below the water’s boiling point. For that reason, the consensus among brewers is that the ideal temperature for a pour-over is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90.5-96.0 degrees Celcius).
If you don’t have a thermometer, here’s a simple trick. Wait for the water to boil, then remove the kettle from heat and wait 30 seconds before brewing.
|The ideal temperature, according to most brewers||195°F – 205°F / 90.5°C – 96°C|
Regardless of what temperature you choose to brew at, consistency is crucial. Make sure your water doesn’t lose temperature too quickly while you pour. To get the best results, make sure you’re ready to pour as soon as the water boils, so make sure your setup is ready to go before the water reaches boiling point.
Step 3: Wetting the filter
Before adding the coffee grounds into the brewer, start by ‘wetting the filter’.
Gently pour the hot water over the filter so that it becomes wet allover. This helps to wash out any residue or impurities on the paper, which improves the taste of your brew.
Remove the water from your container or cup before continuing. Now add the coffee grounds into the filter and make sure you spread them out evenly spread in the brewer.
Step 4: Letting the coffee bloom
When you pour the first water on the dry grounds, you will notice that it ‘bubbles up’. This is referred to as ‘the bloom’. Bloom is caused by gasses, mainly carbon dioxide, being released from the coffee when it comes in contact with the water. The water makes the coffee expand (bloom), hence its name.
Getting rid of the CO2 is essential because it impacts the brewing process by repelling the water and preventing it from flowing through the coffee grounds naturally.
Gently pour about double the amount of coffee in water to let the coffee bloom. So, if you have 25 grams of coffee, pour about 50 grams of water in the first pour. Basically make sure that the grounds are just under water.
After the first pour, watch the bloom happen and wait about 30 to 45 seconds until it has ended.
Step 5: Pouring
The continuous pour
The correct way to make a pour-over is by adding a steady pour of water. Try to pour all the water at once in a steady flow while keeping the water amount in the brewer at the same level as shown in the clip below.
Pour in a steady spiral, starting in the center and going towards the outer edge and back again. Make sure to pour over the ripples of the filter. This helps avoid grounds getting stuck in the ripples where it may remove them from the rest of the extraction.
Pour as much water as is needed just to sink all of the grounds underwater and pour steadily to keep about the same level of water in the filter while the coffee drips into the holder.
Some people prefer multiple separate pours. You can try that out and see what you like best. For every pour, make sure you evenly pour in a way that consistently wets all of the coffee. After enough water has dripped through to expose the dried bed of grounds, pour additional water as needed.
If you need multiple pours, repeat this process until all the water has been poured. Usually, it takes 45-60 seconds in between pours. The duration depends on the filter, the grind size, and the amount of coffee used.
Step 6: Cleaning
The final step is probably the least sexy and interesting but an essential one. Any barista will tell you that taking care of your gear is important, not only to extend its life but also to maintain your coffee quality. Your tastebuds will be grateful.
There is no need to invest in special kinds of cleaners. Just give all the components a good rinse after usage and add regular dish soap when needed. The important thing is to remove all coffee residue, and lingering smells from your coffee equipment.
Make sure to clean your gear after each use, and if it’s the stuff that you don’t use often, clean it before use to clear out any dust or dirt that might interfere with your brew.
This might seem like something that coffee snobs would do and maybe a bit freakish, but it’s beneficial.
You’ve heard me say it several times by now; experiment, test, and try. Remember, every step in the brewing process is variable, giving you endless opportunities to experiment.
If you happen to have made an incredible brew, you will want to know how to replicate it. When having notes about the grind size, temperature, beans used, equipment used, etcetera is invaluable.
And there you have it. Your first self made pour-over! Enjoy!
If this is your first time making a pour-over, it will probably take some practice. Don’t give up and experiment with different beans, different grinds, tools, filters, and techniques.
Did it taste as good as you expected? We’d love to hear about your experience!
Want to know what the best beans for pour-over are?: Top 5 best beans for a pour-over
Or, check our article about the Moka pot if looking to make an excellent, vintage cup o’ java.
Happy Pouring, have fun!