Pour-over coffee has been welcomed by the specialty coffee scene in recent years. There's been a lot of back-and-forth regarding the technique, devices, and what coffee to use.
At its core, the pour-over is a straightforward way to make a delicious cup of coffee. Whether you’re a new home brewer or a seasoned expert, drip coffee can work for you. Take a look at this complete guide to brewing a pour-over coffee.
The pour-over technique involves pouring hot water through coffee grounds in a filter. The water drains through the coffee and filters into a carafe or mug. Pour-over is also known as filter coffee or drip coffee. What makes a pour-over different is that it is made by hand-pouring the water over the coffee. Also known has "hand brewing".
Used in Europe since the 1900s and elsewhere for much longer, but, mostly recently “rediscovered” by the specialty coffee shops.
Pour-over spotlights complex flavors when compared to other brewing methods. This makes it a popular choice for single-origin coffees since it allows the flavors and aromas to shine.
Good pour-over coffee is clean, straightforward, and consistent. This is because the water is allowed to extract coffee oils and fragrances at its own consistent time and pressure.
Because a pour-over is an infusion method, it is more efficient at extracting coffee solubles than immersion techniques such as the French press. Immersion methods cause the water to become saturated, whereas pour-overs use a constant supply of fresh water.
But pour-over coffee has some challenges. Manual methods are victim to human error and bad pouring techniques.
For example, all infusion methods (including espresso) run the risk of channeling, where a stream of water finds an easy route around the ground coffee. This happens when there are clumps of coffee or the grounds are unevenly distributed, and it means that some of the coffee doesn’t get extracted. Learning how to pour in a way that evenly absorbs the ground coffee in water is essential.
Because it is difficult to replicate a method precisely every time, some café owners and brewers prefer to use these machines bringing automation to the method. They have a more consistent results than a hand pour. At Belleair Coffee Company we are serious about our coffee and the experience we offer our customers. That's why we've decided to use the afore mentioned automated pour-over machine.
It may seem like there is an unending amount of options for pour-over equipment, but you don’t need to invest in all of them. Start with a simple device and some filters and then add more along the way.
The basic equipment you need to make a pour-over.
A brewing device or dripper is simply a piece of equipment that holds the coffee filter and grounds. Specific design features vary and can aid the flow and affect extraction.
They are widely available, simple to use, and have filters made specifically for their design. There are many online guides and hacks to using these devices so it’s easy to learn how to use them properly and adapt as needed. If you’re not sure where to start, try brews made in different devices in your local specialty coffee shop and ask the barista which they prefer and why.
Paper or cloth? Bleached or unbleached? You may assume that the filter is the least controversial part of brewing, but there is even some controversy here. Specific filters are designed to fit different devices and allow efficient extraction. The Chemex uses paper filters that are 20–30% heavier than other filters, which the manufacturers say contain more of the suspended oils during the brewing process.
Some argue that paper filters create an unpleasant papery taste, especially if they are bleached. To sidestep this, rinse your filter before using it. Cloth filters have been around for a long time and some people prefer them because they don’t affect flavor and have a smaller environmental impact than paper.
Just make sure they fit your device properly. Bunched-up paper or cloth will restrict water flow and trap coffee grounds, which will make your extraction less consistent.
You may not think scales are essential, but if you want to create a consistently good cup of coffee, they are. Invest in a digital scale and use it to measure your coffee and water. Understanding exactly how much of each you used in a good (or bad) brew can allow you to replicate the recipe or tweak it for even better results.
Like many things in specialty coffee, the important factor here is consistency. Kettles made specifically for pour-over are designed to keep water at a stable temperature. This helps you create consistent extraction. A long, thin gooseneck is designed to control the flow of water. Water tends to gush out of kettles with shorter spouts.
Whether you choose an electric, stove-top, or a batch water heater is up to you but look into the reviews of specific kettles and keep a thermometer handy to keep an eye on the temperature.
There are a few factors to consider when choosing your beans.
Because the pour-over method works well to highlight subtle flavor notes and aromas, you may want to choose a light roast. Beans that are roasted to this profile are the brightest, with the most acidic flavors.
Of course, you can go medium or even dark if you prefer, but this brewing method is complementary to subtle flavors.
The size of your grounds affects the rate of extraction. Pour-over is an infusion method, which means that the coffee and water are in contact for a shorter amount of time than in an immersion method, but longer than in espresso. So you want the coffee to have enough surface area to extract before the water filters through into the cup, but not so much that they under-extract and produce a bitter taste.
What this means is that you should start with a medium grind size and then assess your cup and tweak it as needed. If it’s a little watery or sour, try a finer grind. If it’s bitter and lacking sweet notes, try going a little coarser. Invest in a quality grinder to make sure your coffee particles are all ground to the same size.
You’ll see a lot of different suggested ratios out there, but 1:17 (1g of coffee to 17g of water) is a generally accepted good starting point. Make some brews with this measurement but adjust factors that affect extraction, such as grind size and water temperature, one at a time until you find a recipe that works for you.
Then, try changing the ratio of coffee to water. If your brew tastes watery or weak, add more coffee without changing other elements and assess whether it tastes better. If you find your cup too intense, consider reducing the amount of coffee. But remember to keep track of what you’re changing so you can duplicate your perfect brew when you find it.
And don’t forget about the water. Tap water can contain minerals and impurities that affect flavor, so use filtered water. Which Pouring Method Is Best?
Avoid watching too many videos on technique when you first start to brew with the pour-over method. It can quickly get overwhelming. Instead, start simple. Be consistent in how your pour and learn how to use blooming, pulse pouring, and agitation to achieve even extraction. Many people pour in concentric circles, which helps the barista maintain a consistent flow of water.
You can work your way up to more detailed methods or break all the rules when you’re more familiar with the basics.
The bloom is the quick bubbling up of water that happens when you first pour. It is caused by the degassing of carbon dioxide that is built up in the roasting process. Light roasts and fresh coffee are likely to produce a big bloom because they usually contain more gases.
Carbon dioxide can prevent even extraction because it repels water, and the disturbed grounds can sit at different heights. So let the gases escape and improve your chances of a consistent extraction.
Gently pour twice the measure of coffee in water over the grounds. So, if you have a 15 g dose of coffee, pour 30 ml of water. Then wait 30 to 45 seconds until the bloom has ended and the grounds have settled.
Pulse pouring & continuous pouring
Pulse pouring means using multiple pours of specific amounts of water. You can experiment with the volume of water and the number of pours. This technique help prevent channeling or grounds from rising up the side of the filter. It also gently disrupts the grinds, causing them to move about and creating more even contact with the water.
It’s an alternative to continuous pouring, which is when the barista pours the water at as constant of a flow rate as possible without stopping. Continuous pouring aims to keep the flow and saturation as even as possible, whereas pulse pouring is intentionally varied. You can use the pouring technique as another variable to consider when adapting your recipe. Different types of pours will have different effects on extraction and therefore have different impacts on your brew.
This is simply a mild disturbance of the coffee grounds during the brewing process. There are many ways to agitate coffee, including stirring or swirling the brew.
Agitation disperses grounds that can be left “high and dry” on the filter by channeling. It also breaks up any dry clumps inside the bed of coffee. By making sure all grounds are saturated, agitation aids even extraction.
Pour-over coffee can be a great way to make your daily cup and it doesn’t have to be complicated. By understanding these key topics, you’re well prepared to make a decent brew and have the tools to tweak it until it becomes a great one.