Pour Over Coffee Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Brewing the Perfect Pour Over Coffee (with pictures)

There has been much discussion recently about the best way to serve coffee, whether it be for specialty brews or with quick and easy methods. Your favorite cafe barista may excel in preparing the perfect cup of espresso, but where do you turn for a cup of joe that’s easy to make, and make well?

Enter pour over coffee. This method of preparing filtered drip beverages has been around for a long time but it hasn’t gathered very much attention until now. Emerging in its own right as a sophisticated and straightforward alternative to bulky coffee machines, pour overs are a popular option for making a delicious cup at home.

It can be especially easy and fun to make a pour over. But brewing a great pour over coffee requires a certain level of finesse. This step-by-step guide gives you everything you need for a perfect pour over.

What is Pour Over Coffee?

The technique of pouring hot water over coffee grounds on a filter has been around for a very long time. But it hasn’t been more than a century since Europeans and the world as a whole have embraced it. 

As specialty coffee machines gain in popularity–especially single-serving models–people are looking for a simpler, manual alternative to pressing a button and watching your morning cup fill. With the pour over technique, users pour hot water over coffee grounds and the drip goes through a filter directly into a cup. 

It’s a method run 100% by hand, which is why you may know it as hand brewing. However basic the technique may be, it takes some know-how to perfect it. Ideally, pour over coffee is crisp, clean, and effective in bringing out subtle flavors in high-quality beans.

There is a notable difference between pour over and drip coffee as a whole. Firstly, pour over is slower than a drip coffee maker. Pour over also requires users to control the flow of the fresh water while traditional dripper machines with a carafe and flat bottom make consistent pours automatically. 

This means that you’ll need to provide even water coverage on the beans and avoid “channeling”–which is what happens when the water doesn’t immerse all the grounds equally. A perfect pour over method pays off in the long run. You’ll release more aroma and taste in the grounds because you’re in control of the whole brewing process.

Is Pour Over Coffee Better than Other Options?

This question, like all matters of coffee tastes, is up for debate. In fact, you’re likely to get different answers depending on who you ask. There are some taste consistencies that most pour over coffees share in common though.

Pour over is preferred over drip when you’re working with a top-quality blend like a single-origin coffee. It’s natural to want to draw out all the flavor and scents locked into those special coffee brands. Pour over gives you the control to determine the water temperature and flow rate while automatic machines decide for you.

So coffee enthusiasts commonly reach for pour over when trying out new top-shelf blends. You can experiment with every variable in the coffee-making procedure. 

It takes longer on average to make a cup of pour over, but you’ll often be rewarded with a stronger-smelling, full-flavor beverage. Plus, there is something mesmerizing about making coffee with the bare essential tools and pour water by hand.

Which Equipment Do You Need for Pour Over Coffee?

Pour Over Coffee Equipment
Everything you need for a delicious pour over (brewer in the photo: Chemex)

Equipment

  • Water kettle
  • Coffee grinder
  • Pour over maker (Chemex, Hario V60,…)
  • Your favorite filter
  • Thermometer to measure water temperature
  • Scale
  • Timer

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Coffee beans (grind them yourself for best results)

Continuing the basic trend from above, there are only a couple of things you’ll need to make a great cup of pour over coffee. 

  • Water
  • A kettle
  • Coffee grounds of your choice
  • A favorite filter
  • Your pour over maker (my personal favorites: a Chemex or Hario V60)

Of course, there’s plenty of room to add extra stainless steel gadgets on the side to ensure a perfect pour over result. Many at-home coffee makers reach for a few other accessories like:

  • A burr coffee grinder to preparation coffee grinds
  • Kettles that specialize in a slow pour (like gooseneck kettles)
  • A thermometer to measure water temperature
  • A scale for grams of coffee measurement
  • A timer for precision drip times

Ultimately, pour over is a great way to reintroduce yourself to the basics of making good coffee. With a top-quality bean, filter, water kettle, and pour over maker, you’d be surprised at how well you can brew a drip cup by hand all on your own.

Step By Step Guide to Making A Pour Over Coffee

Now that we’ve gotten all the basics down, let’s dive into our ultimate guide for brewing pour over coffee. In the beginning, it’s common to make a manual mistake here and there. It’s part of the learning process! Once you get the hang of the technique, you’ll be serving cafe-level beverages to friends and family without batting an eyelid. Remember: it’s an art not a science.

Tip: at the bottom of this article you’ll find a downloadable/printable recipe card!

Step 1: Heat Water

One of the ways that good coffee drinkers end up with sub-par beverages is their water temperature. Water heat loss can render the flavor extraction process null and void.

The ideal water temperature for a pour over is boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit). A good way to ensure that your fresh water remains at temperature is to boil it then move it into a preheated kettle before brewing.

You’ll need about 20 fl oz (600g) of boiling water to prepare a cup of pour over. Unless you have a batch brewer, the majority of pour over makers limit you to one cup. Most single-serving coffee cups are 12 to 18 fl oz, but it’s better to make too much water than too little.

Pour Over Coffee Heat Water First
Heat water first

Step 2: Prepare And Rinse Your Filter

Next, place your filter of choice in the brewer and thoroughly rinse it with boiling water. This preliminary step is crucial to eliminating the paper filter taste.

Step 3: Measure And Grind Your Coffee

There are just as many different coffee makers as there are techniques for grinding coffee. Each person has their own favorite grind sizes, all the way up to a coarser grind. The perfect grind also depends on the type of filter you’re using. 

To figure out the best grind size, you can use our coffee grind size chart! (Bonus tip: to make sure you get a consistent grind, use a burr grinder, not a blade grinder.)

30 g of coffee beans is ideal for a single serving of pour over. It averages out to two scoops of coffee per cup. After a few go-rounds with your maker, you’ll probably develop a special combination to suit your tastes.

Pour Over Coffee Coffee Grounds
Grind your beans. For a Chemex brewer (with thicker filter), use a coarse grind.

Step 4: Bloom The Grounds

Place the grounds in the filter and prepare for the first pour. This step is called “blooming” the grounds because it opens up the grounds for deeper water penetration. Blooming ensures that certain gases and oils locked into the grounds are released and ready for brewing.

To bloom the grounds, cover them with boiling water and let them sit for half a minute. It’s important not to use too much water here. You’re not brewing yet. 

Step 5: Start Pouring

Once the hot water has saturated the grounds, it’s finally time to brew. Start slowly. Let the hot water climb up the pour over cone to the halfway mark. You’ll likely see the crusty brown coffee material created from the bloom start to dissolve.

Soon, a foamy layer will settle on the top of the coffee grounds. Once you see the foam rise, finish the pour. Keep pouring until the water level reaches the top ⅔ of the cone. Then, as the water filters through, top off the water level so that it remains high on the funnel. Try not to leave grounds un-brewed resting on the sides of the pour over maker. 

Some pour over experts swear by a special pouring technique. Generally, these techniques have to do with the way you apply the water to the filter basket. We recommend testing out your own coffee brewing methods. Here’s a common technique:

  • Start the first pour on the outer rim of the cone then spiral the water toward the center
  • Let the coffee drip for half a minute
  • Reverse: spiral out from the center to the edge in a circular motion
  • The goal is to encourage the grounds to stir themselves with the direction of the pour
  • Allow the coffee to drip for a minute (use a counter if the timing is difficult)
  • Finish up by pouring the remaining water in the cone, then let it filter for 30 seconds

The total brew time should be no longer than 2-3 minutes. Although that’s a longer brew time than many auto machines, you’ll find the whole process very relaxing.

Optional Step: Agitating the Grounds

Agitation is the term used for disturbing the coffee bed during brewing. Just by spiraling your pour, you’re already agitating the grounds for better saturation. 

However, when most pour over devices refer to agitation, they’re talking about the grounds left unbrewed in the cone. Odds are, you’ll leave some valuable grounds up on the edge of the filter, unsaturated. 

Simply pour a direct stream to the remaining grounds. You can also agitate brewed grounds by swirling and stirring the brew. This releases flavor and aids in aroma extraction.

Step 6: Remove Filter And Enjoy

The final step is dispatching with the filter. You’ll want to be alert for the moment when the coffee stream slows. 

As soon as the drip has almost come to a halt, remove the filter and get rid of the ground coffee. You’re trying to avoid over brewing the coffee at this stage. Removing the filter in time will guarantee that you get that fresh, bright flavor so famous with pour overs.

Now there’s nothing more to do than sit back and enjoy your manually-made coffee creation. It’s a wonderful feeling preparing a pour over mug for yourself or friends. You get the exhilarating feeling of making your beverage along with the pride in knowing you’ve perfected a special technique. Sit back and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions and Problems

Although we’re proud of our guide to preparing the best cups of coffee, there are lots of questions that beginner and expert brewers still have. No wonder: even though there are only half a dozen items necessary for a pour over, the number of variables is nearly infinite. 

Here are some of the most common questions and problems with pour overs that we’ve encountered.

Which Pouring Technique is Best?

If you ground the beans and boiled the water responsibly, there’s a good chance you’ll get a great recipe of pour over–regardless of pouring technique. But there are a few favorite methods too. 

Try pouring in a spiral rather than directly in the center of the filter. You’ll saturate more grounds as you agitate them. The Kalita Wave is especially good at making good pours.

We also recommend pouring with pauses (pulse pouring). Make three or four short pours (100-150 mg of water) split up with 30-second breaks to let the grounds resettle. Ultimately, it’s more satisfying to find your method than copying the pros. Making adjustments to your pouring technique is part of the fun.

What Water/Coffee Ratio is Best?

Many baristas and talented coffee brewers swear by a 1g:17g coffee to water ratio. This coffee ratio ensures that you extract a good amount of flavor without oversaturating the grounds. 

As you get more familiar with pour overs, experiment with slight variations on the ratio of coffee to the amount of water. Find that your coffee is too bitter and intense? Add more grams of water. Keep track of your favorite mixes so that you learn more easily over time which ratios work best.

Which Coffee Should I Use?

Pour overs are famous for their ability to bring out complex notes in high-quality blends. This is why we recommend using light roast profiles in most pour over makers. 

Lighter roasts generally contain a more nuanced set of aromas and flavors when compared to their robust medium or dark blends. Of course, pour overs work wonders on all flavor profiles. It’s simply that light roasts suit pour overs well due to their blooming and extraction properties.

Conclusion

Search no further than a pour over coffee maker for a no-nonsense way to brew single-serving coffee with class and style. It blends the elegance of a minimal design with the artistry of perfecting a manual technique. If you’re interested in the hands-on mastery aspect of coffee making, pour overs are a cheap and rewarding entry point to home brewing.

The Ultimate Guide to Brewing the Perfect Pour Over Coffee (with pictures)

Recipe by Lukas Van VyveCourse: Brewing Guides
Prep time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • Equipment
  • Water kettle

  • Coffee grinder

  • Pour over maker (Chemex, Hario V60,…)

  • Your favorite filter

  • Thermometer to measure water temperature

  • Scale

  • Timer

  • Ingredients
  • Water (12/18 fl oz for a single cup; heat a bit more water, though, so you can rinse your filter)

  • Ground coffee: about 30g for a single-serve cup of coffee (Grind them yourself for best results: here’s a coffee grind chart that can help you with finding the perfect coarseness)

Instructions

  • Heat the water to 195-200°F.
  • Place your filter of choice in the brewer and rinse with boiling water. This helps to eliminate paper filter taste
  • Measure and grind your coffee.Each person has their own favorite grind sizes, all the way up to a coarser grind. The perfect grind also depends on the type of filter you’re using.
  • To figure out the best grind size, you can use our [coffee grind size chart](https://emergentbrew.com/coffee-grind-chart/)
  • Bloom the grounds: add a small amount of hot water at first, just enough to cover the grounds. Then wait 20 seconds.
  • Start pouring water. Let the hot water climb up the pour over cone to the halfway mark. You’ll likely see the crusty brown coffee material created from the bloom start to dissolve. Keep pouring until the water level reaches the top ⅔ of the cone. Then, as the water filters through, top off the water level so that it remains high on the funnel. Try not to leave grounds un-brewed resting on the sides of the pour over maker.
    Total brew time should be about 2-3 minutes.
  • Optional: Stir the grounds to make sure you saturate all the grounds.
  • Remove the filter and enjoy your coffee!

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