The Pour Over Method
Many baristas and coffee lovers alike have fallen in love with the pour over method. It is a romanticized manual brew method that when executed properly, results in a fantastic cup. While many are mesmerized by baristas making pour overs at their local shop, I’ve found few make them at home, and for those that do, many are still struggling to dial it in. It’s time to give pour overs a shot and learn how to make that $5 drink you love so much in the convenience of your own home (for a fraction of the cost!). With minimal investment and just a bit of knowledge, you will be ready to rock and roll, upping your coffee game while impressing your friends and your palate.
What is a Pour Over?
Quite simply, pour over is a manual brew method that involves pouring hot water over ground coffee in a filter. As hot water is poured onto the coffee, it filters through and drips into the mug or carafe below. It’s quite a simple process but with so many variables, it’s important to know what you’re doing.
What Do I Need to Make a Coffee Shop Worthy Pour Over at Home?
a. Water Kettle – Choose one with a long thin spout that will give you ample control of your pour speed. There are a lot of choices here and I would do some research to identify what is best for your needs. Electric and stove top options both work well as long as you have a thermometer (built-in or external) to ensure you are brewing at the proper temperature.
b. Filter – The most important thing is to get a filter that is compatible with your device. If you are unsure, go online and look up the filter size you need. Once you determine the proper size, you can use either paper or cloth filters – it really comes down to personal preference.
c. Brewing device- this is the piece that will hold your coffee filter and grounds. Some popular and reasonably priced options include the V60, Kalita Wave, and Melitta.
d. Scale – This is a must to produce an exceptional pour over. A scale allows you to weigh your coffee and water to ensure the proper brew ratio and to make the process repeatable. Options range from $20-$200, and I recommend one with a built-in timer for convenience. If your scale doesn’t have a timer don’t worry, chances are your phone does.
What Coffee Should I Use?
It doesn’t matter how great your pour over technique is, if the beans ain’t right, neither is your coffee. There are several factors to consider when buying beans for pour over:
- Pour overs deliver excellent flavor nuances and aroma and therefore is a great brew method to showcase single origins. Since it’s an infusion method, extracting a lot of those coffee solubles, the cup offers a lot of clarity and is worthy of some of your most prized beans.
- Due to the resulting cup and ability to deliver clean and clear flavors, I recommend using light to medium roasts. Using this method, you taste all those unique and yummy attributes of the coffee and keep the roast from getting in the way.
- Use beans that were recently roasted. I recommend within six weeks of the roast date, but most importantly, grind your beans right before you brew. Stale pre-ground coffee is the enemy of a good pour over, so invest in a decent burr or conical grinder; it makes a world of difference.
- A good rule of thumb is to start with a medium grind (particle size similar to sand). If your cup is weak or sour, make it a bit finer. If your cup is bitter or burnt, go a bit courser. Play around with it, have some fun and you’ll quickly get to know how your coffee changes with the grind.
- Depending on the coffee, your water should be between 190-205 degrees. The sweet spot is usually somewhere in the middle, but each coffee is a little different. Use boiling water, and you will likely over-extract your beans and get some ugly notes in your cup. On the flip side, use a lower temperature and the coffee will be under-extracted, and you’ll be left wanting more.
Now, Tell Me How It’s Done
Here’s a good starting point for brewing a 12 oz cup! Once you have the hang of this, adjust your process accordingly based on your coffee and desired cup.
Begin by placing your freshly ground coffee (23 - 25g) in the filter and brew device, heat the water in your kettle to the desired temperature, and get your scale/timer ready. Now, follow these 4 simple steps.
- Bloom– This is the most exciting part of the process when water is first poured on the coffee grounds. CO2 is released and you get to watch as the coffee will grow and rise. To make the perfect bloom, pour about 60g of water over the beans (about 15 seconds) and then let the water filter through for 30 seconds before moving onto the second step.
- Spiral Pouring – Now that the coffee has bloomed, start pouring in the center of the grounds and move in a circular motion until you reach the edge and work back towards the center again. You should pour about 90g of water during this step, leaving you with a total of 150g. This should take around a minute.
- Repeat – As the water from step 2 filters through, reaching the surface of the grinds, begin to add another 100g of water in the same circular pattern. This will take about 20 seconds, and your total mass will finish at 250g.
- Finish Strong – When the third pour reaches the bottom of the filter, complete your final pour of 100g in the same pattern as before. You will reach your desired 350g (~12oz), and once the coffee is done flowing through, you are good to remove your cup and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor.