If you’ve recently been to a specialty coffee shop or really any fancy café these days, you’ll notice some coffee being brewed by pouring heated water from a kettle over some sort of equipment with a filter in it and the coffee cup underneath. This is a method called “Pour Over”. Aptly named, I know.
But why go through all the trouble? After all there are easier ways to brew coffee such as a French press, a Moka pot or even an automatic filter coffee machine. These methods are surely easier and one of the main reasons is that they require little input from the user in order to brew. This “Pour Over” method makes baristas look like they could ruin the brew if their hand slips from the way they concentrate.
The “Trouble” of the Matter
The reason for all that trouble is that some coffees such as single origin light roasts have a world of intricate flavours that can be experienced. And the “Pour Over” method is one of the best at bringing them out.
But have no fear, this method is one of those easy-to-learn, hard-to-master methods. That’s why baristas concentrate on their pouring technique. It’s all in order to achieve the highest quality brew this method can achieve. But anyone can do it. All it takes is the right equipment and some experimenting and tweaking. In this article we’ll give you all the basic knowledge to start “pouring over” some brews of your own.
Equipment for the “Pour Over”
Before we go into the actual technique used, let’s quickly go over the equipment you’ll need for the “Pour Over” method.
The main device you will use for this method is a dripper. At a glance it looks like a cup with a disc on the bottom. But it also has holes in the bottom so the coffee drips through. And the disc simply serves to place the dripper on top of the coffee cup or pot that will actually collect the brew. The dripper itself is used to hold the filter and the coffee grounds.
They each have different aspects to their design that impact the brew. But we won’t get into the details for this post.
Together with the dripper you’ll get filters to go with it, each model has their own type of filters so make sure to get the right ones. There are bleached and unbleached ones and even cloth filters. If you use paper filters make sure to run some water through them first so their papery taste is washed away.
The type of kettle you use could make or break your pour over brew. Because most kettles have a small spout at the top, the water tends to gush out at uneven rates. It’s hard to keep a steady flow of water going. So for this it’s better to use a gooseneck kettle. This type of kettle has a long spout coming from the bottom so the water pressure remains more or less constant and you can easily control the flow.
The scale is kind of optional but if you want to hone your brew recipe you’ll need it to measure your coffee and water. Knowing precisely how much of each you used and in what intervals you are pouring can take you a long way in terms of experimenting and eventually getting your perfect cup. It is worth investing into an electronic scale.
The Beans for the Job
The best coffee to use for a Pour Over is typically single origin so it contains beans from the same lot and therefore the same flavour profile. In order to get more sweet notes you want a light to medium roast. (link here)
On a quick note about grind size, you should aim for a medium-fine grind. Too fine and it could clump up and form channeling. More one that later. Too coarse and your coffee could turn out under-extracted and bitter. But again, the more you tweak with it the closer you’ll get to ideal. Additionally, using a burr grinder instead of a traditional blade grinder will get you the most even grind.
Finding the right Ratio
The last thing you need to know before we move on to pour over technique is how to get the coffee-to-water ratio right. The generally accepted ratio for a pour over is 1:17. 1g of coffee to 17g of water. If you don’t have a scale but you do have a measuring cup, that’s 17ml of water.
Read our article on caffeine content to get a grasp on coffee measurement and how much coffee to pour. A good amount for this technique is around 21 grams of grounds.
The first step to pouring over is perfecting the Bloom. Fresh coffee grounds release carbon dioxide when they come into contact with hot water. But the gases released repel water and tend to inhibit the infusion process. Once this degassing has happened, and the water filters down, then you can proceed with the rest of the water.
Pouring and Agitating
You should aim to pour a continuous flow of water while going over all of the grounds. Doing so while rotating the kettle neck in concentric circles helps with this.
Another technique worth throwing in is agitation. This is simply disturbance of the grounds by stirring of the grounds or swirling the brew. It can help break up clumps and saturate all the grounds evenly.