If you love coffee (let’s face it, if you don’t then you’ve come to the wrong place!) then you’ll know the difference between a good and a bad cup of joe. We’ve all been there, when you order your favorite caffeinated beverage from the barista and they hand you something that resembles dirty dishwater.
Whether it’s bitter, burnt, weak, cold, or just downright unpleasant, the cause of a bad cup of coffee is usually always down to not understanding the brew method.
You can think you’re brewing coffee correctly but when it comes down to it, do you really know what it takes to make your morning java taste exceptional?
Let’s start with pour-over coffee. When I first heard the term (many moons ago) I imagined someone pouring coffee over… something? It was a confusing phrase and it wasn’t until I fully understood this brew process that I realized what a powerful thing knowledge can be. My coffee game has elevated from complete novice to budding barista and I want to help you to join me on this journey.
So what is pour-over coffee and what do I need to know to master it?
Pour-over coffee has nothing to do with the serving of the drink and everything to do with the brew method. It’s a way of brewing coffee that uses a filter sitting in a funnel-shaped holder. You add fresh coffee grounds to the filter and pour hot water over it.
That’s the basics covered but now let’s dive deeper and discover what’s lurking in the hidden depths of this brew method.
What Is Pour Over Coffee?
Pour-over is a coffee brewing method that takes fresh coffee grounds and hot water to brew coffee. The coffee is added to a filter that sits in a funnel-type holder. The task is then to pour water over the coffee and wait as the funnel directs the brewed coffee down into a mug or carafe. It’s a hands-on brewing process that gives you complete control of all the brew parameters but you don’t need to be a trained barista to master this method.
What Does it Taste Like?
Pour-over brews a cup of coffee that’s bolder and smoother than any other. The gentle brew process extracts the maximum flavor profile from the coffee and the paper filters remove all sediment, giving it a smooth texture. It’s a brew method that brings out the brightness of lighter roasts yet also brings out the sweetness of darker roast coffee beans. It’s similar to a drip coffee maker but enhances more of the coffee flavor profile.
Pour-Over Coffee Makers
A pour-over coffee maker is actually quite a versatile piece of kit. You can buy all-in-one devices that have the funnel and carafe joined. The Chemex is the classic example of this and is perfect for brewing larger volumes of coffee to share with family or friends.
You can also buy just the funnel piece to place above your own carafe or your favorite mug. These come in cone-shaped models that give you control over the brew time or dripper type ones that you pour all the water in and the outlet at the base controls the water flow for you. Examples of these kinds of coffee makers are the Hario V60 and the Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Brewer.
What Grind Size to Use
To make a perfect cup of coffee you always need to use coffee grinds that are the correct size. Similar to a drip machine, you need to use coffee that’s a medium-fine grind. Different kinds of coffee will require minor adjustments to the exact grind size but you can monitor this by the amount of time taken to brew coffee as well as the taste.
If the coffee brews very quickly and it’s thin and watery in taste then you may have used too coarse a grind setting. Try a finer grind next time until it tastes better. If the coffee brews slowly and it has a bitter taste then you likely need a coarser grind.
The grind size will also depend on the coffee filter used. A mesh filter will need a coarser grind whereas paper filters can handle a finer setting.
To get a really even and consistent grind you really need to use a burr coffee grinder. These allow you to set the grind setting very precisely and don’t run the risk of burning the coffee beans as a blade grinder can.
The Brew Ratio
The best tasting coffee is only possible if you use a good ratio of coffee to the amount of water you’re using. The coffee to water ratio is a bit of science and a bit of art where you can tweak it to suit your taste preferences.
An ideal place to start is with a 1:15 ratio so for every 1g of coffee use 15ml of water. For a 300ml cup of coffee, you need 20 grams of coffee. You can tweak this ratio if you find the coffee tastes too weak or too strong and you’ll end up with the best coffee every time.
Always use digital scales to measure out your coffee beans as scoops and spoons vary a lot in their final weight measurement.
Use Fresh, Whole Coffee Beans
Enjoying great coffee doesn’t have to involve daily visits to cafes or coffee shops. You may be surprised to learn that the real secret behind really good quality coffee is not down to expensive equipment, it’s simply the freshness of the coffee. Whole beans lock in all the delicious flavors and aromas and it starts to lose these as soon as it’s ground up.
By choosing whole coffee beans and only grinding the amount you wish to use for each batch of coffee, you end up with all those flavors that coffee lovers go mad for.
Another key thing to look out for is the freshness of the beans. You can see this by checking the roast date on the bag. Ideally, you want coffee that was roasted 1-2 weeks ago to allow the flavors to fully mature. If the coffee doesn’t have a roast date then be cautious.
Good coffee is only possible if it’s brewed using good quality water. Tap water often contains hard minerals that add bitter flavors to the coffee and also affects the extraction leading to a weak tasting, under-extracted, cup of java.
Using filtered water for making pour-over coffee makes better-tasting coffee overall. It’s a good rule of thumb for any coffee brewing method as limescale build-up can damage water pumps, especially in delicate coffee machines like espresso machines and drip coffee makers.
To brew great-tasting coffee you really need to use water that’s the perfect temperature. If it’s too cold the coffee will taste thin and under-extracted. Too hot and the coffee will taste burnt and bitter. You need to use water that’s heated to the perfect temperature range to get a cup of coffee that’s full of only the best flavors.
This ideal range is 195-205F or 90-96C. You can measure the water using a kettle with a built-in thermometer, a kitchen thermometer, or if you don’t have anything like this to hand then boil the kettle and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. This allows the water to cool to around this range and you don’t run the risk of burnt beans.
A well-designed kettle can have an enormous impact on your pour-over game. A kettle with a gooseneck spout gives a slow, precise pour without any turbulence. This stops the water from washing the coffee bed thin and gives you a chance to control the pour-over process with ease and allows you to evenly saturate the coffee as you pour.
These kettles come in stovetop options which are great for camping, caravan use, or just a nice accessory for your kitchen. The stovetop options are more durable as they have fewer components that can easily break.
They also come as electric kettles which often have handy features built-in like being able to heat the water to the perfect temperature and hold it there. Look for a kettle with a built in thermometer as this gives you the most versatility when using it.
Other Common Brew Methods
A french press is a popular coffee brew method that uses a total immersion technique to brew a bold and dark cup of joe. It has a stainless steel mesh plunger that separates the coffee from the grounds after a 4 minute brew time. It brews an intense, dark cup of coffee with a thick texture.
Cold brew is a slow, cold, immersion, brewing process. Coffee grounds are added to cold water and left to sit for 12 hours before the coffee is strained. It brews a smooth and sweet cup of coffee that’s very low in acidity. It can be enjoyed cold over ice or warm it up and enjoy it as hot coffee.
Also known as the stovetop espresso maker, the Moka pot is an Italian classic coffee maker. It brews espresso-like coffee on a stovetop using steam pressure. You add water to the lower chamber, add coffee to the filter basket and assemble the device. Place it over a heat source and the coffee with spurt up through a spout into the upper chamber.
The Moka pot brews a very dark and intense cup of coffee that’s similar to espresso but not as thick in texture. It can be enjoyed as is or add some steamed milk to make lattes, cappuccino, and other specialty coffee.
The Aeropress is a lightweight and portable way to brew coffee at home or on the go. It’s a large syringe-like device that uses a combination of immersion and pressure to brew espresso-like coffee. The coffee brews in the middle chamber of the device and is then forced through a filter paper by you pressing down on the plunger.
It brews a bold and sweet cup of coffee that’s smooth in texture. It’s has elements of the pour-over and the french press mixed together and makes a very satisfying cup of java.
Pour-over coffee is a simple yet satisfying way to brew coffee and makes a cup of java that’s rich, sweet, and smooth. It’s the perfect choice for any kind of coffee from light to dark roast and single-origins to blends. There are a few steps to learn but once you get these practiced you’ll never look back. I hope this post has helped you perfect your pour-over so you can enjoy fantastic coffee, every day.