Everyone has a different way of preparing their coffee in the morning. Whether it’s French press, Keurig, a trusty Mr. Coffee or Bonavita drip brewer, or a pour over method, we all have our own preferred routine to get us through our morning. Every method has its merits depending on what you want from your cup of coffee, whether that’s speed, ease of use, or superior taste. My personal favorite is the pour over method, specifically the V60 brewer produced by Hario, but this guide applies to most other brewers of the same size as well.
Pour over coffee is a manual drip-brew method. This means the coffee brews in a similar way to most automatic coffee pots with hot water being poured over the coffee grounds; however, instead of using a machine, we pour the water manually with a kettle. From a cost perspective, this could be significantly cheaper than a lot of machine brewers, while also giving you the ability to brew amazing, cafe quality coffee at home. To some, this comes with a downside of having to do extra work to get your coffee, but for me, brewing coffee is about as much as fun as drinking it. I really enjoy and appreciate the hands-on interaction that I get to experience when using a pour-over brewer.
What is it then that makes pour over coffee better in my mind? A lot of it comes down to personal preference of course, but what I find so great is the ability to adjust the flavor of your coffee by changing things like how much water you use or how long you let the coffee brew for. We can make a coffee taste either stronger and thicker or more open and delicate just based on how much water we use to brew our cup! In the same way, if a coffee tastes overly bitter and dry we can brew the coffee for less time to cut back on that astringency; if the coffee tastes tart or even weak we can brew the coffee for longer to pull more flavor out of the grounds and balance everything out. This is something that is tough to accomplish on automatic brewers, but with a pour over we have the chance to have our coffee exactly how we want it.
Brewing coffee using a pour over can at first seem a little complicated. I helps to think of it as simply measuring how much ground coffee you’re using, and then pouring an appropriate amount of water over the grounds in a particular amount of time. In order to make this easily repeatable, I like to use a digital scale and a timer so I can see how fast I’m pouring the water, while making sure I do it in the same amount of time, every time. Let’s assume we have a scale and timer handy as this makes things much easier in the long run and involves less guesswork.
Setting up and brewing your pour over
First off, we need to get some water heating up. While the kettle is going, we can prep our brewer with a filter and a mug underneath to catch the coffee. Measure out however much coffee as you want (for a normal small cup of coffee I like to use about 20 grams) and then grind it at a medium-fine grind. Too coarse and the coffee could taste weak while if it’s too fine the coffee might end up tasting too bitter and thick. Feel free to play with grind size if you have a grinder and see what works best for you, but I like to recommend a grind size that roughly resembles table salt. If you’re getting your coffee ground when you buy it, let your barista know you’re going to be using it for pour-over and we’ll get the right grind for you. A final optional step to getting all prepped is rinsing out the paper filter with plain hot water before adding the coffee. This can help reduce any papery smell or taste in the coffee and while it’s not entirely necessary I think it improves the flavor in the end.
Now that our water is hot and our coffee is ground, we are ready to go. Place the entire brewing setup over your scale and then add your ground coffee into the filter. Tare the scale and when you start pouring be sure to start your timer as well. Now the pour itself consists of two main sections. First we simply wet the grounds with a small amount of water to let the coffee “bloom” or expand and bubble for about 30 seconds. When the coffee is blooming it’s releasing a lot of carbon dioxide from the roasting process. Fresher roasted coffee will bloom more than older coffee, but either way we want to let the coffee off-gas before continuing our pour, as the gases can affect the way that the coffee brews. The second part of the pour is where we add the remainder of the water and then wait for it all to drip through the filter into our mug.
The easiest way to know how much water you need is to multiply however many grams of coffee you’re using by 15 or 16 (based on preference for strength- 15 for stronger, 16 for less) and then using that many grams of water. Say you’re using 20 grams of coffee, then you could use about 300 or 320 grams of water to have a delicious cup.
Once we’ve finished “blooming” the coffee we begin pouring very slowly in order to reach our target volume (300g-320g) in about two and a half minutes. Once we’re done pouring, we simply wait for the rest of the coffee to drain (ideally around three and a half minutes) and then we can remove the brewer, shut off our scale and timer, and enjoy!
Enjoying your pour over
Overall, the process usually takes about five minutes (not including boiling the water) and once you’ve done it a few times you hardly even have to think about it. Over time, you may find that you prefer an even stronger cup of coffee and decide to use less water (by multiplying the amount of ground coffee by 14, instead of 15 or 16), or you prefer more delicate flavors so you decide to use more water (by multiplying the amount of ground coffee by 16.5 or 17 instead). You can also experiment with brewing for shorter times or longer times by just pouring faster or slower. What’s so great to me about pour over coffee is that the more you do it, the more you find ways to improve the taste of your coffee, specific to your own palette.
I find many people try to complicate pour over coffee into something that has to be done exactly right to someone else’s exact parameters, but the best part about pour over coffee is how modular it is and how you can perfect your own method that gives you the taste that you’re looking for. It simply comes down to measuring how much coffee you’re using and finding how much water to use based on the desired strength of your coffee (roughly 14-17 times the amount of coffee; more water for less strength, less water for more strength) and then pouring all of that water in roughly two and a half minutes and then letting it drain into your mug.
Pour over is definitely my personal favorite brewing method. If you haven’t tried doing it before I highly recommend giving it a shot. Come by the shop sometime and feel free to pick up any brewing equipment you may need, and if you ever have questions regarding pour over, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help you out.
Daniel Davis has been working in specialty coffee since 2015, recently joining the Roastology team as both a barista and trainer. Their passion for coffee started years prior, making coffee at home for friends and family, and it continues to thrive and grow even today.