Just Brew It: Pour Over Demystified
I hear this question a lot: what’s so different about pour over, anyway? It seems like an awful lot of work for your coffee. Well, I can see how it would seem intimidating, and I can certainly relate to feeling impatient when it comes to my morning coffee—but pour over brewing does have a lot to offer in the way of flavor.
You’ll especially notice a difference if you’re buying quality beans. Have you ever seen the flavor notes on a bag of coffee—like chocolate or blueberry—and thought to yourself, "But, it doesn’t taste anything like that!" Well, specialty coffee beans need a specialty brewer—like pour over to bring out those flavor notes in the cup. My favorite pour over brew system is the Hario dripper, server and accompanying gooseneck kettle. They have a fun beehive shape and are a staple in most cafes.
How Do I make Pour Over?
Similar to espresso, pour over offers a lot of control over all the brewing variables, so you can really fine tune what ends up in your cup.
- To start, you’re going to want to heat up your water to just below boiling—ideally 200°. Pre-wet the filter to flush out any paper particles, and preheat your dripper and server. As with espresso, filtered water is recommended to remove any of the minerals found in tap water that might affect the taste in your cup.
- Grind your beans to a drip-coffee-level coarseness. 21 grams of coffee is a good place to start for an end result of about 300 grams at three minutes of brew time (this translates to about three cappuccino size cups of coffee). Of course, just like with espresso, you can play around with the grind size and dosage depending on the kind of roast you’re working with; preferred strength; or if you're finding the extraction too fast or too slow. The general rule of thumb being: water flowing too fast means the grind is too coarse, and water flowing too slow means the grind is too fine.
- After you pre-wet the filter, add the grinds and just enough water to cover them and give it a little stir. The water will bubble a little, referred to as "blooming." Wait until it stops before you start your actual pour. The key here is patience, the right tools, and proper technique. I recommend the gooseneck kettle for pour over, because it gives you the precision you need, whereas a wide-spout kettle will splatter and it will be difficult to control the pour. The idea here is to keep the grinds equally wet, creating a little dome as it’s extracting—try to keep that dome even throughout the brew.
- Start pouring in the middle and direct the pour in a circular motion until you reach the outside, wait for the bloom to recede for a few seconds and repeat until you hit three minutes. If you need a visual, check out this great video featuring our friends from Joe Bean Coffee Roasters.
Control is Key
Of course the downside is that this process takes longer than other coffees, but the great thing about a manual process like this is that you have a lot of control over the final product. You can experiment with the different variables to get a better understanding of how it changes the flavor. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the flavor notes you might notice.
Try it with an old favorite coffee bean and see if you can discern different flavor notes between a traditional drip brewer and the pour over method. If you want to try out a cup before striking out on your own, a lot of cafes offer pour over on their menu. It’s a great way to see the process up close and taste the difference. Or, if you’re feeling ready to step up your brew, check out the Hario and hop to it!