The Ultimate Guide to Pour Over Coffee
The first time I saw a bearded, man-bunned barista pouring water out of a funny kettle over a bed of coffee grounds in a cone-shaped device, I burst out laughing. To give that kind of attention and care to that single mug of coffee seemed ridiculous and overkill. Why didn’t they just use an auto coffee pot?
I couldn’t understand the meditative, calming motion of pouring water over coffee that first time I saw a coffee dripper. When I tasted some of the results myself, my skepticism began to erode away. Not two months later I was brewing coffee with my own pour over cone at home.
Pour over coffee brewing has a powerful way of drawing you in and creating a moment of peace, and this ultimate guide is meant to help you experience this. I have no doubt you’ll love the process once you give it a try.
What Is a Pour Over Coffee Maker?
Pour over coffee brewers come in many shapes and sizes, but the general idea is the same across the board: a cone-shaped device holds a filter (or is its own filter) and funnels the water down through the coffee bed toward a hole or series of holes at the bottom.
Here are some variations you’ll see among the pour over brewers of the world.
Stand Alone Or Attached
Some pour over devices are meant to be placed on top of mugs or carafes, but a few are built on top of a carafe to form a single device. We tend to like the first type because it allows us to place our pour over brewer on a single mug or a carafe, depending on our mood and brewing needs of the moment.
Glass, Steel, Ceramic
If you’re trying to decide which material you would like your pour over brewer to be, consider the following.
Glass is great to look at, but it’s not very durable. If you’re not careful, you’ll be vacuuming up small pieces. Ceramic can maintain temperature for a long time, but if you don’t preheat it for over a minute, it will still pull quite a bit of heat out of the brewing coffee, which could mess with the final results.
Stainless steel is exploding in popularity for pour over brewers right now. It’s thin, so it takes no time at all to heat up and stop absorbing heat from the coffee. It’s also extremely durable and can take a beating at home or on the road. Quality stainless steel is a buy-it-for-life material, which is why we chose it for our own pour over dripper.
Some pour over methods like the Hario V60 or Chemex have a large drainage hole at the bottom of the brewer, which does not restrict the flow of water. Other methods, including the Kalita Wave, Beehouse, and JavaPresse (that’s us) use multiple smaller holes to slow the flow.
These smaller, flow-restricting, holes produce coffee just as tasty as larger ones but are far more forgiving toward pouring motion and technique, and more user-friendly.
Our brewer’s draining holes are so small that they actually filter the coffee without the need of any paper or cloth. Most brewers require an additional filter, but ours is its own filter.
For the remainder of the guide, I’ll be covering pour over brewing from a stainless steel, multi-hole perspective (like our dripper). The principles discussed here will still apply to other materials and styles, however.
Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Pour Over
There are a bunch of reasons why pour over coffee brewing rocks, but there are some drawbacks as well. Let’s think through them.
Pour over devices don’t require any power, so they’re portable and won’t contribute towards an electricity bill.
Pour over brewers vary in size. Our brewer is designed to fit on top of almost any mug or carafe, but not so large that it’s impossible to take on your travels. I frequently bring my brewer with me on the road to enjoy the company of a familiar device and great coffee.
Let’s be honest, the idea of slowly pouring water over a bed of coffee for a minute or two isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but you may be surprised at how peaceful those moments are. You may love it.
Like I said at the beginning of the guide, I was once disturbed by the pour over process. All that work for one or two mugs of coffee seemed inefficient and snobbish, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It requires barely more effort than any other method, but the moment you spend hovering above your coffee is one of sensory bliss (so many aromas rise right to your face) and calm.
I challenge you to give pour over brewing a shot if you’re skeptical. I cannot count the number of people that have told me they love the process despite being opposed to it, to begin with.
The Brew (The Important Part)
Coffee can come out many different ways with pour over brewers, mainly due to different filter types and shapes. The pour over method gives you complete control over your brew, allowing you to customize a flavor profile that’s unique and true to you.
Paper filters soak up the coffee’s natural oils and keep them from you, resulting in a cup that is brighter with a higher acidity and less full-flavored. Some enjoy the light cup, but it’s those aromatic oils that we have to thank for most of those sweet, floral, and fruity flavors that are present in the best coffees.
A stainless steel filter allows most of the coffee oils to pass right on through to your mug, preserving those aromas and producing a creamier, smoother mouthfeel.
Depending on your preferences, we recommend trying both to see what you like. The benefit to using a stainless steel dripper is the ability to use paper filters as well! So if you’re using our own stainless steel brewer and would like to try out papers, you can use #4 filters on top of the existing cone and test things out.
Let's Find Out If This Method Is For You
- Are you ready to dive a little deeper into specialty coffee? This brewer is for you.
- Are you willing to learn a new (and rewarding) skill? This brewer is for you.
- Do you like the idea of having complete control over the flavor of your coffee? This brewer is for you.
- Do you enjoy a well rounded, flavorful cup of coffee? This brewer is for you.
- Do you enjoy a brighter, more acidic cup of coffee? This brewer will work wonders but use #4 filters on top.
- Do you want your coffee to be ready as soon as you’re awake? This brewer may not be for you, but you may want to rethink your morning routine.
- Are you always traveling? With no filters and a shatterproof frame, this brewer is perfect for you.
Pre-Steps and Thoughts
When coffee beans come out of the roaster they have about two weeks before the flavors begin to decay at a rapid pace. If you buy pre-ground coffee, those flavors will begin to decay within an hour of opening the bag as the aromatic oils evaporate. Yeah, it’s a sad thing.
Freshly roasted and ground coffee is the way to go if you want to experience the best that coffee has to offer. Once you get yourself a little burr grinder. you will never go back to pre-ground.
Coffee brewing is all about balance, and the amount of coffee grounds and water play an important role in finding that balance. Too much coffee and the water won’t be able to pull out enough yummy goodness. Too much water and the coffee grounds will give up way too much and give you a bitter cup.
For most people, coffee to water ratios between 1:14 and 1:18 work best. This means that for every 1 gram of coffee grounds, use 14 to 18 grams (or milliliters) of water.
The recipe I’ll show you in this guide uses 32g (6 tablespoons) of coffee and 544g of water, a 1:17 ratio.
If you know how much coffee you want to use but not how much water, take your coffee mass and multiply it by your ratio (32g coffee x 17 = 544g water). If you know how much water you want to use but not how much coffee, take your water mass and divide it by the ratio you’ll use (544 / 17 = 32).
For more information on ratios, check out this handy guide.
Use Delicious Water
If you wouldn’t enjoy drinking it on its own, you won’t enjoy it in coffee. Only use water that tastes great and doesn’t contain much or any flavor.
When it’s time to brew, use water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the range of temperatures that is used by most coffee lovers around the world!
Use a Consistent, Medium Grind
Fine grounds restrict flow because there’s little space between the grounds. This slows the draining of the water and extends the brewing time little by little. Coarse grounds have much more room between particles, so water flows between them more quickly.
With pour over brewing, you want to find that perfect balance between grind size and drain time. For our brewer, try out grind settings in the medium to medium-coarse realm. This grind size will work perfectly with almost all other pour over methods as well.
Don’t skimp on coffee grinding power. Consistent grounds extract at the same pace and brew evenly, but inconsistent grounds brew at different rates and don’t produce balanced cups of coffee. The most approachable way to get consistent coffee grounds is to use a burr grinder. While it will require some elbow grease, our own manual burr coffee grinder is cost effective and will give you the grind consistency you need for excellent coffee.
A Step-By-Step Guide
Assemble your ingredients and tools and you’re ready to brew some delicious coffee.
- Fresh Roasted Coffee
- JavaPresse Pour Over Coffee Dripper
- Tasty Hot Water
- Burr Coffee Grinder
- Kitchen Scale
Weigh out 32g of coffee (about 6 tablespoons) and grind it at a medium-coarse setting with a burr coffee grinder.
Place the brewer on top of a carafe that can hold at least 16oz of water (I use my french press), add the ground coffee, and tare the scale so it reads zero. Start a timer counting up.
Slowly pour 65g (65ml) of hot water over the coffee bed, saturating all the grounds evenly. This begins “the bloom”, a phase where carbon dioxide is released from the coffee.
After thirty seconds have passed, continue to pour hot water in slow circles. Start in the middle of the bed, and carefully make your way to the edge, then back to the center.
Pour this way over and over again until you reach a total water weight of 544g (or have used 544ml) at 1:45. Adjust your pouring speed to ensure that you hit the target time and weight.
When you finish pouring, give the coffee one to two minutes to drain into the carafe, then remove the filter and clean it out.
Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee!
Our pour over brewer is easy to use and hard to brew bad coffee with, but we all make mistakes. Here are some common problems and ways to solve them.
The Coffee Doesn’t Taste Right
Is the coffee dull and bitter? You’ve got a classic case of over extraction. Essentially, the coffee brewed too much. Your best option is to grind your coffee beans a little more coarsely so that the draining process doesn’t take as long.
It’s also possible that your brewer isn’t totally clean, and clogged filter holes are slowing the draining too quickly. In just a moment I’ll tell you how to make sure your brewer stays clean and usable for ages and ages.
Is the coffee acidic and sour? It is probably under extracted, and needs to brew a little more next time. You can pour your water a little slower next time (this often works), or you can grind the coffee to be a little more fine so that it takes longer to drain.
It can take a few brew cycles to really hit the sweet spot with these small adjustments, but the reward is perfectly balanced coffee and the satisfaction of success.
The Coffee Isn’t Draining
It’s likely that your coffee grounds are too fine and they’re starting to fit nicely in the holes of the filter. Give that guy a good cleaning and use a coarser grind setting next time.
For glass and ceramic brewers, toss the paper filter and the coffee grounds into the trash and wash carefully with warm water and soap.
Stainless steel pour over brewers really can be buy-it-for-life items if you take care of them. Here are a few steps you should follow religiously if you never want to spend more money on another brewer.
Dump And Wash
Shake the brewer over the garbage to dispel most of the coffee grounds, then give the device a quick wash with warm water and soap. If you see any resistant coffee grounds lodged into the filter holes, wipe or pluck them out with a brush.
Monthly Deep Clean
Quick cleaning sessions can still leave a bit of room for coffee oils to build up and plug the filter over time, so I suggest you use one of these methods on a monthly basis to keep your device in prime condition.
- Soak the filter for 4 hours or so in a mixture of soap, citric acid, and hydrogen peroxide. 2-3 tablespoons of acid and peroxide per 2 cups of warm water will work well. Wash well afterward and throw in the dishwasher.
- Boil the filter in a 1:13 white vinegar to water mixture and let it soak overnight, then throw it in the dishwasher for a cycle.
- Use a dedicated coffee cleaner such as Urnex Coffee Cleaning Powder. This incredible product targets coffee oils and grounds and works quickly.
- Mix 4-5 tablespoons of Oxiclean with hot water and soak the filter for 1 hour. Afterward, run it through the dishwasher.
You probably already have the ingredients you need for one or two of these methods, so the entire process shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes of setup.
Whenever I see a person brewing pour over coffee, I instantly have this connection with them. We were probably both skeptics at one point, but now we both understand what pour over coffee has to offer.
Standing over my coffee and actively brewing it with my pour over brewer is one of the ways I launch my day with focus and calm, and I’ll never go back to a regular coffee pot.
I’m confident you’ll love this style of brewing too. It’s more hands on than some other methods, but the reward of investing in something and having it turn out delicious cannot be beaten. Check out the JavaPresse Pour Over Dripper!
If you have any questions or comments about pour over coffee brewing, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below.
Chief Brewing Officer
JavaPresse Coffee Company