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How To Pick The Perfect Pour Over Coffee Brewer
Written by: Garrett Oden
I remember entering the world of pour over coffee for the first time. Before this style of brewing, I only had a french press, and since most french presses are more or less the same, that wasn’t a difficult buying decision. But pour over brewers are different.
There are so many to choose from, and there’s actually a lot of variation among them. Some are easy to use, others are more difficult. Some are great for traveling, others are better kept at home. Some brew light and bright coffee, others produce a full-bodied cup.
Don’t worry, I’ll help you work through some of the big things you need to think about. By the end of this article, you’ll know what you want in a pour over brewer and what you don’t. And from there, buying your first cone will be a breeze.
How Much Coffee Do You Want To Brew?
Here’s an easy way to knock out a whole bunch of brew possibilities and slim down the list. How much coffee do you want to be able to make? One cup, three, four?
Many pour over cones come in two sizes: a small and a large version. The smaller cones are typically designed to brew just one cup at a time. They’re a little less expensive and more compact, but they limit you.
If there’s any chance you think you may want to brew two or three cups with only one brewing session, I would go ahead and get a larger brewer. This already knocks out brewers like the Small Clever Dripper, Hario V60 01, and Chemex 3-Cup (which actually just brews 1-cup).
Paper, Metal, And Cloth Filters
Here’s where I really think the big decision is.
Almost more than anything, this is what you need to think about the filter type of your brewer matters dramatically. It changes the brewing process, affects the flavor, and will impact your daily coffee routine for months or years down the road.
Now, most pour over cones can actually be used with multiple filter types, but most are still designed to thrive with a single specific type.
Let’s take a deeper look into these filters.
Basically on the opposite end of the spectrum from paper filters, metal filters are waste-free and produce a bold, full-flavored cup. These filters are designed to last for years or even decades, typically made of stainless steel.
Instead of tossing them in the trash after each brew, you simply rinse the coffee grounds out, let them dry, and then eventually give them a deeper clean every now and then. They produce zero paper waste, but they’re not as convenient as paper filters.
In terms of flavor, metal filters tend to let the coffee’s natural oils through, as well as a small amount of micro-grounds. The oils are extremely aromatic and add a vibrancy to the final cup. The micro-grounds bond to the acids to make the coffee seem less tangy, but more flavorful and bold.
The most popular metal filter brewer, the french press, is beloved around the world for its ability to brew rich, bold coffee. However, our own JavaPresse Dripper makes a similarly rich cup of coffee (with less grit), even though it’s a pour over cone.
The classic paper coffee filter is fairly easy to use. You put it into the cone, give it a quick rinse, and brew. Once finished, you simply plop the filter into your trash can. This level of convenience is beloved by many, but it does tend to generate a bunch of paper waste that ends up in landfills over the years.
If you’re someone who wants to explore the riches of pour over coffee but has very little time to do so, paper filters may provide the cleanup speed you need. However, if the idea of creating paper waste every morning isn’t appealing, paper filters may not be a great fit for you.
Let’s talk about flavor.
Paper filters catch most or all of the micro coffee grounds and tend to soak up the natural coffee oils. This usually leads to coffee with a clean body, a crisp acidity (acids stick out more without micro-grounds), and a high degree of flavor clarity. Most people enjoy this smooth, bright style of coffee, but it’s not everyone’s favorite.
The Hario V60, for example, is beloved by professionals for its ability to make coffee that’s bright, tangy, and crisp.
Somewhere in-between paper and metal filters are cloth filters. They produce a medium-bodied cup and produce far less waste than paper filters.
Each brewing session leaves behind a small amount of flavor in the cloth, which eventually, a few dozen brews later, builds up and becomes noticeable. So, while cloth filters certainly reduce your paper waste, they’re not buy-it-for-life products like metal filters can be.
When it comes to the coffee flavor, cloth filters can facilitate an interesting experience. Most coffee lovers can understand the difference between a bold french press brew and a crisp Chemex coffee, but not many have experienced coffee from cloth filters.
You see, cloth filters don’t let any coffee grounds through, not even microscopic ones normally. However, they usually let a large portion of the aromatic oils through to your final mug. So, instead of a clean or bold mouthfeel, you get a smooth—sometimes even juicy—body. And since there are no micro-grounds to tone down the acidity, your final mug is crisp, bright, and very aromatic.
Interested in taking your pour over cone on your travels?
To be honest with you, we generally believe that there’s another brewer more well-suited for travel brewing. But, if you really want to brew on-the-go pour over style, here are a few suggestions:
- Pick a metal brewer for its durability
- Pick a metal filter for its durability (and to keep from having to transport filters)
Great pour over coffee while traveling can be had, but most cones aren’t really designed to thrive on the road.
Design Features To Consider
Let’s walk through some of the last few things you need to consider. These things are less important than what we’ve talked about overall, but they still may contribute heavily to your decision.
- Double Walled — Insulated cones maintain heat better than single wall cones, which can encourage a more balanced flavor. However, this usually comes with added weight, a potentially more breakable material (like thin glass), and a less compact design.
- Built-In Carafe — Brewers like the Chemex are designed to drain your brew directly into the built-in carafe. It’s visually stunning, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to brew directly into a mug or some other server instead.
- Brewer Material — Ceramic, glass, and stainless steel are the most common brewer materials. All three have a very similar capacity to maintain heat, and really most people wouldn’t notice the difference. However, they do look very different and have varying levels of durability, with stainless steel being the least breakable option.
- Hole Frequency And Size — The more large holes a brewer has, the faster the water will drain. Typically, faster draining correlates with more difficulty, like with the Hario V60. Slower draining devices, like the JavaPresse dripper or Kalita Wave, tend to be a little more forgiving.
Well, that’s just about everything you may consider when it comes to choosing a pour over cone. It’s a lot to take in, but hopefully this has given you some clarity towards your decision, lifestyle, and taste preferences.
But before you go, allow me to introduce a brewer of our own research and design.
Meet The JavaPresse Pour Over Dripper
We created this stainless steel, self-filtering brewer because we wanted to make rich, balanced coffee accessible. It’s not only easy to use, but it’s eco-friendly, requiring the creation of zero paper waste.
The final cup lacks the grit that you may find in french press coffee, but it has a similar boldness, well-roundedness, and vibrancy.To see if the JavaPresse Pour Over Dripper is potentially a great fit for you, here’s where you can learn more about it.