Perfect Your Pour: How to Make the Perfect Pour-Over Coffee at HomePublished on 05/31/2022 · 10 min readCoffee & Espresso Expert Hannah Ramsey offers a detailed, step-by-step guide to getting the perfectly flavored cup of coffee via the pour-over brewing method!
Photo by Kim Sanso
Among the many questions I get as a barista is ‘What is a pour over?’. The pour-over brewing method started with steps as simple as pouring hot water over coffee grounds to get a single cup of coffee. This method is also how most at-home automatic drip coffee makers work. Through much experimentation, coffee professionals have been given awards for finding techniques and equipment that create a better flavor in our cups. In just under five minutes, you too can make the perfect cup of pour-over coffee.
Why Pouring Is Better
Many coffee enthusiasts go the extra mile to source great coffee from an excellent national or local specialty roaster, and they want to get the most out of those expertly crafted beans. Taking a more personal approach while brewing extracts a sweeter, more developed, and more rewarding taste, rather than just dumping grounds into a basket, adding water, and pushing a button. Create a true at-home cafe experience and take your coffee game to the next level by investing a little time and gathering the proper instruments.
Step One: Preparation
Finding the Right Coffee for You
When looking for the best coffee to use, find something that fits your taste. There are many origins, blends, and roast profiles that can suit your palate. One of the easiest ways is to find your favorite locally roasted coffee, and supporting your neighborhood cafe is always highly recommended! Another great option is to check out the selections for a subscription box that sends coffee straight to your door so you can tailor what’s delivered based on your preferences.
You’ll also find that the roast date is important when looking at a bag of coffee. Once roasted, beans need to degas for a certain amount of time to properly extract the best potential flavors. Typically, a coffee will peak from around one week up to a couple of months after the roast date if kept sealed in an airtight container.
Fun fact: coffee is a lot like baking soda and will absorb smells and flavors when kept in a refrigerator.
Water, Water, Everywhere!
The other most important part of extraction is your water quality. Coffee will only be as good as the water that is used to brew it. A helpful term to know is Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). TDS refers to the amount of minerals, organic and inorganic, that can compromise your water and impact the pH of the water. A neutral pH value is between six and eight. Below six, coffee will end up too acidic or bitter and above eight, it will come out flat or basic and may taste under-extracted. Cafes often use a reverse-osmosis (RO) water filter to neutralize their water’s TDS and pH, as well as to accommodate their machines and prevent mineral build-up.
An RO filter is definitely a great investment if you have a full coffee bar at home with an espresso machine. RO filters are available at your local home improvement stores and in most cases, these systems are easy to install under a kitchen sink by watching a Youtube video. The Spruce has come up with a list of some of the best filters that fit different water sources, budgets, and household sizes. No matter what equipment you use for your at-home coffee bar, an excellent product choice to consider is Third Wave Water, which has taken the guesswork out of your water by creating a mineral supplement packet that contains the proper amount of magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Adding one packet of their classic profile mix into a gallon of distilled water optimizes the flavor profile of your brewed coffee.
Step Two: Tools
What You’ll Need Next
When it comes to equipment, there are a lot of options for brewers, grinders, scales, timers, and kettles to choose from. Investing in higher-quality instruments will offer you greater brew control and last longer in your home. But remember, if the recipe is followed incorrectly, it won't matter if you spend top dollar on your supplies. Here, we’ll break down a few of the items that have gained the highest popularity.
The Hario V60 brewer is a great choice to use for brewing into a mug for a single cup. Another fan favorite is the Chemex. The Chemex brewer is a glass vessel that is also a carafe, which offers various sizes, giving you the choice to double or triple the recipe when needed.
You will also have options for filters to use with your brewer of choice, including natural or bleached paper. A big difference between these two filter options is that the oxygen-bleached paper will carry less of the papery flavor through to your brew, whereas brown, unbleached natural paper might need a couple of rinses to remove that quality. Bonded paper filters from Chemex are thicker, removing more oils, and are therefore responsible for a brighter and cleaner taste with either bleached or unbleached options. Those who like a lighter body will opt for a paper filter because it will catch impurities and bitterness caused by oils and particles in the final cup. However, some people prefer to use a metal filter, which will let through some of that oil and small particles. This creates a richer, heavier body reminiscent of a french press. The ratio of coffee to water and grind size will also factor into the taste, but the filter is the last line of defense for your final product.
The Weight Situation
When we talk about weighing coffee, we typically speak in terms of grams, ounces, and pounds. Most kitchen scales measure in grams and will work for the purpose of weighing coffee and measuring your pour. There are, of course, a few reasons that leveling up scales will benefit your coffee. Cheaper scales may require battery changes and may time out after one minute, potentially throwing off your whole pour over. If you are looking to purchase a scale, it is good to consider features like water resistance, a charging cord, a built-in timer, and an optional automatic shut-off function. Hario has products on both ends of the price spectrum, while Acacia offers top-of-the-line scales best for the full range of coffee bar requirements, as they have the fastest response time. Timing is very important in any extraction method since a matter of 30 seconds can change the development of a brew. Any digital stopwatch, from a scale’s built-in timer to your cell phone’s built-in timer, should be kept handy while brewing.
Duck, Duck, Kettle
The kettle considered the best friend of a pour over is the gooseneck kettle. The precision of flow and water location achieved by the elongated, small spout is an essential part of following your pour-over recipe. There are various options for electric kettles, and among them, is the standard kettle that shuts off at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (the boiling point). Another good option for your pour over is an electric kettle with a temperature-controlled shutoff.
If you opt for a regular non-electric gooseneck kettle, it can be placed on the stovetop accompanied by a thermometer. You could also use a standard electric kettle or pot to boil water, then pour it into the gooseneck kettle.
A temperature of 205 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for brewing a pour over. Let the just-boiled water cool for a moment, which gives you time to grind your beans! Use a probe thermometer to gauge the final water temperature.
Lastly, but Certainly Not Least
Grind size is a huge factor in proper extraction, and the only way to get a consistent particle size for your coffee grounds is with a conical burr coffee grinder. Blade grinders can’t measure up to the crushing power of a burr grinder, which has multiple teeth on top and bottom to ensure grinds can only exit when they are at the correct size.
There is a large selection of at-home countertop grinders; these will work for a coarser grind, used for French press, and for a finer grind, used for espresso. If you want something to travel with or have at home, the Minoto electric grinder is great for small doses of grounds and has five different grind settings. A hand mill is another option that allows you to manually pick the grind size, though it may take some trial and error. Otherwise, indulging in a grinder such as the Baratza Encore will better service your entire brew bar and will stand the test of time. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with the specific burr grinder you select, but it is essential that you freshly grind your coffee beans at the time of brewing.
Step Three: Ready, Set, Brew
The following is a tried and true recipe I use every day for my coffee. A 1:16 ratio or 25g of coffee to 400g of water is a fantastic middle-of-the-road extraction perfect for every coffee—not too heavy and not too light.
- Gather your amazing coffee, perfectly balanced water, and all of your expertly chosen tools including a brewer, scale, grinder, timer, kettle and if needed, a thermometer.
- Heat the water in your kettle to 205ºF. You will use more water than what is listed in the ratio.
- Pre-weigh coffee to 25 grams of coffee, then grind beans on a medium setting. The grounds should look similar to sea salt. Grinding too fine or too coarse will result in over or under extractions. It may take a little fine-tuning to find your preference.
- Set the filter of choice in the brewer. Once the water is up to temperature, use a little to fully saturate the filter and preheat your vessel and carafe. If using a Chemex, use a little water to preheat the mug as well.
- Dump the water you used to rinse the filter and vessel, place the brewer onto the scale, and press tare to zero it out. Double-check that you are using the gram measurement.
- Reweigh the coffee after it is ground as it is possible to lose particles in the grinder, and this may affect the final weight.
- Tare again and start the timer when the first drop of water hits the coffee grounds.
- Use 40-60 grams of water to pre-infuse the coffee grounds. The coffee will start to bubble and rise. This is called the ‘bloom’; it is an important process for releasing any oils or CO2 that are inside the beans.
- At 45-60 seconds the coffee will look less alive, and you will make your second pour of 100g. Staying towards the middle of the grounds, going low and slow, will help to prevent any over-extraction.
- The next pour will look the same with 100-140g of water at a timestamp between 2:00-2:30.
- It is critical not to rush the last pour. Rotate slowly while you pour and watch the scale get to 400g, then cut off the water flow.
- The coffee should finish dripping around the 3:30 mark and take no longer than four minutes of total brew time.
- Once there are about two seconds in between each drip, remove the filter. Now is the time to dump the water that was preheating your mug!
- Give the coffee a good stir or swirl.
- Serve and enjoy!
You are now ready to enjoy your perfect pour-over coffee!