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If you can spare some extra time in the morning to brewing your perfect cup of joe, pour-over coffee can be both a delicious and rewarding brewing experience. The pour-over method refers to a style of drip-brewing, which requires you to manually pour water over your favorite coffee grounds. “It’s a subset of a broader category of ‘manual’ coffee methods, which use low-tech devices — as opposed to electrical machines — to brew coffee,” said Peter Giuliano, chief research officer at the Specialty Coffee Association and executive director of the Coffee Science Foundation.
SKIP AHEAD Best pour-over coffee makers | What exactly is pour-over coffee? | How to brew coffee using the pour-over method
But unlike automatic coffee makers, espresso machines and single-serve coffee makers — which typically let the machine do all of the work — pour-over is a more involved method of brewing coffee that requires a few different tools (and plenty of practice). To learn more about what you need to get started, we asked coffee experts about how the pour-over method works, what to keep in mind and the different items to shop.
How to shop for a pour-over brewer
To successfully brew your favorite coffee using the pour-over method, you’ll need a few different products to get started. The pour-over method requires coffee grounds, a pour-over brewer — also called a dripper or filter basket — and a filter, according to Kaleena Teoh, director of education at Coffee Project NY. If you’re using a dripper device, you’ll also need a carafe or another container to catch the pour-over coffee (some even come with a built-in carafe to make it easier). Jessica Easto, author of “Craft Coffee: A Manual,” strongly recommended using a gooseneck kettle to help control the water when saturating your coffee grounds, as well as a kitchen scale to weigh your coffee grounds “if you really want to do the manual method justice,” she said.
When it comes to pour-over brewers, our experts noted there are a few main factors to keep in mind as you shop.
Common materials for pour-over drippers are plastic, metal, ceramic and glass. However, there are some specific benefits and limitations to keep in mind for each type. Plastic, for example, tends to be the cheapest and among the most durable, but “they don’t retain heat well,” according to Easto. Glass and ceramic, though aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean, are prone to breakage, while metal can be more expensive, Giuliano added.
Filters are one of the most important parts of the pour-over coffee method since it directly impacts the taste of your brew. Pour-over coffee filters are made of three main types of material: paper, cloth and metal.
- Paper filters: Most devices are intended to use this type of filter, which Easto said holds back most coffee fines and oils. “Coffee people sometimes call paper-filtered coffee ‘clean’ because it doesn’t have those oils and fines,” she said. Giuliano echoed that paper is the most efficient type at filtering out even small particles of coffee, “leaving the flavor clean with a light texture.”
- Metal filters: These are reusable, making them more appealing in the sustainable sense. However, “metal filters permit more small particles through, which increase mouthfeel and sediment in the cup,” Giuliano said.
- Cloth filters: “Cloth holds back many oils and fines, though not as much as paper,” Easto said. And while they’re also a reusable option, “these filters can be very difficult to keep clean and might develop ‘off’ flavors over time,” Giuliano noted.
“Ultimately, what you get is a matter of preference,” Easto said. She added that it’s important to consider that both cloth and metal filters require frequent cleaning — multiple times a week, deepening on the frequency of use — to avoid rancid coffee oils.
Shape and size
Pour-over devices are generally cone-shaped, and they come either to a point at the end or a flat bottom, according to Easto. The differences in design affect how water flows through the device and the extraction rate of the coffee: Generally, cone-shaped devices have smaller holes at the bottom to restrict water flow, while flat-bottomed devices have larger holes to allow the water to pass through more quickly.
“The shape of the dripper primarily affects how fast or slow water moves through the coffee, which can affect how the coffee extracts and thus affects flavor,” Easto said.
In fact, the SCA partnered with the University of California Davis in 2017 on a research study to see whether the shape actually affected the taste of pour-over coffee. “We found that, indeed, shape does make a difference, due mainly to differences in brewing efficiency,” Giuliano said. The study found that flat-bottom baskets yielded flavors that were sweeter, fruitier and floral, while the conical basket yielded more citrus, berry and sour.
This size of the coffee maker will also affect the amount of coffee grounds it can hold and how many cups you can brew. Some pour-over brewers can make several cups of coffee at once, and most will typically brew at least 12 ounces, about the size of a standard mug.
Best pour-over coffee makers of 2023
Since we don’t test coffee makers ourselves, we rely on expert guidance and our previous reporting about how to shop for them. Below, we rounded up some expert-recommended and highly rated pour-over coffee makers to shop. Each of the following options requires a filter that pairs with the shape of the brewer (most of which are proprietary filters from the brands themselves). Some also come with built-in carafes to easily collect the coffee once it’s brewed.
Easto considers the Hario V60 to be one of the best pour-over drippers that provides consistent results at an entry-level price point. She recommended this option for more advanced coffee brewers because it requires more control on the part of the brewer due to its concave shape and large single hole. “Filters can’t be found everywhere, but sometimes coffee shops sell them and you can definitely get them online,” Easto added.
Easto recommended this pour-over coffee brewer from Melitta as a good starter set for those who are ready to get started with this method at home. “The dripper is forgiving and the filters can be found almost anywhere,” she said. It comes with a six-cup carafe, a pour-over cylinder, a coffee scoop and five of the brand’s proprietary coffee filters. An added plus: The Melitta option is also one of the more affordable brewers on this list. The brand also offers a pour-over set with a thermal carafe to keep coffee warm.
One of our favorite manual coffee makers, the Chemex is a solid choice for crafting pour-over coffee, experts told us. The wood collar and leather tie can serve as an insulated handle and can be removed to place the glass in the dishwasher for easy clean-up, according to Chemex. The brand suggests buying its own proprietary filters, which Chemex says are 20% to 30% thicker than standard paper filters. “The Chemex filter is quite thick, and that does affect taste because it holds back more oils and fines,” Easto noted. Another bonus is that the cone-shaped upper of the Chemex is equivalent to a dripper, so you don’t need to add any other device to your brewing process, according to Easto.
Marco Suarez, co-owner of Methodical Coffee, recommended the Kalita Wave dripper for brewing single cups of coffee because it’s “easy to learn, very affordable and will produce fantastic cups of coffee.” Like most options on this list, Kalita offers its own proprietary filters to use with its dripper — the patented “wave design” can create a more balanced extraction, according to the brand. The Kalita Wave has a flat-bottomed coffee bed, and the dimensions of the dripper can fit on almost all cups and carafes, Kalita says.
If you’re looking for a reusable filter option, this brewer from Coffee Gator comes with a stainless steel mesh filter and a heat-resistant glass carafe to collect the coffee. Though experts told us metal filters generally allow small particles to drip into the coffee, it can be a much more sustainable and cost-efficient pour-over system compared to paper filters (but will require you to clean them often). The included carafe includes a handle that’s cool to the touch, so you can easily pour and transport it when needed, according to the brand.
Other pour-over accessories to shop
To help you get started on your pour-over journey, we rounded up some highly rated pour-over accessories, including filters, carafes, electric kettles, kitchen scales and coffee grinders.
One of our favorite expert-recommended electric kettles to shop, this option from Fellow comes with a temperature control dial that lets you choose your desired temperature for your pour-over coffee — the kettle allows you to choose temperatures between 135 degrees and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It also comes with a fixed base that lets you move the kettle wherever you need, and it offers a toggle on the back of the base to maintain your desired temperature for up to 60 minutes, according to the brand.
Ground coffee beans are one of the main components of your pour-over coffee, and experts told us the grind size can play a major role in developing a good coffee flavor. In our guide to coffee grinders, our coffee experts noted burr grinders result in more uniform coffee grounds and consistent flavors compared to blade grinders. This grinder from Baratza has commercial-grade conical burrs, 40 grind settings that let you choose your ideal grind size and a clear grounds bin that’s backlit with LEDs, according to the brand.
This highly rated kitchen scale can weigh items up to 11.24 pounds with precise graduations of 0.05 ounces, according to the brand. You can adjust the scale’s settings to weigh in up to five units of measurement, including grams, pounds, ounces, milliliters and kilograms. It also features a precision tare button that can calculate the weight of your ingredients while subtracting the weight of any bowl or container, the brand says.
What exactly is pour-over coffee?
The pour-over method typically requires a longer brewing process, but it allows you to control the different variables that can create a more personalized brew. Our experts noted that if you enjoy the ceremony and ritual of making coffee, a pour-over brewer could be a great choice. The pour-over setup is also very inexpensive compared to a high-quality brewer, and it doesn’t take much counter space in the kitchen, according to Giuliano.
Easto noted that the scientific term for pour-over coffee is actually infusion. “Technically, this infusion method — or how the water comes into contact with the coffee and extracts flavor — is the same across manual coffee makers and automatic drip coffee makers,” Easto noted. This method involves hot or cold water being poured through a loose bed of coffee grounds, which results in a shorter contact time (the amount of time the water is in contact with the coffee grounds) compared to some other brewing methods and the introduction of fresh water at intervals before being filtered.
Though automatic coffee makers follow the same drip coffee method as pour-over ones, a standard drip coffee maker usually has two problems: It doesn’t get the water hot enough or maintain the water temperature for the length of the brew cycle, and it doesn’t allow the water to stay in contact with the coffee for the correct length of time,” Easto explained, adding that a manual pour-over device solves this easily.
“You are boiling water in a kettle on your own, so you know it’s the right temperature — you also have more control over the contact time because you are the one doing the pouring,” Easto said. (More on the expert-recommended water temperature and contact time below.)
The appeal of pour-over coffee is that it gives you more of a hands-on experience, but they do “require a bit more technique,” according to Easto. “Most pour-over devices are shaped like cones, which are set over a cup or carafe — you add a filter, the coffee and then pour water over it, hence the name,” she said.
How to brew coffee using the pour-over method
Our experts noted that water temperature, contact time and grind size are some of the most important factors when it comes to the flavor of your coffee when using the pour-over method.
The SCA recommends using water between 195 degrees and 205 degrees Fahrenheit for hot brewing, according to Easto. “Since you’re boiling water in a kettle on your own, you know it’s the right temperature,” she added.
With a pour-over coffee maker, you also have more control over the contact time because you’re the one doing the pouring. The National Coffee Association says the contact time for a drip coffee system should be approximately 5 minutes. However, “it depends on what device you’re using, how coarse or fine the grounds are and how much coffee you are brewing,” said Easto. If the taste of the coffee is not up to par, you may be over-extracting the coffee — which means the brew time is too long — or under-extracting when the brew time is too short.
Grind size matters for a variety of reasons. The finer the grind, “the slower water filters through — thus increasing contact time — and the quicker water extracts flavor because there is more surface area,” Easto explained, adding that if your coffee is too fine for your pour-over device, it’ll drip down really slow and possibly even get stuck. The opposite is true for coarse ground coffee: “The water goes through too fast and you get under-extracted coffee because the water didn’t have time enough to extract the coffee flavor,” Easto said.
However, because drippers vary, there really isn’t really a one-size-fits all grind size. Easto said she typically uses a medium to medium-fine grind size for pour-over coffee. For those just starting out who may not have a high quality burr grinder, Easto advised buying a bag of coffee from a local roaster or coffee shop and asking them to grind it for you based on the pour-over device you’re using.
Step-by-step guide to brewing pour-over coffee
For a standard six-cup pour-over brewer, the SCA listed out a step-by-step guide to get the best quality brew.
- Begin with clean equipment. Place your filter in the pour-over brew basket and set it on top of the decanter. Preheat your device by pouring hot water through it and discard this water afterward.
- Place the brew basket with the filter on a cup, and put everything on the scale. Add the coffee to the filter and then zero out the weight of the scale.
- Start the timer and pour approximately 80 grams of water over the coffee. Make sure to saturate all the grounds thoroughly.
- Once you saturate your coffee grounds, they’ll begin to “bloom,” which means it provokes the grounds to release carbon dioxide and allows the water to interact more with the coffee. Allow your coffee grounds to bloom for 30 seconds.
- Continue to slowly pour the remaining amount of hot water over the coffee for the next 4.5 to 5 minutes, keeping the brew basket halfway filled with water during the brew process.
- When all the water has been poured over the grounds and the filter has begun to drip very slowly, remove and discard the filter.
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