People often think of pour over coffee as some exotic brew. It’s any brewing method where water is manually “poured over” the grounds and includes common coffee brewing like Chemex and Hario V60. Pour over devices bring out more flavor when done right and allow the barista to control the brewing process for an exact taste.
I’ve been making pour over coffee for years using a Chemex (I go between that and a French press) and have broken down my process into simple steps so anyone can catch on within a few steps. Don’t believe that making a pour over is beyond your skill until you’ve finished this article! You can be a pour over barista by the end.
I’ll start with the background on pour over coffee, then gear and technique before getting to the recipe. Or, go straight to Chemex recipe.
What Is Pour Over Coffee?
You’ve probably seen baristas steadily pouring hot water in circles over a cone of grounds floating on top of single-serve carafes. That is pour over coffee brewing in action, which refers to any brewing method where hot water is manually “poured over” the grounds.
The pour over method is one of the most intricate and complex ways of brewing coffee. The process itself isn’t that difficult (as you’ll learn) but it does require focus. The manual pouring process puts the barista in complete control over the process. That creates infinite ways to bring out different flavors in a single cup of coffee.
The controlled pour brings out a complex flavor profile. You’ll taste every flavor note of the bean with a pour over. That’s because pour overs efficiently extract flavor from the coffee via the continuous stream of hot water. Barista Hustle found that pour over brewing extracts the same flavor as immersion brewing (like French press) and gets 40% more coffee from the same amount of coffee grounds.
Pour over coffee brings out the delicate and flavorful notes without the bitter aftertaste. You’re more likely to notice all the flavors listed on the bag with a pour over. Add to that, the filter strains the coffee fines to create a “clean” mouth feel. This nuanced flavor profile is why some coffee shops (like Blue Bottle) overwhelmingly brew pour over coffee.
Pour over coffee started in the early 1900s with Mellita Benz, but it has become popular only recently. Research firms noticed the growth in pour over brewing years ago alongside the rise of third-wave coffee (we like to call it craft coffee on this site). Google search trends for pour over coffee have only doubled since then. The attention makes sense given the vibrant flavor of pour over coffee compared to automatic machines.
There is a variety of pour over devices, including V60, Chemex, Kalita Wave, Melitta, and BeeHouse to name the most popular ones (you can find all the methods here). Pour over coffee is also called filter coffee, but I find it’s nothing like the automatic drip machine. The coffee should be a completely manual brew process where you get to watch the water steadily run through the coffee beans.
Advantages And Disadvantages of Pour Over Coffee
I’ve already highlighted the main benefit: flavor. Pour over brewing also creates a lot of control over the brewing process. If you like a weaker cup, you can change your pour for a faster brew and lighter taste. You can tweak the grind finer for a more roasted taste. Either way, you control the pouring process, not a coffee machine.
The difficulty is the most common drawback with a pour over. You can easily under-extracted flavor by pouring too quickly, which leads to a sour or acidic taste. At Craft Coffee Spot, we believe pour over brewing is accessible by anyone. The recipe shows it only takes a few tries to make a great cup.
Pour Over Coffee Brewing Equipment
The nice thing about pour over coffee is it requires little equipment. Purchase your choice of brew device, filters, and add coffee. That said, you’ll need a scale and gooseneck kettle to really master the process. I’ll go through each piece of equipment.
The obvious first choice is the pour over brewing device. The devices are relatively inexpensive ($50 or less) and there are several to choose from. Ask yourself the level of difficulty you can handle along with your desire to experiment with coffee flavor. A flat-bottomed pour over like a BeeHouse is an easy device to start. Cone-shaped pour overs like a V60 are popular and my personal favorite is the Chemex, a museum-worthy device.
Most pour over makers have unique filters, so check what works with your device. The most popular devices have the highest availability of filters, which may influence your decision. There are different types of filters: bleached, natural, or cloth. We recommend bleached because it has the least impact on taste. Stumptown found bleached filters had the best taste after testing bleached, natural, and even sock filters (warning: don’t use a sock).
A scale is as close to a must-have as there is. You could measure out the coffee and water in total beforehand, but the scale makes it far easier to adjust the pour in real-time. Scales are also inexpensive. One with a timer and decimal point is a plus.
The kettle is the tool for pour over brewing. You’ll be holding the kettle for several minutes each time you brew and the pour has a big impact on the final coffee. You want a kettle that pours water to specific areas in steady streams. The best kettles have a long thin spout. These are known as gooseneck kettles, which are perfect for pour over coffee. You can buy a standalone kettle or one that heats the water. A gooseneck that heats water to specific temperatures is the best option.
At Craft Coffee Spot, we always recommend using a burr grinder. The burr grinder has the most consistent grind size which leads to the best extraction for pour over coffee. Pour over coffee is sensitive to grind size, which you’ll tweak over time. A burr grinder will allow you to grind before brewing for the freshest coffee and optimize the grind size to perfection.
The Best Coffee Beans For Pour Over Coffee
A light or medium roast coffee bean is best for pour over coffee. I already talked about the efficient extraction process, where pour over devices pull the light and delicate flavors fully from the coffee bean. The light and medium roasts retain more of these flavors, which are roasted out later in the process.
Pour over devices rarely over-extract coffee, including the roasted and bitter flavors that are extracted with more time. Traditional dark roast flavors won’t be prevalent in a pour over coffee. The dark roasts tend to burn off the light molecules, so the dark roast pour over won’t have as prevalent of flavor.
Use a medium grind size for pour over coffee. The grind size depends on the device. The Chemex uses a medium-coarse grind because it has a thicker filter that slows the water flow. Single-serve pour overs, like a Melita or V60, use a medium-fine grind size. Take note of the initial grind size and plan to tweak it over time.
Pour Over Technique
It’s worth discussing pour over technique before delving into the Chemex recipe. By technique, I’m referring to how you pour hot water over coffee grounds. There isn’t a right way to pour but the key is to keep the coffee grounds evenly extracted.
When making pour over coffee, make sure you evenly wet the coffee grounds and keep them soaked in hot water at all times. This maximizes the extraction of flavor.
One pouring method is the continuous pour, where you pour a constant stream of water over the coffee grounds. The continuous pour keeps the coffee bed at a consistent temperature which leads to a steady extraction. This can lead to a more consistent result if you have the arm strength to keep pouring slowly for a few minutes each time!
The second pouring method is the pulse pour, where you pour batches of hot water over the grounds. The pulse pour agitates the grounds and extracts more flavor from all the coffee grounds. This leads to a faster extraction and brew time. I recommend the pulse pour because it is easier and faster.
It’s worth repeating there isn’t a right way to pour. Start with a simple method and adapt from there based on what works best. Pouring concentric circles is a common way to wet the grounds.
How To Make Pour Over Coffee: Chemex Recipe
I’ll go through my recipe for how to make a pour over coffee using the Chemex. This is a good starting recipe using the pulse pour that makes two full cups of coffee.
Step 1: Prepare Coffee And Water
Grind about 40 grams of your favorite light or medium roast coffee beans. Use a medium-coarse grind for a Chemex. Since the Chemex has thick-walled filters and this brews two cups, use a coarser grind than other pour over coffee.
I use a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This means heat 22 ounces (640 grams) of water to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you boil the water, let it cool for 30-60 seconds before starting the pour.
Step 2: Set And Wet The Coffee Filter
Chemex filters come folded with four layers. Spread open only one layer of the filter and place the three-layer side of the filter against the glass spout. The thicker side prevents the filter from collapsing on the spout. We need to keep the spout airway open to allow the coffee to drain through the filter.
Pour some hot water to wet the filter. This will remove most of the paper taste. It will also heat up the carafe and keep the coffee temperature consistent. Dump out the filter water.
Step 3: The Bloom
Pour the coffee grounds into the Chemex and shake it a little to flatten out the grounds. Place the Chemex on your scale, and hit tare (set it to zero). Make your first pour of 80 grams of water (double the amount of coffee). Start pouring in the middle, make concentric circles moving towards the edge, then move back towards the middle until you have poured out the full 80 grams.
The coffee should rise and bubbles will come out. This is the coffee bloom, where hot water causes CO2 to escape the beans. Wait 30 seconds before moving to the next pour. CO2 tastes terrible and it repels water which prevents coffee extraction. The bloom allows all the CO2 to escape.
Step 4: The Main Pours
Once the coffee has bloomed, begin the main pour with the remaining water. I use a pulse pour. With each pulse, pour enough water so the coffee grounds rise an inch. Keep pouring in concentric circles and keep the spout close to the water to avoid agitating the grounds.
As the water level falls below the top of the grounds, do another pulse pour. It should take three or four pours to use all the water. Watch the scale as you pour! It’ll tell you in real-time if you are pouring fast or slow.
Stay focused on the steady pour. Enjoy the slow drip and aroma to start your day.
Step 5: Pour Out And Enjoy
Once you have poured all the water, wait until most water has drained through. A flat bed of grounds is a sign of a good pour over. The last drops will be the most extracted and bitter, so don’t wait too long to toss the filter.
Pour out the delicious coffee and enjoy. The entire brew process should take about 3-4 minutes.
Refining Pour Over Coffee Brewing
The great thing about pour over coffee is there are infinite ways to brew. My brew recipe is just a start. You can change many things to get a different flavor: coffee ratio, water temperature, grind size, and pour technique.
The grind size is the best place to start tweaking. The grind size will cause an obvious change in coffee flavor, and it’s an easy setting to change on a burr grinder. Change one variable at a time or it will be impossible to tell what mattered most for the coffee.
Congrats! You’ve mastered the pour over process. Now read our other coffee brewing guides to further step up your coffee game.