When I worked as a barista at a high-end café, the most frequently ordered drink was a pour-over black coffee.
This is a coffee preparation method that’s gained popularity because it does truly produce a better-tasting cup than that made by a standard countertop brewer. People are willing to pay for expensive pour-overs at coffee shops because they’re intimidated to try the method at home — but it’s actually quite simple if you know what to do, and the tools are often much cheaper than standard coffeemakers.
Here’s a barista’s breakdown of how to make the perfect pour-over at home.
Heat the water
The first step in any coffee brewing sequence is heating the water. I start by boiling my water in an electric kettle; while a stovetop kettle or a regular pot will do, electric kettles heat water more quickly and are also more energy-efficient, so if you’ll be making coffee on a daily basis, it’s worth the investment. The Miroco Electric Kettle is what I use at home, and I love that the entire interior is stainless steel so the hot water never touches any plastic.
Then, I pour the water from that kettle into a gooseneck kettle with a thermostat designed specifically for pour-overs. While this may sound silly, it’s useful for two reasons: First, a kettle with a temperature gauge allows me to get the water to the perfect temperature. Anywhere between 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for a pour-over, Second, it allows me to control the speed of the pour, which is critical for ensuring the proper extraction of the coffee oils, which creates the full-bodied flavor that makes pour-overs so delicious.
I always filter my water before I heat it. Although boiling should kill bacteria, it won’t necessarily remove the taste of any impurities, which will affect the resulting flavor.
Measure your coffee
While it’s tempting to rely on your intuition for coffee measurements, this is an imprecise method that results in unpredictable outcomes. It’s worthwhile to invest in a scale, which will allow you to use exactly the right amount of coffee: about 30 grams per cup. The café where I worked used these Acaia scales, which offer app and Bluetooth connectivity. If you’re looking for a lower price tag, I also love the reliable Hario V60 Coffee Scale and Timer.
Grind the beans
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to buy whole beans and grind as needed. While it’s less convenient, it’s perhaps the most critical factor in producing a fresh-tasting cup of coffee. There’s nothing worse than spending the time and effort to make a pour-over, only for it to come out tasting stale.
Since it’s important to achieve a consistent grind when making pour-over coffee, opt for a burr grinder. I use the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder, which works great, but I've coveted a high-end KitchenAid Burr Coffee Grinder for years.
Before I was ready to invest in a countertop grinder, I used a handheld coffee mill that was less convenient but did the trick. As for coffee beans — the foundation of everything — I highly recommend anything from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. If you’re worried about maintaining the freshness of your beans, put them into an airtight container in the freezer. Never freeze ground coffee, as this dries out the oils.
Pick a method
There are quite a few pour-over methods and tools, and which one you pick depends on your personal preference. Here are some of my favorites:
Clever: This is a device that works similarly to a standard dripper, but instead of draining the water as you pour, it retains all water until you set it on top of your mug or decanter. The timing of your pouring is less important with a clever, making this a good beginner’s pour-over tool; just add about 350 grams of water, wait two minutes, drain, and drink.
Cloth filter: While some call this the “dirty sock method,” it’s my weekday go-to for a few reasons. In addition to being just about the most affordable brewer out there, this is a device that I don’t have to worry about damaging, unlike a more fragile glass or ceramic option. Plus, I don’t have to use disposable filters or any additional supplies.
Chemex: When I worked as a barista, my café exclusively used Chemexes for making pour-overs. They’re an aesthetically pleasing countertop addition, and their design helps to make a balanced cup because you can swirl the coffee within the chamber to ensure consistency.
Ceramic dripper: A ceramic dripper is another pour-over device I love for its simple appearance. It feels sturdier than the thin glass of the Chemex, making it better for home use, plus it takes up less kitchen space and can easily fit in a drawer.
Metal dripper: This is another unbreakable brewing implement, but it makes the bottom of my pour-over method picks because its flat-bottom construction makes the water drain slower than I’d like. If you prefer a slower extraction or like the metal appearance, this is the option for you.
Pour with precision
You’ll also use your digital scale when pouring water over the beans. Per every 30 grams of coffee, you want about 350 grams of water. To perfect the pour-over method, you should use your scale’s timer in order to precisely time your pouring (unless you’re using a clever, in which case, it doesn’t matter).
First, you want to wet the coffee filter, then get rid of that filter-flavored water. Next, “bloom” the coffee by pouring water in a slow spiral motion (about 15 seconds) until it reaches about 50 grams, trying to get all of the grounds wet without leaving dry patches. Wait 30 seconds. Pour in another slow spiral motion (about 20 seconds) for an additional 100 grams. Wait another 30 seconds.
Then perform another slow, even 100-gram pour (about 20 seconds) until you’re at a total of 250 grams of coffee. Wait until that water has filtered through the grounds, then raise your kettle about six inches above the grounds and perform a quicker 100-gram pour to agitate the coffee beans. In total, your brewing will take about three minutes.
Wait for the water to finish filtering, then drink your homemade pour-over and enjoy.