The Art of the Manual Pour Over
You are standing in a social distance line that stretches down the block at your favorite coffee shop. The barista is stressed. You order a pour over of their latest exotic coffee. You pay $5 and the barista scoops some pre-ground coffee into a paper filter, pours water through it and “Voila!” your coffee appears sixty seconds later. It tastes OK, but you expected something more. You think, quite correctly, I can do a better pour over.
Manual pour over brewing at home is always an option. The advantage the home brewer has over the barista at a cafe is you don’t have a line of impatient people waiting for service. You don’t have to cut corners to keep the line moving. You can take the time and do it your way.
There is a difference between dump and pour manual brewing and artisan slow extraction brewing. There are manual brewers on the market for dump and pour. Assuming you want artisan brewing, we have the following suggestions:
Any coffee can be brewed with a manual pour over. However, because manual pour over brewing brings out all of the flavors and aromas in a coffee, it is best with single origin, light roasted coffees.
You need to use a good burr grinder. You do not need to use an expensive espresso grinder but you need grounds that are all the same size. Check out Capresso, Baratza, Bodum or Oxo burr grinders.
A medium grind similar to an automatic drip grind is a good starting point. You can change the amount of extraction by grinding finer or coarser for later pour overs. However, if you grind too fine you clog the filter and lose your pour over.
You can do a pour over with just ground coffee, a water kettle and a cloth tube. In South America cloth tube brewing is called “calcetínes sucios” or dirty socks. If you are desperate for a cup of coffee it is one option. However, you should use dark colored socks, if you want to wear them again.
You can also go full top end with the following equipment:
Gooseneck kettle water heater
V60 filter holder
Hario V60 paper filters
You can use volume measurements for pour overs but if you want to replicate or revise a recipe measuring your coffee and water by weight is more accurate. You don’t need an expensive scale. A $20 dollar digital kitchen scale that measures in grams will work. Don’t forget to record your measurements.
Slow pouring water into the filter is essential to good extraction. Using a normal tea kettle or a water pot results in a gush of water flowing into the filter.
There are gooseneck kettles with built in heaters. The disadvantage of most gooseneck kettles is that they cool during the extraction process. A built in heater helps keep the water at the right temperature. Check out Bonavita, Hario, Bodum, OXO and Stagg.
A good thermometer is critical to check the brew water temperature. The built in thermometers on some kettles are difficult to read and are often inaccurate. You need a metal thermometer with a large face and a probe.
A good first time starting temperature is 200 F°. Check out the KT Thermo, the Crema Pro and the Escali.
You can adjust up or down for later pour overs. Keeping the water at the same temperature for the entire extraction is tricky. If you have a kettle with a heater it helps.
The right amount of good water is critical. HIgh end filtered water or bottled water is good. Reverse osmosis, tap, or water softener water is bad.
A good starting point is 17 grams of water for each gram of coffee.
If you use a paper or cloth filter you need a filter holder. The holder sits on top of the carafe and supports the filter. The most popular filter holders are the V60 and the Kalita Wave. The Chemex has a built in filter holder.
The Hario V60 is the top of the line cone filter holder. It has grooves on the inside of the holder that promote even extraction. It is available in glass, ceramic, plastic, copper, and steel versions.
The Kalita Wave is the most popular flat bottom filter holder. The wavy sides of the holder promote even extraction.
Choosing between the Kalita Wave and the V60 is more a choice of aesthetics than taste. If you like the look and follow the instructions you will like the coffee.
You have a choice of paper, plastic, metal or cloth filters.
Paper and cloth filters catch the grounds and the oils, which creates a clean, clear cup. However, since the flavor is in the oils paper and cloth filters reduce flavor in the cup. Chemex filters are heavier than Hario paper filters and allow very little solids or oils to pass through.
Before you put the grounds in a paper filter, put the filter in the holder and rinse it with hot water. This will wash out the paper residue, seal the filter to the sides of the holder and warm the carafe.
The advantage of cloth filters is they can be washed and used again.
Plastic and metal filters are not as fine as paper or cloth filters and allow more oils and solids to pass through. If you like more flavor and body in your coffee you will like using a plastic or metal filter. Plastic and metal filters can be washed and used again. Also plastic and metal filters don’t require a filter holder. There is a metal filter, the Kone, that fits into the Chemex brewer instead of the Chemex paper filter.
Pouring technique has more opinions than Congress. Barista opinions about technique approach religious fervor. You can choose your own pouring technique but if you post it on social media, it is at your own risk.
Most techniques suggest first pre-wetting the dry grounds with just enough water to allow them to “bloom.” Blooming occurs when the wet grounds expand and give off carbon dioxide. (If the grounds don’t expand you are using old coffee.) Pre-wetting and allowing the grounds to bloom for about 30 seconds starts the extraction process.
One technique suggests using the gooseneck kettle to continuously pour water into the filter in concentric circles. Using this technique you need to pour slowly, taking at least 2 minutes to finish. The advantage is that this keeps the grounds equally wet during the entire process.
Another technique is to use the kettle to pulse in the remaining water slowly in three separate equal tranches, waiting each time for the filter to empty. If the grind is right the process should take over 2 minutes. Pulse pouring helps disrupt the grounds and prevent water creating a channel around the grounds instead of steeping the grounds (channeling).
You need a countdown timer to time your extraction. Typical total extraction time for one cup of coffee is around 3 to 4 minutes. Varying the time will change the flavor of the cup. Using the timer helps you to replicate the brew. You can use an inexpensive kitchen timer. There are also scales with built in timers for coffee brewing. Check out the Hario, the OXO, or the Brewista scale/timers.
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee LLC is a boutique farm in Kona, Hawaii that grows, processes and roasts its own current crop coffee beans. We grow 7 different varieties of coffee and process them using 4 different methods. We roast date every bag of our coffee. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee does not sell coffee cherry or green coffee beans to anyone.
In 2019, Hula Daddy won First, Fourth and Fifth places in the Kona Coffee Competition. In 2018, Forbes Magazine picked Hula Daddy as one of the Top 12 Coffee Roasters in the United States. Also in 2018, Coffee Review selected Hula Daddy out of the thousands of coffees it tastes every year as the Number 1 Coffee of 2018. In 2017, we came in Second in the Hawaii Cupping Competition and in the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. In 2017, Laura’s Reserve SL-28 received 97 points from Coffee Review and was Number 2 in the Top Coffees of 2017. In December 2016, Coffee Review rated our Laura’s Reserve SL-28 as Number 3 in the Top Coffees of 2016