Have you ever found yourself smelling every bag of coffee in the grocery store, down a wormhole of coffee grinder reviews on Amazon, or taking copious notes on your favorite barista’s technique? You just might be a coffee perfectionist. It’s okay—there are many of us! The quest for the perfect cup of coffee can be long and a little messy. But if you’ve embarked on this hero’s journey, the pour over process should be the next stop on your exploration. Pour overs are less acidic than traditional drip brews, giving you a smooth, rich flavor that highlights everything your coffee has to offer. Plus, the process allows for optimal control over your cup’s flavor.
In 1908, Melitta Bentz was on her own perfect-cup quest in Dresden, Germany. She used a percolator to prepare coffee for her family, but she was unhappy with the bitter taste and, understandably, tired of cleaning grounds out of the bottoms of her cups. With the attitude of “I can totally fix this,” she nailed a couple holes in the bottom of a brass pot and took a sheet of blotter paper from her son’s school notebook to fashion the very first paper filter. The resulting cup of coffee was not only grounds-free but the harsh, bitter flavor was gone. Melitta had a very good thing going.
By the 1930s, the pour over dripper evolved away from the brass pot into the conical shape we recognize today. The pour over technique gained a lot of popularity in Japan around this time, the influence of which can still be seen in some of the most popular dripper brands, like Hario. By the 2000s, the “third wave” of coffee was in full swing and the pour over gained more traction globally as an artisanal technique.
The pour over is equal parts skill and art, but don’t worry—you can master both in your home kitchen with a little practice.
What you need
- Around 3 tablespoons, or 30 grams, of coarsely ground coffee, think the texture of sea salt. (Of course we recommend you use our beans for this part.)
- Around 20 ounces of boiling water
- Coffee dripper or Chemex
- Filter, either paper or reusable
- Something to hold your coffee, mug or otherwise
- Kitchen scale, if you want to get really precise
First start by setting your water to boil (filtered water is the best option, if you have it available). Then set your dripper on top of your coffee mug and place a filter inside. Most disposable filters need a quick rinse before use to avoid a papery taste, so pour some hot water around the inside of the filter and then discard the dripped-down water.
If you have a grinder handy, set your the grind to coase, and grind about 3 tablespoons/30 grams for each cup of coffee you’d like to make. If you have pre-ground coffee, measure out your grounds and dump them into the filter. (Optimal coffee to water ratios are subjective, so always feel free to adjust these measurements to your personal tastes.) Grab your boiling water and get ready to pour.
The first pour is called the “bloom.” Take 2-3 seconds to pour then wait 15-30 seconds to let the bloom occur. This releases any CO2 that has built up during the grinding process. That little bit of CO2 won’t hurt anything, but releasing it will allow the water to fully saturate the grinds so you get a smoother, fuller flavor. You should notice your grinds poofing up like a cupcake baking in the oven during the bloom process. Once the bloom is over, you can proceed with the rest of your creation.
Start pouring in the rest of your boiling water slowly and in circles, directly in the middle, just large enough to cover a quarter. (Clockwise or counterclockwise is completely up to you.) Some baristas prefer to do this step in multiple, measured pours, others all at once, so do a little experimenting to find what you like best. You NEVER want to pour water that directly touches the paper filter (other than your initial rinse of the filter). Keep your circles tight in the middle so you don’t cause water to run straight down the filter and pass up the steeping section with the grounds. You can eyeball the water level in your cup, or sit your cup on a kitchen scale and measure it out more precisely.
Practice to Perfection
The perfect pour over doesn’t happen the very first time, so keep practicing and making adjustments. If something tastes off to you, the grind is usually the first thing to adjust—go coarser or finer. Then you can tinker with coffee to water ratios, techniques of pours, types of kettles, drippers, and much more.
And always remember, if you want a perfect pour over without any of the hassle of actually making it, your friendly neighborhood Ground-A-Bout barista is happy to tag in for an assist.