Many people believe the best coffee is made by a simple, manual pour over process. The inexpensive coffee makers used with this method go by a number of names, such as coffee dripper, coffee cone and pour over coffee maker.
Perhaps the best feature of low-tech pour over brewing is the degree of control it gives you. Each cup is brewed perfectly to the drinker’s exact specifications, and always boasts that freshly brewed taste.
Plus, it’s easy to brew as little or as much as you want.
(Let’s face it – coffee that sits in a carafe, or worse, on a burner for very long just isn’t the same as coffee that’s just brewed!)
The Benefits to the Pour Over Drip Method
- It doesn’t require electricity. This means that anywhere you can produce hot water, even if it is over a campfire, you can make coffee.
- It’s portable. You can take it with you when you travel. You can stay at a motel, heat your water in the microwave and produce your own custom brew.
- It’s inexpensive. The dripper itself is inexpensive, and you’ll save by using ground coffee instead of pre-packaged coffee pods.
- No waste. You make exactly how much coffee you’re prepared to drink at any given time, and no more.
- You can easily customize your brew to your tastes. Adjust the amount of ground coffee used, the size of the grind, the speed of the pour and the temperature of the water to extract more or less from the coffee.
The Coffee Pour Over Method
Producing manual drip coffee with the pour over method is really quite simple, and can be easily altered to produce the richness and strength you desire.
First, you’ll need good quality coffee. Choose whatever brand you prefer, but freshly ground always tastes best. Finely ground coffee will produce a bolder, richer brew, but will also take a little longer to drip through, while a coarser grind will be ready sooner. You can modify the process as needed to accommodate your favorite brand and grind.
Next, you’ll need hot water. Boil enough water in a kettle to slightly over-fill your favorite mug, and then take it off the heat and allow it to sit for a moment or two (or, boil double the amount and fill the mug to pre-warm it, and then pour it out just before brewing). As for the water’s temperature, think tea – the same temperature water that makes the best tea is what you’ll want for your pour over coffee.
A kettle with a narrow pour spout will give you more control during the pouring process. Aficionados of the pour over method feel a special pour over brewing kettle is necessary in order to pour properly and evenly extract the flavor from the coffee.
You will also need an inexpensive coffee cone, and a paper filter. Some people prefer unbleached paper filters instead of bleached ones, as they haven’t undergone chemical bleaching. There are coffee cones available that don’t require paper filters because of having fine mesh filters built in. Keep in mind that these are harder to clean.
Two types of coffee drippers are common. The first is simply a cone with holes in the bottom that allows the coffee to flow out immediately after brewing. The Hario V60 is a very popular model.
Another type has a stopper in the bottom that allows the coffee grounds and water to steep together before the stopper is removed and the coffee released into the cup. This process is similar to that of a French press, but advocates prefer having the filter employed by coffee cones so that grounds don’t end up in the cup. The also cite the easy cleanup of coffee cones as a plus over their French presses.
Some fans of the pour over method insist on using a small scale to weigh the coffee and water. That allows them to achieve the exact same cup of coffee every time, but the choice of whether or not to do this is up to you.
Place the filter in the cone, position the cone over the sink, and pour in just enough water to rinse the paper filter and adhere it to the sides of the cone. Let excess water drain out. Or, rinse the filter before placing it in the cone to remove any unpleasant “paper” tastes before brewing.
Set the cone on top of your empty mug and add the ground coffee. Tap it so the coffee levels out. Pour just enough hot water over the top to thoroughly wet the coffee, allowing it to expand and ‘bloom’. After about 30 seconds continue pouring – slowly pour in concentric circles from the center going outward over the top of the coffee grounds, and only onto the coffee and not on the sides of the filter or cone (try not to wash coffee grounds up on to the sides). The more slowly you pour, the stronger the coffee will be, so you’ll want to perfect your pouring method in order to produce your best cup of coffee every time.
If you’re using a coffee dripper with a stopper, you’ll want to let the coffee steep for a few minutes once all of the water has been added. Four minutes is recommended, but vary the time based on your tastes. Some will even gently stir the grounds and water mixture to extract more flavor. Once time is up, remove the stopper and let the coffee flow into your cup.
Drippers without stoppers flow directly into the cup as the water is being poured, so the amount of time it takes to pour the water will directly affect the coffee’s flavor. The longer the pour, the stronger the brew.
Once your coffee is ready, simply discard the filter and grounds and rinse the coffee cone.
Factors That Affect Coffee Strength and Flavor
- The finer the grind, the longer it will take for the water to move through and extract flavors, producing stronger coffee.
- Pouring more slowly – especially with cones without stoppers – will produce stronger coffee. Some fans recommend taking up to two minutes to finish pouring.
- Immersion type cones, especially with longer steeping times, will make bolder coffee.
- Cooler water will extract less flavor.
- Gently stirring the grounds and water will create stronger coffee.
- The more ground coffee used per cup, the stronger the coffee will be.
Choosing the Best Coffee Pour Over Coffee Maker
First, decide whether you want the simpler pour over coffee cone with holes in the bottom that allows coffee to flow through, or the immersion type for steeping (likely to produce stronger coffee). There are popular models available for each type.
Notice the recommended coarseness of the grind, especially if you already have a coffee grind that you want to use. Will it work with the pour over coffee maker you’re considering?
Also pay attention to the type of filter used. Are they readily available for purchase?
Some of the most popular pour over cones and accessories are made in Japan, and instructions may be in Japanese. In most cases you won’t need detailed instructions for these simple coffee makers, but there are plenty of demos on YouTube to help you out.
Hario V60 Coffee Dripper
This highly rated coffee cone has spiral ridges along the sides to facilitate even extraction (rather than over-extracting the grounds in the bottom as some cones do). The required Hario 02 paper filters are extra thin and less likely to impart a paper taste. A grind between fine and medium is recommended, but you can experiment to find what works best for you. Comes in several colors, and in glass, ceramic, metal or plastic. Regulate the amount of coffee produced by the amount of water used. The cone can handle 8 – 20 ounces per pour, as the water flows through as you’re pouring. Instructions are in Japanese.
Clever Coffee Dripper
This popular cone coffee maker is the immersion type and comes in two sizes: Large (up to 16 oz., #4 filter, with lid) and Small (10 oz., #2 filter, no lid). Choose based on the size of the mug or other container that you want the coffee to pour into (make sure the cone will sit securely on top). The dripper will automatically start releasing the coffee once it’s seated on the mug, so leave it on the counter during the steeping process. Standard drip grind works well, but you can adjust the grind to suit your tastes. Some user recommend stirring the mix slightly after 90 seconds of steeping, and draining the coffee out after 4 total minutes. 100% BPA plastic. Not dishwasher or microwave safe – just rinse or wash gently.
Fino Pour Over Coffee and Tea Kettle, 4 1/4-Cup
This high-quality mid-priced stainless steel gooseneck kettle allows precise control while pouring, with no dripping or splashing. The thermoplastic handle stays cool and steam releases via 3 small holes in the top when the water boils (no whistling). Its small size (up to 20 ounces) fits any kitchen and the shape allows it to sit nicely on a small burner. It’s safe for use on electric, gas and induction stovetops, and is dishwasher safe. Japanese instructions.