What is pour over coffee?

What is pour over coffee? Where did pour over coffee originate? And how do you make pour over coffee?

Let’s take a detailed look at pour over coffee.

Pour over coffee is a popular manual coffee brewing method. What do we mean by manual brewing? It means there is very little equipment, if any, involved in the brewing process. It is all done by hand and every part of the method is controlled by the user.

Pour over coffee is really just a cup, a filter, a cone shaped funnel, and you, the barista. There are no machines to make things complicated.

The pour over method, when done right, will bring out subtle flavors compared to other brewing methods. If you are savoring coffees from a single origin, single place or producer, the pour over method allows the flavors and nuances to come out and really be experienced.

How pour over coffee brewing started.

Pour over coffee isn’t a new idea. It has been around since the late 1800s.

In 1908, a woman named Amalie created a type of coffee brewing device after being very disappointed in the coffee from her percolator. She experimented until she found that by using a filter and a cone shape she could produce a great cup of coffee.

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz began building Melitta Pour Overs which became a hit back in the 1930s. Melitta is a name known today for quality coffee making products.

This brewing method design of Amalie’s evolved into what is known today as the pour over coffee brewing method. It always involves a funnel or cone shaped filter placed above the final coffee receptacle.

The unique funnel and filter of pour over coffee brewing.

What is pour over coffee? It is generally called pour over because the apparatus used to make pour over coffee sits over a mug or carafe. And hot water is poured into the funnel and filtered into the mug or carafe below using simple gravity.

The apparatus or set for pour over coffee is almost always some type of funnel and filter combination.
It is the funnel that really makes the difference with pour over coffee.


pour over coffee funnel and filter

The funnel or cone shaped filter of the pour over method means that the filter area is much larger than the typical drip method or other methods. This larger filtration area gives a very “clean” cup of coffee consistently, meaning that the hot water extracts the oils and fragrances but the filter then traps a lot of the bitter oils away from the final cup.

The typical set for pour over coffee sits atop a mug or some systems have larger equipment for sitting above a carafe of some type.

This method of making coffee is a very hand on, manual, method. It allows the coffee drinker to control many of the factors involved with making their coffee

There are some commercial systems that utilize the same basic method but scale up to allow for multiple cups to brew through at the same time.

An infusion method of coffee brewing is where the coffee is steeped in water before filtration. The pour over method in an infusion method which produces a milder brew with more acidity.

Where pour over coffee has some downsides is related to human error. Bad pouring technique can produce a very poor cup of coffee. There is a definite recipe to making a good pour over cup of coffee. Doing it incorrectly or rushed can ruin the final result.

Getting an even extraction is one of the biggest challenges with the pour over coffee method. If the poured water does not allow the grounds to be evenly distributed in the extraction, you won’t get the most out of the pour over brew.

Yes, you have more control over the final result, but it also comes with more risk of ruining a good cup of coffee.

Single serve pour over coffee.

There is also a variation of the pour over coffee set used on a small scale. It is referred to as the single serve pour over coffee system. Single serve refers to the fact that is only used on a mug by mug basis – only for a single serving.

pour over single serve filters

This single serve method of pour over coffee allows the funnel and filter to sit down into the mug. This submerged coffee is allowed to steep for a little while before removing the filter and allowing the funnel to drain into the mug before drinking.

Some of these systems – as we will look at in a moment, are just a paper filter funnel combo that can easily be pulled out and discarded.

Pour over coffee brewing sets or systems.

There are varied systems or sets for pour over coffee.

Remember that pour over coffee, at its most basic, does not involve machines. Pour over systems or sets are just basic manual coffee brewing hardware

The most seen and most used involves a screened funnel that has a platform where it allows the funnel to sit on top of a coffee mug. Some of these little units may require the user to use a paper filter along with the screened funnel.

Some of the units combine the funnel and filter into one unit – the funnel also acting as the filter with a fine screen – usually as a stainless steel filter

There are sets that have a platform or rack that hold the funnel and filter above a mug or carafe.

This funnel and filter combination is the norm. It is usually just a matter of size as to whether the pour over set is used for just a single mug or for some type of carafe. Those for use with a carafe, usually provide the carafe in the system.

All of these sets are very basic, always composed of a funnel and filter over a receptacle of some sort.

As we hinted at earlier, there is a variation of the pour over set that allows the funnel to sit down into, or be slightly submerged into the coffee in the mug. These sets are only used for a single mug and is why they are called single serve pour over.

This type of pour over allows the coffee in the funnel to brew in the mug for a period of time before removing. Once removed, the remaining liquid is allowed to drain into the mug as much as possible.

This can produce a slightly bolder cup of coffee.

There are single serve sets that are all paper. They are essentially filters shaped as a funnel that have wings which pull out and hold the funnel at the top of the mug.

There are some coffee brewers that pre-package their coffee into these single serve pour overs. All you need to do is pour hot water into the filter.

Then there are single serve filters with wings that you can buy that allow you to put your own coffee into the filter. This seems like a very eco friendly and easy way to make a cup of coffee

The best pour over coffee grind size.

So, what coffee grind size is the best for pour over coffee?

The best way to know this is to experiment. But, generally, medium to medium-fine grind is considered the best for pour over coffee making. We prefer the medium-fine grind as it will help bring out more of the soul of the coffee.

To make your pour over coffee a little bolder, grind the coffee finer. For a lighter cup with more flavor tones, try a coarser grind.

The best water temperature for pour over coffee.

The ideal temperature range for brewing pour over coffee is going to be the same temperature as with brewing using most other methods. That temperature is 195°F to 205°F (90.5°C to 96°C).

Some experts will tell you that water right off the boil (212°F / 100°C) is the best temperature for pour over coffee.

Of course, you can try cooler temperatures that may work for better taste at 176°F /80°C.

With all of these temperatures, remember they are still hot! The heated water is what helps to extract the flavorful coffee oils.

Pour over coffee to water ratio.

There is supposed to be a golden ratio for making coffee that should work with most brewing methods. However, we have found this to be somewhat inaccurate and misleading.

The golden ratio recommends a ratio of 55 grams of coffee per liter of water. That breaks down into about 24 grams of coffee per 15 fl oz of water. That works out to about 4.8 tbsp of coffee to 15 fl oz of water (based on our measurement of 5 grams per tbsp of medium-fine ground coffee).

With other brewing methods we have tried, 3 tbsp of coffee or less usually works for a 15 fluid oz cup

As a quick rule of thumb, the best pour over coffee ratio is 1:4 -or- 1 tbsp of coffee for every 4 ounces of water. So, for a 15 fl oz cup of coffee, a little less than 4 tbsp of coffee will do.

How long to let pour over coffee brew.

Brew time for pour over coffee varies with how much water is needed for the brew. Brew time consists of allowing the filter to drain and the coffee to settle. For a standard 15 oz cup of coffee, You will want about 3-4 minutes of brewing time. Of course, longer for larger brew sizes and slightly less time for smaller brews.

The secret to great pour over coffee.

What is the secret to great pour over coffee? The answer is simple… the filter. As stated, the large filtration of the cone shaped funnel and a paper filter allow for much of the bitter oils to be filtered out, allowing the nuances of the coffee to pass through. So don’t ignore the filter.

Components of great pour over coffee:

  • Good, clean, filtered water
  • Proper water temperature
  • Cone shaped funnel
  • A good paper filter
  • Fresh ground coffee
  • Correct coffee grind size
  • Following the correct process and brew time

How to make pour over coffee instructions (recipe) – step-by-step.

Step-by-step (for a standard 15 oz mug brewing straight into the mug)

1] Add a fresh paper filter to the brewer funnel (or ready your stainless filter / funnel).
2] Place cup under the brewer.
3] Wet the paper filter (not needed for stainless filter) to reduce any paper taste.
4] Drain cup of initial water from wetting filter
5] Add fresh ground coffee – roughly 1 tbsp per 4 oz of water (roughly 4 tbsp for a 15oz cup)
6] Start with a “bloom” by pouring hot water (195 to 205 degrees ideally) evenly over the coffee grounds, about 10% of your brewing amount, just enough to cover the grounds in the center
7] Wait 30 to 45 seconds
8] Slowly pour the remaining hot water in your brew, starting in the middle and slowly spiraling outward to the outside edges. This should take 2-3 minutes.
9] Allow the filter to drain and about 3 minutes for the coffee to “brew” and settle.

Pour over coffee vs french press.

There are definitely some differences when comparing pour over coffee to coffee made with a french press. The primary comparison is taste. French press coffee is more bold and somewhat bitter due to the coffee being fully submerged while steeping in hot water and little of that is filtered out by the screen in a french press.

Pour over coffee, by contrast, has non submerged coffee that is highly filtered, leaving a more flavorful cup of coffee with less bitterness and more of the nuances of the coffee. It is the filtration that really makes the difference.

Another difference is that french press coffee also allows more of the coffee solids, the coffee grit to enter the final cup because of the typical screen of the french press.

Still another difference is in clean up, pour over coffee is much easier to clean up due to the paper filter.

Pour over coffee vs drip coffee.

Again, the primary difference between pour over coffee and drip coffee is the filtration. It is the higher filtration that produces a less bitter and more flavorful cup of coffee when using the pour over method compared to the drip method. The high filtration comes from the cone shaped funnel and the paper filter.

Another difference is that the pour over method is a more manual method, and that means that the user will have more control over the final cup of coffee.

The takeaway

If you are expecting a very strong, bold cup of coffee from pour over coffee – sorry, you will be disappointed.

It is sometimes difficult to put into words how pour over coffee brings out the coffee flavor and nuances and a more vibrant taste, while taking out some of the bitterness – all due to filtration.

Try this brewing method and discover for yourself what pour over coffee is all about.

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