Beginners Guide to Pour Over Coffee (Chemex)

Beginners Guide to Pour Over Coffee (Chemex)

I remember my first experience with coffee other than your typical drip coffee maker, over 15 years ago. I went to a local coffee shop called 25/30 Espresso after work and ordered coffee, not knowing they were going to brew it right in front of me, it was a Siphon / Vacuum Coffee brewer.

It wasn’t pour over, but it piqued my curiosity and lead me to research the Pour Over Coffee method. There’s something about watching someone grind the beans, bloom the coffee and brew it in this scientific-looking contraption made me look into other brewing methods. I was so impressed, I went home and Googled as much information I could find about different brewing methods. In this article, Complete Beginners Guide to Pour Over Coffee, we’ll discuss equipment, technique, coffee and grind.

[RELATED POST: Pour Over Coffee Maker Roundup]

What is Pour Over Coffee?

Pour over coffee is a method of brewing coffee using a filter and manually pouring hot water at a specific temperature to achieve optimal flavor extraction from the coffee beans. The method involves weighing the beans, water and finally timing your ‘pour’ to get the most out of your coffee. The pour over method is popular among experienced coffee drinkers and home baristas.

Pour-over method of brewing coffee is a lifestyle first and foremost. If you’re used to ‘brew-and-forget’ coffee makers, pour over will require your attention and love. The process is a journey that will lead you to a cup of pure joy if done correctly. I would wake up an extra 30 minutes early before work so I could make a couple of cups of my favorite pour over before heading out the door. Firstly, let’s discuss all the tools you’ll need to get you started on your pour over coffee journey, then we’ll go over the technique.

Pour Over Coffee Equipment

I’ve owned 5-6 pour coffee makers over the years and my favorite one is hands down, the Chemex and a close second is the Bodum Pour Over 1L version. There is a huge price difference between the two, where the Chemex is much more expensive. But you can also tell a difference in quality, the Chemex wins hands down, it’s hand blown glass. I take out the Chemex when I have guest, people get a kick out of pour over and seeing the Chemex, especially if it’s their first time having pour over.

Let’s take a look at the full list of equipment to start making your own pour over at home, we’ll discuss in detail each piece of gear. If you’re into coffee, you might already have some of the equipment on the list, I suggest the list below because it’s what I currently use or have used in the past. Also worth noting is that this is not a comprehensive list of pour over coffee makers by any stretch, there are dozens of makers. The Chemex and V60 pour over coffee makers are arguably the two most popular in the world.

I’ll get into details of the most important parts of pour over coffee making equipment. I think it’s worth mention why I chose these brands and the reasons why. Links below are affiliate links, I have to pay for bandwidth somehow.

  • Chemex Carafe
  • Chemex Filters
  • Coffee Grinder
  • Kitchen Timer
  • Food Scale
  • Kettle / Auto Hot Water Heater (Goose Neck)

The Chemex carafe is easily the most recognizable pour over coffee makers, it’s iconic these days. If you’re feeling like you want to splurge on coffee gear, then the hand blow Chemex coffee maker should be on that list. The quality is amazing, it has some heft to it. If you’re not looking to spend that much getting into pour over coffee, Chemex makes a classic version as well for half the price. If $45.00 USD is still a bit high, then I recommend the Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker. The reason why I spent so much on a Chemex is that it’s something that I wish to have for a long time. Not to say that the other carafes won’t last as long, but it’s a wonderful piece for coffee-making that I will enjoy for years to come. The thick glass also keeps coffee warm longer (PoC gets cold quicker).

Pour over coffee filters are important and choosing the right one can mean the difference between clean crisp coffee or some weird after taste. They make these ‘natural’ filters for the Chemex carafes, technically you can use them for another pour over coffee makers as long as the throat fits the filter. If you have a maker that has a wider throat on the carafe, the filter will just slip right through. I’ve used these natural filters with great success over the years, I’ve also invested in re-usable filters for my Chemex and Bodum makers. To be perfectly honest, I only use the metal mesh filters when I’ve run out of paper filters. Arguments could be made of the environmental impact that coffee filters (also the creation, using bleach or oxygen method). The flavor of the coffee will obviously be affected by the filter you choose to use.

You will want to grind your own coffee if you wish to take full advantage of pour over goodness. I’ve had this Baratza Encore burr grinder for years now, while I’ve gone through 2-3 different coffee grinders in the past. We also have the same coffee grinder at work, this thing is a workhorse for sure. It’s a little bit on the pricey side, but I’ve paid for coffee grinder 3 times buying cheaper ones that just ended up breaking anyway. What’s great about the Encore is the amount of grain control you get compared to others. For an entry-level grinder, this is great, albeit on the pricier side. On the cheaper side of the burr grinders, Cuisineart makes a burr grinder that’s easier on the wallet. Regardless of which grinder you get, manual or the Baratza, make sure it’s a burr grinder.

This electric kettle is fantastic! I have another electric kettle by Breville that’s twice the capacity, but I prefer to use this Cosori because of the gooseneck, which allows me more control over how much water I’m pouring into the carafe when brewing. The rate of water flow + time is important when making a pour over. If you already have a kettle and wish to use that for pour over, it will be perfectly fine. The only difference is that you need good temperature control between 195F – 205F for maximum coffee brewing. Best of all, the Cosori kettle already has a setting for 195F / 205F so there’s no need to guess what the temp of the water is unless you have a cooking thermometer (candy thermometers will also work).

The kitchen timer and food scale is totally up to you, I’ve provided some Amazon links up top, but I feel like we don’t need to get into details when it comes to those pieces, as long as you have a timer (cellphone works) and a food scale that can do Grams (g), it’s perfectly fine. We’ll get into the details in a bit why you even need a food scale when you’re making coffee. I told you earlier pour over coffee requires your love and attention, but I promise if you’re a coffee-lover, you’ll appreciate the taste of the coffee once you put the effort into it.

Coffee, Boil & Water

The Coffee

photo by Gerson Cifuentes / Unsplash

Arguably the two most important ingredients of making great tasting pour over coffee. I subscribe to a coffee company that sends me a bag of coffee every two weeks called, Moustache Coffee Club (not an affiliate link). I basically tell them how much coffee I drink, and they send me a freshly roasted bag every week or couple of weeks. They get fair trade coffee from all over the world, roast them and send the flavor notes based on the coffee. It’s allowed me to explore different coffees from all over the world, it’s been great! You can use whatever roaster you want, needless to say, the fresher the coffee roast, the better the end product will be.

Coffee has a shelf life from roast to brew, be mindful of this. I would say grab a bag of coffee from your local roaster, this will be the best chance that it’s fresh since smaller roasters can’t afford to roast more bags than they can sell. Local roasters also give a shit about the roast/coffee they make. They are passionate about making the perfect roast. Go there first. What I wouldn’t recommend is opening up a bag of Folgers and using that for your pour over coffee, please don’t do that.

There are a number of coffee roasters you can choose from online and they will gladly send you coffee, just do so searching around. But local roasters would be my first suggestion, then maybe going online. I’ll go into deeper details in a later post about optimal coffee roast to brew times because the age of your coffee will also make a huge difference.

The Water

Great water should make great coffee, right? I use Zero Water to brew pour over coffee, its’ basically filtered tap water. Where I live we have extremely ‘hard’ water that doesn’t taste all that great. But once I run it through a filter called Zero Water, it’s really good. I know this topic is arguable because when you go to a coffee shop, you have no control over the water, they probably just use tap/city water and it tastes fine right? Sure, but if you’re going out of your way to make a pour over coffee and use tap water on the most abundant ingredient? You absolutely don’t have to use special filtered water, straight from the tap and into the kettle is fine. But I just go the extra step because I want my coffee as clean, crisp and as close to how coffee should be enjoyed.

The Boil

Water Temperature is also an important factor in making pour over coffee. If you only have a traditional kettle and don’t have a thermometer, a good rule of thumb I’ve used in the past is to boil the water first ( boiling water is 212F (at sea level), so you could use that as your gauge), then removing the water from heat for about ~45 seconds more or else depending on how hot or cold it is where you are. It’s important to note that water boils at different altitudes, the higher you are, say living in Colorado, that means water will boil at a lower temperature and you might only need to remove it from heat for 20 seconds to get the right brewing temp if you don’t have a thermometer. So boil the water, wait 45 seconds, that should bring the water temp down to about 195-200 F which is where you want the water to be for pour over coffee.

Pour Over Brew Instructions using Chemex

This beginner’s guide should make about 2 cups (8 oz each) of pour over coffee, adjust the ratio if you would like to make more coffee. If this is your first time, I suggest making my suggested amount first so you can try out different brews as you find your perfect cup. Take as many notes as possible, such as water temp, coffee type, coffee grind coarseness, brew time, bloom time, whatever you want. Eventually, you’ll get so good at making pour over coffee, you won’t need to measure out so much and you’ll just do everything by feel and smell. Don’t be afraid to play around, this is what it’s all about, this should be a fun journey. What I say on this post are mere guidelines for you, not etched in stone rules for making coffee. Let’s get started!

It is important for the coffee to be a medium grind when starting out (you can adjust as you go along), and to be ground with a quality burr grinder. If the water stalls in the grounds and produces an over extracted and bitter coffee – this typically means your grind is too fine or filter is clogged. If the water pours through too fast, and the resulting coffee is weak – then the grind is too coarse, resulting in an under-extracted brew. Play around the ground size as you get more comfortable to get the taste you’re looking for.

Pour Over Coffee Instructions

  1. 1. Bring about 20 fl. oz of (~ 566.99g ) of water to a boil. You can use filtered water or tap water, it’s up to you. Ideally, filtered water. We are heating up a little bit more water than required because we’ll use it to warm up the Chemex and pre-soak the filter.
  2. 2. Weigh out ~30g of coffee and to a medium or medium-fine coarseness (play around with grind levels to fit your needs).
  3. 3. While the water is getting up to temp, load the filter into your Chemex. Place the filter so it fits snugly on the Chemex spout.
  4. 4. Pre-soak the filter and warm the glass of the Chemex with the excess water you heated up earlier, only use about 3-4 fl. oz of hot water. The goal here to warm up the coffee maker. Pour out the water in the carafe once it’s warmed up.
  5. 5. Place your medium ground coffee in the Chemex filter creating an even level of ground coffee inside the filter.
  6. 6. Place your Chemex on a food scale and zero it out so it reads 0.0 oz with the Chemex on top.
  7. 7. Pour hot water on the coffee bed inside the filter, until all coffee grounds are fully immersed. Your first 30 – 35 seconds is allowing the coffee to bloom/expand. This just means stop pouring water and you’ll see the coffee bubbling during this time. This ensures even distribution and creates more surface area for the coffee to release flavors. Again wait 35 seconds or so, let the coffee bloom.
  8. 8. After you’ve let the coffee bloom for about 35 seconds, it’s time to pour the rest of the water into the coffee grounds slowly. The time to brew/pour should be about 3.5 to 4 minutes. Continue by pouring your gooseneck into the coffee grounds, starting from the coffee filter’s center point and moving outwards in a circular motion. The rate of the pour is approximately 4 oz (~ 113.40 g ) every 60 seconds. You’ll be able to see how much water you’re pouring because the scale will change as you start to pour. Your goal is to start from the middle working outwards as you pour in a circle. After every 4 oz of water, pause and let the water extract and brew the coffee a bit, about 10 seconds. Repeat this process until you’ve poured about
  9. 9. After 4 minutes of pouring and brewing, enjoy the fruits of your hard-earned work!

Conclusion & Final Thoughts

Getting into pour over coffee and getting the first cup of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee is an amazing experience. Sounds nerdy to be so excited over a cup of coffee, but if you appreciate a good cup, you’ll never go back. To taste coffee the way it wasn’t meant to be enjoyed, you may never set foot in another Starbucks again. But seriously, enjoy the process, if you don’t have time in the AM, maybe make pour over coffee magic a weekend treat. I know it’s a lot of processes, from weighing to getting just the right amount of time to brew your coffee, the whole process seems like a lot at first. But I promise, once you get the hang of it and find that perfect ratio for your liking, this whole thing will go fast. I still use a traditional drip coffee maker and the occasional french press, so pour over isn’t my only way of enjoying coffee these days. For the sake of time and convenience, I’ll do a drip, but most of the time when I want to savor a moment, I’ll do a pour over method in a heartbeat! If you have additional pour over coffee questions, check out this article that may answer some of your burning questions.

Pour Over Coffee

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