How Does Pour Over Coffee Work?

How Does Pour Over Coffee Work?

Instead of making a bunch of smaller posts, I’ve collected a FAQ about pour over coffee. This isn’t a beginner’s guide, we already did that here, so go check that out if you’re looking for a step-by-step on how to make pour over coffee, as well as what equipment you’ll need to get started on your pour over coffee journey.

We’ll cover general questions here regarding pour over techniques, brewing, and equipment. When I first got started on pour over coffee, it was basically going to the local coffee shop to order a pour over. I got tired of paying for the $6 dollar cup of coffee and decided to start doing it myself.

The only resource I had 15 years ago were friends that were also getting into manual pour over coffee-making and we tried a bunch of different methods, styles, filters, weight, and combination of beans.

[RELATED POST: Pour Over Coffee Maker Roundup]

How Does Pour Over Coffee Work?

Pour over coffee simply put is a method of brewing coffee, sometimes referred to as ‘manual brewing’. All pour-over devices share a common factor of the brewer manually adding water to the device (unless you get an automatic machine) and they all use some sort of filter, whether cloth, paper or fine metal mesh. What makes pour over coffee-making different than your traditional ‘Brew-and-Forget’ method is the attention you need to give the process. Pour over coffee requires weighing the beans, a good range of water temperature, proper grind size, getting the water to bean ratio correct, pour speed, extraction time and blooming. I know this sounds complicated if you’ve never done it, but once you get really good at it, the rewards of making a great cup of coffee are absolutely worth it.

What is Pour Over Coffee & What Do I need to get started?

There are a number of ways to brew coffee using the pour over method, but the two general pour methods that dominate the coffee market are Chemex and Hario V60, we’ll focus on these two devices specifically for this article. Both are great options for pour over beginners and you may even end up owning both if you really enjoy making coffee at home.

There is some stylistic difference between the two, grind size and overall coffee taste. As far as the price point, both are relatively cheap, although special Chemex coffee makers can cost upwards of $90 – $100 USD. The main difference between Hario and Chemex (aside from design) is filter thickness, grind size, drain time and overall taste.

All About Chemex

Chemex coffee maker is usually the more expensive of the two and is arguably the most iconic pour over coffee maker in the world, there are others, but this one is the most recognizable. Simply known as ‘Chemex’ and sometimes referred to as its own brewing method.

The Chemex coffee maker is so legendary it has made its way to the Museum of Modern Arts in NY, Jame Bond movies, TV show Friends and many more. Chemex was designed in 1941 by chemist and inventor Peter Schlumbohm and has since been a staple in coffee shops all over the world. Overtime the pour over method fell out of favor with the coffee drinking public at large, mainly due to people wanting coffee faster and less effort to get a cup of Joe.

However, over the last decade or so, pour over coffee and the Chemex coffee maker has made a huge resurgence as people are starting to ditch their unwieldy and bulky coffee makers for more flavor and simplicity. Suffice to say, the care, love, and attention required to make the perfect cup of pour over is still the same and has not changed. The Chemex maker produces a clean, crisp and tasty coffee flavor that’s repeatable time and time again by following a couple of simple brewing tips.

[RELATED POST: Best Pour Over Coffee Scale]

The Hario V60

Hario V60 Pour Over
Photo by Julien Labelle on Unsplash

Hario V60 was designed in Japan and has made a huge impact in the coffee world due to its simplistic design, ease of use and great-tasting coffee it produces. The design itself has some significant features from the angle the funnel at 60 degrees and the ridges that adorn the dripper itself are meant to provide optimal airflow during brewing.

In my opinion, the looks department for Hario V60 leaves much to be desired, this pure opinion on my part. The Hario V60 has a complete utilitarian design first in mind, it makes a great cup of coffee, which is what matters the most. I’ve never owned a Hario V60, but I have had it many times at coffee shops, it’s a very popular method of brewing around the world.

General Pour Over Technique for V60 & Chemex

In general, whether you’re using a Chemex or Hario V60, there are general guidelines that are shared between the two and manual coffee making in general. To get maximum flavors out of your brew, try to adhere to these standards.

These rules are good to follow, but adjust to fit your taste and needs. I don’t always follow all the rules when making my own pour over coffee, I love to experiment. But if I were to serve people for the first time I’d make as close to standard as possible so they can get a good baseline what the pour over method is capable of producing.

  • Water temperature ~195F – 205F for optimal coffee extraction and dissolving flavor compounds
  • Both still require blooming the coffee
  • Pouring technique for both is circular in motion starting from the middle and working in a circle outwards. Could you just pour water in the filter without doing the circular motion? Absolutely. Will the coffee taste any different? Maybe.

How is Pour Over Different from Drip Method & How Does Pour over Coffee Work? 

Technically pour over coffee is ‘drip’ coffee. The term drip coffee is the general term when it comes brewing type, where pour over is a more specific type of drip. Using filter + gravity and letting water flow through a small funnel or hole essentially constitutes drip method brewing. Therefore, pour over is a type of drip coffee.

But for the sake of technicalities, pour over coffee refers to a style of brewing where manual method (usually) of water through the use a pour over device, such as a Hario V60 or a Chemex. The main differences between the two lies in the taste of the coffee, overall control of the brewing & attention required when brewing a pour over.

Best Coffee Beans for pour over, Roast & Grind Size for Pour Over?

Coffee Beans

The best beans are usually the one you have in your pantry, because some coffee is better than no coffee, amirite? With that said, the recommended beans for pour over coffee is Single Origin Beans coffee that’s sourced from one single producer, crop, or region in one country.

Single Origin coffee is not mandatory if your favorite local roaster that makes coffee exactly how you like it, go there. The coffee characteristic will depend on where the beans come from, altitude, soil, temperature, humidity. The variables that make up subtle notes on coffee can be endless, it’s best to try out as many as possible and you’ll eventually find a region/country that you’ll love.

If you’re looking for a suggestion about coffee regions here’s a quick list for you to start with:

  • Kona Blend: Comes from Hawaii has a very smooth and many subtle notes. I highly recommend you try Kona at least once in your life. It’s expensive, true Kona coffee only comes from Hawaii.
  • Guatamala: Rich flavors usually with chocolate notes and spices. This coffee has a whole range of flavors to discover
  • Mexican Coffee: Balanced flavors and easy on the pallet.

Best Grind for Chemex Pour Over Coffee

PourOverCoffee.co
PourOverCoffee.co
PourOverCoffee.co

The roast recommended for pour over really up to your preference. The beauty of Chemex or V60 pour over method is that it doesn’t tend to lose any of the flavors of any specific roast. So choose the roast that you like best (Light, Med, Dark). If you’re just starting with pour over coffee, start somewhere in the middle and pick up a single origin, medium roast from any local roaster.

Starting out with good coffee and good water will usually yield a better coffee in the end (with good technique during brewing). Grind size for pour over can be more specific, typically Medium is a good starting point. This is where a really good grinder will come in handy for you, make sure it’s a burr grinder and not a blade grinder.

Consistency in grind size will play a big role in how the coffee tastes. I recommend some grinders in a previous article here. The majority parts of your ground coffee are insoluble pieces and the other parts are soluble, like acids, sugars, and other molecules. If you have a good burr grinder, the consistency in ground sizes will yield pieces that are close in their overall mass.

That means you can consistently extract flavors out of the coffee as you start to get the technique down. You’ll always need to play around with what grind works best with a new coffee bag. Just like wine, roasted coffee beans take on many different personalities based on dozens of variables. The goal is to control as many of these variables as you can when brewing at home. There’s some pretty cool science behind grind size that I’ll cover in another post on this site.

If you don’t have a grinder, when you buy your coffee from your roaster, you can ask them to grind it for you. Ensure that you tell them it’s for a pour over and the kind of device you’ll be using, whether it’s Chemex or V60. I don’t particularly like the idea of pre-grind the coffee, as the freshness won’t last nearly as long. But desperate situation calls for desperate measures.

But I’ve had a pour over coffee using a coarse-med grind that also tastes amazing, so it just really depends on the coffee. There’s no right or wrong, only your preference matters.

How Much Caffeine in a Pour Over Coffee?

Considering that the world’s primary source of caffeine is the coffee bean, how much caffeine is there in a cup of coffee? Caffeine can vary from a few different ways, but the type of bean and the preparation method.

As a comparison, a single-shot of espresso (Arabica type) contains roughly 80 – 100 mg of caffeine, compared to a pour over coffee cup (10 – 12 oz) usually contains about 100 – 130 mg of caffeine. You might be wondering why pour over coffee contains more caffeine, it’s because it’s usually measured by volume. Dark roast coffee also contains less caffeine than lighter roast due to the heating/roasting process reducing the caffeine in a bean.

What is the Perfect Pour Over Coffee to Water Ratio?

Here POC & Co. we use a 1 / 15 coffee to water ratio for every cup of coffee we want to make. That means for every gram of coffee, we boil 15 grams of water on a scale. It’s easier to measure in grams than fluid ounces, 1 gram of water is equivalent to 0.03968253968253968 fluid ounces.

To make the ratio as simple as possible, we use a standard 25-30 grams (whole bean) of coffee per 16 ounces, that means for every 16-ounce of coffee, we would weigh out ~30 grams (sometimes less, based on the roast) and 480 grams of water. If you’re making more than 1 cup of coffee, just scale up as many cups as you need.

This is not a hard and fast rule, you can change the ratio around to get the taste the YOU like the best. This is simply a guideline as a starting point for someone that’s just getting into pour over coffee making. If you’re feeling experimental, I would highly encourage you to try different ratios and write them down.

But in case you’re wondering how much coffee will yield with the ratio I mentioned above, take a look at this table for serving up to 8 cups of pour over Chemex coffee.

CoffeeWaterCoffee Yield (Cup)
30 g (1 oz)480 g2
60 g (2.1 oz)960 g4
90 g (3.1 oz)1440 g6
120 g (4.2 oz)1920 g8
150 g (5.2 oz)2400 g10
480 grams of water = 16.9 oz / ~500 ml1 cup = 8 oz

This is merely a guideline, you’ll need to play around with these figures depending on the roasted coffee beans you’re making. The yield will typically be accurate, you’ll just need to adjust based on the type beans you’re using, grind type and roast type.

Best Filter(s) to Use for your Pour Over Coffee Maker

There’s no shortage of filters on the market for pour over coffees. When starting out with pour over coffee, it’s a daunting task to pick out which one to use to get you started. Lucky for you I’ve tried a bunch of them, unfortunately, I can only speak for Chemex filters, not the V60 for personal use since I’ve never owned one. I’ll go over two of my favorite filters to use for Chemex coffee maker and how to maintain them.

Chemex is the Chemex Natural Filter Squares – I’ve used almost all the filters there is to use on a Chemex, this one to me doesn’t leave any funky paper taste if prepped and rinse properly, even if you don’t pre-soak the filter, I don’t notice any egregious paper flavors from it, unlike other paper filters I’ve used.

The filter does a great job removing most sediments from the brew, they are easy to use and fits perfectly in your Chemex maker. Once you’re done you can throw away the filter or you can actually compost the filter as well! I recommend tearing up the filter in smaller pieces if you’re looking to compost after each use. They are biodegradable, so no worries about filling up the landfills with Chemex filter refused.

Steel Cone Filter for Chemex & V60 – For cost and even more environmentally friendly solution for pour over filters, I recommend reusable metal mesh filters. I have a couple of these metal filters, one is from a company called GROSCHE which also makes a pour over coffee maker similar to the Chemex, but doesn’t perform nearly as well as the Chemex.

I don’t recommend it. The Grosche filter gets clogged very easily and prevents optimal draining when brewing. ALL metal filters will eventually clog up, it just depends on how fine the mesh is and the quality of the laser cut. After a couple of weeks’ worth of use, you’ll need to run a metal filter through boiling water with vinegar to clean the clogged holes for about 20 minutes.

You’ll eventually the notice decrease performance of your filters, that’s when you’ll need to clean it. It’s a fairly simple process to clean but does require an extra step for maximum performance.

Best Pour Over Coffee Kettles

I don’t think this is a make or break when it comes pour over coffee. Although the most recommended kettle type is ‘gooseneck’ kettle, I’ve made plenty of pour over coffee with a normal spout on the kettle. The reason why the gooseneck is highly recommended is that it allows you greater control over pour speed and amount of water when brewing your pour over.

Why is this important you ask? Well, temperature, pour speed and water volume makes a big difference when extracting as much flavor out of the coffee. Combined with a decent food scale, you can be really accurate about how much water you’re pouring into the filter as you’re brewing your cup(s). Assuming you’re very new to coffee making, go here to see a list of kettles I recommend.

Any kettle will work, some kettles just make it very easy to get the perfect water temperature to maximize time and get you boiling your favorite cup in only a few minutes. Even older kettles without any fancy electronics will work just fine!

Can You Re-use Pour Over Coffee Grounds?

Generally no, you’ll more than likely end up with bland coffee. Assuming you did a great job making your first batch of coffee, once the coffee has been extracted, most of the oils, flavors and solubles are gone, leaving you with just bland coffee. However, there are multitudes of uses for used coffee grounds. From gardening to baking, used coffee doesn’t have to end up in the garbage can. Here’s a list of ideas for your coffee grounds:

Anyway, you get the point. This list could go for a while with all the things you can use coffee grounds. It’s worth a quick search on Google to get more ideas. So don’t be quick to trash used coffee beans, it might find more life in another recipe.

How Do You Keep Pour Over Coffee Hot?

We’ve gone over brewing method at length already, you know that it’s a process that takes a few minutes to complete. By the time you’re done with your first cup of pour over, assuming you made more than one, the next cup will be cold. A traditional coffee maker, like Mr. Coffee, will have a hot plate to keep the coffee warm, but you don’t have that with a pour over.

So how do you keep the coffee warm then? Well if you use a V60 pour over device, you can only really make one cup at a time anyway, so this applies to Chemex coffee maker that can handle up to 8 cups of coffee. The easiest solution would be to only make as much coffee as you can drink in one sitting. But in the event that time is an issue (when is it not?) then here are some simple tips to keep your pour over Chemex ready to go when you want it:

  • Smart Coffee Warmer – this neat little device has auto on/off feature that will detect if a mug or a pour over maker is on it. It’s not specially made for a Chemex, but it will fit a smaller version of Chemex, even the 8 cup version. But it is small and really made for a mug. It will not keep an entire 8 Cup Chemex warm, but the smaller Chemex 3-Cup pour over fits perfectly on it.
  • Blue Horse Cozy 8 Cup Warmer – this a sleeve for your 8 Cup Chemex coffee maker. It’s a novel idea (I don’t own one) since I have a sleeve for one of my 32 oz beer growlers (container for beer, like a jug) and it works very well keeping the beer cold. This also acts like can koozies keeping beverage hot or cold. The only downside is the price for a sleeve? Come on man. Check it out anyway if you have some cash to blow, let me know in the comments below if it worked for you.

Is Pour Over Coffee Worth It?

Yes.

Temperature for Pour Over Coffee

The best temperature to brew pour-over coffee is between 195F – 205F (90C – 96C). This temperature range isn’t specific to pour over, but rather a general range for brewing most coffee. Whenther you’re doing a French Press, Aero Press or regular drip method, the same temperature range applies.

Final Thoughts

If you read this entire article, I owe you a cup of coffee! This has been a journey, but just like a good cup of coffee, the effort of learning about pour over coffee can be very rewarding. Hopefully, I’ve armed you with enough information that you’ll start to take your daily coffee routine as a journey rather than a medium for caffeine in your system. It took me years of enjoying coffee from gas stations to realize that there was something better out there.

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