In recent years, the pour over cone has increased in popularity as the go-to method to brew coffee. It's light, easy to transport, and great for making one extraordinary cup of coffee at a time.
However, not everyone is aware of what a pour over is, or how to make the best one. Let's talk about the first question—What is it? A pour over is a single-cup coffee brewer that typically comes in the shape of a cone (about the size of a snow cone funnel) with a hole in the bottom. After placing a metal or paper filter in it, you place a small amount of coffee grounds in the filter and pour hot water over it. The result is a single cup of coffee made just for you!
Where did this method originate?
Around 1908, a German entrepreneur named Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz developed the pour over after experiencing leftover coffee grounds in her French press and Moka pot. These were two popular coffee brewing methods at the time. Her first creation to solve this problem was a blotting paper filter and a can punctured with a nail. This eventually materialized into cone-shaped filters in the 1930s. The device that holds the filter (the actual cone) came about in the 1960s. Today, Melitta exists as a thriving coffee company with several materials of their cones, as well as electric drip coffee makers.
Why is a pour over coffee better than other types?
Some people prefer pour overs to drip coffee and other brewers for several reasons.
You can make one cup at a time. Drip coffee brewers are notorious for enforcing bad habits out of coffee addicts. With drip coffee makers, you need to use enough coffee grounds to create 4-6 cups at a time. If you only place enough coffee for one cup of coffee, it'll often taste too watery. By making one cup at a time, you get to have fresh tasting coffee without a huge pot left over.
The taste is smoother and cleaner. A common complaint of drip coffee makers is that they still taste too watery, burnt, and weak. This is because the shower head in a drip coffee maker pours water over the coffee bed at a consistent rate. The constant rate of water can overwhelm coffee grounds before they get a chance to fully absorb the water. As a result, the flavors of the coffee can't be fully extracted, so it ends up tasting weak. A pour over coffee involves a single stream of water slowly dripping over the coffee bed in a circular motion. This lighter and delicate water stream enforces full extraction of the coffee, resulting in a smoother body.
Another benefit of pour over coffee is that it has a cleaner body. The French press and Moka pot use metal filters. This means that more oils in the coffee grounds and beans end up in the final cup of coffee. This gives it a heavier and syrupy body. For those who prefer a lighter and cleaner bodied coffee, the pour over's paper filter traps a lot of those oils.
The cup is personal. For those of us emotionally attached to coffee, the precision and care required for a pour over coffee makes the cup more enjoyable. With a drip coffee maker, French press, or Moka pot, you simply place your coffee where it needs to go and walk away until it's ready. However, with a pour over, you must be there brewing the entire time.
You can also customize different recipes for pour overs, from water amounts to coffee ratios, which change as the coffee ages. It is a rewarding method that makes the coffee experience more personal and methodic.
Types of pour over methods
Although Melitta may be the originator of the pour over cone, many companies have released their own versions of pour over coffees. They all look slightly different but overall produce the same fantastic qualities that the original Melitta style offers.
Hario V60. Championed as the industry go-to of pour overs, the Hario V60 features a cone that has a larger hole than the Melitta. It also has a circular shape, while the Melitta is V-shaped.
Chemex. For people who want to make multiple cups of pour over coffee for their friends and family, the Chemex may be a great option. It is a large glass vase with a wooden handle attached to the neck. It also comes with its own set of thick paper filters. Since the paper filter is much thicker than a standard pour over cone, the brewing recipe will be a little different.
Kalita Wave. The Kalita Wave is a metal pour over cone that features a stainless steel body with wavy contours and a flat bottom where the hole is. It also has Since the bottom is flat, the brewing recipe will also vary slightly for this brewing method.
Stainless steel cone. For those who want the full syrupy body of the French press and the smoothness of the pour over coffee, this style is the best of both worlds. Many companies make them, and they feature a stainless steel metal cone punctured with filter holes. For this reason, brewers do not need paper filters for this method.
So which one is the best? There's not really an answer to that. They all produce similar qualities as the original Melitta pour over, but only vary in brewing recipe. Play around and decide which one produces an ideal cup for you!
What you need for great pour over coffee
To brew an excellent pour over, you need more than the brewer itself.
Filtered water. Water for coffee has filtered water, rich with minerals that enhance the flavors of the coffee. Usiing tap water will weaken the coffee's full potential. You can either filter tap water through a device or buy distilled water and add minerals. Third Wave Water is a company that makes mineral packets specifically for coffee.
Gooseneck kettle. This kind of kettle is crucial because it will help you control the flow rate of water pouring onto the grounds. This needs to be a steady and consistent amount of water. Companies produce both self-heating electric kettles and others have stovetop ones. You may be able to have more consistent temperature water if you choose the electric one.
Burr grinder. A burr grinder is a machine that grinds every single particle of coffee to be the same size. This allows for even extraction of the coffee. If some parts of the grounds are uneven, water may flow through those areas faster or slower. You can buy these as either electric burr grinders or hand grinders.
Scale. Coffee brewing is like baking. You need to work with exact measurements of both water and coffee to get the best results. Having a scale to weigh your coffee and water will help you do this. Some companies make scales with timers built into them for coffee, but you can also simply use a food scale.
Timer. Similar to the ethos of the scale, you should also work with precise timing for your pour over. The ideal time for brewing a pour over should be between 3-5 minutes. Having a timer will help you watch this. You can buy a timer or simply use one on your phone.
Fresh coffee. Even if you're working with the best pour over items, using old coffee will result in a less flavorful cup of coffee. Try to grind coffee just before brewing, and work with beans that were roasted within the last 1-3 weeks.
We hope you feel convinced to brew a great pour over coffee. We have recipes in The Coffee Lab for brewing the Chemex and V60, and hope you're able to share some of your own pour over coffee recipes too.