Making great-tasting pour-over coffee can often seem like a lot of hard work if you are new to it. Pour-over coffee is a more hands-on way to brew coffee and it is important to pour the coffee a certain way to get it right, which might put some people off. However, for those who are interested in learning more about making coffee using this method, it is definitely worth trying. There’s something awesome about enjoying a great cup of coffee that you’ve made yourself.
However, to achieve this, you will first need to learn the right pour over coffee technique. While there’s a lot of guessing and opinions when it comes to how to make pour over coffee, it comes down to a scientific explanation. Using the basic pour over coffee technique offers a richer, cleaner flavor for your coffee along with more balance when it comes to the extraction. On the other hand, using a poor technique or no technique at all means you are likely to end up with coffee that is not balanced, and perhaps even sour or bitter.
Why Does Pour Over Coffee Require a Technique?
Why is there a technique for pouring coffee? To make proper pour over coffee, it is important to understand what happens during the process. It is different to immersion brewing methods, such as French Press, for example, where the coffee grounds sit in the water for a few minutes, leading to a fairly straightforward extraction of oils and flavors from the coffee beans. On the other hand, the water is constantly draining when you pour over something, which leads to a different type of extraction.
The design of pour-over coffee leads to constant replenishing of brewed coffee with fresh, new water. This will make the process faster and can usually lead to coffee that tastes cleaner, but it also causes some problems. When a bad technique or no technique is used, the water creates ‘channels’ naturally in the coffee grounds. When it is training, the water will naturally run down the path of least resistance, which is often the path that has been paved through the grounds from the previous water flow.
Because of this, the grounds where the water has created channels are likely to be over extracted, while the drier areas of the coffee will be under-extracted. As a result, the brew will be imbalanced with both sourness and bitterness present. This is why when making pour-over coffee, you can’t fill the dripper with water and just leave it to drain. The only way to fix this problem is to pour the water over in a way that ensures all the coffee grounds are saturated. To do this, you should pour a slow and steady stream of water in a circular motion over the coffee bed.
What You Need to Get the Technique Right
Unfortunately, the necessary precision for making proper pour over coffee is something that will be difficult to achieve with a standard kettle. A self pouring kettle or a gooseneck kettle that is specially designed to hand pour coffee is the best choice. Gooseneck kettles have a long and thin pouring spout that is designed to slow the water flow and provide you with more control over how fast you pour and where the water goes.
Along with a gooseneck kettle, a coffee scale is another piece of equipment that will help you get pouring coffee just right. Any kitchen scale that reads in grams accurately will do. A scale will give you updates in real-time when it comes to exactly how much water you have poured, and how fast it is pouring.
Everything You Need to Do to Master the Technique
Now you know what the pour over technique is and what you will need to achieve it, let’s take a look at the specifics of this technique and what’s involved in each phase.
One of the first things you will need to know is how to bloom coffee pour over. The initial contact between the water and the coffee grounds will start several chemical and physical changes in the coffee grounds to prepare them for brewing, so it’s important to ensure that all the grounds are saturated. One of the major things to happen during the blooming phase is the release of CO2 gas, which comes out so powerfully that the grounds do not absorb water very quickly. For blooming, you should pour twice the amount of water as there is coffee. Pour carefully in a controlled circle that starts at the center and works out to the edges to ensure that all the grounds are covered evenly, before waiting for around thirty seconds.
Once you have completed the blooming phase, it’s time to begin pouring the water over the grounds again. This is where the pour over coffee technique is needed. Some of the main things to keep in mind as you pour include:
- Pour in Slow Circles: Just like when blooming the grounds, start in the middle of the grounds and move in slow circles outwards to the edges to make sure that all the grounds are saturated evenly.
- The Center is Deeper: Bear in mind that due to the cone shape, there will be more coffee grounds in the center of the coffee bed, so pour more water in the middle compared to along the sides when you are making circles.
- Avoid Hitting the Sides: Any water that hits the sides of the brewer will probably miss the coffee and run down the filter walls instead.
- Stay Steady: Slow and steady is important when pouring; make gentle and slow movements to keep the water falling onto the coffee rather than rushing through it.
- Watch Your Scale: Once you have made a few pours, keep a look out for any repeatable milestones that you can use to get an idea of how things are going.
The last fifteen seconds of pouring should be done in the very middle of the coffee bed. This is due to the fact that there will be more coffee here compared to on the sides due to the filter’s conical shape. For the final couple of seconds, you should ‘rinse the sides’ which involves using as little water as possible while directing the stream to the filter sides to rinse away any coffee grounds that are clinging there. This will ensure that any stuck grounds are detached from the sides of the filter and are lowered into the coffee bed as the water drains through.
The main reason for rinsing the sides is to avoid any grounds that are ‘high and dry’; this basically means any grounds that are stuck on the sides of the filter, which will not stay saturated as the water drains through. Because of this, if these grounds are not moved down, they will be less extracted compared to the rest, which eventually results in imbalanced coffee. Taking a couple of seconds to rinse the sides at the end of pouring will make sure that all the grounds drain and are extracted evenly.
What to Look For in the Coffee Bed
Once all the coffee has been drained, you should see a flat bed of coffee grounds that are resting evenly at the bottom of the filter. If you can see this, then it’s a good sign that the grounds were distributed and drained evenly. However, if the coffee grounds don’t look like this, it might be a sign that you’ve not got the technique right. What you don’t want to see is:
- Uneven Bed: If you can see side of the bed is higher than the other, it is a sign that the water was not poured with the same strength on both sides of the coffee bed. To avoid this happening, make sure that you are using gentle movements when pouring and avoid forcing water onto one side with more energy.
- Volcano Sides: This looks like a tunnel that goes straight down, with the grounds up on the sides of the filter. If you see this, the upper grounds will have been extracted less than the lower grounds, resulting in an imbalance. To prevent this from happening in the future, be sure to rinse the sides and pour in the center a little less.
When making pour over coffee, achieving a bed of coffee grounds that is level and flat is the main goal for making coffee that is balanced and great-tasting. As you can see, the technique is very important when you are making pour-over coffee, and there is a huge different in the flavor when this type of brew is made with or without the proper technique. For the best results, always make sure that you are using high-quality, freshly-roasted beans as not only will this ensure that your coffee tastes as good as possible, but the process will also be much more forgiving when you are using specialty-grade coffee beans.