Wondering how to use a pour-over coffee maker?
You're in the right place.
Manual brewing methods are increasing in popularity as a generation of home baristas look to increase their control over the brewing process. This has led to increased interest in pour over coffee makers like those above.
Related: Best Pour Over Coffee Maker
If you’re wondering how to use a pour over coffee maker, wonder no longer. This is how it’s done.
Note: Manual drip brewing isn’t complicated, but you are taking control of every part of the brewing process. Grind size, water to grounds ratio, filter being used, water temperature, pouring speed, the specific coffee maker you’re using — these are all variables you can tweak (on purpose or inadvertently) which will affect the quality of your brew. What follows is the general method, but I encourage you to experiment with it to find the best method for you and your manual drip coffee maker!
No single factor has a greater impact on your final cup than the initial grind.
Allow me to repeat: The grind is the most important part of your coffee.
Check out our related article on the different grind sizes to learn more about this super-important part of the brew process.
A good rule of thumb is 6 oz of water for every 2 tablespoons (10 grams) of ground coffee, and different grinds (e.g. medium-fine or medium) will have different optimal ratios. Find what works for you.
The Specialty Coffee Association has some good information on ratios.
No single temperature is best for every cup of coffee. In general 195°F-205°F is the optimal range, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Aerobie, the makers of the Aeropress, recommend using 175°F water!
For pour over coffee, though, you’ll probably want water as hot-off-the-boil as possible. This is because there’s no “open spout” lever that controls how long the water is trapped with the ground coffee. Instead, the water can fall through into the mug or collecting vessel on its own. Therefore, the hotter water speeds up dissolution and ensures a properly extracted cup.
This is a good forum thread on pour over temperatures.
The first contact between coffee grounds and water is appropriately called “wetting.” You may also hear it referred to as “blooming” because the dry coffee grounds absorb the first water they come into contact with and expand like a rising dough.
In this step you’re slowly pouring enough water into the ground coffee only to the point where it’s been completely absorbed by the grounds.
This is where the hot water works its magic, extracting the desired caffeine and organic compounds, plus some of the less desired bitter compounds. The goal is to find the proper combination of grind size, water temperature and contact time to yield the best blend of extracted compounds for flavor and mouthfeel.
How long should this step last? It varies, but start with 30 seconds and adjust from there. After the 30 seconds has passed, it’s time to finish your cup.
Rate of pouring is one of the most important factors in manual drip brewing and is what really separates this process from other methods of brewing.
There are 2 main approaches with infinite variations in the middle:
I prefer Approach 1. A lot of people will do some kind of hybrid approach where they continuously pour but allow the water level in the grounds to slowly rise (rate of pouring slightly exceeds rate of output). Again, see what works for you!
Experiment is the operative word here. Test each variable one at a time.
For example, keep everything constant but change your rate of pouring. Did you observe different results? Was your coffee better or worse? Lock in that variable and then try different water temperatures. Then modify your grind size. And all the while feel free to keep going back to previous variables and modify those one by one, too.
If you’re really dedicated to crafting that perfect cup, keep a log of your different recipes and describe how they turned out, what you liked and what you didn’t like.
Pour over coffee makers are very hands-on by design — this allows you to control every variable that could affect your brew. As such, there are several key accessories you’ll need to brew the perfect cup.
Your coffee grinder is the most important piece of your home barista setup.
The grinder controls the grind size and consistency, and the different types of grinders all have subtler impacts on your coffee (such as heat produced when grinding).
If you don't want to spend on a new electric grinder, check out our guide to the best best manual coffee grinders.
Whether you prefer manual or electric is up to you (and your budget) but whatever you do, make sure it’s a burr grinder. Click here to learn why burr grinders are vastly superior to blade grinders.
I mentioned this in the intro, but the filter you use impacts your final cup. Generally the choice will be between paper and stainless steel, but we also saw a manual coffee maker with a cloth filter crack our top 5.
There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about your personal preference.
If you’ve ever Googled pour-over coffee or been to a corner coffee shop, you’ve probably seen that funny long-necked pot pictured here.
That’s a gooseneck drip kettle, and it’s a critical accessory because it controls two of the key variables when making pour-over coffee:
Let’s be clear: A formal pour-over dripper is not a necessary accessory to make manual drip coffee. However, it’s a handy accessory which can help you take your coffee to the next level.
A good pour-over dripper can be had for as little as $15-$20 if you find one on sale, and there are even electric models available.
Not all mugs are compatible with every pour over coffee maker. This is where coffee stands can be helpful, positioning your pour over of choice above your favorite mug.
(Plus, they can look pretty sleek, too. The one pictured here is a beauty.)
The coffee stand won’t affect the flavor of your coffee but it does add some cost to your setup and can be aesthetically awesome if you choose one with a great design.
Remember when I said the grinder was the most important coffee maker accessory? I stand by that, but there’s one partial exception: the coffee bean.
No, the bean isn’t an accessory. But it is worth calling out.
Different roasts have different optimal brewing parameters. For the purpose of this discussion I want to separate light and medium roast from dark roasts.
Light and medium roasts have more subtle flavors which are often described as delicate, fruity or jam-like. These flavors are very easy to mask with the bitter compounds that come from overextraction. Small changes in the brew process or parameters will have large impacts on the quality of the resulting coffee.
Dark roasts don’t have many of these perceptible fruity flavors and instead feature fuller bodies and deep, roasted flavors. These roasts do a better job standing up to varying brew processes and are more consistent across different brew methods, temperatures and extraction times.
Pour-over coffee is great for a lot of reasons (see below!) but it’s not for everyone. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of manual drip brewers.