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.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Use a Pour Over Coffee Maker
- 2 Pour Over Coffee Makers: Some Accessories Required
- 3 Advantages & Disadvantages of Manual Drip Brewers
How to Use a Pour Over Coffee Maker
Step 1: Grind your coffee beans
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.
Step 2: Measure out your grounds and water
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.
Step 3: Heat your water
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.
Step 4: Wet your grounds
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.
Step 5: Continue pouring to produce 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:
- Approach 1: Slowly and continuously pour hot water to maintain only the thinnest layer of water on top of the grounds
- Approach 2: Rapidly pour hot water to the top of the coffee maker and let it drip through at its own rate, occasionally topping off
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!
Step 6: Enjoy and experiment
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: Some Accessories Required
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.
- Gooseneck drip kettle
- Beans (technically not an accessory but still extremely important)
The coffee grinder is the most important piece of any home barista’s 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).
I use a $20 Culinary Prestige grinder, which is our top-ranked model on The Coffee Maven’s list of 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.
- Paper filters are single-use and do a great job keeping fine sediment out of your coffee but do absorb some of the flavorful oils.
- Stainless steel filters are multi-use and won’t soak up any oils but frequently allow finer sediment into your cup.
- Cloth filters are hybrids of paper and stainless steel. They are multi-use and strain out fine sediment but require a lot more maintenance (they shouldn’t dry out).
There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about your personal preference.
Gooseneck Drip Kettle
If you’ve ever Googled pourover 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 pourover coffee:
- Pour rate: the speed at which hot water is poured into the coffee maker
- Pour distribution: the specific location in the coffee maker where hot water is poured, which is important for ensuring proper wetting and even extraction
Let’s be clear: A formal pourover 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 pourover 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.
- The Tjernlund Coffee Stand is designed for the Hario V60 and works with both standard and travel mugs.
- The Osaka Foldable Birch stand has a brilliant birch build and 3 adjustable heights.
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 roast coffees 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.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Manual Drip Brewers
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.
Pros of Manual Drip Brewers
- Complete control over your cup, from pour rate to extraction time
- Deeper connection to your coffee and a better understanding of what makes a great cup truly great
- Ability to “unlock” the flavor of light and medium roasts
- Classic look and feel
Cons of Manual Drip Brewers
- More control means more complicated and more time consuming
- Additional accessories (read: costs) may be required
- Hard to keep coffee hot unless you brew one cup at a time