The humble pour over is my favorite coffee preparation method. What's not to like? It's so inexpensive as to be essentially free. There's no machine to break down. It's portable. You can't scald yourself with super-heated steam. It's relatively fast, and it's simple. Most importantly, it makes a great cup of coffee.
And though I love drinking a nice espresso, pulling a shot is a complicated affair on a very costly machine.
Despite this being a simple process, it is a coffee preparation technique. And that means that there are a lot of obsessed people creating ample options to make it very fussy. Some of these options will noticeably improve the taste coffee and are worth learning about.
So, how can you get the most of this most straightforward of brewing techniques?
The Set Up
All you need is a cone and a filter. Basic is fine. One of those plastic Melitta cones will work. If you want to you can splurge on a fancy porcelain cone. All that ever did for me though is make me paranoid about breaking it.
You'll want a medium grind for pourover. Something like kosher salt or raw sugar is a good place to start. You can tweak the grind to fix problems with the coffee: if it's too thin, you'll want to grind finer. If it's too bitter, try a coarser grind.
Just Getting Warmed Up
Very fussy coffee people will tell you to set up the cone, cup and filter, then pour boiling water down the — coffee-less — cone and let it stand. This will heat everything up and perhaps remove any off flavors from the filter.
Try it out and see if you taste a difference. But be sure to toss the 'heating water' before you toss in the ground coffee and begin the brew.
Blooming is soaking the grind and then letting them sit for a while (say, 30 seconds). Talking about blooming will make you feel like A Serious Coffee Person and it seems like a esoteric ritual. But there is a good reason for it.
The rationale is to make sure all the air and CO2 escape from the coffee. If you pour the full cup right away, tiny gas bubbles between the grains and inside the cell walls will prevent contact between the soluble flavor components and the water. Letting the coffee bloom ensures everything is moist and so further water can dissolve all the coffee goodness.
Putting it all together, here's how you brew using the pour-over technique:
- (optional) Heat the filter, cone and cup with water. Wait a few minutes then toss the heating water
- Add the grounds. How much? For a 10 Oz cup (roughly 300ml), a good range will be 20-30 gr.
- Add enough water (just off the boil) to soak the grounds
- Wait 30 seconds or so
- Add the remaining water slowly. It should take between 2 and 4 minutes to brew
To find your absolute pour-over perfection, try these adjustments:
- When adding the water, the darker your roast the shorter the time you want.
- If the coffee is too thin and/or takes much less time than 2 minutes, try a finer grind or more coffee
- If the coffee is too bitter, try a coarser grind
It's useful to keep in mind that all coffee brewing attempts to dissolve out the enjoyable flavor components while leaving the bitter, acrid ones for the compost. The tasty flavors will always come out first, so you need to tune the length of time the water stays in contact with the grounds to the darkness of the roast (darker roasts have more easily-dissolved harsh flavors) with the size of the grind.
That's it! Now you can enjoy a great coffee anywhere, anytime.