How to Pour-Over Coffee? 5 Techniques You Need to Know
After learning to make pour-over coffee, you'll never go back to making drip coffee.
The way you pour the water over the grounds when using the pour-over method can affect how your coffee tastes.
The most important factors are the rate and control of your pour.
There are as many perfect ways to pour coffee as professional baristas, but there isn't much written about it.
When you get down to it, it's an abstract concept that sounds ridiculous, but since you're going to have to pour that water at some point, you might as well learn how pouring can affect your brew.
Is the pour techniques for beginners?
Most likely not. Is a highly refined pouring technique required for homemade coffee? No way.
But even beginners can see differences in their cups if they follow a few simple rules for pouring.
How long water is in contact with coffee affects how many flavor molecules dissolve.
As you'll see later, the amount of agitation in the water can also affect extraction.
In other words, quickly and sloppily pouring can have a big (and bad) effect on the result.
Speaking as someone who used to dump the water over the grounds, I can assure you that a slow, controlled pour bears noticeable results.
A gooseneck kettle is ideal for this slow, controlled pour.
No, you don't need one—and if you don't have one, I've included methods in this post to make pouring easier—but it does help you control and direct the water flow.
The professional coffee community is divided into two pouring methods: continuous pouring and pulsing.
I think either one is fine for a home brewer, but there are a few things to think about no matter which one you choose:
1. Do not overflow the coffee bed.
The purpose of pour-over methods is not to soak the coffee grounds in a pool of water. You want to keep the water level relatively stable, so fresh water constantly replenishes the bed as coffee drains from the device's bottom. Why is this important? Fresh water is a better solvent than coffee water.
2. Pour in the center.
For most of your pouring time, you should stay close to the center of the coffee bed.
Pouring around the sides of the device allows the water to form channels along the walls and bypass most of the coffee grounds.
After all the water has been drained, look at the filter to see if you are hitting the sides.
Just above the bed of the filter, there should be a thin layer of coffee that is mostly fines.
A thin layer of coffee, mostly fine, should be current around the sides of the filter just above the bed.
If there are clean patches of filter (referred to as "balding" in the industry), water hits the device's sides and follows the path of least resistance downward.
Another issue is what is known as "fine migration. Because fines tend to cling to the sides of the filter, water can wash them to the bottom, where they clog everything and send your contact time to hell.
3. Distribute the water evenly.
Although it's best to stay near the center of the coffee bed, only pour directly into one spot.
This will form a channel, allowing water to bypass most grounds. To avoid this, run in small circles, figure eights, or any other pattern that makes you feel good.
Professional baristas do this in various ways (and many have strong opinions about which is correct). Still, the point for the home brewer is to keep the water moving so that it is evenly distributed across the entire bed.
The bed should be as flat as possible when the water drains through the grounds.
After all of the water has drained, if you notice slopes or divots, you know you've been favoring one area over another.
4. Warm the coffee in the coffee bed.
While it's common to see fines stuck to your filter, you want to avoid seeing thick walls of grounds stuck up the sides of the brewing device.
Unless there is an exception, there always is; boulders are large chunks of ground stuck to the filter above the bed.
The thicker and higher the boulders on the filter's sides are, the less coffee comes into contact with the water at the appropriate time.
Make a quick loop around the bed to push the grounds back into the slurry in a few of my brewing methods.
5. Plan Your Time
The controlled pour is meant to control the amount of time or brewing time that the coffee is in contact with the water and to ensure that the coffee is in contact with the water evenly and thoroughly.
This includes the time you pour and how long it takes the water to filter through the bed once your final beverage weight is met for pour-over methods.
If you run too quickly, the water will not have enough time to extract all the goodness from the grounds.
Pouring too slowly may result in over-extracted coffee. Remember, your grind may be too coarse if you're pouring as slowly as possible and the water is draining too quickly.
If you're hitting your brew-time target, but the water is drawing down painfully slowly, your grind may be too fine.
Pouring requires practice but becomes easier with repetition. As with professional baristas, you may develop muscle memory that makes pouring second nature.
Will something similar happen to you? Nobody knows! In either case, an excellent pouring technique is relatively simple to master.
Pouring indefinitely Many baristas believe that when making pour-over coffee, you should constantly replenish the water in the device with a slow, steady stream from your kettle.
This is known as continuous pouring. The goal is to keep the slurry at a low, steady level and keep the flow rate the same the whole time.
The water stream should always be intact, even to a trickle. People who like this method often say that it is gentle (there isn't much shaking), which means that finer grounds can be used, making the coffee taste better.
Many people also think that devices like the V60 and the Chemex have to be poured slowly and carefully because the V60 and the Chemex don't do much to control how fast the coffee flows.
This pouring is nearly impossible without a gooseneck kettle, and it takes some practice to master.
The kettle should be about three-quarters full for best results (the flow rate out of the spout changes more dramatically as the water level in the kettle decreases, which can be tricky for beginners), and it should feel heavy at first.
People supposedly get a "barista muscle" over time, making it easier to hold and control a whole kettle with one hand while pouring.
(To this day, I am still a weakling.) Practicing pouring into your device with a filter but no grounds is also a good idea.
Experiment with continuous pouring with a familiar amount of water, such as 250 to 400 g. Suppose you break your stream; time yourself again. Determine how slowly you can go. You can do anything if you pour 250 continuous grams of water for three minutes or longer.
A Word on Agitation
When the coffee grounds move around in the water, this causes agitation. Agitation quickly exposes coffee particles to fresh water, which speeds up extraction. Most devices cause agitation because water must be introduced at some point, stirring things up a little. The coffee grounds move with the water level as it rises and falls, adding to the agitation. Most of the time, you want to keep extra agitation to a minimum, aside from what's happening as you pour the coffee. Some methods, particularly full-immersion methods, may benefit from a quick stir. How do you know how much agitation to cause? It's just something you'll have to get used to. However, it's a good skill to keep in mind and work on developing in the beginning.
A different type of pouring technique is pulsing. Instead of pouring the water continuously, you take breaks at regular intervals to allow the water to drain.
How frequently and for how long you break is highly variable—everyone has their own ideas about what's best for what kind of device.
In general, one break every 50 to 60 grams is considered standard.
While pulsing involves taking a break between pours, it does not mean that the brewing time will be extended.
Pulsing requires faster pouring because of the breaks, but the brewing time on a pour-over device is usually the same whether you pulse or pour continuously.
Pulsing, in my experience, is more forgiving and accessible to master than continuous pouring.
For one thing, pulsing is less stressful and allows you to easily adjust your speed.
Pulsing lets you make smaller amounts of coffee while still getting the right contact time.
No matter how you make your coffee, a simple way to make it better is to "bloom" it by thoroughly wetting the grounds with a small amount of hot water before continuing to pour.
It appears absurd: how could wetting the grounds and waiting significantly impact the cup's final flavor? But it seems At its most basic level, the bloom's heat and moisture get the coffee ready for extraction in two ways:
Carbon dioxide emissions
Because carbon dioxide is trapped in the beans during roasting, most fresh coffee contains much of it.
When coffee grounds are wet, they swell, and bubble as carbon dioxide is released.
(A lack of bubbling during the bloom is a good indicator that your coffee has gone stale.) Coffee naturally emits carbon dioxide, but hot water accelerates the process.
Carbon dioxide is bitter, as anyone who has drunk soda water can attest. Blooming prevents all that bitter carbon dioxide from ending up in your cup.
The extraction process has begun.
Blooming removes the carbon dioxide in the beans before the extraction process starts.
If the carbon dioxide isn't let out, the gas pushes water away and acts as a shield for the other solubles.
This makes it more difficult for water to reach these solubles, making it more difficult for you to make a tasty cup.
How much water is required to create a bloom? A good rule of thumb is to use double the dose's weight in water.
If your dose is 14 grams (about two tablespoons) of coffee, your bloom weight is 28 grams (approximately 412 tablespoons) of water.
You want enough water to soak the grounds without flooding the device (some dripping is okay).
If you add too much water at once, the carbon dioxide will be trapped, defeating the purpose of the bloom.
How long should you wait before starting the brew? A good bloom time is between 30 and 45 seconds, depending on the coffee's freshness, roast, and dose.
Fresh, light-roasted coffee, for example, requires a longer bloom time, as do larger doses. When the blossoms begin to slow, the bloom period ends.
If you are wondering, "Why only 30 to 45 seconds?" Why not wait until all of the bubbles have dissipated? For one thing, the bubbles rarely stop. Second, if carbon dioxide is escaping, you can also bet on other volatile aromatic compounds.
Volatile aromatics are very light and float away effortlessly, which is how they got their name. However, keeping them in the coffee is essential because they add a lot of flavors.
That scale must be zeroed!
Remember to zero your scale before beginning to pour water on the bloom. The bloom weight should differ from the device's or the coffee's weight.
Taste is the ultimate coffee test. Strong? Insufficient? Bitterness? Acidic? Or is it the perfect blend of strength and sweetness, highlighting the coffee's flavor? Once you've mastered the timing and pouring, making cafe-quality coffee at home is easy.
If you're unhappy with your cup, consider the coffee's roast level. Darker roasts have smoky, bitter flavors that lighter roasts don't. A light roast highlights fruit acids and is brighter and tarter. Adjusting brew variables can make small changes to coffee flavor profiles, but the dominant characteristics are tied to roast level. Sometimes you need to try a different coffee.