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Pour over coffee

Kate Williams

Pour over coffee


The Southern Kitchen guide to pour over coffee

I first started making pour over coffee when I lived in California and was very concerned with making coffee the most perfect it could possibly be. I weighed out my beans and water specifically to the gram, and poured the water over the grounds with precision. It took a long time.

I still make pour over today in my kitchen in Atlanta, but I do it as much for the space-saving practicality as for the coffee's flavor. (And because I really don't like French press coffee.) But I've relaxed quite a bit on my technique, relying more on eyeball measurements than a scale and pouring in water willy-nilly. Yes, it still takes longer than firing up an auto drip machine, but I think that the extra few minutes are worth it for better flavor and more control.

And you can master your own pour over coffee, too, by following the guide below.

A couple of notes before we begin: First, if you do anything, please start with whole coffee beans and grind them at home. You don't need to go out and buy a fancy coffee grinder; those bullet-shaped devices will work just fine. Second, you can use just about any filter cone to make pour over. We love the stands made by James Handmade Goods, paired with Hario v60 filter cones, but you can use just a basic plastic cone set on top of a coffee mug. That's it!

1. Weigh your beans, at least the first time

I like to use around 30 grams (or 3 tablespoons) whole coffee beans per cup of coffee. This amount can vary a bit depending on your own preferences and the roast style of the coffee. (Typically, lighter roast coffees should be brewed with more water, and darker roast coffees should be brewed with less.) The first few times you make pour over, I'd suggest trying this amount; you can always tweak it in future batches to suit your taste.

It's also not that important to weigh or measure the beans each and every time. Once you know how full your grinder is with a certain amount of coffee, just remember that amount and eyeball it. After all, it's early in the morning. Do you really want to keep pulling out that scale? 

2. Grind your beans
Since you're starting with whole beans (you are, aren't you?) you will have to grind the beans before brewing. I use a very basic coffee grinder, but if you've got a fancier burr grinder, you'll get more consisent results. All you're looking for here is to grind the coffee to the texture of sea salt. It should be slightly more coarse than coffee used in a standard drip coffee maker, but more fine than coffee used in a French press. Again, the texture isn't terribly important unless you're being super picky; you just want the beans to be fine enough to extract all of their caffienated goodness. (And flavor. Yes, flavor.)

3. Prepare your filter and boil water
Next, you'll want to get your filter ready to go. You'll want to look for "Number 2" or "v60"-sized cone filters, which come to a full point on the bottom. They're not always in stock at typical grocery stores, but you can find them at coffee shops or online. Place the filter in the glass filter cone and then pour a little water into the filter to saturate it. You can do this step with hot water over your coffee mug (it'll warm your mug up; just don't forget to dump out the water) or just run it under the sink.

Place the filter cone into your pour over stand or over your coffee mug. Pour the coffee grounds into the filter and tap gently to level the top of the beans.

Meanwhile, fill a kettle with water (use filtered water if you've got it) and bring it to a boil. Most pour over recipes will tell you that you'll need a speciality pour over kettle with a long narrow spout; while this style of kettle will certainly make pouring easier, it is 100 percent unnecessary. You can use any kettle you'd like, I promise. I use a light blue tea kettle I purchased from Home Goods and it works just fine. 

Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the burner and let the kettle sit there for a count of 15 seconds. This'll bring the water temperature back down to somewhere around the proper brewing temperature for coffee. Straight-up boiling water will scorch the beans, and you definitely don't want to do that since you're going to all of this trouble.

4. Bloom your coffee
Now it's time for the coolest step: blooming. The first time you pour the hot water over the ground beans, they will gurgle and expand in a delightfully dramatic way. You don't need to pour in much water right now — just enough to saturate all of the grounds. Let the bloomed coffee sit for 15 to 30 seconds or so.

5. Keep on pouring
Finally, you'll want to add the remaining water. I like to do it in two or three more increments: Slowly spiral water into the funnel, starting in the center and moving outwards, to brew the coffee. You're looking to add enough water to fill up your coffee mug, so just pay attention while you're pouring. And yes, you can absolutely measure this if you'd like — the easiest way to to plop the whole brewing set-up on a digital scale — and keep pouring until you get to around 350 grams of water. I used to measure my water, but, to be honest, I got tired of the trouble. My coffee tastes just fine when it is eyeballed.

6. Drink up!
Once your mug is full, simply remove the filter cone, toss the spent coffee grounds and enjoy your cup of hand-brewed coffee.

Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.