The Secrets to a Perfect Pour over Coffee

Do you like having fresh, delicious coffee on demand in the comfort of your kitchen? Are you interested in fine tuning your morning dose of caffeine exactly to your tastes so that it’s perfect every time? Well then it sounds like it’s time to start using the pour over coffee method.

Pour over brewing—literally pouring hot water over coffee grounds and collecting the run-off—allows for tinkering at various steps in the process according to Jonathan Pascual, the owner and operator of Taproom Coffee in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.

“It’s all about controlling those variables, knowing what you’re doing, then being able to adjust to taste,” Pascual said.

The first step in crafting a perfect pour over cup is having the right gear at home. Any pour over set up will include the cone where the actual brewing takes place, a filter, and a vessel such as a mug or a carafe to collect your coffee. Pascual said he likes using paper filters because they filter out some of the sediment and bitter oils from the beans which will give each cup a clean taste. Paperless filters are available though for the more eco-friendly home brewer.

Once you have your brewing set up ready to go, it’s time for the most important ingredient… the coffee. More so than some fancy, expensive gear, the actual coffee beans are what make the biggest difference in your final product.

“Fresh beans are going to be your best bet,” said Pascual. “Getting them from a local roaster and then grinding fresh is a real key to a tasty cup of coffee.”

Any grinder can work but if you’re in the market search for a burr grinder. The mashing technique they use produces a more consistent ground than blade grinders. Most burr grinders will allow for modifying the coarseness of the grounds as well.

“The coarseness of the grind is going to affect that contact time of the water and the coffee,” said Pascual. “It can’t drain through quickly if the coffee is ground too fine and it will also over extract the grounds and be more bitter. If the coffee is too coarse when it’s ground the water is going to shoot right through and it’s going to under extract the coffee overall and have watery but also bitter coffee.”

In addition to the variability of coarseness, the actual ratio of water to coffee is something to play with to find your perfect cup. Pascual said 30 grams of coffee to 450 grams of water is an industry standard but those who don’t own a kitchen scale can stick to using a consistent measuring spoon when measuring out their grounds.

Speaking of water… filtered is the way to go. Paper pour over filters are great at catching coffee oils, not as great as catching water additives from the tap. Water should be just below boiling—around 200 degrees Fahrenheit—when pouring into the cone for brewing. If you really want to treat yourself, get a kettle with a long gooseneck spout that will allow for slow, consistent pouring.

And now you’re ready to brew!

Start with a slow pour that just barely covers the grounds. The grounds will “bloom” up and start to release carbon dioxide gas, a perfectly safe byproduct of the brewing process. After your grounds have settled, Pascual says to pour in small pulses and keep your grounds wet for the rest of the brewing.

“What that allows me to do is keep that bed of grounds and water hot,” said Pascual. “When you brew coffee one of the things you want to keep in mind is that even extraction [of flavors]. Any factors that affect that even extraction you want to eliminate. So being inconsistent in pouring or inconsistent in temperature; that speed of the pour. That’s why we want to have a lot of control with the water kettle.

Once the last drop of water has drained through the filter… guess what. You have a great cup of coffee in front of you.

Pascual emphasized that the pour over method allows for control over each brewing stage and a lot of adjustment for each coffee drinker’s preference. But if you got to the end of this article and you think all parties involved are control freaks and caffeine addicts then Pascual has some good news for you too.

“Drip coffee is probably fine for most people,” Pascual said.

For more information on Taproom Coffee and their unique coffee drinks see our feature on them here.

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