Java Beat: The Art of the Pour Over
This article originally published in Greater Sturbridge Town & Country Living, January 2021 By Elvis Dyer, Owner/Roaster, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters
Years ago, very few people were familiar with what a pour over coffee was and was often only seen in specialty coffee locations. And since we live in such a fast-paced world, many were not interested in this manual, slow and methodical approach to brewing coffee. However, the curiosity soon turned into an obsession for some and today is one of the top methods serious coffee “geeks” use to brew non espresso-based coffee.
In the 1800s the most common filtering material was cloth. It was used in siphons, balance brewers, and many more devices as the medium to separate coffee grounds from brewed coffee. Then came the more popular perforated metal surface such as we see in a percolator. However, in 1906, a German woman named Melitta decided that paper should be used as a filtration method and continued to refine the design and patent it in 1908 (the start of the Melitta cone design). People progressed through using siphon coffee makers, followed by automatic percolator brewers, until manual pour over brewing devices hit the market and gained popularity in the early 1950s with the Chemex system and it’s circular, fold it yourself paper system. At the same time, the auto drip coffee maker was hitting the market and pour overs were more of a niche market until the 2000s when the Hario V60 (named on the 60-degree angle to their rake) hit the market and the Chemex brewer came back to life.
Today, a good pour over coffee requires five elements: water (and the kettle you use), coffee, the brewing device, the filter, and a scale (that reads in grams).
Water and Pouring Device: Since what’s in your coffee cup is 97% water, you should use the best water possible whether it’s really good tap water you have, or a water filtration system (which will often dramatically improve your cup of coffee). The pouring device can be any tea kettle; however, I would recommend a gooseneck spout which features a long pouring/control spout. Ground coffee beans like water at 195F to 205F for an optimal extraction.
Coffee and the Grinder: After ensuring you have great water; you should use a quality grinder. I recommend a burr grinder that will create even particle sizes that are optimal for the extraction method. And quality coffee in = quality coffee out. Fresh roasted coffee, beans roasted within the last 1-2 weeks, will give you optimal taste. Coffee’s peak time for pour over use is between 5-15 days after it was roasted.
The Manual Pour Over Brewing Device: You can get a great manual pour over coffee experience from equipment ranging in price from $10 to hundreds of dollars. The most used are the Hario V60, the Bonavita ceramic pour over, and the Chemex. After you have the device, you’ll need a filter. The easiest selection is a paper filter, which can be used and disposed of with no cleaning. Other options include a cloth filter or a metal/permanent filter.
The Scale: As noted, water is the #1 way to improve your coffee. A good grinder and good, fresh roasted coffee is the #2 way. For pour overs, the #3 top way to improve your cup is the use of a scale. Again, prices are going to vary, however, you should select a scale that has at least a 1g resolution and can hold up to 2,0000 g. This scale will help you accurately measure you water, weigh your ground coffee and guide you on how fast/slow you are pouring your water.
Once you have your gear, you’re ready to brew. Generally, of thumb, we recommend 1 g of coffee for every 1 ounce of water. Put your brewing device on the scale, add in your ground coffee, slowly pour hot water over your grinds, and then enjoy.