What is Pour-Over Coffee? The Whole Story

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The pour-over method of making coffee involves pouring hot coffee on coffee grains sitting in a filter. 

Water drains through the damp grains into a cup. Factors like the size of the grains, the water’s temperature, filter type, etc., determine what the coffee tastes like. 

The rest of this article will go over what pour-over coffee is, how flavor extraction works, and the best way to make this kind of coffee. We also give useful tips on enhancing your drink’s flavor, so keep reading. 

What is Pour-Over Coffee?

The pour-over method is a very simple brewing process. All it involves is pouring hot water over freshly ground coffee beans while using a paper filter to get a clean drink.

You’ll get a clean brew by slowly pouring water over the beans. These beans will release their flavor upon exposure to the water’s high temperature. 

It only takes a couple of tries to figure out exactly how this method works. It’s quite straightforward. 

You need less than an hour to understand how to create a brew and a bit longer to figure out how to create a brew that tastes the way you want it to. 

That’s because while the method itself is simple and minimalistic, it depends on you. You decide how much coffee to use, what temperature to keep the water at, when to start and stop pouring, etc. Each of these steps impacts your drink’s flavor, making them all crucial. 

Since there are so many variables to account for, it takes a while to figure out how to get them all in order so that you get the kind of coffee you want. 

How Pouring Coffee Impacts Flavor

Brewed coffee is made up of about 98% water and 1% to 2% dissolved coffee beans. The ratio of these ingredients largely determines what your coffee will taste like. The higher the number of dissolved solids, the stronger and more bitter it will be.

The science behind brewing coffee is not particularly complicated. Understanding how it works will help you master the pour-over method. 

Once water makes contact with coffee beans, the beans start releasing gasses like carbon dioxide. After the trapped gasses escape, the water starts permeating the coffee grounds. This is the point at which you can start extracting their flavor. 

This is why it’s important to pour over the hot water slowly. You have to give your coffee beans time to get through the first step to get to the point at which you can access their flavor. 

Once you get there, the longer the beans are in contact with water, the stronger your drink will be. You’ll have to go through the process a couple of times to figure out when one step ends and the other starts.

The Best Way to Brew Pour-Over Coffee

Everyone has a different understanding of what good coffee tastes like. Some people like it to be sweet, while others prefer it bitter. 

The following guide takes this into account. It is meant as a baseline for all people. 

Try it out, and then depending on whether you want it to have more or fewer coffee grains, etc., you can adapt it easily. 

We go over the different variables you can change further down this page, so you can take a look at that if you’re interested in changing up the recipe a bit. 

Making Pour-Over Coffee – A Step-by-Step Guide

There are 5 steps to making pour-over coffee. These are:

  1. Heating the water to just below boiling point
  2. Weighing out 10 grams of coffee
  3. Rinsing the filter
  4. Grinding the coffee into a medium-fine grind
  5. Pouring the water in 2 steps


We’re going over each step in detail in case you have any questions or concerns. If you don’t want this, skip forward to the section on how you can adapt this recipe to make it your own. 

1. Heating the Water to Just Below Boiling Point

Heat about a cup and a half of water per cup of coffee you want to make on a stove. Wait for the water until it is just about to start boiling, and turn the heat off. 

Use bubbles in the water to figure out when it’s time. 

This is the time when you first start seeing bubbles on the water’s surface. If you reach the point when the top layer is entirely covered in bubbles, you’ve heated your water too much. Leave it to cool for a few minutes before pouring it over your coffee beans. 

You’ll see a lot of people saying that you need to boil your water to 190 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees, but we’re here to say that such accuracy isn’t necessary. It also isn’t practical. 

If you’re making 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day with a 5-step process, there is no way you have enough patience to use a thermometer when boiling the water each time. It gets tedious and annoying. 

Just make sure your water is hot enough to trigger the extraction process in coffee beans but not hot enough to completely roast them and remove all their flavor. 

2. Weighing Out 10 Grams of Coffee

The second step is weighing out your coffee. 10 grams or 2 leveled tsp is a good starting point. You can increase or decrease this amount depending on what you like. 

We’d recommend trying with 10 grams first before making any adjustments. 

3. Rinsing the Filter

You have to rinse and wet your filter before putting coffee in it. The rinsing gets rid of the taste of paper from your filter. Wetting it allows coffee beans to come into contact with water which kick-starts the first step of releasing gasses. 

We discussed how contact with water starts the gas release process with coffee grains above. This is where that information becomes relevant. 

If you skipped it before, scroll back up to learn about the science behind water-coffee interactions under the section ‘How pouring coffee impacts flavor.’ 

4. Grinding the Coffee into A Medium-Fine Grind

Once you’ve got your filter prepared, you can grind your coffee. 

Grinding the beans into small particles will increase their surface area to volume ratio with the water. This allows for a stronger flavor. However, if you grind the beans too much, you’ll end up with an undrinkable bitter cup of coffee.

Keeping the beans coarse means, you get a sweeter cup of coffee. If they’re too coarse, you’ll get a cup of coffee that has no flavor. 

The trick here is to keep the grind between super fine and too coarse. Then add it to the filter and place the filter on a cup.

5. Pouring the Water in 2 Steps

Pour ⅛ cup of water into the filter and wait for a couple of minutes. 

You’ll notice the grounds soak it up, swell, and bubble. This is basically them releasing gasses like carbon dioxide. 

Once the grounds calm down, slowly pour over the rest of the water. Take care to pour over all the grounds. Don’t leave some dry because that just means you’re wasting flavor. 

Variables that Affect the Strength of A Pour-Over Coffee

There are 4 factors that affect what your pour-over coffee tastes like. These are:

  1. Grind size 
  2. Temperature of water 
  3. Whether you stir or not
  4. Type of filter used

Here’s a detailed look at each of these and how they impact what your coffee tastes like. 

1. Grind Size

The rate of flavor extraction heavily depends on grind size. 

Smaller coffee particles have a greater surface area exposed to water. The dissolvable particles are more readily available. 

If you don’t understand how this works, think about ice cubes and ice chips. Cubes take longer to melt than chips because they’re bigger, and only a small portion is exposed to heat in the surroundings. The same applies to ground coffee beans. 

The smaller the pieces, the more quickly they will dissolve into water. 

With pour-over coffee, you want a medium-fine grind.

Here’s a table for other brewing methods and the type of grind best suited for them to give you some perspective on what medium-fine means. 

Grind TypeBrewing Method
FineTurkishMoka PotEspressoMedium-FineAeropressPour over
MediumDrip-over coffeeSiphonMedium-courseChemexClever dripper
CoarseFrench pressCold brew

If you’re someone who understands the difference between brewing methods, this table will help you understand what grind type you should be aiming for. 

2. Temperature of Water 

The hotter your water is, the higher the rate of extraction will be. If you want stronger coffee, heat your water closer to the boiling point. If you want it less bitter, keep it a little cooler. 

3. Whether You Stir or Not

Even a little stirring or agitation can increase flavor extraction significantly. If you were to move around the coffee grains in the filter with a spoon or stick for even just a few seconds, you would get a stronger flavor. 

Moving the kettle in a circular motion over the filter will also provide turbulence and allow for the ideal extraction. 

Bear in mind that too much agitation can lower the water’s temperature, which will decrease the rate of extraction. Balance both factors according to how strong you want your coffee. 

4. Type of Filter Used

Paper filters used in brewers like Hario V60 give you a very clean cup of coffee. They’re made of very tightly bound fibers that capture small and large particles alike. So none of them will seep through into your drink.

If, for some reason, you want a less clean cup of coffee, you can look into different types of paper filters. 

Alternatively, see if you can fit a mesh filter into your machine. It’s usually used in brews like the common french press, but you could probably make it work here if you were pushed enough to add character to your coffee. 

Pour-Over Coffee Vs. Drip Coffee

Pour-over coffee is undoubtedly one of the most popular brewing methods used these days. A close second is drip coffee.

Here’s why pour-over coffee stands out against it. 

Crucial Differences to Consider When Deciding Between Pour-Over and Drip

Control

You get to decide how strong you want your coffee with the pour-over method.

Pour over gives the person making the coffee a lot more control over what their drink tastes like. You can decide if you want more coffee grains or more water. 

This method lets you adjust your drink’s flavor depending on what kind of coffee you feel like having on a particular day and who you’re making it for.

On the other hand, the electric drip machine doesn’t give you this kind of control. It determines the coffee to water ratio. So you’re stuck with whatever the machine has been configured to produce. 

In most instances, the coffee tastes great, so this isn’t a huge issue. However, if the beverage isn’t to your taste, there isn’t much you can do about it with the drip method.

Durability

Pour-over coffee machines are typically made with stainless steel which lasts several years longer than electric drip coffee makers.

Coffee stains can impact how well a particular coffee-making machine works. It’s easier to clean these out in pour-over machines. They’re usually either made with ceramic or stainless steel; both are easy to work with.

Irrespective of what electric drip coffee maker you get, your machine will not be super easy to clean. They’re built in a way that makes it tricky to get all the coffee out. The only way to do it right is by disassembling several parts of the machine.

Not only is doing so highly impractical but it is also complicated. You can’t reasonably expect yourself to be able to take the machine apart and clean it every time you make coffee. 

Also, you can’t know how to take the machine apart or be able to put it back together without breaking a component or two.

All in all, it is easier to clean a pour-over coffee maker. This means there are fewer stains, less wear and tear, and increased durability. Investing in these makers will be a longer-term investment.

Wrapping Up

Pour-over is one of the simpler coffee brewing methods out there. All it involves is pouring hot water over ground coffee beans sitting in a filter. 

Once you figure out exactly how hot you want the water to be and how much coffee you want in the filter, you’ll make delicious coffee. 

There are a couple of key factors you should be aware of when you brew coffee using this method. It’s crucial to get the grind just right to extract the right amount of flavor from each coffee bean.

Moreover, keep an eye on how fast you pour water over your filter and coffee grounds. Doing it too fast will lead to a bland, flavorless cup of coffee. 

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AUTHOR

Jeff Stone
Jeff is a coffee aficionado. He loves a couple cups of joe first thing in the morning. He like trying out new grounds and gear and then writes about it here. When he is not sipping java, he is usually writing it for his clients as a software engineer.

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