This is a Great Time to Start Making Pour Over Coffee

Pour-over coffee

Updated Apr 16, 2020 @ 2:04 pm

By Beth Lipton

There are two kinds of people in the world: People who love their coffee, and people who are wrong (I say it with love; somehow I ended up married to one of the latter). Now that we’re sheltering in place, most coffee shops are closed—so if you’re coffee obsessed and used to getting your fix on the go, you may be struggling right now.

I’m here to help.

The perfect solution is… pour-over. Here’s why: You don’t need a ton of equipment, what you do need doesn’t take up much space, it’s inexpensive, it’s quick and easy, and it makes fantastic coffee. Boom.

I’ve been making pour-over every day for years — I work from home under normal circumstances, so no need to pick up a cup on the way to the office. Plus, as I mentioned, I’m the only coffee drinker in the house (until my daughter is old enough to drink coffee, at which time I will lure her over to my side), so making a whole pot is unnecessary. Finally, though I’m not a big coffee snob—really, more of a minor-league one—pour-over tastes better than drip anyway.

Here’s how to jump on the pour-over bandwagon, depending on your personal needs and tastes.

A Very Basic Cup of Coffee

Here are the very basics of pour-over, if you just need a cup of coffee and don’t really care about the particulars.

You need:

  • A cone brewer
  • Filters (paper or reusable)
  • Ground coffee
  • A kettle (or some other means of heating and pouring water)

Cone Brewers: I prefer porcelain or glass to plastic. Those materials look nicer, plus I just have a thing about not pouring hot water through plastic and then drinking it. The one I use every day, and have for years, is this porcelain one by Hario. If you use paper filters it requires tabbed ones like these, but that’s the only fussy thing about it (I also use the reusable Coffee Sock in it with success). I buy two packs of 100 paper filters at a time, and I’m good for a while.

Coffee: If you don’t have a grinder at home, you’ll need pre-ground. For pour over, use a medium grind, about the consistency of sand—not too fine, which will give you bitter coffee, and not too coarse, which will give you sour, acidic coffee. (If you want to geek out on grinds, read this.) Start with about 3 tablespoons for a 12-oz. cup, and adjust the amount to suit your tastes.

Water: You want the water to be just below boiling for pour-over, so around 200ºF. Along with the texture of the grind, the water temperature affects the extraction, which affects the flavor of your end result. If the water is too hot (over 205ºF), you’ll end up with over-extraction, which equals bitter coffee. Too cold (under 195ºF) and you get under-extraction, which leaves you with flat, sour coffee. So it’s worth getting the temperature right. But don’t worry, you don’t have to break out a thermometer—I like to hack this by bringing the water to a boil, then letting it sit for about 20 to 30 seconds to cool a bit.

Brewing: How involved you want to get around rinsing the filter, blooming the grinds, etc., is up to you. If you just want the coffee and are not really interested so much in the nuance, then put the grinds in the filter, level them, and pour slowly. Allow all the water to pass through before adding more, and make sure you hit all the grounds (don’t just pour through the middle, get the sides as well).

Customizing a Very Basic Cup of Coffee

If you need a cup, and you appreciate an elevated brew
You know who you are: You have a particular region of the world whose coffee you prefer, and/or you’ll walk upwards of 4 or 5 blocks to go to the better coffee place, and/or planning for how you’ll have good coffee when you’re traveling doesn’t sound weird in the least. If this is you (hi, me too!), you’ll need all of the above, items, plus:

  • A burr grinder
  • Good, fresh beans

Burr Grinder: Blade grinders will net you inconsistent grinds, which will affect your coffee’s flavor. Burr grinders crush the beans, making the grounds more uniform, which is what you want. (Note: Burr grinders are made with either flat or conical burrs — this is above my level of coffee geekiness, but here’s more on that if you’re interested.)

Confession time: I have a hand-crank conical burr grinder. In my defense, I used to have an electric one, but I found it challenging to clean, and it was REALLY loud, like an airplane landing in the kitchen. As an early riser, I was not making any friends within my family or among my neighbors. So hand crank it is. I have this one by Kuissential. It’s really straightforward and simple to use, easy to clean, doesn’t take up much space, and you can adjust the grind size.

Beans: Now, about the beans. If you’re in this category of coffee lover with me, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why you need good, fresh beans, or why it’s worth the extra step to grind them fresh. Get the freshest ones you can, and aim for organic.

Choose the beans that you like, and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not ok to like what you like. My two favorites are the organic fair-trade Sumatran beans that I buy at Trader Joe’s ($8 for 12 oz.), and the organic dark roast that I buy at a local store here in Brooklyn called Sahadi’s. Both happen to be very inexpensive, and also completely delicious, rich and smooth.

I have fallen for the coffee snobs who tell me they aren’t good (one barista in particular sniffed at me and told me that the beans are oily and over roasted), which almost always has led me to buy more expensive, fancier beans, which I pretty much never like as much as my two favorites. Now, I’m all about experimenting and trying new things. But ultimately, you like what you like, and there is nothing wrong with that. You do you.

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