The Exhaustive Pour-Over Guide
Making pour-overs at home may seem like a daunting task at the onset, but if you’re willing to follow a few basic guidelines, we’re confident you’ll be making coffee at home that rivals what you can find in a specialty cafe in short order. First, here is a list of what you will need:
1. Coffee
2. Water
3. Dripper
4. Filters
5. Scale
6. Grinder
7. Vessel


This is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle here. If you want to make something delicious, you need to start with quality ingredients. Perhaps the coffee you are using is not so great, but because you are here reading our brew guide, we will assume you’re using coffee roasted by OneNinetySeven, in which case, so long as it’s not dreadfully old or was left in a bucket of water overnight, it should produce a lovely cup.

This is the sleeper of the bunch. Many people never consider the quality of the water they’re using when they make coffee, and that’s a massive mistake. The average cup of coffee is about 98% water; and while you may not taste the difference between filtered, tap, or bottled, low quality water will produce coffee that induces a spit take. As a general rule, you should run your tap water through a carbon filter before making coffee, but that’s not always enough. In several places around the globe, filtered tap water contains mineral deposits that can make coffee taste terrible. If you live in one of these places, you will likely need to use reverse osmosis before blending a few key minerals back into water. Here is the test - if you can’t make coffee that tastes good despite following every other piece of advice in this guide, try brewing a batch with bottled water. Just about any brand will suffice, but don’t use anything carbonated. If your coffee tastes bad when brewed with bottled water, then the problem with your brewing technique lies elsewhere. For the rest of you, consider yourselves lucky to live in a place that has delicious water flowing from the tap.

There’s a lot of variation in drippers throughout the marketplace, and while their differences may seem purely aesthetic, there’s actually quite a bit of science behind the different shapes and the flavor groups they tend to favor. We’re going to break them up into 3 general categories to help you pick the one that’s best for you. The only question you need to answer is this: What flavor profile is most desirable in a cup a coffee to you?

A.   chocolate with a heavy body   -   Chemex
B.   stone fruit with a medium body   -   Kalita
C.   fresh citrus with a light body   -   V60 (Hario)

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but these three drippers are readily available, and can be used to produce the desired flavor profiles, among others. We'll write more about how dripper shape and contact time inform coffee flavor in future pieces, so check back often.

You might think that a particular brewer has a specific filter that it works with and that’s that, but you can actually play around a bit here and get yourself just a little bit closer to your desired cup. If you’re looking for the cleanest possible citrus notes out of your V60, for example, you could try using a Chemex filter. Being the thickest filter available, it tends to remove more oils and micro-particles than any other. Or perhaps you use a Chemex and want even more body in the cup. In this case the experiment to conduct is with a metal filter such as the Kone. The only real pitfall in the filter realm is that many cheap filters are made from poorly processed wood pulp, and you can taste it in the cup. If you’ve ever felt that your coffee tasted like cardboard, try using a different filter. Whatever your desired flavor profile, there is a correct combination of brewer, filter, and water that will get you there. So stay curious.

This is the most polarizing item on the list, but we can’t stress enough how important it is. Scales are an essential cooking tool, and yes, making coffee is cooking. It’s a low-grade chemistry experiment, and precision is important. Incorporating a scale into your brewing routine might feel strange at first, but we promise once a gram scale is purchased the quality of your brew will improve. This is because you will have finally opened the door to precision and repeatability. Ever make a cup of coffee so delicious that you decided to brew another, but the second didn't taste like the first? This is why a scale is important. You need to control the variables. We advise our clients to brew coffee using a 15 : 1 brewing ratio, so for 1 gram of coffee we use 15 grams of water. You see why the scale matters? A tablespoon is not a precise measuring tool. If you’ve ever tried your hand at baking only to yield unfavorable results, it may have been the use of volumetric measurements that doomed you. Using a gram scale allows us to produce delicious coffee accurately and consistently. There is no waste, and no guesswork. Maybe you like a milder cup and will prefer a 16 : 1 brewing ratio, or perhaps a stronger 14 : 1 is your thing. That part is specific to you, but the gram scale is universal, and it deserves your respect, and a place in your home.

Grinders have come a long way in recent years, and we’re rapidly approaching a time of ubiquitous quality, but in many homes the grinder of choice is still of the spinning-blade type you can find at the grocery store. Blade grinders are okay in a pinch, as freshly ground coffee will always be more aromatic than pre-ground coffee, but the surface area and shape of each individual coffee particle dictates how it will extract, and by extension, how it will taste. If you’re looking for a clean flavor profile with crystal clear notes of plum or jasmine, you’re going to want every coffee particle to have the same shape and size. This is why grinders are a rabbit hole, and explains the surge in options for home coffee brewing in the $2,000+ category. The grinder is by far the most expensive part of making a pour-over, but you don’t have to go overboard. Just understand that burr grinders produce more consistent results and factor in your budget and tolerance for tedium. There are many high-quality, hand-crank burr grinders on the market in the sub $100 range for example, but some people find the act of hand-grinding to be a cumbersome task first thing in the morning. For a little bit more, in the $100 - $300 range, there are many options that offer infinite adjustment (a value add beyond the discrete adjustment grinders). If you’re interested in bringing out different flavors from a single bag of beans, this is how you’re going to make it happen. Finer grinds will always tend towards bitter, whereas coarser grinds will always tend towards sour, but a mixture of grinds ranging in size and shape such as that produced by a blade grind will often yield a muddled flavor profile of bitter and sour notes.

This category may not seem worth mentioning as it’s obvious you have to brew your coffee into something, and what that something is doesn’t seem all that important, but there are coffees that taste delicious when piping hot yet terrible when at room temperature, and vice versa. So keep this in mind when you are sipping away at your coffee. There are several options on the market today that offer higher insulation than what was previously available, keeping your coffee warmer for longer, or colder for longer, if that’s your thing. Whatever the case may be, keep in mind that how you experience flavor is altered by the temperature of what it is you are consuming, so choose your vessel appropriately.
What Remains

Now that we have all of our gear, we’re finally ready to brew. So what’s our secret? Consistency. You know better than anyone what tastes good to you, and we’re not interested in telling you what tastes good or bad. You have the tools to adjust the flavor profile of your coffee by changing the dripper, the filter, the brew ratio, the water quality, and the grind size. The remaining variables to control are water temperature and flow rate.

It’s a little known fact that OneNinetySeven is a reference to a brewing temperature, and though this is a perfectly reasonable temperature to brew at, it is by no means the only way to do it. Your water temperature is going to interact with your grinder particle size distribution to produce certain flavors. Not everything inside of a coffee bean tastes good, so using the hottest possible water is generally not the best idea. On the flip side, cold water will extract the coffee more slowly, so a pour-over made with cool water will tend to be under-extracted and super sour. This is why the SCA recommends a brewing temperature between 195F and 205F, but there really isn’t a wrong answer here. We tend to use cooler water on more developed coffees and finer grinds as they extract more readily. Just play around in the range until you find something you’re happy with.

The importance of flow rate is perhaps a bit less well understood, though we would argue it’s really more about water temperature stability. Just as different grind sizes will produce different flavors, different flow rates will change the temperature of the coffee as it brews, altering the speed of extraction, thereby changing the flavor in the cup. This is where consistency comes back into play. During the second pour, after our pre-wetting bloom period, we like to pour the water into the dripper in alternating concentric circles at about the same rate as the water is draining out into our vessel. This holds the coffee at a more consistent temperature during the extraction process, and tends to produce a more balanced cup. The concentric circle bit is an effort to produce an even wetting of the coffee grounds, which will result in a flat coffee bed at the end of extraction. If you pour too much water into one part of the brewer, that area will tend to over-extract, whereas the rest of the coffee in the brewer will tend to under-extract. This leads to that dreaded combination of bitter and sour all at once. You should hope to find a flat coffee bed in your dripper at the end of extraction - no peaks or valleys.
The Steps

1. Heat 500g of water into the range of 195F - 205F.
2. Weigh out 20 grams of beans while the water is heating.
3. Grind the beans at a medium setting (5 on a scale from 0 to 10).
4. Place the vessel on the scale.
5. Place the dripper on the vessel.
6. Place the filter in the dripper.
7. Pour the ground coffee into the filter.
8. Tare the scale.
9. When the water is ready, pour 50 grams evenly over the grounds.
10. Wait 60 seconds.
11. Begin pouring the water in concentric circles over the grounds at a steady rate.
12. Stop pouring water once the scale reaches 300 grams.

* If your coffee is too bitter, make the grind more coarse.
* If your coffee is too sour, make the grind more fine.
* If your coffee is too strong, use slightly more water.
* If your coffee is too weak, use slightly less water.
* If your coffee is chalky, try brewing with bottled water.
* If your coffee is bitter and sour at the sour time, make the grind more coarse and use slightly more water.

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