19 June 2012

How to make a cup of pour-over coffee

Coffee. I love it. It's my worst vice, and I have absolutely no apologies for it. For a brief moment, during my first post-college job, I considered giving it up. You always hear things about how it's not that great for you: bad for your teeth, addicting, dehydrating. I made it about a measly two days before I determined that between the grey skies of Seattle and the grey cubicle walls of my workplace, it was an asinine plan. Coffee and I have been inseparable ever since.

I have, however, moved from only buying coffee (yes, I was one of those people. It was delicious... and expensive) to actually making coffee. Now, at this point, my old college roommate Tiffany will be laughing because during our years at Gonzaga, I always relied on her to make coffee. Our whole house did, actually. Tiff is really, really good at making coffee. She could make Folgers taste delicious and it would never go wrong, which puts her squarely in 'miracle worker' territory. She'd occasionally try to teach me, but after my half-hearted attempts that were always subpar, she'd take over coffee-making duties again. I even went so far as to 'accidentally' wake her up some mornings so she could make a pot. Karma is going to get me on that one; I can see it coming. Sorry about that Tiff. You do make really good coffee.

Since we weren't living together post college (Tiffany moved down to the Tri-Cities and I moved up to Seattle), it didn't take me long to figure out I probably should have paid more attention to her coffee-making lessons. That's when I started buying it. I started out with lattes and fancy drinks, quickly realized how much they cost, and moved onto drip and americanos, which remain my favorite. Even so, it wasn't a cheap habit. I, quite literally, had a line item for 'coffee' in my monthly budget.

I didn't mind because coffee makes me really happy. Every morning I think to myself: if you get up, you get a cup of coffee... and it works. Every damn morning. I am not a complicated woman.

When I began working from home, I thought to myself that it was time to grow up and learn to make it for myself. I bought a standard drip pot, the nicest Costco had, called Tiffany, and she walked me through it. I reserved coffee shop visits for when I needed to be social and get out of the house.

When I moved to Japan, I soon learned that whole coffee beans are both hard to find here and a bit expensive. Starbucks is the cheapest place to get them, and while they may have won me over temporarily, it's not my favorite roast. (Snoooooooob). I found a couple places that have some great coffee beans, but they are not cheap. I did what anyone would do in this situation: asked my Portland-dwelling sister to send me coffee. She did too. Hi Stumptown. Hello Happy Cup. Nice to have you here.

But my pot was beginning to bother me a bit. It seemed I'd put in enough beans and water for 3 cups and only get 8oz back in return. With the price and scarcity of my coffee, it just didn't seem worth it. Oh, and it's ugly, it uses up a bunch of counter space, and it encourages me to drink several cups. It's a big mother, to be used for guests and events. It's at this point I started Googling pour overs.

I bought one for about ¥1000 (about $12), I stashed my coffee pot in a closet, pulled up a couple You Tube videos, and set forth. Months later, I'm pretty happy with it. I feel like no beans go to waste, cleanup is a breeze, and I have to diligently think about brewing a second cup, which keeps me in control. It wouldn't be ideal if I was rushing off to a job every day, so who knows if it'll stick in the States. Right now, when I'm blogging in my underwear at 9:30AM, it fits my lifestyle pretty well.

How to make Pour Over Coffee

I took clues from all around the internet and smooshed them together into something that worked for me. Some people recommend stirring the water into the grinds. I rarely do that, if only because it dirties a spoon that I then have to wash. I also skipped the fancy tea kettle that pours water gently onto the grinds. It cost over $60, and I have a tea kettle that, while aggressive in pouring, seems to get the job done fine. I think people nerd out a lot over coffee, and if you look at how-tos, you'll see all levels. Just figure out what works for you. I keep mine simple, as I'm making it first thing in the morning, and I'm a bit lazy.

Speaking of first thing in tha' morning, I took these pictures in perfect conditions. Wait, no. It's cloudy outside, the light is terrible, this was pre-coffee, on an iPhone. They will not win any awards. However, they should teach you how to make coffee, okay? Slammin' photographer, I am not.

To begin: fill the kettle with water and begin to heat on the stove. This part takes the longest, so do it first. 

Measure out your coffee beans. The given ratio is 1 Tablespoon beans per 6oz of water. (From diligent research, I know that my favorite coffee cups requires 2 Tbsp with a couple more beans thrown in to cover the blade. Don't worry; you'll get it down. Practice makes perfect.)

Take your beans, place in your grinder, and pulse until they are the consistency of thick, slightly rocky sand. A smidgen corser then drip coffee. Not so much as French press.

(To the overachievers or those with cold homes: If your water is done before your coffee is ground, you could prepour through your drip, filter, and warm up your cup. It also removes any papery sentiment from the filter that aficionados -- not me --  swear they can taste. I caution you to remember that there is water in said cup and dump it out before you try and make your coffee. Speaking from experience. Super disappointing and messy.)

Place a filter into your pour over. Pour the coffee grinds in there and make an indentation in the middle with your fingers. This will allow the water to filter up through the beans and not splash back on you.

When your water whistles, turn it off, and wait about 15 seconds. Otherwise, it'll be too hot and scorch the coffee. (Says YouTube.)

Now, slowly pour the water into the coffee grinds, gently filling the hole you made with your fingers. As it begins to fill, you can move the spout of water around.

The coffee grinds should rise with the water, almost in little clouds or like lava. I can't determine which is a better analogy. This is called the 'bloom' and it means your coffee is going to be delish. The bigger the bloom, the better.

Keep pouring, gently and slowly, until you have enough water to fill your cup. Make sure not to be overenthusiastic, or you'll overfill (not that I've done that eight time before). When I'm making coffee for several people, I use a glass measuring cup for the water, then pour into individual coffee cups from there. 

Enjoy. Talk yourself out of making another.


  1. Ok, so.
    I am.... thrilled that you're doing this. You know I opened a coffee shop doing only pour over, right? There are a couple steps that will improve your coffee dramatically:

    You DO want to rinse your filter/heat up the Hario; gets rid of some paper taste (sniff and taste the water after flushing! Surprising...) and does help the coffee be coffee. Second, skip the hole digging, it encourages uneven extraction. Third, let your pour bloom, ie, pour a little first, wait 15-20sec, then finish with the pour: opens everything up prior to extraction. Lastly, you want to practice!! Your pour should finish out with the v60 slowly filling up until you know the amount is correct and the filter is nearly full, then let it finish dripping for about 30sec without you adding any more water to it, helps to seperate the superfine grains to the top so they do not create a cork, will see sticking to the upper rim of filter, preventing over extraction (bitterness).

    Amounts as follows:
    300g = 12oz brewed coffee, total amount h2o for bloom & pour.
    70-80g = bloom water. Just enough to thoroughly saturate all grinds. Very little should come through into cup
    2min = time for entire process. Adjust grind and/or pour speed/method if substantially more or less

    Let me know if you have any more questions! Cheers

    1. Colbs! I had no idea that you opened up your own shop! That's fantastic and rather impressive. I'll take your expert suggestions to heart.

      One thing: What is the v60 (as in "Your pour should finish out with the v60 slowly filling up until you know the amount is correct)?

      I'll try and report back. If I'm confused, you might have to do a guest post, teaching us all how to do it right... for those of use who can't stop by your coffee shop. Just sayin'.

  2. I love my pour over! It's perfect for one.

    Also, great suggestions Colby! I've been impressed with how fast I can get coffee ready on my sprint out the door, but I'll have to try the slow pour and the heat Hario heat up to improve the taste.

  3. So really, it's like using a French press . . . but just with a filter? (And without the French press, haha.)

    1. Um, it's close, but the grinds are finer then French press, and it filters quicker (2min compared to 5min), so it's not quite as dark, which I tend to like better. Also: waaaaayyyyy easier to clean, which makes it a winner in my book. I loved my French press but cleaning it was hell.


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