Manual brewers have become commonplace all over the coffee world—from cafes to restaurants to your friend’s kitchen counter it’s likely that you’ve seen at least one recently. The explosion in the popularity of manually brewed coffee through the last handful of years has brought forth a whole host of different brewers (both new designs as well as time-tested classics), each working just a little differently from the next one. Pour over drippers especially have grown in popularity, becoming the easiest brewers to find and also becoming increasingly diverse with different shapes, sizes, filter materials, and usage recommendations. So then, where do you start if you want to get brewing on your own? Have no fear, The Beginner’s Guide to Pour Over Coffee Brewing is here! In this article we’ll cover general brewing tips and as many pour over brewers as we can, and if you’re more of an immersion kind of coffee drinker we’ve got a whole guide for you to check out too.
With a few guidelines, a couple of gadgets, and a willingness to experiment to learn what you love, you can become a master brewer in no time. These recommendations should get you headed in the right direction with almost any brewer you choose, but remember that the fastest way to learn will be to brew, taste, adjust, and record results while you’re getting a handle on your new gear.
A note: it’s most efficient to adjust one variable at a time as you’re updating your recipe. The relationships between the variables below gets complex and wildly unpredictable even for professionals if you adjust too many details too quickly. Take your time and make it easy on yourself—a little patience will go a long way.
The Gear: You don’t need a hundred accessories to make good coffee, but there are some items that are necessary for consistent quality. A good burr grinder, a slow-pouring kettle, and a gram scale, are must have items for pour over brewers. We also recommend a thermometer to keep an eye on temperature stability if you choose a kettle that doesn’t have a temperature display built in.
The Grind: Grind consistency and uniformity is the single most important variable in brewing consistently quality coffee. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest coffee problems to solve with the right equipment. Once you have a good burr grinder it will be easier to experiment with what works for you, but the general guideline to bear in mind is that the finer the grind the shorter the contact time that brew should require (and vice-versa). So, that medium-coarse ground Chemex will need a longer brew time than a medium-fine ground V60 brew. Ideal grind size will also be dependent on batch size for many brewers, so your small 01 size V60 will need a finer grind than your larger 02 size V60. This is a good variable to experiment with as you’re dialing in your process—if your coffee is coming out consistently thin, weak, or sour, try a finer grind setting; if your coffee is coming out consistently bitter, harsh, or brothy, try a coarser grind setting.
The Ratio: Your coffee brew ratio will be the basis of your recipe. Many professionals say 60g of coffee per every 1 liter of water used, or to rephrase those numbers, approximately 1g of coffee per every 16.7g of water. Any brew ratio from 1:15 to 1:17 will fall within specialty coffee standards, but adjusting this ratio will have drastic effects on other variables in your brew, so I recommend finding one you like and sticking with it until you feel confident about the other variables you control.
The Water: You’ll see it over and over again on this website, but the importance of quality water for brewing cannot be overstated. It will keep your gear in good shape, and it will help your coffee shine to its fullest potential. You won’t need in-line filtration at home (unless, of course, you’re into that idea), but mixing up your own high quality water is getting easier and easier all the time. These options from Global Customized Water and Third Wave Water are tough to beat for low cost, high grade brew water.
The Temperature: If you try hard enough you can brew coffee with any temperature water you like (hello, cold brew), and it can be difficult to nail down a singularly agreed upon “best temperature” for brewing. The SCA says that the ideal temperature range for brewing coffee is 195°F–205°F (90.5°C–96°C) when water contacts ground coffee. Other professionals say water right off the boil (212°F/100°C) works best, while numerous Aeropress Championship recipes call for water at 176°F/80°C. What we can say for sure is that stability is important no matter which brew temperature you choose, so preheating your brewer thoroughly to make sure that you don’t lose too much heat too quickly will be very important for your consistency as a brewer.