Besides being a very fulfilling way to make coffee, the pour over method produces one of the most pure and indulgent cups of coffee you will have. Once mastered, you may never go back to a automatic coffee make again!
In the late 1980s and the 1990s I worked in Newark (the largest city in NJ) in a section of the city called the Ironbound, so named because it is surrounded by railroad tracks and is bordered by several major highways. It is also known as Down Neck because it’s partly located on a neck of the Passaic River.
The Ironbound is four square miles populated in large part by Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilians, and other Latin American communities and their descendants. It has the intimacy and hustle of a European market town. It was and is a thriving, bustling community with 200 odd restaurants, numerous bakeries and bodegas and countless coffee shops.
Until being exposed to the coffee culture of the Ironbound, I had been pretty much a 3 to 4 times a week consumer of Dunkin Donuts coffee. But the Ironbound was different. The residents were serious about their coffee, Espresso ruled the day. They would head to a coffee shop first thing in the morning to order an um cafe (Portuguese,) or a cafe solo (one shot of espresso) and sometimes a cafe doble, two shots of espresso.
They drank their coffee fast. They didn’t waste time sipping coffee while reading the papers or visiting with friends. Instead, they would pop into a coffee shop 5 or 6 times a day for a quick demi tasse cup gulped down at a counter with some light banter with the barista (though that word was never used). After a while, the clinking of the ceramic cups and the routine of shaking and stirring in sugar from small packets (I later dropped using sugar) became addictive. I became like the locals, and fueled my day with at least 6 shots of espresso.
When I changed jobs and left the area, that type of coffee day ended. Of course I still drank espresso, but it was not as readily available as when I worked in the Ironbound. The rhythm of a day punctuated with shots of espresso was over.
My First Pour Over Experience
A few years later, I was in a coffee shop, the Coffee Corral in Red Bank, New Jersey (near the Jersey shore), and I ordered a regular cup of coffee.
Surprisingly, at least to me, I watched the barista slowly pouring water over a cone to make my single cup of coffee. Weird, I thought. Why would anyone do that? Plus, it took 5 to 6 minutes before my order was ready. Were they doing that just to look cool? Then I tasted my coffee and figured this coffee shop was on to something. Was a pourover coffee something that high-end specialty shops in the 21st century were doing?
I decided to do a little reading and found that versions of pour over coffee had been around for centuries.
Melitta Benz Changes The World
In 1908, a German housewife, Melitta Benz, was in search of a better way to make a cleaner cup of coffee. So she punched holes in a brass pot and used a piece of paper to create a two part filtration system. She put the pot on a cup, filled it with ground coffee and poured hot water. Voila!
I never realized “the pour over” was a standard way of making brewed coffee in many households around the world for years. If you ever watched Murder She Wrote in the 80s or have ever seen reruns, (I checked this out) Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) did pour overs not because she was some coffee geek but because that was just a regular thing to do.
After tasting that first cup it was not difficult to assume that pour over brewing has a large impact on your coffee which is why it has again become such a popular coffee brewing method, especially in the last decade.
“The pour over is an indicator that a coffee shop takes its coffee quality seriously.”
One coffee, one cup, handled with care, just for you. This is a counterpoint to the quick-serve of the big chains. The pour over, for a certain subset of customers, is an indicator that a coffee shop takes its coffee quality seriously.
Commercial equipment manufacturers have taken notice and pushed back by engineering machines with the goal of automating the precious pour over with greater efficiency and purporting to offer the same quality. And, of course, many coffee shops have jumped on the bandwagon realizing they can’t maximize sales if one customer has to wait at least 5 minutes for their cup of Joe.
Yet, pour over popularity has never waned, and New Jersey still has a cadre of spots that do amazing pour over coffee besides the Coffee Corral: Hidden Grounds in New Brunswick, OQ Coffee in Highland Park, Small World Coffee in Princeton, and Rojo’s Roasting in Princeton and Lambertville.
Once you’ve had pour over coffee, you will want more and more and many have been experimenting with it at home.
What Is The Point Of Pour Over Coffee?
The point of pour over coffee is to manage the brewing time, water temperature, and pour rate for a more harmonic and flavorsome cup of coffee. It is also much cheaper (when making it at home) than buying a high-end automatic brewing machine.
Many people think that pour over coffee tastes better than other brewing methods because they can control the water flow. That helps to expose the coffee grounds to the same measure of water, otherwise some will be under-extracted and weak and others over-extracted and harsh.
After some trial and error, making pour over coffee at home becomes immensely fulfilling for some enthusiasts because they see the process as an occasion not just to drink good coffee but also to be engaged in a method of making coffee beans taste great.
Is Pour Over Coffee The Same As Drip?
Pour over coffee and drip both pass water through beans suspended in a filter (normally paper, but sometimes metal). The divergence is that drip utilizes a machine to pour the water, whereas pour over uses manual control with a kettle. So, they’re just automated and manual ways to achieve the same thing.
Is Your Pour Over Coffee Maker Worth It?
A pour over coffee maker is definitely worth it if you enjoy making coffee as much as you enjoy the result. If you want a flavorful filter-brew without much hands-on effort, then think about a high-end automatic coffee maker instead.
Finally, you can think of drip coffee as a habit, and pour over as a habit with an avocation affixed. If you are a person that enjoys the avocation aspect of an activity, then you will find pour over brewing rewarding and satisfying.
Is Pour Over Coffee Expensive?
Pour over coffee is relatively pricey to buy at a coffee shop. That’s for two reasons. First, it’s manual and small scale, so each cup is much more work intensive compared to automatic brews. Second, it is usually earmarked for unique (i.e. costly) coffee beans that aren’t sold in large enough quantities to justify a batch brew.
But at-home pour over coffee is not expensive at all. In fact, a decent kettle and pour over dripper cost much less than a drip brewer.
Pour over coffee is something of an oddity in terms of contemporary brewing trends. The reason being that while pour over coffee has surged enormously over recent years, it is actually (as I noted earlier) one of the oldest and most traditional coffee brewing methods worldwide.
To my mind, with coffee in general having become so fashionable, traditional brewing methods like pour over coffee have experienced something of a renaissance.
The Advantages Of Pour Over Coffee
Given the fact that there are so many alternative methods available, what exactly are the advantages of pour over coffee that make it so popular? Why is it that so many high end coffee shops and home brewers alike are returning to the classic approach as their brewing method of choice?
1. It’s Extremely Practical
Nothing needs to be plugged in and you don’t need many accessories to make it happen. In theory, pour over coffee can be brewed just about anywhere and any time.
2. Outstanding Flavor
The preparation of pour over coffee (which I won’t get into right now) has the potential to result in a truly outstanding cup of coffee. The pour over method allows you to extract the unique flavor of each kind of coffee bean. You’ll be able to bring out the best flavor from freshly ground beans, and appreciate it without any additional ingredients.
3. No Skills or Knowledge Required
The fact that this traditional approach to brewing coffee is one of the simplest imaginable makes it the perfect choice for those with limited experience, or perhaps no experience whatsoever. All that’s involved in the process is you, the filter, the coffee, the water, and practice; hence, no complicated instruction manual is necessary.
Pour over coffee single handedly proves the point that you don’t have to invest in a world of expensive equipment to brew an outstanding cup. Just make sure the coffee you invest in is of high enough quality and you will get the job done, using nothing but a filter and a receptacle.
5. Discover the Unique Differences in a Variety of Coffee Beans
Bringing out the unique flavor or every coffee variety is possible through pour over coffee. You will not taste these subtleties with a drip machine. Since you have complete control over every step of the brewing process, the natural flavors (which are distinct in every type of roast or brand of coffee) will trickle down into your cup.
6. Purity in Coffee and Nothing Else
If you’re using a high-quality mesh filter or a well-bonded paper filter, it will catch any sediment or oil that might increase the bitterness of the coffee.
7. It’s Controllable
Pour over coffee makes it relatively easy to take full control over how strong (or otherwise) every cup of coffee is. There is limitless room for experimentation and just as soon as you strike the ideal balance, pouring consistently excellent cups every time becomes a walk in the park.
Making a cup by hand is, for me, a meditative experience.
Looking back, I miss my 6 shot espresso days. But that was then, and this is now. I do enjoy experimenting with various beans and grinds while making myself a cup of pour over coffee. Making a cup by hand is, for me, a meditative experience. Pouring water over your coffee slowly has a way of drawing you in and enhancing your coffee from start to finish.
Now, I said meditative, not mystical. Learning to make outstanding pour over coffee has given me an advantage. I love coffee shops, but sometimes you need some distance. Making a cup of pour over coffee is a satisfying process, but some baristas want to take it “Into The Mystic.” No, it’s just a great cup of coffee done right, not a Van Morrison concert. Sometimes things get a little too cool. A little too hip.
Do you ever use the words grande or venti in any part of your life? So why should you need to use them when you order coffee?
Think about it. Do you ever use the words grande or venti in any part of your life? So why should you need to use them when you order coffee? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to coffee shops that rigidly enforce mostly meaningless jargon and terminology. Yes, New York, I’m talking about you! Enough already!
That’s always a sign that I’m getting a little touchy and need to enjoy my pour over coffee in the comforts of my home for a few days. But, of course, I’ll be back. To really enjoy and savor pour over coffee you need a mix of home and away.