For a simple, cost-effective coffee setup that dependably delivers on quality in the cup, nothing beats the pour over. Maybe you've seen this brewing method in action at one of our cafes, or maybe it's a go-to in your home coffee game. Or, maybe, this method is totally new to you. In which case, welcome! It's a whole wide pour-over world out there, and we can't wait to show you around.
There's more than one way to approach the pour over, each with its own particularities. This is actually great news: it means you can choose the style that most suits your routines and preferences. And with just a quick intro to our favorite pour-over brewing methods, you'll be off to the races in no time.
To explore the art of the pour, we asked Reyna (our indomitable Director of Training and Innovation) to give us a little Brew School 101. Resulting in a side-by-side comparison of four essential pour over setups: Chemex, Hario V60, Kalita Wave, and Origami. The brew of choice? Our delicious new Kebeneti Peaberry, a single-origin stunner from Kenya.
But first: our perfect pour over cheat sheet
When brewing a pour over at home, we recommend a 1:17 ratio of coffee to water.
We also suggest following these guidelines to perfect your pour over technique. Ratios really matter, regardless of dripper style, so have your coffee scale and calculator handy!
Bloom: 2x water to coffee dose (Ex.: for 25g coffee, bloom with 50g water)
1st pour: 4x water to coffee (So, for that initial 25g coffee, pour on another 100g water to get to 150g brewed coffee)
2nd pour: 6x water to coffee (Pour another 150g water on that 25g coffee dose, and now you're up to 300g brewed coffee)
3rd pour: 5x water to coffee (So that's 125g more water, and congrats—you've got a final 425g batch of coffee!)
- On bloom, 1st, and 3rd pour: use a spiral motion to evenly saturate the bed and agitate the slurry well, using only the flow rate of the water to do so—unnecessary agitation will cause too much extraction.
- Each of these pours should last no more than 10-15 seconds, with a break of another 15-20 seconds.
- During the 2nd pour, keep a steady hand while pouring in the center of the slurry for 20-25 seconds continuously, waiting 15s to allow some water to drain. Then continue with your third and final pour.
Pour Over Brewers 101
One of the most forgiving brewing methods, the Chemex also stands out as a fabulous option for big-batch pours. (Reyna admitted that she sometimes goes in with up to 60g of ground coffee for herself and her partner.) Some days, you just need it.
Brew Ratio: 1:17, with a suggested 40g coffee to 680g water
Filter: We love the robust, square paper filters that Chemex offers. Their thick, heavy-weight construction does a lot to control the flow rate while pouring, making Chemex arguably the easiest pour over method out there. The filter time should run fairly long, about 5-6 minutes.
Grind Size: A bit more coarse than your average pour over or drip grind. Every grinder is different, so check your grinder's instructions.
Reyna's top tip:
Don't wet the filter! As a rule, having air around the filter mechanism helps control flow rate. Wetting, however, creates suction, which can cause the flow to stall out. This is particularly important with Chemex: the thickness of that heavy-duty filter already slows the flow rate, so you don't want it overly sticking to Chemex's smooth-walled glass. Besides, since the filter is already bleached, it doesn't have any lingering flavors that need washing out. So there you go.
Classically, V60s are made of ceramic, though Hario also offers options in glass and plastic. As for Reyna, she prefers ceramic: because once it's heated up, it holds the best temp for your coffee slurry.
Which leads to another important factor: the temperature of your brewing rig. While you’re brewing, you want to make sure the water you’re putting into the coffee slurry stays roughly at the temp you want it. 202ºF water will lose a little heat when pouring, but what we don’t want is for cold ceramic or metal to suck up extra heat, dropping the temp of your slurry and resulting in lower extraction.
To avoid unintentional cooling, Reyna pre-heats her Hario V60 by setting it in place, pouring hot water evenly over the dripper, and allowing it to drip into the carafe. Dump the water, dry the dripper, and apply the filter before brewing (un-rinsed, as already discussed).
Brew Ratio: 1:17, with a suggested 25g coffee to 425g water
Filter: Hario makes thin, delicate paper filters that filter water very quickly, making this the trickiest of pour over methods. Reyna strongly suggests curbing your pour enthusiasm with this one, as a particularly aggressive pour could actually tear the filter. The filter time should run about 3 minutes.
Grind Size: Less coarse than the Chemex and on the finer side for a pour over. Every grinder is different, so check your grinder's instructions.
Cone-shaped pour overs like the V60 are prone to a sense of “under extraction" in the final cup. So, when brewing, some folks like to agitate (ie. swirl or stir) their pour over to help mitigate this tendency. So what about a Chemex, you ask? With Chemex, you don't get this phenomenon as much (even though it’s cone-shaped) because of the thicker filter and longer brew time. Science.
econd-most forgiving pour over method, thanks to a thicker filter than the V60 and a flat-bottomed dripper. The flat bottom keeps your flow rate in check, meaning you can only pour so fast — but the result is an even, highly forgiving brew with excellently balanced flavor in the cup. There's a reason we gravitate towards Kalita Waves in our cafes.
Brew Ratio: 1:17, with a suggested 25g coffee to 425g water
Filter: The Kalita Wave pairs with a slightly thicker paper filter that has a bit of texture to it. This added thickness allows for more flow control than the V60, also elongating the brew time to within the ballpark of 4 minutes.
Grind Size: Slightly coarser than the Hario V60, but less coarse still than the Chemex.
Though the Kalita Wave really polices your flow rate, you can still add too much or too little water at once. There should be at least 1/4” of water on top of your coffee grounds at any point. Though, if you mess up, course correcting with a Kalita will be a bit easier thanks to that longer brew time.
The vibiest of pour over drippers might also be the most versatile. Its true advantage is flexibility: the minimalist design accomodates a variety of filters, and the simple conical shape with deep, defined grooves lands in the middle ground between a Chemex and a V60.
Brew Ratio: 1:17, starting with a suggested 25g coffee to 425g of water. This recipe works for up to a 40g : 680g Origami pour over.
Filter: Controversial, but here goes: Reyna's top choice of filter for the Origami is a Chemex square paper filter. Why? It really nails that Chemex / V60 cross-over, giving both the flow rate control of the Chemex and the lively cup character of the V60. For cone-shaped brewers, it's the best of all worlds.
Grind Size: Slightly coarser than the Kalita Wave, but still less coarse still than the Chemex.
For a really even pour, open up the Chemex paper filter and re-fold it into a flat triangle, the original folds lining up in the middle and bisecting the filter. Re-fold two more times, creasing each quarter in half and dividing the filter into 8ths. No, it's not just an extension of the Origami theme: these even folds also help the Chemex filter to nest more neatly into the dripper. Necessary, no—but awesome, yes.
For the great Pour Over Pour Off of 2023, we gathered in our Columbia City Training Lab for a side-by-side taste test. The coffee du jour: our newly-released Kebeneti Peaberry, an expressive Kenyan coffee with delightful sweetness, ripe plum fruitiness, and the nuance of aromatic orgeat.
From the Chemex:
- When drinking from a cone-shaped pour over, you’ll tend to perceive more floral, high-acidity fruit flavors. This makes sense because the first thing you'll extract when brewing is acid, followed by sugars, then by everything else: plant fibers, etc.
- In a Chemex, the coffee will tastes a little sweeter because it has a longer brew time, drawing out the extraction and getting more of those fruity sugars.
From the V60:
- Right away, you can tell there’s higher acidity. This is because of the thinner filter, the conical shape, and the faster brew time.
- Though a properly-brewed V60 might evoke extra acidity, you can tell it’s not under-extracted. How? Here's what Reyna suggests: pay attention to your mouth's physical reaction to the coffee. If your mouth salivates heavily like you’ve just licked a lemon, you’re experiencing under-extraction. If it feels dry like you’ve licked cardboard or cotton, you’re experiencing over-extraction (associated with bitterness). A correctly-brewed V60 will feel more creamy, even if you’re getting a sensation of acidity. At Olympia Coffee, we call this “sparkling” acidity, describing that slight sparkle on your tongue evocative of carbonated beverages, kimchi, or tangy yogurt.
From the Kalita Wave:
- Flat-bottomed drippers produce a cup of coffee with a rounder, heavier body and more pronounced sweetness. That’s because the flat-bottomed brewing method gives a more even extraction altogether, leading to a sense of lower acidity and fuller body.
- Note here: it's not actually less acidic, but the higher perception of sweetness simply helps balance it out.
- The brew from a Kalita Wave should have a satiny mouthfeel, evocative of whole milk in terms of viscosity.
From the Origami:
- The cone-shaped middle ground achieves its balanced flavor with a rounder, livelier profile than the Chemex and a less heavy-bodied mouthfeel than the Kalita.
- When we invited our baristas to join the taste test, the Origami came out in the lead. Not the most objective of evaluations, but still meaningful!
All said and done, the best recommendation we have is for you to get out there, try things, and see what works for you, your routines, and your flavor preferences. Whatever happens from there—with a little sound advice from your friendly specialty coffee professionals—it's sure to be good.