The pour over. It seems simple enough. At its purest form, all you need is a filter, a mug, hot water, and of course coffee. Easy-peasy, right? Kind of. Little did you know that there are an infinite number of ways to screw up your morning cup of bean juice. From water temperature to grind type, to the amount of coffee grounds you use… when it comes to pour over coffee, there are, unfortunately, multiple ways to make your morning a much less pleasant experience by making a sad cuppa joe.
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to making great pour over coffee, along with our picks for the coffee and tools you need to do it right. Just imagine cruising through your morning in zombie mode and still making a perfect cup. Your mornings will be much easier… or your afternoons, or your evenings… there’s no judgment if you drink your coffee after the sun goes down.
What is pour over coffee and why is it fussy?
As previously mentioned, pour over coffee is just as it says: hot water poured over ground coffee. It sounds easy, but different variables can royally destroy your cup (and your morning). The top contenders for ruining your
day coffee are the size of the grind, the amount of coffee grounds, and the water quality and temperature.
If your grind is too coarse or too fine, then your coffee can end up weak or bitter. Kind of like how you’ll feel after drinking a bad cup. Too much or too little ground coffee yields the same results. Water, on the other hand, is a bit of a wildcard. If your water quality is poor, then your coffee will taste off. Side note: If you’re curious about your water quality, you can always contact your local water district, or buy a water quality testing kit.
The water temperature also makes a direct impact on your brew. If it’s not between 195 and 205 degrees F, you’re not going to be a happy camper.
So, if you want to make your coffee (aka your day) a bit better, it pays to invest in a few items, which we’ve detailed below. After that, we’ve included a buying guide to get you set up with everything you need.
Gooseneck electric kettle (or a regular kettle with a gooseneck)
Electric kettles (you know, the kind you plug in) are great because most of them now come with temperature control. Super fancy. But if you’re a stickler for tradition, a regular stove top kettle will work, too. But you’ll also need to buy a thermometer. Why the gooseneck requirement? Because you need to have control over the stream of water. You can’t just go sloshing scorching water onto your coffee. That could end up bad.
Filter cone and filters
The coffee cone is the thing that actually holds the ground coffee. So you’ll most definitely need one of these. Some pour overs use special filters or have set a “mandate” that you must use their brand. That’s cute. But generally speaking, you’ll want to use a #2 or #4 cone filter. For those of you who don’t want to waste time dealing with paper filters or are super eco-friendly, there are also steel filter cones that don’t require filters at all.
If you purchase ground coffee instead of whole bean, we won’t judge you. Just make sure that the grind is medium-coarse (not chunky). This is the correct grind for a proper pour over coffee.
A scale is optional
If you have a scale or want one, more power to you. In reality you just need a tablespoon to measure out your coffee. Keep in mind that different roast profiles (light, medium, dark, Starbucks burnt) are actually different weights, and the standard coffee mug holds about 8 to 12 fluid ounces. Just follow this rule of thumb to make one serving, depending on how strong you like your coffee:
- For light roast, use approximately 4.5 tablespoons of grounds or 5.5 tablespoons of whole beans
- For medium roast, use around 4 tablespoons of grounds or 5 tablespoons of whole beans
- For dark roast (are you seeing the pattern?) level off at around 3 tablespoons for grounds, or 4 tablespoons for whole beans.
Let’s get brewing
Once you’ve got everything set up (don’t be a last-minute Larry and think you can do all of this simultaneously–preparation is key, young grasshopper), heat the water to 195 to 205 degrees F, then slowly pour the hot water over your coffee grounds in a circular motion. You don’t want to just pour straight into the center and create a massive manhole in the middle of your grounds.
Then wait for your coffee to strain before adding more. The last thing you need is to pour so much water that your cup (or mug) literally doth overfloweth. Patience is a virtue, friend. You’ll be in the land of alertness soon enough.
It’s that simple. If you do it right. And now you know how. Go forth and pour on.
Beans and Supplies for Great Pour Over Coffee
If you’re looking for a reputable bean, we’ve rounded up different independent coffee roasters located around the US and dug up some super tasty blends from each that we think you’ll enjoy. Although some of the following blends aren’t organic, each roastery does offer organic and/or Fair Trade certified beans on their website.
We also included a few products to use for your pour over. Great if you’re looking for an upgrade or for some sweet gifts for the coffee lover in your life (remember to treat yourself too).
String Bean Coffee – Ethiopian True Blue
Light roast with fruit aroma, bright mouth feel and blueberry finish. Best for morning.
Here’s a success story. Commercial banker and musician learns to roast coffee and escapes the rat race after “14 years, 6 months and 14 days.” Stringbean Pete (the brainchild of this coffee) actually roasts his beans manually, as in by hand, meaning no technology involved. That’s the old school way. If you’re looking for a lighter roast with a nice blueberry finish, try their Ethiopian True Blue.
Side note: You can enjoy light roasts any time of day, but it’s best to drink them in the morning. Why? Because your taste buds haven’t woken up yet from that rager you were screaming at last night. Drinking a dark roast will feel like a kick in the face. And not in a good way.
Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. – Organic Belly Rubs Blend
Medium-dark roast with a sweet, honey start, notes of cinnamon and a milk chocolate finish. Good for morning, noon, and night (if you drink coffee to help you take power naps).
There are two kinds of people in this world: people who like dogs and coffee and—actually, those are the only people that matter. Just kidding. This roastery believes that “great coffee should fuel a greater purpose,” and donates a portion of each sale to support animal rescue organizations and foster care. Doesn’t that just warm your heart (like a cuppa coffee warms your belly)? The Belly Rub Blend is perfect to love on when you’re, well, giving your pup some loving. Or someone else’s pup. Hey, dogs love belly rubs and people love coffee. It’s perfection.
Huckleberry Roasters – Phantom Limb Blend
Medium-dark, hints of berry, citrus, and jam. Good for a regular cuppa or as an espresso.
With coffee bags that look like someone projected ‘60s lava lamps on the packaging, Huckleberry Roasters seems like it’s still living in that era. While the roast master isn’t actually named Huckleberry (how epic would that be?), the owners wholeheartedly believe in giving back to their community and taking care of their environment. If you want to feel even better about trying this coffee, their Phantom Limb blend won the Good Food’s Award in 2021, and a portion of proceeds from this blend go to supporting amputees and people who experience phantom limb syndrome.
Ghost Branch – Space Cowboy
Dark roast, with nutty undertones and a fruity, dark chocolate finish. Perfect for pour overs.
Giddy up, Space cowboy. There’s no time to dilly-dally when you’ve got to wrangle up some java juice to get a move on, little doggy. Ahem. Ghost Branch states that this out-of-this-world coffee is perfect for pour overs. So that says a lot right there. With a subtle smokiness, you can bet this dark roast will rocket you a mile high into a new galaxy of alertness.
Caribbean Coffee Company – Organic Hair Raiser
Double French, full mouth feel with subtle citrus-y aroma and dark chocolate undertones.
What’s dark and oily and looks like it could quite possibly bring a person back from the dead? This guy! Let’s just dub it “productivity in a cup,” because, well, look at the label. That man is on a mission. Caribbean Coffee Company is a small roastery founded on the belief that great, artisanal coffee should be available for everyone. Every man, woman, and child should try this. Well, maybe not the kid. If sugar makes kids absolutely bonkers, can you imagine what this brew would do?
Plastic Filter Cone
If the only thing that matters is getting caffeine in your system.
These no-frills filter cones (or filter baskets) are pretty standard and are about as basic as they come. They’re also available in different media, like ceramic or collapsible silicone. They’re kind of like the one that started it all. Filter cones also vary in size (cup amount), so be sure to pay attention to how many cups each one can produce. The one shown here is a one- to two-cup filter cone, so it would take a size 2 cone filter.
Paper Cone Filters (Size 2)
If you don’t like to chew on your coffee, you’ll need to get these.
Coffee filters come in multiple sizes depending on the size of your filter cone. They also come in white (bleached) or brown (unbleached). There really is no major difference in the two, other than the unbleached being a bit more environmentally friendly.
Stainless Steel Filter Cone with Stand
If you hate buying filters.
This coffee cone is reusable, comes with a stand, and doesn’t require a filter, which means it’s perfect for those who don’t want to worry about the environmental impact of their spent coffee filters. It’s made of a fine mesh steel, so it won’t rust.
Electric Gooseneck Kettle
Because hot water from the tap ain’t gonna cut it.
This rather Darth Vader-esque looking electric kettle has all the bells and whistles. It’s quick heating and has a weight-balanced handle, which means more control for your pour. It also has five programmable temperature settings. Have you ever used the Force and accidentally ruined a pot by boiling water to death? You won’t experience that with this baby, because its boil-dry technology senses when there’s no water inside.
The Best Pour Over Coffee Makers
64oz Classic Glass Chemex
If you like your pour over semi-O.G. but a little nouveau.
Ah, the beginning of the hipster pour over movement. You can thank Chemex for making this sleek and sexy-looking carafe, but in all reality, it’s no different than your little plastic buddy at the top. Except that it allows you to make multiple cups, and you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for special Chemex brand filters.
36oz Glass Pour Over Carafe with Handle and Reusable Filter
If you drink multiple cups and simplicity in presentation is your M.O.
This coffee dripper one-ups the Chemex in three ways. One, it has a handle. Two, it comes with a reusable mesh filter. Three, it’s half the price. Your eccentric coffee buddies will go gaga over the appearance, but will still scoff because it’s not a Chemex.
Cuisinart Coffee Maker
If you drink a pot of coffee and like presentation, but don’t want to do all the work.
This auto pour over is good for those who like coffee and like to watch it happen, but don’t necessarily want to do it themselves. Coffee is a ritual, and it’s ok if your morning ritual doesn’t involve you waiting for your grounds to steep. This brewer has a one- to four-cup setting and can be programmed to shut off up to four hours after brewing. But your coffee isn’t going to last that long, now, is it?
Wood Pour Over Coffee Maker Set
The full shebang—if you want it all and don’t want to buy one piece at a time.
This artisanally crafted set comes with everything, including a measuring spoon. This is the ultimate gift you buy for your beau/belle (or yourself) if you want to establish a morning ritual and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of fancy (looking) pour-overs.
20oz All-in-One Pour Over Travel Mug
This is for people that don’t have time for morning rituals.
Straight and to the point, this travel mug has all the bells and whistles of a fancy table-top pour over, but in a compact and eco-friendly way. It’s the ultimate gift for coffee
snobs lovers who live the minimalist lifestyle… or live with roommates. Like a barista. So that would make sense.