Kettle ready to pour water into a Kalita Wave coffee brewer.

How To Brew Pour Over Coffee

smiling-coffee-snob Brewing

Last updated on October 12th, 2020

If your favorite coffee shop makes amazing pour over coffee and you want to brew it for yourself than this article is for you. I’ll teach you everything you need to know about using the two best pour over brewers for beginners.

There are tons of different brewers out there, but I recommend you start with either a Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. For a detailed look at the two, along with related coffee equipment, be sure to check my article about the best pour over coffee makers.

The elements of fantastic pour over coffee

The beauty of pour over coffee is that you control the brewing process, rather than giving that control to a coffee maker. This control is why pour over coffee is so much better than what most automatic coffee makers brew… as long as you brew it right. 

This level of control means that you have to focus on aspects of coffee brewing you’ve never considered before. The three that will make the biggest difference are grind size, water temperature, and brewing time.

When you look all the different brewing methods out there, the main difference is that each one works best for different variations of these ingredients. The other difference is how they filter the final coffee.

Grind size

Most pre ground coffee is labeled as a drip grind or an espresso grind. You can get decent results with these two options, but if you want to take your coffee to the next level, you’ll want to get more specific and dial in your grind based on the type of brewer you’re using, as well as the beans you’re brewing.

The reason grind size matters so much is that it affects how quickly the water dissolves the coffee. The finer the grind, the faster the flavor is extracted. This is why espresso is ground so fine and something like a French press is ground so coarse. A shot of espresso passes through the coffee quickly, which requires a very fine grind, while the French press does the opposite.

Water temperature

While grind size is the biggest factor in how fast water extracts coffee, it’s not the only thing that matters. Water temperature also impacts extraction.

The hotter the water, the faster the coffee gets extracted. If you’re grinding too fine and adding boiling water, you’ll end up with overextracted coffee that has a bitter taste. If the water’s too cold, you’ll get weak coffee without much flavor.

But once you get the perfect temperature and the perfect grind, you’ll end up with the perfect pour over coffee. As long as you don’t overlook one more variable…

Brewing time

Then, there’s the actual brewing time. How long to brew coffee totally depends on the other two variables.

At the two extremes are espresso and cold brew. Espresso brews really quickly, due to the fine, condensed coffee. Cold brew, on the other hand, is incredibly slow due to the coarsely ground coffee and cool water.

Pour over coffee basics to get started

Start with a coffee to water ratio of 1:16 and adjust to taste. For example, I generally like to us 22g (about 3 scoops) of coffee to 370g (about 13 oz) of water. That makes a 12oz cup of coffee (370g is actually about 13 oz, but keep in mind that some of the water gets absorbed by the coffee).

If you don’t want to use a scale, either measure out the water or just fill your cup and then heat that amount of water.

You should use either a timer or your phone to keep track of brew time.

Now, lets take a closer look at the two pour over coffee brewers I recommend.

Kalita Wave for beginners

pour over coffee

The Wave is flat-bottomed brewer with three small holes at the bottom. This results in an even extraction with minimal effort. Many people also find it more forgiving of mistakes, which leads to more consistently good coffee.

There are two sizes to choose from, #155 and #185. If you generally make 16-20 oz. of coffee, go for the #185. If you make 8-12 oz. you should go for the #155.

One downside of the Wave is that it requires special filters which aren’t as easy to find. If you use something else it’s not going to fit right, which will affect the brewing process.

Grind:

Start with a medium grind, similar to a drip brewer, and adjust according to your preference. Some people recommend a finer grind and others say coarser. A good rule of thumb is that your total brew time should be 2:30 – 3:00. If it’s longer, grind coarser and if it’s shorter, grind finer.

Pour:

The Wave doesn’t require the same level of precision as the V60, but pour still matters. You don’t want to just dump all the water on top at once. Pour in circles trying to evenly wet all the grinds and try to maintain a consistent water level until the end.

Step by step:

  1. To start, add 22g of coffee and tap the brewer to even out the grounds so the top is flat.
  2. Pour just enough water to wet the grinds (about 40-60g). Fresh coffee will release gases and bubble up a little bit. This generally takes about 30-45 seconds.
  3. When the bubbles stop, quickly pour water, starting in the center and moving out toward the edge in circles until you reach about 200g (about an inch from the top on the #185).
  4. Wait until the water goes down about half an inch and do this again until using all the water.
  5. Let it drain.
  6. You’re done!

Hario V60 for beginners

pour over coffee

The V60 is a cone-shaped brewer with one large hole at the bottom. The inside looks kind of like a tornado. It can make great pour over coffee, but it doesn’t forgive mistakes very easily.

There are also two sizes: #01 and #02, depending on how much coffee you make. Just like the Wave, #01 is good for an 8-12 oz. cup, while the #02 is good for 16-20 oz.

The V60 uses cone-shaped filters, which aren’t common, but they aren’t as hard to find as the Wave filters.

Grind:

Start with a medium-fine grind. That’s finer than standard drip coffee makers but coarser than espresso. The total brew time should be around 2:30 – 3:00 minutes. If it’s too short, grind finer and if it’s too long, grind coarser.

Pour:

As I mentioned, a gooseneck kettle is more important for the V60. You need to have a slow, steady stream of water poured in counter-clockwise circles. A stream this steady is very difficult—but not impossible—to achieve with a standard kettle.

Step by step:

  1. Start by blooming the coffee. Pour just enough water to wet the grounds and then let it bubble for about 30-45 seconds.
  2. Stir it up to evenly saturate the coffee (optional)
  3. After blooming, slowly pour in circles, starting in the middle and slowly making your way to the outer edges. When it’s about an inch from the top, stop for about 15 seconds and then bring back up with the rest of the water.
  4. Let it drain

How was it?

Hopefully, you got a fantastic cup on your first try. If not, don’t worry, it will come with practice.

This was a very basic introduction to pour over coffee and you’re going to need to experiment and practice until you get it just right.

In future posts, I’ll get more in-depth for each individual method and direct you to other videos and articles to show all the different opinions on how to brew.