Our pour-over coffee journey is a relatively new one. It started because I saw a beautiful Bodum carafe at Indigo marked down to just $20 and I thought it would look so much nicer on our countertop than the behemoth coffeemaker and grinder we had there, which was taking up major real estate.
But once I got it home and we tried to use it with our existing stovetop kettle, I realized that (a) I had no idea how to figure out the right pour-over coffee ratio of grinds to water, nor (b) know how to properly prepare and pour in this new-fangled manner.
The insert that came with the Bodum wasn’t much help so I started doing what I do best: obsessing over mastering a new skill — in this case, pour-over coffee. I read All The Things. I watched All The Things. And I quickly realized that we needed to have a gooseneck kettle, use our digital scale and employ a lot of patience and practise.
Most of the pour-over coffee posts I read were written by coffee experts with information that just wasn’t geared to a total novice like me, or assumed I wanted to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars for fancy equipment, or was clearly a ploy to make affiliate sales. So I started to do what I do second-best: piecing together information to share — without affiliate links.
This post is everything those of you who are new to pour-over coffee need to begin making artisan coffee at home, whether you want to spend a little or a lot. There will be no confusing jargon, a variety of price points from which to choose, and absolutely no financial benefit to me whether you go on to buy any of these products or not. Buy what you want — or simply use this information with the pour-over coffee gadgets you already own.
Here’s what I’m going to cover:
- What is pour-over coffee?
- How to pour-over coffee at home
- Optimal water temperature, pour-over coffee ratio & pour-over coffee grind
- The tools and products you need for pour-over coffee
- The best coffee for pour-over
- Do you really need a digital scale?
- How to choose the right pour-over coffee kettle
- Pour-over coffee drippers & carafes
- The best pour-over coffee grinder
- Pour-over coffee glassware
What is pour-over coffee?
If you were born in the 1970s like me, your parents probably made coffee with a percolator, which brewed coffee by cycling boiling water over and over through the coffee grounds until it achieved the desired strength. Automation ruled in the ’80s and many families replaced their percolators with drip machines.
With your standard at-home “drip” coffeemaker, you rely on a machine to heat water to a specific temperature and release water onto your coffee grinds with the right pace to produce a cup or carafe of coffee. Everything is automated and it’s largely a hands-off process, especially if there’s a built-in grinder or you use pre-ground beans.
Then there’s a French press or plunger, where you need to be a bit more hands-on, breaking the coffee-making process into three distinct phases: the bloom, the wait and the press.
Pour-over coffee is, by far, the most time-consuming and hands-on of these coffee-making processes. There are specifics around water temperature, bloom time and you’re constantly pouring water from a specific kind of kettle in a circular motion, using gravity to move water through a dripper into your mug, travel cup, carafe or server. And although the process is mere minutes (we’re talking six minutes max to create two cups of coffee), you can’t just press a button or two and walk away.
But make no mistake: the extra time you’ll invest in pour-over coffee comes with tasty rewards. Your coffee will be more flavourful, more robust and more nuanced. You won’t even want to mess with its integrity by adding your favourite boozy addition — something we used to do for every weekend coffee (and, admittedly, during the week too since I work from home).
How to pour-over coffee
The good news is that you can get started with your own artisan coffee experience at home without spending very much. As long as you have a gooseneck kettle (and I’ll present some options below that range in price) and a dripper, you’ve got the basics covered. Sure, there are other bells and whistles when it comes to pour-over coffee gear, but if you’re not sure this is going to be a long-term love affair, start small.
How to make pour-over coffee at home: the 4 most important things you need to know
- Water temperature.
- Water to coffee ratio.
- Optimal grind size.
I’m going to cover all three of these in more detail in the next section, but once you have those on lock, the overall pour-over process is essentially the same no matter which products you use.
These are the steps you’ll take every time you want to make pour-over coffee at home:
- Heat your water in a gooseneck kettle, within the optimal temperature range noted below.
- Measure your coffee beans based on the amount of coffee you’re making using the ratios in the next section. Your beans should be super-fresh.
- Grind the beans. These should be freshly ground every single time.
- If using a paper filter, once your water is hot, gently pour all around the sides of your dripper to “pre-wet” the filter and reduce any residual “paper taste” you may get if you don’t add this step. Yes, it actually does make a difference (we tried omitting this step in our testing and the resulting coffee isn’t as good). Remember to empty the mug or carafe of the water that drains through in this step.
- Add coffee grounds to the filter, flatten them out evenly and add a little thumb-sized depression in the middle to create a small well.
- Slowly (and I do mean slowly) saturate the grounds completely — though ideally not to the point where your coffee begins to drip — with your hot water and let them bloom for 30-45 seconds. Blooming releases carbon dioxide, which tastes sour, and improves your coffee’s flavour. More on that here.
- Slowly, in a circular motion, starting from the centre well and moving toward the outer edges of the filter (while trying not to touch the filter itself), pour hot water around and around (and around and around) as consistently as you can. Ease off if the water levels start to get too high and allow the filter to catch up. Ensure your grounds stay level. It should take about 2.5-3 minutes after the bloom is complete to pour one standard serving of coffee. It takes me around 5-6 minutes to pour a 500-600 mL carafe if I’m moving at the right pace.
- Enjoy your gorgeous, full-bodied cup o’ java.
These are all good videos to show various techniques:
- Overall, this is the pour-over coffee method I find works best for us at home since we don’t use a scale beyond measuring our beans/grounds
- If you want to get super-specific and use a scale for the full pour, this is a good video reference
- Cafec suggests using the Osmotic Flow method, which is a variation worth trying to see which you prefer
- If you’re using a Chemex (which is very similar to the Bodum carafe I’ve included in the tools section below), this is a more specific method
Temperature, ideal pour-over coffee to water ratio & the best pour-over coffee grind
Now that you understand the steps involved and you’ve studied the various pour-over coffee techniques, you’re ready to start brewing.
When it comes to water temperature, coffee-to-water ratios and grind size, you’ve reached the stage where you need to play a little to find what works best for your personal taste. Every single decision you make at this point affects the end flavour, so there’s going to be some trial and error while you make tweaks and customize your process.
Generally speaking, though, there are some guidelines within which to work (er, play)…
You don’t want merely hot water nor do you want boiling water when making pour-over coffee, so aim for something in between — around 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit [F] (or 93-96 degrees Celcius [C]). We keep ours set to 203F.
Note that elevation does change the boiling point; at sea level, water boils at 212 degrees F or 100 degrees C, but at higher elevations, this decreases, and that means your ideal pour-over water temperature would also change.
If you’re not using an electric kettle that controls water temperature with precision, and you’re using a paper filter, I suggest getting your water to boiling point and doing the pre-wet part of your pour-over coffee process immediately after removing the kettle from its heat source; this will help ensure that it’s no longer boiling by the time you get to the bloom phase.
Pour-over coffee to water ratio
The pour-over coffee to water ratio was the biggest source of frustration for me because the Bodum pour-over carafe that I started with offered absolutely no guidance out of the box. After looking extensively online for some kind of ratio starting point, I finally found this video. And as I built my pour-over library gadgetry, with other brands that more frequently provided coffee:water ratio guidelines, these are the ratios I typically started to follow depending on how much coffee I was making:
- 24g coffee:320g water (just under 11.5 ounces)
- 33g:450g (just under 16 ounces)
- 40g:550g (nearly 19.5 ounces)
Pour-over coffee grind
Although most of the advice I read online suggested a medium grind, after speaking with a coffee shop owner in Tobermory who has pour-over coffee on his menu (at extra-premium pricing, of course), we set our grinder on a slightly finer grind size. It looks less like kosher salt granules and more like coarse beach sand in the end.
On our particular grinder, it’s a setting for percolators (in the 25-30 size range), but this is another area where you’ll want to play around and see what works best for you.
The tools and products you need for pour-over coffee
Now for the fun part: the gear. Because you didn’t come to Mommy Gearest thinking I wouldn’t have experimented with quite a few gadgets before suggesting the ones I think are best, did you? Nah.
The best coffee for pour-over
The best kind of coffee for pour-over coffee is FRESH COFFEE. I don’t care if you’re buying mucho-expensivo Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica at $80 a bag — if it’s old, it’s gonna suck. Although you may get away with using older beans or leftover grounds from a few days earlier when using a drip machine, it won’t cut it when it comes to pour-over.
That’s right, pour-over is particular in every way, shape and form. It’s the snob of the coffee-making world. And it makes no apologies.
We generally buy Kicking Horse coffee and it tastes markedly different (and by that, I also mean markedly better) when we make pour-over coffee with it. Same coffee, different process. We’ve made drip vs pour-over side-by-side using the same beans, ground at the same time, just to see if there’s really a discernible difference. There is.
I’ve also tried using grounds that aren’t super-fresh — but only by a day — and it does present a difference in the layers of flavour that come through in the end cup. Plus, it doesn’t seem to foam or bubble up during the bloom and first half of the pour like fresh grounds do.
I’d choose more inexpensive coffee beans and a good grinder over more expensive beans that you can’t keep uber-fresh or grind seconds before use — any day.
Do you really need a digital scale?
The short answer is: not really. The snooty pour-over answer is: absolutely.
Let me explain.
If your dripper comes with a scoop, and tells you one level scoop equals 12 grams of coffee, it’s probably pretty accurate. I tested this with the scoop that came with the Cafec dripper –and I tested it many, many times — and it was consistent within a gram or two each time.
A gram or two isn’t going to make or break your coffee.
But, let’s say you’ve been doing a lot of playing around and discover that your perfect cup of joe needs 28 grams of coffee. Well, if you want to figure that out in the first place, you need a digital scale. And, if you want to stay ultra-precise and keep experiencing that perfect cup of joe, you need to keep using a digital scale.
I have a fairly inexpensive one from Amazon (it was no more than $25) that I bought when I started getting serious about sourdough starter. As long as it measures in grams, you’re good to go.
How to choose the right pour-over coffee kettle
The “right” pour-over coffee kettle for me might be different than what’s right for you, so not only will I rank the ones I’ve tried here, but I’ll also tell you why they made the list in this order.
In all of the electric models, heat time was relatively similar and they all do a good job of holding the desired temperature. You’ll see the electric models all fared better than the non-electric kettles because without using a thermometer, we found there was simply no way to ensure we could reach the optimal temperature range nor could we keep it there with any consistency.
TOP PICK: Stagg Pour-Over Electric Kettle from Fellow
- Price: US$149 / CDN$210
- Volume: 0.9L to max fill line
- The good: The Stagg kettle not only has a beautiful, minimalist aesthetic with a small, sleek footprint, but it also feels best in my hand. The handle is designed in such a way that it seems to counter-balance itself during the pour, and it offers tremendous control even when it’s filled to the max with water and you’re in the midst of the lightest pour possible. In the other kettles, that heaviness comes through more, putting greater strain on even my strong, dominant wrist and into the thumb joint. I also appreciate the simplicity of the Stagg gooseneck kettle’s controls; the C/F and hold (temperature) switches are on the back of the base, out of the user’s sightline — set it and forget it — and there’s merely one dial on the electric base. Press once to turn it on and start heating, turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to change the temperature, press and hold to start the timer (with a 3-2-1 countdown!) or a final short press to turn it off. With the hold switch engaged, the kettle will maintain your preferred temperature for an hour.
- The gaffe: If your thumb accidentally misses the top of the handle where it’s meant to rest during the pour, watch out — she’s a hot one. I’ve made that mistake a couple of times and touched the side of the kettle… OUCH. I wish this kettle would make some kind of sound when it reaches my target temperature to alert me it’s ready.
SECOND-BEST: Ovalware Electric Pour-Over Kettle
- Price: US$79.99 / CDN$130
- Volume: 0.8L to max fill line
- The good: Considering it’s significantly less expensive than the Stagg kettle, Ovalware’s gooseneck option holds a strong second-place finish. One of the features I prefer on this kettle is that there’s an auto shut-off that takes place at the 10-minute mark, so if you forget to turn it off, it isn’t drawing electricity for an hour like the Stagg will. It also has a temperature hold mode, though I do find that the kettle loses heat a bit faster than the Stagg and therefore takes a bit longer to re-heat to get back to the held temperature. For tea drinkers, it has a one-press quick-boil mode that takes the temp to 100C without any fuss, or the dial is easy to use to select a new temperature for your individual beverage needs. Switching between C and F is really easy, as are using all of the functions on the base. The Ovalware kettle does emit a short beep when the target temp is reached, for which I am grateful.
- The gaffe: But, all of the functions are on the base and it clutters up the overall aesthetic. The black kettle doesn’t match the stainless base and though this won’t matter to more than probably a quarter of you reading, it’s something to note if you are a matchy-matchy fanatic like moi. (Know that you can instead order the stainless kettle and it will match perfectly.) The handle provides pretty good equilibrium but the lighter pour isn’t as much of a perfect drizzle as you’ll get with the Stagg or even the Brewista below.
CO-THIRD PLACE: Brewista Artisan Electric Gooseneck Kettle
- Price: US$159 / CDN$195
- Volume: 1.0L to max fill line
- The good: I love love love the white with the wooden handle as an accent colour and texture! The Brewista gooseneck kettle also holds the most water out of all the kettles we tested, and if it had a timer that worked while the other functions were engaged, this would have easily made second place since it has a superior pour to the Ovalware kettle — especially when it comes to the gentlest of pours. It’s easy to switch between C and F, there’s a flash-boil option and a “keep warm” (hold temperature) mode. Like the Stagg kettle, the auto shut-off is at the 60-minute mark.
- The gaffe: The base’s overall footprint is large and indelicate. But, seriously, my biggest issue with this kettle is that the timer only works when the kettle is out of the base — not when it’s heating up or holding a temperature while sitting in the base. Ultimately, the timer function is one of my favourite things about the two kettles above and is such an important feature for great pour-over coffee-making that it impacted Brewista’s kettle ranking heavily. It only ranks slightly above the Cafec because at least I can control the temperature since it’s electric.
ALSO THIRD PLACE: Cafec Tsubame Wood kettle
- Price: US$120 / CDN$179
- Volume: 1.0L max
- The good: What a truly gorgeous pour! The balance I feel in my hand while pouring with the Cafec kettle rivals the Stagg, and (impressively) the handle stays very cool even though we heated this kettle over a direct flame on our gas-top range. Hand-made in Tsubame (a city in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture — so famous for metal processing that there’s even a local museum devoted to it), everything about Cafec’s kettle is stunning. Precise, gentle pouring probably comes easily with this kettle because it boasts one of the — if not the — thinnest spout, at 6mm. This kettle looks gorgeous as a decor piece as well, should you decide to leave it atop your range. Frankly, this would have made second place if there was a fitted thermometer included.
- The gaffe: Without a thermometer, I found it impossible to manage the water temperature. There’s no hole in the lid on this particular Cafec kettle so you’d have to leave the lid off if you wanted to use a thermometer with it. Guesswork is not a friend to pour-over coffee and that’s why the two non-electric kettles I tried didn’t make the top of the list. However, if you don’t have the space for an electric kettle, this would be my top choice between the two stovetop gooseneck kettles I tried.
FOURTH SPOT: Hario Buono Kettle
- Price: US$60 / CDN$72
- Volume: 1.2L max
- The good: The most water for the lowest price? That’s definitely a good thing. The balance is nice, and the pour is good, but both pale in comparison to the closest apples-to-apples kettle in our testing — the Cafec Tsubame. It’s also made in Japan, though I can’t find anything that tells me it’s hand-made, which is probably why the price tag is so much more accessible than Cafec’s. Where Hario’s kettle wins over Cafec’s is the lid: it has holes! You could conceivably pop a slim thermometer down the middle hole to help check and maintain optimal water temps.
- The gaffe: Hario’s signature shape is easy to identify but doesn’t have the same contemporary aesthetic that looks as striking on your stovetop or countertop than many of the other kettles we tried. Its phenol resin handle gets quite hot (though I am certainly a wimp so not everyone would feel this way) and that’s really this kettle’s biggest downfall for me and why it failed to do better in the rankings.
Pour-over coffee drippers & carafes
Some of the pour-over coffee posts I read while I was learning more about the fine art of at-home artisan coffee-making suggested that glass drippers held heat better than ceramic ones, but in my testing that wasn’t always true. In my experience, it depended on the kind of ceramic (or perhaps its design) and — overall — both glass and ceramic did a pretty similar job in terms of heat retention.
But when it comes to carafes, the double-walled ones definitely do a better job of keeping your brew warmer longer. We generally zip through ours so quickly that this isn’t an issue, but if you think you’ll be making a double so you can enjoy two cups in a row, this is certainly something to consider as you read through the ones I’ve tried here.
You have two clear choices: a standalone dripper that sits on a mug or server, or an all-in-one where the dripper is attached to or built specifically for a carafe. All of the pieces I’ve tried are made of ceramic or glass, which means they’re all breakable. Keep this in mind if you’re a Mr (or Mrs) Butterfingers.
Favourite overall pick: the all-in-one RJ3 Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Filter from Ovalware. It’s the one I reach for above everything else. Here’s why:
- No paper filters required! Not only will this save money in the long-run, but it also means less waste and one less step (no pre-wetting). Ovalware created a really well-thought-out product here, which comes with a reusable stainless steel filter that — unlike the Bodum all-in-one noted below — is dual-layer with a laser-cut filter on the outside but also a mesh lining inside. It also comes with a “Multipurpose Filter Holder,” which not only acts as a filter stand (once you finish making coffee, pop the filter in it so the last few drizzles don’t land all over your countertop) but also as a measurement cup for beans as well as a carafe lid
- It’s a borosilicate glass carafe with a clearly printed measurement scale on the side, which corresponds to suggested coffee:water ratios in the printed literature that comes in the box
- There’s a handle and the best spout out of every carafe and server we tested. I love how easy it is to pour coffee from the RJ3 into any mug — in a gorgeous, steady stream that never trickles anywhere but where you point it
- The whole thing is dishwasher safe
- It’s inexpensive: US$33.99 (though so far I haven’t been able to find this at a Canadian retailer, so if you’re in Canada you’ll have to factor in not only the exchange but also potential shipping and import duty charges)
- Honestly, the only thing that could make the RJ3 experience better would be if it was double-walled and I could make twice as much coffee in one go
In second place, the Cafec Flower Dripper (US$45/CDN$53), which comes in the prettiest colours and is made in a Japanese region known for its ceramics, holds heat exceptionally well and really seemed to help the coffee’s layers develop nicely, bringing out the most flavour of all three standalone drippers I tried. The idea of the inner floral design is that those grooves help keep a layer of air between the paper filter and the dripper, apparently allowing the grounds to fully expand and thereby bringing out better flavour. I really like the addition of a handle on this dripper. I don’t have a branded Cafec server, so I just use it directly on top of my favourite mugs. It’s great if you’re just making a cup for yourself because there are no extra dishes.
Placing third as a strong contender in the set category is Brewista:
- The Tornado Duo Double Wall Glass Dripper (US$37.99/CDN$44) — this is the world’s first sealed, double-wall glass dripper and it could be why I so impressed by its heat-retention. It created really good overall flavour, coming very close to the quality coffee we made using the Cafec dripper. If it had a handle, it would have been a toss-up between these two for second place!
- The X Series Glass Server (US$29.99/CDN$39.50) — oh, so very pretty but oh, so very small (400 mL). It really doesn’t hold much more than my favourite mugs, and although the claim is that its polygonal inner base is designed for for balanced oxygenation, the mouthfeel and flavour profile doesn’t seem to change for me when I use it versus a mug. But if you were serving two small coffees during a tête-a-tête, it sure would be lovely carried in on a tray
Next up would be the Stagg [XF] Pour-Over Set:
- Pricier at US$99/CDN$140, this comes with a Stagg [XF] Dripper & Stagg [XF] Carafe (with lid) plus 30 paper filters
- Like the brand’s kettle, the design is gorgeous
- I love the minimalist dots on the carafe that indicate one serving vs two servings of coffee
- The carafe is hand blown, borosilicate glass and — most important — double-walled to keep coffee hotter longer; but without a handle, it has a wide enough circumference that I need to brace my pour by holding the carafe in two spots
- There’s an extra “ring”-style component that comes with the set to help pour coffee grounds into the narrow channel for which this dripper allows; so that’s one more piece to wash and keep track of over time
- Although there’s no handle on the dripper component, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t get hot at all on the outside and its shape easily lends itself to being picked up and held onto like a cup
- That dripper is so narrow that grounds inevitably end up sort of trapped along the walls in the folds of the filter, and are a challenge to saturate completely with water without weaving in and out of the folds
- Pouring from the carafe can be “dribbly” and imprecise. Coffee will splatter about more than should seem necessary considering it has what feels like a thoughtful design
Of all the drippers we tried, I liked the Hario V-60 O2 Ceramic (US$30/CDN$29) dripper the least — mainly because I found that it cooled off the fastest and our coffee simply didn’t stay as hot through the entire process as it did with the other products above. It is priced really well and has a handle, though! It does come in different materials and finishes, so perhaps some of the others do a better job at heat-retention.
And dead last is the Bodum 8-cup double-wall pour-over coffee maker. And that’s sort of sad for me since it’s the pour-over coffee product that kicked off this whole adventure. It’s the very reason you’re reading this post right now after months (and months) of pour-over research and personal trial and error. But, in the end, the only thing it really has going for it above all of the others is that it holds eight cups of coffee. I do really love the way it looks, too. In theory, it should have been as convenient to use as Ovalware’s RJ3 that nailed the top spot here. However, despite being double-walled, it only does a decent job of keeping your as-yet-undrunk coffee hot. By the time you reach your refills, it will be merely warm. At full price, it’s only US$45/CDN$60, which is certainly reasonable (and even moreso if you score one on sale for C$20 like I did), but it’s not the pour-over coffee gear I reach for — ever. It has a reusable filter like the RJ3, but it lets water pass far too quickly over the grounds to make really full-bodied coffee and you ultimately need to add a paper filter anyway; and there’s no handle so it’s kind of awkward to pour into your drinking vessel of choice. In the end, the Bodum just falls flat in almost every measureable way.
The best pour-over coffee grinder
I’ve only tried one and that’s because we already had a grinder we love, and I can’t imagine anything working better. It’s the Breville Dose Control, and we’ve been using it for at least five years. It handles every kind of bean we’ve thrown at it (including “oily” beans), and has 60 grind settings. So, whether you need the finest grind or the coarsest, it does it all.
Pour-over coffee glassware
Sure, you can use that mug your kid made at the local pottery studio, but if you’ve already gone to the trouble of spending upwards of five minutes standing over your coffee and lovingly handling the entire process from beginning to end with such care, why not treat yourself to the ultimate coffee-lovers must-have: double-walled glasses!
We tried two kinds in our pour-over coffee testing: a plastic set from Bodum that claimed to be unbreakable and a hand-blown glass set from Ovalware. Not only do the Bodum ones absolutely break (and the brand does not stand behind its online “unbreakable” marketing, by the way), but I don’t think the coffee tasted as good as it did in the glass set.
The Ovalware Double Wall Tasting Glass Set (US$29.99/pair) is pretty enough to sit on an open shelf in your kitchen as part of a displa, but they also do a stellar job of keeping coffee hot without heating up your hands. It’s a refined drinking experience. And, hey — if you made it this far, I know that’s what you’re looking for. So just go get a pair, already.
As time goes on, I may have the opportunity to try new brands and pour-over coffee products. In that case, I’ll add to this post and shuffle favourites if need be. You’ll know it’s updated if you see a dated notation at the very top of the post.
DISCLAIMER: We purchased some of these products ourselves and were gifted the others. Regardless of how we procured the items, they were all given thorough and equal testing time. As always, all opinions are my own.