August 13th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
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Samantha Reichman is an intern on CNN Early Start and Starting Point. She is a senior at The College of William and Mary, a coffee fiend and a trained barista. She blogs at Alimentación. All pictures taken at Blue Bottle Coffee in Manhattan.

As local coffee culture seems to be approaching critical mass, the need for a superior, distinctive product is becoming even more pressing.

Caffeine aficionados are also experiencing a phase of experimentation. Myriad styles of coffee preparation and presentation combined with selective sourcing allow for unprecedented levels of personal flair. But can individuality truly be achieved at an espresso bar?

One ceremony in particular comes to mind: "pour-over" coffee, also known as "hand pour coffee," is a brewing style used to produce a single cup at a time. This method was not concocted behind the bar of any Stumptown or Blue Bottle location; rather it migrated here from the Far East, Japan to be exact.

It was only adopted by coffee epicures and American roasting companies in the past decade, and the time constraints of many customers have prevented the practice from taking off, especially in grab-and-go-style businesses. The practice gained exponentially more buzz last year when the New York Times examined the origin of the pour-over.

In all, the process takes three to four minutes to complete, and the wait is worth it. The benefits of pour-over compared to other brewing tactics lie in the timing and control in the wrist. Infusing the ground coffee for the correct length of time with a controlled hand will produce a fuller, fruity taste, often accented with floral notes.

Take a minute (or two...or three...) and steep in this beginner's tutorial on brewing a single cup of glorious coffee via the pour-over method.

Supplies you'll need:

- Fresh coffee (roasted under two weeks week prior to brewing)
– Coffee grinder
– Single-cup drip coffee cone (ceramic or glass)
– Paper filter to fit
– Kettle with a swan-necked spout (for precision pouring)
– Gram scale (extremely helpful when beginning)
– Coffee cup

Step 1
Select your beans. Single-origin beans, rather than a blend, are preferred with this process because they offer a subtle range of flavors that are region specific. Because it is brewed to order in shops, you can become familiar with the product of various countries by simply ordering a cup from, say a Nicaraguan town, or sample them yourself by purchasing small quantities of beans at a time.

Step 2
Heat water in the kettle and grind coffee to medium-fine ground: finer than auto drip but coarser than what would be used to draw a shot of espresso. A good gauge would be to measure 1.5-2 grams of coffee for every fluid ounce you intend to drink. In this example, we'll consider a 16 ounce cup that will require approximately 30-32 grams of coffee.

Step 3
Fold the edge of the filter or trim away the excess and place in your dripper. Position the dripper on top of the cup.

Step 4
Use kettle to pre-wet the filter with water between 195°F and 205°F; the kettle will reach this temperature after 35-40 seconds after it has been removed from boiling heat. This will prevent a paper taste as well as preheat the cup. Dump water from cup.

Step 5
Place the whole contraption atop a gram scale and tare (zero-out) the scale, so that it can properly measure the amount of water.

Step 6
Pour just enough water over the grounds to cover evenly. Let this sit for 30 to 50 seconds, or until the "bloom" has settled. This is called "pre-infusing" and it allows carbon dioxide to naturally escape from the coffee. 

Step 7
This is where the precision and patience come into play. Begin pouring again very slowly, allowing the water level reach halfway up the cone, for optimal "extraction". Continue pouring in a circular motion, working your way out, avoiding pouring directly onto the filter. This should last 40 to 45 seconds.

Pause long enough in order to let the grounds settle, then begin pouring again until the scale has reached about 515 grams in total (Note: grams of water also differs based on grams of coffee).

Step 8
Wait until the stream slows to a drip, remove the filter, dump the grounds and enjoy your well-deserved, home brewed cup of coffee.

Step 9 (Optional)
Complement with a light citrus dessert to further enhance the flavors.

Keep in mind that perfecting the pour-over process is personal. Yes, a particular portion of water will enrich the flavor of the coffee in a specific way, but each individual also maintains a unique palate.

Practice your steady, even pouring technique at intervals that you prefer and you will be just fine, says this barista.

Previously - Want great coffee for less? Take matters into your own hands



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soundoff (717 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Awesome article, pour over coffee is such as under-rated way of making coffee, we've been trying to get people into it but it takes a while. How fine do you grind the beans?

    November 29, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  2. cspanhel

    Pour over is not new. Melitta coffee cones have been around forever–I've had one since the 1970's. My Cuisinart auto drip machine lasted only one year, so it's now a 'pour over' unit. Pour over is definitely superior to auto drip.

    August 23, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  3. joy

    I threw out all coffee making stuff that had smelly plastic. I use a wide stainless tea strainer with a very fine mesh, moisten the coffee with some of the not quite boiling water, wait a bit, and then ladle the rest slowly over the grinds. I wouldn't be caught dead using paper filters, good grief. All that yummy oil and flavor LOST.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:16 am |
  4. Arlene Zsilka

    I have been using a Melitta since the 70s, but only when I want to make one cup. I take it on trips for a cup in my room or tent. It's always nice, but not worth the fuss or bother if I need to make more than one cup of coffee. Now, with coffee pods, it's easier to make single cups, but that requires another countertop appliance.

    August 23, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  5. Thad

    There is an hourglass shape glass coffee maker, brand name Chemex, that was popular in the 1950s and is still being made today. You fold a circular sheet of filter paper into a cone, place it into the top half of the Chemex and proceed as described in the Samantha Reichman recipe. Matter of fact, that is the exact recipe that Chemex has been providing with their coffee maker the past 60 years or so. Nice to see it's being rediscovered.

    August 23, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  6. Martin

    I live in palm beach and I want to make my house look more of a country home. We are one 1 1/2 acres and my house is painted cream with a brown roof. We jhave a huge circle driveway and have a fence that is not in front but is in the middle of the yard. It is wood with flowers and bushes as landscape. How do I make if look more country and friendly?.

    August 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  7. No Money Needed

    Check it out.

    August 19, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  8. GirlRocket

    My European-born Mom got a Melitta filter in the 1970s with her S & H Green Stamps that she saved up for over a year. It was the new thing at the time and she loved it. It made the best coffee, and even though she went on to use a Mr. Coffee type machine in her later years, I've always used a Melitta filter. It takes a few more minutes, but when you're serving a great cup to your loved one in the morning, it's just more love added to the mix. I use basket filters instead of the funnel type. Open the basket filter, fold it into a half circle, and then in half again, fitting it down into the Melitta basket, moisten the filter, dump the water from that, then add coffee and pour slowly, getting all the coffee soaked, as suggested in this article. Basket filters are cheaper and the flow is better. Enjoy! And a Bon Appetit from my late Mom.

    August 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Wisdom Rocks

    I've been making my coffee at home like this for almost 30 years. Where's the news?

    August 17, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  10. Chris

    Melitta Bentz, a housewife from Dresden, Germany, invented pour-over brewing in 1908. Today, the Melitta Company remains family owned and a worldwide leader in coffee and coffee preparation.

    August 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  11. Chris

    I had pour over coffee served to me in Vietnam. Although it tasted fine, it was served over ice, which is a substance to be avoided in that country. After losing 6 pounds in one evening as a consequence of having coffee prepared in this manner, I think it will be many years before I get brave enough to try it again. LOL

    August 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Ruth

      Chris, you should definitely try it again! No ice, just great beans to start....there is no bitterness or acidity to the coffee. It is smooth and delicious. I can actually drink a pour over black and really enjoy it! Good luck!

      January 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  12. A

    This is how I make it when I camp.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  13. Joni's fan

    Just for the record I tried this stuff years ago, before it became all trendy and hipster, at a place in Marina Del Rey, CA called Joni's. The men serving me spoke Spanish and were the friendliest and least pretentious guys around. By my second visit they knew my name. I remember thinking that the pour over method made a delicious cup of coffee and if I lived in LA I would be spending a lot of money at Joni's.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  14. DS

    Agree with Chuck. This is the simplest and best way to make coffee. The modern technique is descended from Melita but the technique goes back to the origins of coffee in Ethiopia in the first place. I have estimated my cost as about 10 cents per cup including the coffee and paper filter, grinder, kettle and filter cone. This intern has just demonstrated that journalism majors usually know nothing about the subjects they write about.

    August 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  15. Chuck

    What kind of shallow research did this writer do?
    Mrs. Melitta Bentz patented this in Germany in 1908, over a hundred years ago!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melitta

    August 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  16. MDoyle

    This is the one-cup version of using a Chemex Coffee maker – the only way that I make coffee.. If you don't know Chemex look at http://www.chemexcoffeemaker.com.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Chuck

      We still have our glass and wood Chemex from the seventy's, but we use the little Melita singles when it's just us.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  17. Juan Valdez

    Hope you don't mind, but... I admit, I mix my donkey's semen, urine and dung into the beans before making my bean deliveries.

    August 15, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Carmen

      Obama sent federal agents wearing masks into San Diego to terrorize law-abiding cancer patients and shut down all state sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries and gave assault rifles to drug cartels. Obama is a thug.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:08 am |
      • EarlGrayHot

        This has nothing to do with Obama. Nor did he cut whatever from Medicare. If the GOP gets back in office then you'll see Medicare disappear.

        August 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
        • Dr.L.

          Sorry to burst your bubble Earl, according to the GAO, Obama cut over 740 billion dollars from Medicare... he wants old people to rot.

          August 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Marsha

      Obama cut 700 billion dollars from medicare – Obama is a terrorist.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  18. LaKwanzaa Johnson

    Can I use my EBT to gets me sum of dat really good coffee from da sto? I be using my Obama phone to call dem MF's first to make sho dat I can buy dat good schitt wiff my EBT card. You know whut I'm sayin?

    August 15, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Jerv

      No. Just sayin'...

      August 15, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  19. ZOINKS

    Eatocracy has gone from interesting and a little snooty to downright new-age pretentious. The article prior to this gem is about pairing wine with potato chips. For the record, potato chips pair perfectly with cheap beer, coffee is best made with a drip coffee maker or a french press. We don't need to invent new ways to be pretentious.

    August 15, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • AleeD®

      Pretentious, eh? To quote Fezzik, "I do not think it means what you think it means." Definition: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

      The articles in this blog are posted to teach, inform and generate readership. How someone uses that information determines pretentiousness – not the article itself. Where else would you go for food news & information and new ways to combine flavors? The entertainment section? This is a food blog, genius. They're doing exactly what they're supposed to do.

      August 15, 2012 at 7:38 am |
      • someone

        Actually, that line was said by Inigo.

        "Anybody want a peanut?"

        August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  20. HDCook

    If mon is a Holliday and you took a vacation day on fri, you just got a 4 day weekend (aka, a trip to Vegas) for the cost of 1 vacation day. If you already have all the stuff to brew a decent cup of coffee isn't it worth the additional 4 mins to brew a great cup? Minimal additional input, potential for maximal output. Starving 3rd world kids and internet trolls will still be the same regardless of your level of input....

    August 15, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  21. Ka

    I know all of this sounds fussy, but don't knock it until you try it! It actually does taste different when it is made this way. I tried it on a lark, and was blown away. I'm not one for noticing subtle shifts in taste (including wine – I never get when people say there are "notes of peaches" or something of the like. I can never taste the darn thing). However, the first time I tried pour over coffee it tasted like coffee infused with violets. Where I live it's the same price as a cup of regular, plain coffee you would get at Starbucks. It's a nice treat every now and then and it reminds me of the joy that one can get with food / drink when you really taking the time to enjoy and experience taste.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:36 am |
    • nancy zottl

      so true...take the time

      August 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  22. Dianne

    I really thought this was some kind of joke. Are you absolutely freaking kidding me? Ohhhh it all is soooo precious and self absorbed.

    August 15, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      To each his or her own. I'll never understand why some people care so much about baseball stats or video games, but it doesn't take anything away from me if they do. So long as no one is forcing you to participate, isn't it nice that some people can find joy in a ritual like this? I'm all for people finding their happy wherever they can.

      And it does make really good coffee.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  23. JoshL

    This is truly, truly sad - I can appreciate subtleties in foods and delicate flavors and all of that, but seriously, how far are we going to take this stuff?? There are people who would be happy to lick the leftover dregs of a burnt pot of gas station coffee and we are worried about "pouring slowly in circular motions while blooms are settling and measuring the grams of water and pre-infusing" and, blah blah blah??? If you read this article and got to the bottom and said to yourself, "oh wow that sounds great i need to try this!" Shame on you!!

    August 15, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Oh Please

      Seriously? You're upset that some people might not be bothered by spending a few extra minutes and a few extra bucks on supplies to make a better cup of coffee? If you're so pressed for time, then just drink instant coffee but don't judge those of us who indulge in small luxuries. I repeat: small luxuries. Spending $5000 on a watch when a $100 watch would suffice is snobbish. Spending $100,000 for a luxury sedan is snobbish. This is just COFFEE.

      And I agree that there are those in need who would love to have cheaply made coffee. So what? Give them some, too! Nobody's stopping other people from helping those in need AND maintaining a modest level of comfort.

      Have a little perspective. And if this is too much work for you, then don't do it. But don't criticize those who take the time to give themselves a treat. And no, I haven't tried this... but if I do, I don't think I'll need a gram scale. That's a little overboard for me personally but you won't see me criticizing someone who does have one (unless it's made of solid gold, then I'll roll my eyes).

      August 15, 2012 at 3:01 am |
    • howard kleger

      The upside of this is ...coffee can actually taste good while you drink it and you'll get off on it more..and its cheap..beyond all the bullsh!t such as wording hype gram scales. also, coffee makers are in the same note complete bullshit. coffee sitting for more than a freaking minute goes bad. truth. its not that people are sensitive about coffee,,,its that coffee is sensitive, and it then attracts alot of flowery aroma """ around this bloom. and the one cup coffee makers dont work. they have design flaws and then youve wasted money. okay ..read it slowly, fast, flowery, whatever. Either lick coffee grinds off of the sides of mudflaps or do ghetto style for a chopstick and drink the damn coffee right motherfluppers

      January 18, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  24. Peter

    For crying out loud people, talk about first world problems

    August 15, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Eric

      Coffee is one of the magical beverages in which great discussions such as first world problems take place over. Coffee has a history in ceremony and you know this. Brainstorming sessions, problem-solving, receiving important dignitaries, peace talks.... coffee is often right there.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • Andrew

      That's right, once we live in the first world, we should never try to improve our lives ever.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Evan

      First world problems are solved after drinking third world coffee.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  25. JFritz

    Buy an old non-electric Corningware percolator at a tag sale and throw away the "guts." Boil water, throw in a scoop of coffee. turn off pot after all grains are wet, let settle five minutes or so, and strain. Great coffee.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Greg

      Amen

      August 15, 2012 at 2:32 am |
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