How to brew pour-over coffee: a step-by-step guide

I just realized after all this time that though I had posted a tutorial on how to use a Bialetti stove-top espresso maker, I never did the same for pour-over coffee! This is ironic, since using a Chemex was the way I used to brew my coffee before I discovered Bialetti (actually out of lack of choice) when we were living in Portugal. The Pour-over style is cited sometimes as a fancy third-wave way to brew coffee, but it actually pretty historic – and easy! The coffeemaker I use for my pour-over coffee is a Chemex, a design classic invented in 1941 by scientist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, and its design is now in MOMA’s permanent collection. In order to brew in a Chemex, you will need filters (either paper or reusable – each has pros and cons), and some medium-ground coffee (about the consistency of kosher salt). Below you will see my Chemex setup – I have the 6-cup Chemex model, and I use a kitchen scale to measure the coffee and water.

chemex2

The basic steps to making pour-over coffee are:

  1. First, wet the filter after placing in it in the Chemex, so it adheres to the sides of the coffeemaker. Then discard this water. This step is not necessary if you are using a metal filter.
  2. Boil your water – the amount will vary depending on how much coffee you want to make. You will begin pouring the water just after it has boiled (about 200 F).
  3. Add the coffee grounds to the filter. The rule of thumb we use is 2 grams of coffee per oz of water, and the Chemex guide itself recommends “1 rounded Tablespoon for 5 oz of coffee.” We use a kitchen scale to measure this out.
  4. Slowly pour a small amount of water over the ground coffee, just enough to cover it, this is to make the coffee “bloom.”
  5. Once this amount of water has siphoned through, begin pouring the rest of the hot water over the grounds slowly in a circular fashion. The key is to pour slowly, and taking care to avoid pouring the water directly on the sides of the glass.

All in all, this process should only take about 4 minutes. It may take some tweaking to get the perfect coffee to water ratio, depending on the size of the coffee grind, and how strong you like your coffee. You can look at step-by-step photos at Stumptown and Blue Bottle. There is no perfect ratio, so play around with it, and there are other types of pour-over coffee pots to explore. Pour-over coffee may seem intimidating, but it really isn’t!

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