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A pour over coffee maker like the Chemex pictured above (or like the Hario v60) is a popular choice for many people looking to up their coffee quality. But are they worth it? And how are you supposed to know what’s best for your kitchen and your taste buds?
When I invested in a pour over coffee maker awhile back, and before I decided on one, I researched all the different brewers and the options associated with each. I want to share everything I’ve learned about these devices with you, the tremendous impact they have on taste, as well as their benefits and drawbacks.
In this blog post, we’ll best answer the question, “What are the advantages of a pour over coffee maker?”.
Let’s do this, but first…
What Exactly Is a “Pour Over” Coffee Maker?
Pour over coffee has been popular for centuries but has been recently “rediscovered” when it became trendy with specialty coffee shops all around the world.
A pour over coffee maker is typically a funnel-shaped vessel where you use a hand-pouring technique to pour hot water (around 195 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit), through freshly ground coffee and a filter, where it drains into a carafe or mug.
The advantage? It gives you superb control over the coffee brewing process to extract the best flavor from your coffee grounds. A hand-pouring technique is superior to that of a conventional drip machine that makes regular filter coffee. Why so? A drip machine controls all the brewing variables for you (immersion time, water volume, etc.), which isn’t a good thing…most of the time.
Pour over coffee offers tremendous benefits in terms of flavor. Why? Because by controlling grind size, water temperature and the rate of coffee extraction, you can craft a more nuanced cup, allowing you to bring out subtle notes and many flavor profiles in your coffee beans that would have otherwise gone undiscovered.
For example, if a specific coffee bean origin had natural fruit and citrus notes, a properly executed pour over would keep much of those unique flavors. The same coffee beans brewed with a French press might alter, or hide completely, these same overtones.
The other advantage of pour over coffee is that it consistently tastes excellent and fresh...cup after cup. The reason for this consistency is that you’re the driver. You are the one in control of adjusting all the parameters. If done the same way every time, you get a great cup every time.
How Are They Different From Other Types of Coffee Makers?
The pour over brew method is a hands-on approach that requires you to take an active role in the brewing process. Compared to drip methods (automatic coffee makers), you can brew coffee with precision and control; customizing your brew by regulating various factors, such as temperature, flow rate, immersion, and capacity.
Whereas with standard drip machines, you are relying on a machine to determine the proper time and amount of water to use, which can lead to an inconsistent cup.
Because of the amount of control you have over the brewing process, you can extract more flavor from your beans, producing a tastier cup.
It is a popular way for people who truly love their morning (or afternoon) cup because they can finally have full reign over every single detail!
Advantages / Disadvantages of Pour Over Coffee Makers
Complete control over your coffee; giving you a great cup
Great coffee, if you enjoy learning and honing a new skill and craft
Made in small batches; ideal for one or two people at a time
Precise, consistent results
Fairly affordable (although you’ll likely need more than just the brewer)
Fellow has also incorporated the following features into this burr grinder:
Pour over makers are a great option if you enjoy learning new things and thrive off the meticulousness of crafting something special from a set of honed skills and knowledge.
Pour over brewers are fairly affordable and are relatively easy to use when compared to other brewing methods (i.e. espresso machines). They are a favored choice among those who are looking for complete control over the taste of their coffee.
The small batch size these devices produce also makes them ideal for just a cup or two of coffee; perfect for one or two people at time.
There are a few drawbacks worth noting for people who are considering investing in a pour over setup, depending on your situation and needs.
They typically make smaller batches; which may not suit those that desire more than one cup
They take more time than other methods; a drawback if you’re in a hurry
Some are more difficult to brew good coffee with initially
They require extra equipment (kettle, scale, grinder)
It can require extra patience
Takes up more counter space
In contrast to using a conventional drip coffee maker, making pour overs will require your full attention and a fair amount of patience to get right.
Obviously, it’s going to take a bit more time than brewing coffee with an automatic drip coffee maker, but some people will find all the extra steps to be tedious and inconvenient.
If you want to get the best-tasting coffee out of these, but are already dreading waiting for your kettle to warm up, weighing your beans, grinding them, using a timer, weighing your water, etc.; a pour over coffee maker is probably not for you.
Also, a lot of the coffee brewing parameters have to be just right, such as the grind size, temperature of your water, and contact time of the coffee with the grounds. It takes some practice to get it right every time and can take more than a few tries to achieve the perfect cup.
Also, consider your counter space if you’re already short in that department. These setups are going to require extra equipment like a kettle, scale, and grinder, which will ultimately consume a fair amount of space.
These are just some things you should consider before investing in one of these devices for your home. It can be an enjoyable endeavor and investment, or it could turn out not to suit your needs—be sure to weigh all the pros and cons.
Most people that undertake a manual brewing method find they enjoy preparing their coffee this way.
Are They Worth the Investment?
A lot of things go into making the finest wines, and achieving the world’s most flavorful coffee is no different.
“I can smell the 2.4% of Petit Verdot.”
Sometimes you just might want a cup before shoving off to work; but instead of heading over to your favorite coffee shop, wouldn’t it be much better if you could make one of the world’s finest brews at home in just minutes? Of course it would!
Purists will appreciate being able to explore different coffee bean origins and roast levels to get the perfect cup. It’s also great for those who are new to manual brewing methods and want to learn about the process, as well as a good excuse for seasoned coffee drinkers to get creative!
Pour over coffee makers are worth the investment IF you want:
The ability to produce some of the finest and unique flavors at home in just minutes
Total control over extraction parameters like temperature, water contact with coffee grounds, stir frequency, etc.
If you’re more interested in the journey than the destination
To make small batches without the waste of an entire pot
Tips for Buying a Pour Over Maker
To follow are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your new brewer:
Cost of Extra Equipment
While pour over coffee makers are inexpensive by themselves, your pour over setup will require some additional accessories if you don’t already own them—which means there will still likely be some extra costs involved with getting started.
A gooseneck kettle is a must-have for your pour over setup.
This Amazon bestseller* is the one I own (and still love). It will bring your water up to temp in 3 minutes and the design isn't too shabby either.
Disclaimer: Yes, this isn't the kettle recommended in our best gooseneck kettle article simply because I bought it before doing extensive research (although I still stand by it and still might add it there).
Most pour over setups are going to require some type of filter. Our suggestion is to go with an oxygen bleached paper filter that fits your pour over brewer. This will impart the least amount of paper taste in your pour over coffee.
Coffee enthusiasts will argue that your grinder is actually even more important than the brewer. A quality burr grinder grinds coffee beans into grounds with uniformity and offers a better flavor extraction with pour over setups.
You may think you can measure your whole-bean coffee with a measuring cup, but you would already be setting yourself up for failure.
An accurate digital food scale would be a much better option. For less than $15, this tool will give the best coffee by accurately weighing your coffee beans before they go into the grinder.
If you’re looking for a pour over coffee maker that can travel with you, consider either plastic or stainless steel. The ceramic and glass pour over coffee makers are lovely to look at, but are not as portable.
Manual coffee brewing systems such as pour over offer you complete control and the ability to customize your brew. But this also means it’s completely on you to consider all the factors that go into it; including coffee to water ratio, water temperature, etc.
If you are just getting started with making coffee this way and feel intimidated, we recommend starting with flow restrictor pour over brewers such as the Bonavita and Melitta. These types of brewers have small, flow-restrictive holes that still make pour over coffee just as delicious as the other pour over coffee contenders, but are far more forgiving on technique, and more user-friendly.
Sustainability and the Environment
Paper filters create a lot of waste, especially when you’re drinking multiple cups a day. Consider opting for reusable filter options like cloth or metal mesh. You’ll not only save money in the long run but also help reduce your environmental footprint!
Final Verdict on Pour Over Coffee Makers
A pour over coffee maker is a sound investment if you savor the process of making great coffee, as much as the final product.
Pour over coffee is an art that requires patience and skill, and isn’t for those who just want a quick cup of coffee.
However, if you love learning new things and can appreciate the craft, a pour over coffee maker setup would be a worthwhile addition to your home coffee bar.
Resources To Learn More About Pour Over Coffee Makers
Here is an excellent video introduction to some of the more popular pour over setups and their advantages and disadvantages; so you can better understand the concepts.
From a very young "growth-stunting" age, Clint Doerfler has had a deep-rooted love for coffee. As a result, he founded Coffee Gear Gurus® to share his passion for incredible home brewed coffee with others. When he's not watching true crime shows with family or playing music, he's devoted to helping fellow coffee feins make amazing coffee at home - regardless of their experience.