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The first time I ever heard of making coffee by “pour-over” was almost a whole year ago. Click here to see the video I found back then of a tiny Japanese robot preparing coffee by this method. I commented at the time that it seemed like a lot of work when I was getting coffee from my drip brewer just fine.
Late last year, I was asked for my thoughts comparing the pour-over technique to the French Press. I came back to my opinion that the French Press is held in such high regard that there must be a reason why, whereas I wasn’t hearing as many advocates for the pour-over technique.
This month, I visited the Planet Bean roastery in Guelph Ontario and saw something for the first time. All coffee served in their retail cafe was prepared by the barista using the pour-over method. I asked Bill Barrett about this, and he gave his opinion that this was an ideal method to brew and get maximum flavor from coffee.
By coincidence, I was given another chance to answer this question when Dawn Foster e-mailed me and asked,
“Marc, what is your opinion of the Chemex coffee maker. A friend swears by it.”
What’s the difference? Is it worth the bother?
Your drip-brewer at home heats the water and dispenses it over the filter of ground coffee. That filter fills up with the heated water that extracts solids from the coffee that drips into the pot. Grind some coffee, pour water in the machine, flip a switch, wait, enjoy.
By contrast, the pour-over method involves you slowly and gradually pouring the hot water in a thin continuous stream over several minutes rather than flooding the ground coffee at once.
To the left is the Chemex coffee maker. In the home version of the pourover technique, this is the name I have heard the most often. To brew coffee in this way, you would still use a paper filter in the cone opening seen on the left. Once your water is boiled, you would let it cool slightly so that you are not pouring boiling water onto coffee (which spoils it).
What follows is the slow and deliberate process I shrugged at a year ago, of pouring the water onto the coffee in the filter. This happens in three steps: pour once to saturate the ground coffee, pour a second time to build a volume of hot water in the filter to drip into the bottom chamber, and pour a third gradual time to use up the rest of the water. In case it isn’t clear, I don’t own one but don’t worry, instructions come with the Chemex :).
The Professional Way
Planet Bean prepares all of their retail coffee by the cup in this manner. It has the definite appeal of quality that can’t be rushed in how it’s made.
The exciting part for me is that all of this is very new to me. I can’t deny the East Timor coffee I had on-site at Planet Bean was awesome, but they have quality in every step so it’s difficult to say it was all about the pour-over technique specifically.
I’d love to hear from you if you have experienced the pour-over method – comment here or always feel free to send me an e-mail. I’m very intrigued to learn more about the pour-over technique.