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All-analog, hand-brewed coffee

The Oregonian posted a solid piece last week about pourover coffee brewing, referring to it as “all-analog” and “hand-brewed”, talking through the ins and out of pourovers, why you would take the time to have hand-poured drip coffee, and even providing a how-to video and hardware purchase recommendations.  I ran across the video on ShotZombies and clicked through to the Oregonian article for the full read.

I was introduced to pourover drip brewing via the Chemex, but these days, a distinction has grown in that area as well, separating a Chemex brew from a pourover brew.  If you order a pourover, most coffee shops won’t pull out a Chemex but will instead head for the Bee or Hario dripper and paper filters.  In the Springfield coffee scene, The Hub Bikes and Beans offers the most analog coffee experience, crafting every cup by hand via pourover, French press, vacuum brewer, or Eva Solo, but you can also find pourover brewing at The Coffee Ethic, Dancing Mule Coffee and Hebrews Coffee.  In my opinion, if you’re at one of these places, skip the house coffee and go for a single origin coffee via pourover.

The pourover coffee setup consists of a pourover bar that features ceramic or glass cones, usually equipped with paper filters.  The barista dampen the filters, insert a precise measure of grounds, and then slowly and smoothly pour the hot water over the grounds, often using a funky looking teapot with a spout specifically designed to give the most controlled pour possible.  The weight and time and temperature are watched closely in order to achieve a good cup of coffee that brings out both the highs and lows of the coffee being brewed, usually a single origin coffee.  The pourover method creates a clean cup of coffee that typically balances out the flavors available in the coffee, and as Tom Pikaart at PouredOver.com notes in the Oregonian article, it typically brings out the floral or fruity essences in delicate coffees — flavors that otherwise might be missed using a French press or other brewing method.

I’ve been drinking pourover coffees regularly for over a year now, but in the just the past few weeks have I discovered the finer flavor nuances that are brought out by a good pourover brew.  I had a coffee over the weekend by French press at home and it was dark and rich, but on Monday, I had the same coffee via pourover, and I realized I had missed all of the bright and high notes of the coffee when using the French press.  The coffee through the pourover was a distinctly more complex coffee than the French press version because the pourover pulled up the brighter flavors in a way that the French press lost.

As the Oregonian notes:

Pour over is nothing new, of course. The age-old process — hot water poured by hand over ground coffee in a filter cone — became chic in the 1960s, when gourmet-minded housewives sipped coffee from hourglass-shaped glass Chemex pots. And it never really went away; some of us still live and die by our plastic Melitta cone filter and the teakettle. But the tools of the trade have changed, along with the precision applied to the brew.  Cafes that are serious about pour over use special swan-neck pouring kettles for hot water and debate the merits of different-shaped cones, grind size and the amount and flow rate of hot water.

When you compare the differences between a French press, an electric coffee machine and the pourover drip brew, the pourover typically wins out.  The press pot focuses on the darker, richer notes of the coffee but misses out on the highs and brightness available in the coffee, and it also ends up with a muddy or gritty cup of coffee.  Most electric coffee makers struggle to get the water to the right brew temperature and maintain the temperature throughout the brew cycle, and even then, most coffee machines don’t sufficiently saturate the grounds during the brewing process.  A pourover is so controllable that it is being treated by many as the ideal way to make a cup of coffee simply because you can govern the entire process, step by step, to arrive at a balanced and clean cup of coffee.

Read the Oregonian article online if you want more detail on how to brew via pourover at home.  If you want to build your own pourover bar, we have featured several hand-made versions, from the Jared Rutledge version on BaristaExchange to the low-end version using only plumbing materials from your local hardware store.  And watch the video below for a quick primer covering the basics of brewing pourover coffee.

How to make great pour over coffee