Pour Over Coffee Brewer Comparison

Pour Over Coffee Brewer Comparison

No matter what you call it, manual pour-over coffee brewing is more than a passing trend. It has rapidly moved from the trendy cafes of Manhattan and Seattle into the mainstream as coffee drinkers discover the clean, rich flavors of coffee brewed this way. Just a few years ago, your choices of pour over brewers was limited, especially if you were looking for single-cup models. Since about 2008, however, a number of manufacturers have jumped into the manual pour over market, each of them offering their own improvements and variations on the basic pour over cone.

The Basics: Why Manual Pour Over?

There are a number of excellent reasons to choose manual pour over as your coffee brewing method of choice.

1. Cost: Most manual coffee brewers are among the least expensive options for brewing coffee. They range in cost from a few dollars to about $50, depending on materials and design.

2. Control: Brewing with a pour over coffee brewer gives you almost complete control over all aspects of the brewing process. You decide on the water temperature, the coffee grind, the amount of saturation and the length of contact time between the coffee grounds and the water. No automatic drip brewer gives you the same amount of control — or anywhere near it.

3. Cup Quality: Manual brewers make excellent coffee – rich, strong and smooth, but without the grit you’ll find in French press coffee.

4. Convenience: It may not be quite as easy as flipping a switch, but making coffee with a manual pour over brewer isn’t rocket science. You might not know this if you listen to the trendy coffee insiders — you know, the ones who weigh their coffee as they brew to make sure they’ve got precisely the right amount of water for their amount of ground coffee — but it’s not that difficult to make excellent coffee with a manual pour over brewer. Some brewers make it even easier than others.

5. Cachet: Admit it. Brewing coffee with a pour over cone has a certain trendy je ne sais quoi. Call it the coolness factor.

The Basics: How to Brew with a Manual Pour Over Cone

The specifics vary slightly from one manual coffee maker to another, but the basic instructions are the same no matter which brewer you choose.

1. While you boil water for your coffee, preheat the filter cone and your mug or carafe. It helps keep the temperature consistent while brewing your coffee.

2. Rinse your paper filter. It gets rid of the paper taste that a lot of people report when drinking filtered coffee.

3. Fit the filter into the brewing cone and add measured coffee grounds.

4. When the water is at the right temperature — just off boil, generally — pour it over the coffee grounds. A pouring kettle is a big help here because it allows you to pour a thin stream of water evenly over the grounds without disturbing them too much. Start in the center and pour in concentric circles moving out toward the wall of the filter cone. Keep pouring until you’ve got the right amount of coffee in your cup.

5. Discard the used filter and grounds and enjoy your coffee.

Comparison: Five Manual Pour Over Coffee Cones

Ready Set Joe Pour Over Coffee Brewer

Cost: Ultra Cheap (about $5)
Filters:  Standard cone filters (#2 or #4)
Material:  BPA-free plastic (polypropylene)
Makes:  1 cup
Holes:  3 spaced across bottom of filter for even extraction
Ribbing:  Straight vertical ribs keep filter away from walls
Extras:  Cut-out allows you to keep your eye on the water level

What You Need to Know

Melitta has been making single-serve filter holders for decades, so they’ve learned a lot. The Ready Set Joe is easy to use, thanks to the simple interior ridges and the spaced openings for dripping coffee into your cup. It’s almost impossible to screw up your coffee with one of these.

Hario V60

Cost:  Cheap (about $20)
Filters:  Requires V60 filters, available in paper or cloth
Material:  Ceramic
Makes:  1-3 cups
Holes:  1 large center hole
Ribbing:  Vortex style ribbing
Extras:  Comes in several colors

What You Need to Know

The V60 is the professional’s choice for a lot of reasons, including the heavy ceramic, which traps heat nicely and keeps your coffee from cooling too much while it brews. It also lets baristas experiment and come up with all sorts of theories to make “better” coffee with the V60. The bottom line is this: because the filter holder has a single, big hole for the coffee to drip through, you have to pay a whole lot more attention to how you pour your coffee. This isn’t a beginner’s cone, but it can brew spectacular coffee in the hands of an experienced pro.

Bee House

Cost:  Cheap (about $15)
Filters: Standard cone
Material: Ceramic
Makes: 1-2 cups
Holes:  2
Ribbing:  Vertical
Extras:  Cutouts for viewing coffee level in the cup, finger hook for holding

What You Need to Know

The Bee House dripper’s sleek design makes it a standout among coffee drippers. As one of the first pour over coffee drippers to gain visibility in the U.S., the Bee House remains a favorite of many pros. Barista champion Andy Sprenger names it as his preferred manual brewer, saying that he gets the most even extraction and smoothest brews using a Bee House. Stick to the smallest size you can use for best results.

Kalita Wave

Cost: Moderate ($30-$55, depending on materials)
Filters: Wave filters
Material: Varies
Makes: 1-2 cups
Holes:  3 center holes
Ribbing: Horizontal ridges around the cone
Extras:  Available in several sizes and materials, has flat bottom coffee bed

The Kalita Wave incorporates a number of important differences that, the company claims, makes better coffee with less of a learning curve. It features specially ridged walls and ruffled filters that help control the speed of the water passing through the coffee, and small holes slow the drip so that you get ideal coffee-to-water contact time with little thought on your part. Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee says that the design of the Wave makes it easy to get a good cup of coffee because the design of the brewer makes it easy to control the flow of the water, resulting in a better cup of coffee.

Clever Coffee Dripper

Cost: Cheap (About $18)
Filters: Standard cone
Material: Plastic
Makes: 1-2 cups
Holes: Unique drip-stopper
Ribbing: Vertical
Extras: Some models include a base and a lid

The Clever Coffee Dripper combines immersion brewing, a la French press, with drip brewing to brew a cup of coffee with the best features of both methods. Unlike the other coffee drippers mentioned, the Clever has a unique drip-stop valve that keeps your water in the cone until you decide to release it. That means you don’t have to rely on your control of pouring to make a perfect cup of coffee. Instead, you control the speed of the brew by releasing the valve when your coffee has steeped the correct amount of time. It may be the easiest pour over brewer of all to master.

Other manual pour over brewers to consider include the Bonmac, the Zevro Incre’aBrew and the Bonavita BV4000 Immersion Coffee Dripper. Whichever manual brewer you choose, you’re bound to end up with a clean, aromatic cup of coffee that compares well to any coffee you’ve ever sipped.