September 29 is National Coffee Day
Hand-pour or pour-over coffee produces a cup at a time
That might seem like a lot of effort, but experts say it's worth it
As local coffee culture seems to be approaching critical mass, the need for a superior, distinctive product is becoming even more pressing.
Caffeine aficionados are also experiencing a phase of experimentation. Myriad styles of coffee preparation and presentation combined with selective sourcing allow for unprecedented levels of personal flair. But can individuality truly be achieved at an espresso bar?
One ceremony in particular comes to mind: “pour-over” coffee, also known as “hand pour coffee,” is a brewing style used to produce a single cup at a time. This method was not concocted behind the bar of any Stumptown or Blue Bottle location; rather it migrated here from the Far East, Japan to be exact.
It was only adopted by coffee epicures and American roasting companies in the past decade, and the time constraints of many customers have prevented the practice from taking off, especially in grab-and-go-style businesses. The practice gained exponentially more buzz last year when the New York Times examined the origin of the pour-over.
In all, the process takes three to four minutes to complete, and the wait is worth it. The benefits of pour-over compared to other brewing tactics lie in the timing and control in the wrist. Infusing the ground coffee for the correct length of time with a controlled hand will produce a fuller, fruity taste, often accented with floral notes.
Take a minute (or two…or three…) and steep in this beginner’s tutorial on brewing a single cup of glorious coffee via the pour-over method.
Supplies you’ll need:
Fresh coffee (roasted under two weeks week prior to brewing)
Single-cup drip coffee cone (ceramic or glass)
Paper filter to fit
Kettle with a swan-necked spout (for precision pouring)
Gram scale (extremely helpful when beginning)
Select your beans. Single-origin beans, rather than a blend, are preferred with this process because they offer a subtle range of flavors that are region specific. Because it is brewed to order in shops, you can become familiar with the product of various countries by simply ordering a cup from, say a Nicaraguan town, or sample them yourself by purchasing small quantities of beans at a time.
Heat water in the kettle and grind coffee to medium-fine ground: finer than auto drip but coarser than what would be used to draw a shot of espresso. A good gauge would be to measure 1.5-2 grams of coffee for every fluid ounce you intend to drink. In this example, we’ll consider a 16 ounce cup that will require approximately 30-32 grams of coffee.
Fold the edge of the filter or trim away the excess and place in your dripper. Position the dripper on top of the cup.
Use kettle to pre-wet the filter with water between 195°F and 205°F; the kettle will reach this temperature after 35-40 seconds after it has been removed from boiling heat. This will prevent a paper taste as well as preheat the cup. Dump water from cup.
Place the whole contraption atop a gram scale and tare (zero-out) the scale, so that it can properly measure the amount of water.
Pour just enough water over the grounds to cover evenly. Let this sit for 30 to 50 seconds, or until the “bloom” has settled. This is called “pre-infusing” and it allows carbon dioxide to naturally escape from the coffee.
This is where the precision and patience come into play. Begin pouring again very slowly, allowing the water level reach halfway up the cone, for optimal “extraction”. Continue pouring in a circular motion, working your way out, avoiding pouring directly onto the filter. This should last 40 to 45 seconds.
Pause long enough in order to let the grounds settle, then begin pouring again until the scale has reached about 515 grams in total (Note: grams of water also differs based on grams of coffee).
Wait until the stream slows to a drip, remove the filter, dump the grounds and enjoy your well-deserved, home brewed cup of coffee.
Step 9 (Optional)
Complement with a light citrus dessert to further enhance the flavors.
Keep in mind that perfecting the pour-over process is personal. Yes, a particular portion of water will enrich the flavor of the coffee in a specific way, but each individual also maintains a unique palate.
Practice your steady, even pouring technique at intervals that you prefer and you will be just fine, says this barista.
All pictures taken at Blue Bottle Coffee in New York City.