While we like a classic drip coffee maker when a full pot is absolutely necessary and can appreciate the quick convenience of a single-serve pod, a pour-over is the best way to recreate the rich, robust, full-flavored coffee you get at a specialty shop. Besides the soothing ritual involved with making pour-over coffee, the method is favored by professional and amateur baristas alike because a precise pour can extract the most flavor out of your beans into your cup.
To help determine which pour-over maker you should add to your coffee-making routine, we rounded up eight highly rated and reviewed models to put through the wringer. We tested six flat-bottom- and cone-shaped versions and two larger all-in-one carafe-style designs, ranging in price from about $14 to $50. While many looked quite similar, they varied in materials (glass, porcelain, plastic and stainless steel), whether they required special filters, and how much coffee they produce with one pour.
After testing each version three times (more on that below) — and, we’re not going to lie, some serious caffeine jitters — we found three clear winners:
Best pour-over coffee dripper overall: Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper ($27.55; amazon.com)
Sure, at first glance the Kalita Wave looks pretty much the same as the other coffee drippers we tested, but it doesn’t take long to discover that the nuances of its design lead to a superior brew. Unlike its cone-shaped contenders, the Japanese-made Kalita features a flat bottom with three drip holes, which enables more easily and evenly saturated coffee grounds.
The flat-bottom shape and its larger surface resulted in a rich and robust single cup of coffee, and was also the most user-friendly of the drippers that required a swirled pour, producing between 16 to 26 ounces at a time. Where grounds tend to be pushed up the sides of a cone-shaped design, the Kalita grounds stay even, so the water stays in contact with all the grounds longer, allowing for more consistent and sustained extraction.
The actual brew time is quite quick: During our testing it took just 2 ½ minutes from our first pour of water until the last drip of coffee landed in our mug. All the while, the temperature of the brew stayed nice and hot ( at 160.5 degrees), topped only by the Chemex in heat retention. Setting up the Kalita is as simple as removing it from its box and giving it a soapy rinse.
Another plus: The Kalita has a 4-inch wide base so it can be rested atop a wide-mouth mug (not all drippers tested can accommodate that). And while we prefer the heat-resistant, lightweight glass model, it’s also available in multiple colors, as well as porcelain, stainless steel and copper materials. It’s also a breeze to clean: The plastic base twists off easily and it’s all dishwasher safe.
If we had a nit to pick with this dripper it’s the fact that it is made to be used with special Kalita Wave white paper filters. A bit pricey at about $17 for 50 (by comparison, other makers use regular Melitta No. 2 filters that are $20 for 600), they’re available on Amazon, but sometimes are out of stock, so we recommend grabbing a couple of boxes at a time when you have the chance.
Overall, at less than $30, the Kalita Wave consistently delivers great-tasting, full-bodied, piping hot coffee, and its flat-bottom design means even pour-over novices should see great coffee-shop-worthy results.
Best pour-over coffee maker for beginners: OXO Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank ($14.81; amazon.com or $16.99; bedbathandbeyond.com or $15.99; walmart.com)
If you love the idea of the ritual that comes with preparing a pour-over coffee each morning, the OXO Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank will have you happy and caffeinated in just a few minutes.
Unlike the other models we tested, this OXO version comes with a plastic tank with various hole sizes that sits on top of the plastic dripper. Clearly marked with measuring lines, it holds up to 12 ounces of water and regulates the drip for you, so there’s zero need to worry about pouring too much or too little water, getting the swirl just right, allowing enough time for the grounds to bloom and settle, etc.
There’s also a lid included, which helps keep your brew nice and hot and multitasks as a drip tray, keeping coffee from hitting your counter as you remove the dripper from your mug.
The coffee was not as robust as that produced by some of the other models; we found it to be a bit on the weak side. However, by experimenting with adding more grounds at a finer size, we were able to home in on a bolder brew.
Some reviews note that the OXO takes longer to brew than other models, but we timed it at 2 ½ minutes — on par with most every design tested. It requires No. 2 cone filters, but comes with 10 OXO unbleached filters in the box to get you started (pro tip: pre-wet your filter to prevent any “paper” taste from encroaching on your coffee). It’s also dishwasher safe and, as OXO offers with all its items, can be replaced or refunded at any time.
In short: If you’re looking for an inexpensive option that’s no fuss, no muss, the OXO is worth a try.
Best pour-over coffee maker for a group: Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker ($46.68; amazon.com or $45.50; williams-sonoma.com)
First, we wouldn’t blame you one bit if you bought a Chemex for its elegant beauty alone. Invented by chemist Peter Schlumbohm in 1941, the classic pour-over coffee pot, with its leather and wood collar, was inspired by both the Erlenmeyer flask and Bauhaus-era design, and is part of MoMA’s permanent collection.
But here’s the thing: It also produces wonderfully light, delicious, flavorful coffee. An all-in-one model that serves as carafe, dripper and pitcher, it can brew up to eight cups at a time, making it a fantastic alternative for a couple or small group.
Like all the drippers we tested, it takes some trial and error with your pour technique and the ratio of water to grounds to find your ideal brew. But even when we just eyeballed the amount of water we poured, we turned out cup after cup of coffee that rivals what we get at our favorite gourmet java shop. Even better, it allows pour-over coffee newbies to take some of the pouring precision out of the equation with the help of a button-size marker that shows you when the carafe is half-full; and you know it’s full when the coffee hits the bottom of the collar.
Obviously, it takes longer to brew eight cups (we clocked ours at just over four minutes), so even though the Chemex turned out one of the hottest coffee temperatures in our testing, if two people are sharing the glass carafe (which loses heat rather quickly), your final cups will be noticeably cooler than your first. To combat this, we pre-heated the container with hot water (dump it out just before you start the brewing process), which helped keep the coffee hotter longer. You can also keep the carafe warm on a glass or gas stove top set on low heat.
One drawback to the Chemex: It requires special Chemex paper filters that aren’t exactly the cheapest. They also aren’t always in stock on Amazon (again, you may want to buy more than one box at a time if you’re a frequent user). The filters, which are heavier than most brands, need to be folded according to instructions to create a cone-shaped funnel. The upside to the fuss is that the extra thickness does an excellent job of straining out any particulates that might sneak through other paper filters.
Cleaning is also trickier with the Chemex because of its hourglass design, but we found a bottle brush was able to scrub the hard to reach spots. And while we hand-washed our carafe (removing the wood collar first), the glass is also dishwasher safe.
For those looking for a pour-over maker that’ll make several cups at a time — and one that’ll look extremely good doing so — there’s no better option than the Chemex.
The basics of pour-over coffee makers
How to use a pour-over coffee maker
New at this? To make pour-over coffee, a dripper is placed on a cup or carafe and hot water (at around 200 degrees) is poured over pre-measured coffee grounds, which are then filtered into a cup or carafe. The speed of the pour, swirl technique, amount of water, amount of grounds, size of grounds and type of filter can all be adjusted to reach your favorite flavor profile.
And while it all looks pretty simple — most drippers are smaller than a cereal bowl and come with no other accessories — perfecting the pour-over requires practice, experimentation and a few extra tools.
What you’ll need
Before you begin, you’ll need a kettle to boil water (we used an electric tea kettle, but many experts recommend a long-neck version for better control). You can, of course, use pre-ground coffee beans, but for the best, freshest flavor, you’ll want to use a burr grinder (we used the Breville Virtuoso) on whole beans right before you’re ready to start. If your grinder doesn’t feature a built-in measuring system, you’ll need a digital kitchen scale to control the amount of grounds used. Until you get the hang of it, you may also need a glass measuring cup to be sure you’re not using too much or too little water to brew your cup.
We used the traditional pour-over coffee-making ratio of 2 rounded tablespoons of medium-sized grounds to 6 ounces of water, testing both a light and a dark roast for flavor comparisons. (Too coarse a grind will deliver weaker coffee, while too fine a grind can make it bitter.) Overall, we preferred the light roast for this method, as the dark resulted in a very intense brew. For each dripper, we poured water evenly and gently, swirling it from the center out until the grounds were just saturated, then waited 30 seconds for the grounds to bloom and settle back down (carbon dioxide is released when the hot water hits the coffee, causing it to bubble up). Then we added the remaining water. We also used a timer to measure how long each dripper took from the first pour to the last drip.
A note on temperature
We tested how hot each cup of coffee was (the National Coffee Association recommends serving fresh coffee at 180 to 185 degrees, while a study in the National Library of Medicine finds 140 degrees, plus or minus 15 degrees, to be the drinking optimal temperature for test subjects). And, finally, we sampled each brew, drinking the coffee black and noting its taste, intensity and whether any extra flavors showed up that shouldn’t be there.
We didn’t notice much of a difference in heat temperature among the models. The Chemex was hottest, but the others were all in the same general range. They also all took about the same time to brew — right around two minutes (not including, of course, the two larger-capacity carafes).
Types of pour-over makers
In general, we preferred the glass or ceramic/porcelain drippers to the stainless steel models. While stainless steel options have the benefit of not needing a paper filter (which not only saves money but is also more eco-friendly), we found they do allow small particles to seep into the coffee. That means you get a cloudier color, a less-crisp taste and that grounds sometimes find their way into your cup. We experienced none of those issues when we used paper filters.
How we tested
- Optimum temperature: According to the National Coffee Association, the optimum temperature for freshly brewed coffee is typically 180-185 degrees, while studies have shown coffee drinkers like the temp to be around 140 degrees. Using that standard we measured the temperature of each cup using a food thermometer, rating each machine on its heat.
- Quality of brew: We noted how the coffee tasted after being brewed, including whether it was overly bitter or weak, if flavors or acidity existed that shouldn’t be there, and whether too much — or not enough — heat impacted its taste.
- Filters: We assessed whether or not the coffee dripper required a paper filter, and, when a paper filter was needed, whether it had to be specific to the model. We also looked at the prices and availability of those specific filters.
- Brew time: We pulled up our stopwatch app to keep track of how long it took to brew the coffee from the first pour to the last drip, with shorter brew times scoring more points.
- User-friendliness: From unboxing and setup to brewing, we took notes on how easy each machine was to use, including whether the design was intuitive or overly complicated and whether any extra steps were needed in comparison to other models.
- Serving size: For each device, we noted how many cups of coffee each dripper could produce.
- Dripping: We noted whether each coffee dripper caused any dripping upon removal from the cup or carafe.
- Everyday durability/signs of damage: For this category, we noted how easy or difficult each coffee machine was to set up, whether its parts felt sturdy or weak, and if standard use could cause any damage to the parts.
- Build quality: We observed the materials each brewer was constructed of — metal, plastic, ceramic/porcelain — and how those materials affected the brew.
- Cleaning: We made notes on how easy or difficult it was to clean each coffee dripper, including whether it was dishwasher safe.
Warranty: We noted the number of years of warranty for each machine.
How we rated
Using the above criteria we assigned scores in each subcategory to each machine, combined those numbers for a total score in each subcategory, and then added the scores for an overall total. The scores were broken down as follows:
- Performance had a maximum of 70 points: optimum temperature (15 points); taste (15 points); filters (10 points); brew time (10 points); user-friendliness (10 points); yield (5 points); dripping (5 points).
- Durability had a maximum of 25 points: everyday durability (10 points); build quality (10 points); cleaning (5 points).
- Warranty had a maximum of 5 points: lifetime (5 points); two to five years (2 points); less than two years (0 points).
In addition to the overall score, we factored in the price of each device, which ranged from about $11 to $50.
Other pour-over coffee drippers we tested
Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper ($24.48; amazon.com)
If you’ve been wanting to give pour-over coffee a try without making a huge investment, at less than $25, the handsome Hario V60 is a nice option. Able to brew up to 10 ounces at a time, this cone-shaped ceramic dripper features spiral ribs that allow more room for the coffee grounds to expand. Also available in glass and metal, as well as multiple colors, it includes one large hole, which means the speed at which you pour your water will have more of an impact on the flavor than, say, the Kalita.
Like other models, the Japanese-made Hario sells specialized No. 2 filters for its dripper (about $10 for 100), which certainly isn’t super convenient, and its smaller base means it won’t fit well on an oversized mug. We liked that it came with a cute little handle and a plastic measuring spoon, but it brewed at a lower temperature than most of its competitors, and while still better tasting than what you’d get from a traditional coffee machine, it had a more watered-down finish than the winning drippers.
Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper ($32.86; amazon.com)
Like the Hario, the Bee House, also made in Japan, is elegant in white ceramic (and also comes in blue, brown and red). The short, curved handle gives it a unique aesthetic and we liked the fact that it features holes near the base that allow you to see how much coffee has been brewed without having to lift the dripper up off your cup. But the oblong bottom was awkward when placing the apparatus on top of a mug and it just didn’t work well at all with a wide-mouthed mug.
The coffee it produced, meanwhile, ranked high among those tested, resulting in a nice, clear and light flavor that was not at all bitter and had a good mouthfeel. We also appreciated that it doesn’t require its own special filters and can be used with Melitta No. 2 filters (you can get 600 filters for about $20 on Amazon and find them in most supermarkets). And for those who hate the waste of filters, we tried it with a reusable cloth filter and found it did a fine job.
Bodum Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Permanent Filter ($22; amazon.com)
Available in sizes ranging from 12 to 51 ounces and three colors, we opted for the 34-ounce all-in-one pour-over carafe from Bodum. Similar in design to the Chemex, and at half the price, one big difference here is that the Bodum includes a reusable stainless steel mesh filter. While that will save you a lot of dough on buying paper filters, unfortunately, it will cost you when it comes to flavor. We found the stainless steel filters allow small amounts of sediment to seep through into the coffee, causing cloudiness and a slightly bitter taste. The coffee was also on the low end when it came to heat, which means a second cup is almost too cold to drink. And while Bodum offers a one-year limited warranty on the product, glass is not covered by it, which seems pretty useless. On the bright side, the collar is easy to remove and the whole thing is dishwasher safe. It also comes with a measuring spoon and works swiftly, brewing four cups in about four minutes.
Yitelle Stainless Steel Pour-Over Coffee Cone Dripper ($15.94, amazon.com)
First, the things we like about this inexpensive option: With a wide base, it fits nicely on oversized coffee mugs. The stainless steel mesh, cone-shaped design means there’s no need to buy paper filters. It brews some of the hottest coffee of the drippers we tested, clocking in at just over two minutes when it comes to brew time. It’s also dishwasher safe, comes with a handy little cleaning brush and a stainless steel scooping spoon and the brand features a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty.
But when you get down to it, your coffee’s taste is what really matters and we found not only little bits of grounds in the bottom of our cup, but also a cloudiness and bitterness that canceled out all the good.
Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Cone Brewer and No. 2 Filter Set ($13.95; amazon.com)
For those looking to just dip their toes in the pour-over coffee pool, Melitta’s inexpensive, easy-to-use plastic cone-shaped version is a great starter option. Available in black or red, it uses the brand’s widely available brown No. 2 filters (a pack is included in this package combo), has a clever design that allows you to see into the cup during the brew process and fits nicely atop a variety of mug sizes. Producing drip coffee and filters since 1908, Melitta’s dripper gets high ratings on Amazon with reviewers praising it for being dishwasher safe, lightweight and allowing you to see into the cup. Where it falters for us, though, is the plastic build, which makes it feel far less sturdy than glass or ceramic models, causing us to stress out that it would tip over while pouring our hot water. The coffee’s flavor, meanwhile, was fine, but more often than not presented as pungent and did not impress us.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: