August 13th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
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Samantha Reichman is an intern on CNN Early Start and Starting Point. She is a senior at The College of William and Mary, a coffee fiend and a trained barista. She blogs at Alimentación. All pictures taken at Blue Bottle Coffee in Manhattan.

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)
– Coffee grinder
– 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)
– Coffee cup

Step 1
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.

Step 2
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.

Step 3
Fold the edge of the filter or trim away the excess and place in your dripper. Position the dripper on top of the cup.

Step 4
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.

Step 5
Place the whole contraption atop a gram scale and tare (zero-out) the scale, so that it can properly measure the amount of water.

Step 6
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. 

Step 7
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).

Step 8
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.

Previously - Want great coffee for less? Take matters into your own hands

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soundoff (717 Responses)
  1. slj2kljlksjlksjsljl

    Its coffee.....sure there can be a difference between bargin bin crap and good beans. But babying a cup of coffie with pour techniques and other such nonsense. Sure it might make some kinda subtle difference. But id be wiling to bet in a blind taste test no one would tell the difference.

    People this into coffee, have problems.....

    August 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Fuzzynormal

      The brew makes a difference. And, as you say, the beans makes the biggest difference.

      For me, often times it's just the ritual of the process that's engaging.

      Brewing the coffee is a gradual way to start the morning. And I never rush it, so it allows me to stay relaxed yet focused.

      I'm not surprised this technique is Japanese. They like to make strict ritual out of the mundane things in life and give details focus that otherwise would go ignored.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Fuzzynormal

      Also, I'd argue that people that are unable or unwilling to focus on the details of your environment "have problems."

      A moderate pace in life equals a higher quality of life.

      Just sayin'.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • H. Deca

      The same could be said about wine.. Or beer... Or steak.. Or anything for that matter. There is a difference. And believe it or not, some people do appreciate quality.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  2. LIZ


    August 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Fuzzynormal

      No. It's not.

      It's the best for you perhaps, but a Starbucks blend with another rather generic brand coffee is never going to be better than a finely roasted Ethiopian Grade 1 Yirga Cheffe.

      Sorry, it's just not gonna be anywhere close.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Ralph

      Try mixing equal amounts

      August 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  3. katief

    This is not new or pretentious (unless one cops attitude). I have been making coffe this way for 20 years at home, one cup at a time. I don't like the way coffee maker-coffee tastes, sort of metal-ly...Melita brand coffee (they're in the coffee aisle) makes 1- cup filters and drippers. You can grind or use pre-ground. Any coffee you like is great. Starbucks, Cafe Bustelo and Cafe Lallave are my faves. It doesn't take THAT long to make – just the time it takes to heat the water and drip takes 30 seconds. No big deal, just yummy.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  4. rockymtnwolverine

    Noa Noa coffee in Golden, CO.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  5. ranwhite

    Just use regular drip coffeemaker. More coffee + less water = richer taste

    August 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  6. Mr. Coffee

    This is the 21st Century....we want are coffee 4G.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  7. Gadgetman

    ...for those who have too much time on their hands...

    August 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  8. ArtInChicago

    My method for a perfect cup of coffee.

    1. Drink a shot of good Kentucky Bourbon.
    2. Have another shot of bourbon.
    3. Go to sleep. Drink coffee tomorrow.
    4. Repeat next day.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  9. ArtInChicago

    Eight steps? Dang, I don't like coffee THAT much!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  10. Tushar Kumar

    In Atlanta, visit Octane Coffee or Steady Hand Pour House or Condesa Coffee to try some exceptional pour-over coffee.

    In San Diego, definitely try Bird Rock Coffee.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm |

    Does coffee drinking get any more pretentious? Should it be pooped out of a bobcat first perhaps?

    August 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Fuzzynormal

      Oh man, it's crazy, but that cat poop coffee from Indonesia is ridiculously good.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
      • H. Deca

        But.... Its really not =(

        August 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
        • Fuzzynormal

          Wild Asian palm civet can poop as much as they want, I'll roast, brew, and drink the beans that they leave "behind."

          August 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  12. WD

    Jeez...all this trouble for ONE cup of coffee. I've done experiments in college chemistry class that were less complex than this.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Robotcharlie

      Clown college, perhaps?

      August 15, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  13. Schapkjs

    Or, the other title of this article could be "How much time would you waste for a cup of coffee?"

    August 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Robotcharlie

      3 to 4 minutes

      August 15, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  14. Mightaswellbe

    Has anybody mentioned Dr. Toons Nuclear Coffee?
    1. Fill Mr. Coffee with water.
    2. Fill basket with Coffee grounds of choice.
    3. Turn on Mr. Coffee
    4. Enjoy!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  15. Pierre Cafe

    The tried-and-true French press method is as good or better than this. Without a filter, this allows all the coffee's oils to go into the cup. Regardless of the type, a filter does filter some or a lot of these out. C'est vrai!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  16. Geoffrey

    The article says this method is about a decade old. I have done this off and on since the 70s, and for the last 20 years it is the only way I do it. It happens to be the way that I have the most control over the process and there is nothing to break, Steel flask and plastic filter cone, thats it. I do however spend above average money on higher quality coffee, and never on "Blends" or dark roasts. I could go on about that.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  17. MMeans

    Steps for good coffee: avoid Starbucks

    August 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      I can't believe that anybody thinks the burned, cheap beans made into watered down swil can be called coffee. Then the names they have are absurd. Most of the people doing this are too young to have traveled and lived to have experienced good coffee. It does not need to be dark to be good. It does need to be strong, but never bitter, hard to find coffee that will do that.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  18. !!!

    yeah, that's what everyone's been wondering about lately.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  19. Grog Smarter

    Too much fuss. Make a pot of Folgers and get on with your day. If you want something a little special, sprinkle your grounds with some red pepper flakes. Spicy hot!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  20. Vel

    I use a Chemex pot at work for this. At home I use a vacuum pot. And yes, it is worth it.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      I had a extra large blown glass heavy Chemex flask for years when I was in California and LOVED it. It fell and broke one day. I replaced it with a Milita flask and plastic cone. That flask broke and I evolved to using an insulated steel flask and plastic cone for the past 10 years or so, and nothing to break. I must say, the quality of the beans is what matters most.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  21. Charlotte

    Yes, pouring it as into a Mellita one cup at a time makes the best for drip coffee, although I confess I typically make myself espresso in the mornings. The SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING is the freshness of the beans, though. Two weeks is pushing it they're best when between 2 and 7 days old. I roast my own beans, have done so since about 1989, so have gotten rather spoiled with respect to fresh beans (it's also a significant savings over buying them already roasted). Next most critical thing is not to grind them until you're ready to brew. They go stale within hours of grinding. And grind them fine enough so you can extract as much flavor as possible. The only other really critical thing is not to brew it too weak. If it's too strong you can always dilute, but if it's too weak there is no saving it. Then whatever brewing method you like best is the way to go, I do it differently depending on my mood on a given day. One day it's drip. One day it's espresso. Another time maybe the French press.....

    August 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  22. Barry Ziegler

    Almost any method of drizzling hot water over properly ground coffee works well. The key is where you buy your green beans and how you roast them.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  23. jules

    if you need to go to all this trouble just for a cup of coffee it isn't the coffee you're into, it's the "experience". I don't have the time or patience for a single cup of coffee. I'll stick with my mini-coffee maker, Folgers or Maxwell House, and a nice flavored cream. Works just fine for me. If I want something extra special I'll go for one of the coffee mixes.
    I guess I like my coffee the way I like my men...simple, slightly (not TOO much) sweet, and the real thing. =)

    August 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Isak

      "The Real Thing" Haaa! if coffee farmer always intended on pre-roasting, canning and shelving coffee all along! Goes to show you what is considered 'real' nowadays.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Jules, it isn't any more trouble to grind and brew it properly than it is to use a poor quality mini-drip machine and open a can of poor-quality pre-staled Folgers or Maxwell-House. Admit it, you just don't really like coffee. You just like caffiene. Which is fine, who could live without it. But don't pretend that those of us who are a little more careful are actually putting in any more work than you are. We aren't. We also have busy lives. We just want to really enjoy the taste, and you cannot do it with Folger's.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  24. Becky

    This was the only way my dad would make his coffee. He had to have his slow, single drip in the morning and in the afternoon. He always said it was important to let the grounds swell after that first small poor of water...I doubt he had a specific scientific reason...just made it taste great. My dad's been dead for almost 20 years. He would have gotten a good chuckle out of NPR highlighting what he considered the only true way to drip and enjoy a cup of coffee!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  25. jacqued

    Thanks for the tip...

    August 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  26. Fantod

    Here's all you need for good coffee:

    1) Any auto-drip coffee maker
    2) Relatively clean water
    3) Chock Full O Nuts Dark Roast
    4) No god damn measuring: just pour a crap load of it in the basket

    Tip: the brew should be opaque, preferably thick. Strong enough that a 1/4 cup of cream barely changes the brew's color; so strong that the caffeine permeates the roof of your mouth and goes directly to the brain, soaking each little jonesin' cell with orgasmic, toe-curling pleasure. If your palms don't sweat and chills dance down your arms on the first sip, it's too weak. Coffee is a serious, mood altering substance that is best relegated to those who can handle and appreciate its powers.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Evan

      This person knows what they are talking about.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Fantod

      Another important tip: it is preferable to drink your brew after a minimum amount of sleep in order to get the full hallucinatory effect.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • billebuoy

      I just had the most amazing head rush. Oh thank you.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  27. Luddite

    I just use a bong and inhale... All the aroma of the coffee meld in your nose and the caffeine hits you instantly!!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I approve of this post. Not to mention getting the full effect of the Stank Diesel, too.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  28. Tam

    I just use a bodum – French press. so easy and so good. And not expensive.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • CoffeeSnob

      French press gives the same results....and it DOES taste better than auto drip. When you press ...the coffee has a lot more body; viscous even. The color is would think it would taste bitter, but boy is it good! Pressing really allows the flavor to develop. But with any method....fresh beans and good water is key...I keep a gallon on filtered water of distilled especially for my coffee and I grind fresh beans every time I make coffee.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  29. Marcy

    Fresh grinding, clean equipment, 190-193 degrees for the water, and drinking it BLACK!!! Worth waiting for.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Marcy

      Oh yeah, and please let me drink my coffee before you ask me questions, tell me anything, or make me think.
      Better yet, just let me wake up for about 2 hours...

      August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Fresh grinding isn't worth diddly if you don't have fresh beans to begin with, though.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  30. frank

    i like mine anyway i can get it.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  31. Bryan

    Cold-brewed is where it is at for me. It takes a lot longer than this method, but results in a much smoother cup of coffee. It seems a lot less fussy, too.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  32. Ted Bundy

    I like my coffe like I like my women, ground up in a coffee can in my freezer

    August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • jacqued



      August 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  33. lynne

    I just like coffee. I'm not particular on how it's made. Black coffee that is you know, coffee flavored. Why make everything a snotty yuppie thing?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  34. Mary

    Seriously, Japan? I have been doing this for the past 20 years plus, when I only want one cup!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  35. KevininPHX

    I like my coffee like I like my women. Cold and bitter.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  36. cliff

    Wow, she's a "trained barista!" That makes this oh so official. Get a grip folks. The average joe can't tell you the difference between Pete's or Folgers! Besides, MOST people put those yukky creamer flavors in their coffee which signals the end of a cup of REAL COFFEE!!!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  37. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Nothin' better than a hot cup of sludge water from the gutter poured down the buttcrack of a "lady of the night" with most of her teeth missing. Collect it in a rusty Mt. Dew can that's sittin on the ground below and enjoy! You guys can have your coffee, you'll find me chatting on the corner of 5th and Vine with that lady named 'Russell'.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  38. sarita titzz

    Gimme coffee like my prez – half and half thats forgetable taste in half an hour!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  39. Jose

    Coffee is not intended to be poured, just brewed. This is why the best coffee is made in french press makers. Enjoy.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Louisa

      Its only boiled water with bean residue – no more no less – keep your five bucks a pop for charity Jo!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Jen

      I totally agree. French press every day. Enjoy.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  40. cubancoffee

    i like my coffee like i like my men when i put it to my lips its all creamy .

    August 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Louisa

      But do you swallow?

      August 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • jacqued


      August 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  41. LP

    We prefer the AeroPress. It's the perfect marriage between a french-press and a pour-over. Takes less time than either, and the coffee is always smooth.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Ron

      Yep, I also use the AeroPress – good unit and makes good coffee. The best coffee is in Vienna I don't know how they brew it but it has a creamy soft texture and fabulous flavor.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  42. boogalloo

    Just give an old fashion Maxwell House instant coffee, black, 2 sugars on the rocks.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Alexy Hentay

      Amen! And take the thousands you saved for a week on a beach in Costa Rica for an even better 50 cent cup of coffee!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  43. Jo

    You can find one cup cones and filters in the coffee aisle at nearly any grocery store. You don't need to be fancy or prolong the procedure, but wetting the coffee and letting it sit for several seconds before you finish pouring the rest of the water makes a big difference in the depth of flavor. This is the way it's done in Costa Rica, and the Ticos really know their coffee!

    August 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  44. AleeD®

    I like my coffee the way I like my men: hot, dark, deep, rich and not bitter. ~_~

    August 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • mb2010a

      I like mine strong and black...

      August 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • WhiteSaladin

      Single huh?

      August 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Venutia Bongs

      With a double edge shlong!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Sh'aiv Yerboosh

      You will love me then, you fiery infidel minx.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  45. Joe Doe Coffee

    Chemex is the OG if pour-over, the rest are imitators. Chemex has been around since the 40's and still produces the best cup of coffee around! Also, their filters are far superior to other brands out there.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  46. EcoNoMe Joe Suffocated by Hipsters in PDX

    I only drink my coffee "black as midnight on a moonless night", and avoid at all costs any 'floral' or 'citrus' tastes in my coffee. The best and cheapest way to get that done is a bulk grocery store dark roast (takes some experimenting to find a standard for oneself), filtered or purified water, carefully measured into any old automatic filter pot (try 5 flat scoops coffee, 6.5 cups water) in the mornings/breakfast; in the early to late afternoon its a french press (3 flat scoops coffee, 12 oz purified water, stopped at first boil) for a stronger syrupy blast.

    When I want to buy out, I discovered that NORDSTROM's cafes have the best drip coffee (all of their roasts are darker). Starbucks is watery, acrid, stale or burnt and too commercial to expect quality. Stumptown is pretentious and tastes like wet toast (they're too effiminate to make a dark roast).

    If it's local coffee shop atmosphere I need to read a book, *even though* I live in Portlandia, I have to settle for some pretty crappy coffee or hope that an Americano will do the job. I tried this whole "pour over" thing while out and it was a bust, would have rather had the Americano. Besides, I might expect the pour-over at an art museum bistro, but not at my local coffee shop when the lines are long enough as it is. Tried the 'pour-over' at a friends house in his kitchen, and it tasted pretty much like my french press, only missing some desired velvety texture.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  47. Jeff

    French Press! Exact mixture, Exact Temperature, No paper filter to worry about. Pure Taste!

    August 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jeff

      Oh Yeah.. I forgot to add. My own home-roasted VERY fresh coffee!

      August 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  48. ted

    CNN discovered the Melitta, you Clowns in the news room REALLY need to get out more.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jon

      Exactly. My parents have been doing this since the 70's. LOL.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  49. Bill

    I've found that the quality of the grind makes one of the biggest differences. I used a Braun grinder for years, then I switched to a Krups. Both grinders are burr grinders, but operate at high speed. They don't grind uniformly and they add heat to the grind that hurts the flavor. I recently purchased a Kitchen-Aid bur-grinder. It has a HUGE motor and turns slowly. The grind is very uniform and the coffe that I make from it is far be3tter than with the other grinders. If I had known about this, I would have sprung $200 for that grinder years ago.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
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