April – May 2010: More Filter Drip Brewing Options: Pour Technique vs. No Technique

The last year has seen a revival of interest in pour-over brewing. The phenomenon might seem a bit retro; how can something so old-fashioned be fashionable?

There are some relatively new products that have generated excitement and interest in filtercone brewing; namely the introduction of the Hario V-60 filtercone that has a single large hole at its base.

How can a dripper with a gaping hole in the bottom possibly make good coffee? That is what I asked when I first saw the Hario V-60. I was accustomed to Melitta-type filtercones that have 1, 2, 3 holes in the bottom. The fewer holes, the longer the coffee and water tend to infuse. More infusion means more extraction of soluble solids, which means more flavor in the cup.

But the Hario V-60 relies on technique to control the results; you can get excellent brews if add the water slowly and carefully to the coffee. It’s all about the pour. You don’t just dump a load of water on top of coffee grounds in a V60 and get a good cup.

You must coax the extraction of solids from the grounds, and this involves both a good pace and good pattern in how you add water to the coffee. I would say that you need, yes need, a Hario Buono Kettle or the equivalent (a tea kettle with a narrow pouring spout ought to work ) to get a good cup from the V-60. You must pre-wet the grounds for 30 seconds or so, and then start a slow pour, ideally in a circular pattern and without pouring onto the filter paper itself. The rate at which you add water has to be controlled so you draw out the extraction time to 2 to 3 minutes. This is hard to do without pouring from a vessel with a narrow nozzle.

As with all drip brewers, wash out the paper filter with hot water before brewing, and you can pre-heat the cone and cup at the same time. The Hario V-60 uses a different shaped filter – a conical filter that comes to a point. We have some videos on YouTube, (youtube.com/sweetmarias) and there are many many others, showing pouring techniques.

What we found with our tests is that with the traditional filtercones with three holes, using a modified pour technique greatly improves the results. So if you have a three-hole filtercone at home, you may want to try making a batch with more attention to the pace and pattern by which you add water, and see if you can taste the difference.

Should making a cup of coffee require this much technique? Well, if you want a good result, the answer is probably yes. Maybe there is an easier way? I guess I think it is close to downright un-American to require so much fussy technique when making what ought to be a simple cup of pour-over coffee. Afterall, what is great about pour-over filtercone brewing is its simplicity; no machine to get in the way, you control all the variables directly.

And for goodness sake, at 7 am, who can muster technique? Not me, or not reliably me.

So for times when you cannot or do not want to pay that much attention to the pour, there are filtercones with two holes like the Beehouse large and small drippers, and a new Bonmac #2 filtercone with just one hole. In our taste test, the Bonmac filtercone was the best cup, though it might be our technique!