A standard drip coffee machine is excellent when a full pot is required, and single-serve pods are convenient. Still, a pour-over is ideal for replicating the robust and flavorful coffee you’d find at a specialty shop. Professional and novice baristas prefer pour-over coffee preparation because it involves a calming ritual. A precise pour may get the most aroma out of your coffee into your mug.
Pour-over coffee is brewed by placing a dripper over a cup or carafe and pouring boiling water (at about 200 degrees) over selected coffee grinds. The brewed coffee is then poured directly into the cup or carafe. You may customize the taste of your coffee by experimenting with different pouring speeds, swirling techniques, water volumes, ground coffee doses, grind sizes, and filtration methods.
While the pour-over may appear easy to master at first glance, it needs some trial and error in addition to a few additional tools and equipment, even though most drippers are no bigger than a cereal bowl.
You must first boil water in a kettle before proceeding (although we used an electric tea kettle, many professionals suggest a long-necked one for better control.). Using pre-ground coffee is convenient, but we found that the best flavor came from grinding our beans in a burr grinder shortly before we brewed. An electronic kitchen scale is necessary if your grinder does not have a built-in measuring mechanism to regulate the number of grounds used. A glass measuring cup might help you get the correct water-to-coffee ratio for the first few brews.
We used the standard pour-over coffee brewing ratio of 2 tbsp of medium-sized grounds to 6 ounces of water to compare the light and dark roasts. (A coarser grind will produce weaker coffee, while a finer grind will provide a bitter flavor.) When using this procedure, we found that the dark roast made a potent brew, so we tended to stick with the lighter roast. We allowed 30 seconds for the grounds to flourish and eventually settle down after applying water evenly and gently through each dripper in a swirling motion from the center outward. After that, we poured in the rest of the water. We timed how long it took for each dripper to go from running the first drop to the last drop.
Each cup of coffee was put through a temperature test (while the National Coffee Association suggests serving freshly brewed coffee at 180–185 degrees Fahrenheit, research published in the National Library of Medicine found that 140 degrees, give or take 15 degrees, was the ideal drinking temperature for test subjects.). Finally, we tasted the brews, taking note of the coffee’s flavor and intensity when consumed black, as well as whether or not any off-notes were present.
We didn’t find any significant variations among the models regarding heat. While Chemex produced the hottest coffee, everyone else was within a similar temperature range. Also, the brewing time was identical for all of them, coming in at roughly 2 minutes (not including the two larger-capacity carafes).
As a group, we favored drippers made of glass or ceramic/porcelain above those made of stainless steel. Stainless steel coffee makers don’t require a paper filter, which is excellent for the environment and saves money. Still, they let tiny particles slip into your cup. This results in a muddier hue, a less crisp flavor, and the occasional appearance of grounds in your brew. Using paper filters, we did not encounter any of these concerns.
The best pour-over coffee makers
We gathered eight of the best-reviewed pour-over coffee makers on the market and put them through their paces, so you don’t have to. We looked at six different models, ranging in price from around $13 to $55, with shapes like flat bottoms and cones and two bigger all-in-one carafe-style designs.
Although many appeared to be identical, there were significant differences between them in terms of the materials used (plastic, glass, stainless steel, and porcelain), the need for particular filters, and the amount of coffee that could be made with a single pour.
After putting each variant through its paces, we could identify a true favorite.
The King: Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper
The Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper, which has a flat bottom and three holes, produced the most uniform and consistent brew of any model we tried. The Kalita was the best regarding coffee strength, temperature control, and ground saturation.
The Kalita Wave may look similar to the coffee drippers we evaluated at first glance. Still, its subtle design differences make it the best brewer overall. The Japanese Kalita has a flat bottom and three drip holes, which makes it easier to saturate coffee grounds than its cone-shaped competitors.
It was the most convenient of the drippers that needed a swirling pour. Its flat bottom and the increased surface area made for a rich and powerful single cup of coffee, yielding between 16 and 26 ounces. While grounds in a cone-shaped design tend to be pushed up the sides, the Kalita grounds remain flat, keeping the water in touch with all the grounds for a more extended period of time and resulting in a more level and consistent extraction.
In our tests, it took only 2 minutes and 50 seconds from the time we poured the water to the time the last drop of coffee dripped into our mug. The brew remained a comfortable 160.5 degrees throughout, second only to the Chemex in temperature retention. The Kalita can be used immediately after being taken out of the box and given a quick soapy rinse.
The Kalita’s 4-inch wide base also allows it to sit atop a mug with a wider opening (not all tested drippers can support that). It comes in various colors and materials, including stainless steel, glass, porcelain, and copper. Still, our favorite is the heat-resistant ultralight glass version. The plastic bottom twists off for simple cleanup, and the whole thing can go in the dishwasher.
The fact that this dripper requires certain white Kalita Wave paper filters is our only real complaint about it. We recommend buying a few boxes at once when they are in stock on Amazon because they are a bit pricy at around $17 for 50 (other manufacturers use regular Melitta No. 2 filters which are $20 for 600).
The Kalita Wave, for less than $30, produces fantastic coffee, is full-bodied, and is served hot every time. Additionally, its flat-bottom design should allow even those new to pour-over brewing to get results comparable to those found in high-end coffee shops.
The best alternatives
The glassware Chemex pour-over coffee maker is the best option when you need to brew multiple cups at once. You get a drink that’s just the right amount of light, flavor, and balance every time. This style eliminates the need for a carafe.
The OXO Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker removes the element of surprise from the pouring process, making it ideal for those just starting. Simply fill the tank to the desired level and turn it on to adjust the water flow rate. It’s only that the coffee will be less intense than Kalita’s.
The Bee House is another Japanese porcelain product that exudes sophistication in its white glaze. We found that the short, curved handle gave it a distinctive look. We appreciated the perforations towards the base, which made it easy to observe how much coffee had been prepared before removing the dripper from the cup. However, setting the device on top of a mug was a bit of a hassle due to the rectangular base. It wasn’t practical with a cup with a large opening.
Meanwhile, the coffee it made was among the best of the tested varieties, with an excellently balanced taste that was neither too harsh nor too mild. We also liked that it works with standard Melitta No. 2 filters instead of requiring expensive, hard-to-find ones (you can acquire 600 filters for approximately $20 on Amazon and get them at most supermarkets). In addition, a reusable cotton filter was tested and proven effective for individuals who despise filter trash.
The Hario V60 is an attractive alternative for brewing pour-over coffee for less than $25 if you’ve been thinking about trying it but are still deciding whether to commit to a more expensive setup. This ceramic dripper is in the shape of a cone and can make up to 10 ounces at a time. The spiral ribs inside the cone give the coffee grinds more room to spread when brewing. It comes in various colors and materials (glass, metal, and plastic). Its single huge hole implies that the rate at which water is poured into it will have a more significant effect on its taste than with, for instance, the Kalita.
However, the Hario’s smaller base will only sit nicely on a small cup. Like other models, it offers specific No. 2 filters for its dripper (around $10 for 100). We liked that it came with a plastic measuring spoon and a cute handle. Still, its brewing temperature was lower than most other drippers we tested. While the coffee it produced was still superior to that produced by a conventional coffee machine, it had a weaker aftertaste than the top-scoring models.
Melitta’s plastic cone-shaped variant is a beautiful entry-level alternative for people interested in trying pour-over coffee. It comes in either black or red, and it uses the brand’s standard brown No. 2 filters (a box of which is included in this bundle). Its transparent design makes it easy to monitor the brewing process, and rests comfortably atop cups of varying heights. Melitta has been making drip coffee and filters since 1908.
Their dripper has received positive reviews on Amazon thanks to its durability, portability, and straightforward design. The plastic construction, however, makes it feel much less solid than glass or ceramic ones, and we worried that it would topple over as we poured our hot water. While the coffee tasted acceptable, it was often very bitter and failed to wow.
Let’s start with the advantages of this affordable choice: Its broad bottom makes it an ideal complement to tall, stout coffee cups. The cone-shaped, stainless-steel-mesh construction eliminates the need for disposable paper filters. It takes little more than two minutes to brew, but the resulting coffee is among the hottest we’ve tasted from any of the drippers we tested. Additionally, it can be cleaned in the dishwasher, has a cleaning brush and stainless steel scooping spoon included, and has a lifetime warranty with no questions asked.
Ultimately, though, your coffee’s flavor matters the most. Unfortunately, ours was not only marred by the presence of grounds at the bottom of the cup but also by haziness and acidity, which effectively nullified any potential benefits.
We went with the Bodum 34-ounce all-in-one pour-over carafe, but they have options from 12 to 51 ounces and three different colors. While the Bodum’s design is similar to that of the Chemex and its pricing is comparable, it differs significantly because it comes with a reusable stainless steel mesh filter. While that will help you save money on paper filters, the taste will deteriorate. In our testing, we discovered that the coffee became cloudy and had a mildly bitter flavor due to the small amounts of sediment that made it through the stainless steel filters.
The coffee’s heat level was likewise on the low side, making a second cup nearly unappetizing. Bodum provides a one-year guarantee on the item but does not cover glass, rendering the warranty primarily ineffective. The collar can be detached without much effort, and the whole device may go in the dishwasher without any problems. It’s fast (it can brew four cups in around four minutes) and includes a measuring spoon.
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