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Brew Quest Coffee Basics 101: The Proper Way to Pour

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Controlled pouring is important for great tasting coffee.

Do you ever wonder why your pour over dripper gives you inconsistent results from one morning to the next? It could be your pouring technique. Here’s a basic primer on how to add hot water to your filtered coffee grounds.

Brew Quest Coffee Basics 101: Paper Filtering Your Coffee

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Do you just dump your hot water into your pour over system and wait for the magic to happen? You can. But unfortunately, more often than not, your cup of coffee will be less than remarkable most of the time. Why? Because it’s all about extraction.

Earlier I had discussed the basics of extraction when hot water first meets your ground beans. What you learned is that successful extraction is when you can coax the ground bean to release a number of both soluble and insoluble chemical compounds that gives coffee its taste. But it’s more than just dumping hot water on freshly ground beans. It’s also about controlling as best as you can how the hot water and ground coffee physically intermingle.

Visualize, if you will, your ground coffee spooned into your pre-wetted paper coffee filter—roughly about 2 tablespoons worth in a small brown mound of potential flavor. If you were to dump your 6 to 8 ounces of hot water into your dripper/filter all at once, you would see a swirling dervish of floating and soaked grounds that drains too quickly and leaves you with a rather clumped muddy mess in the filter and a weak cup of coffee.

This is bad technique. Why? Because:

(1) The ground coffee has not had ample time to de-gas before filtering through.

(2) Not all of the grounds were equally extracted of their flavor compounds.

(3) The coffee passed through so quickly that it became water-diluted.

In other words, you did not control the bloom and brew stages of extraction.

The bloom stage is the release of any remaining gases within the beans the moment hot water meets the grind. You want the beans to de-gas briefly so as to avoid carbonating your extract, which would give it a slightly unpleasant taste to it if you did not.

The brew stage requires some control to insure that ALL of the grind has a chance to soak in and release its flavor compounds. When water is added too roughly, the bed of grinds splashes onto the sides of the paper filter and do not get extractedl. Plus, pouring roughly creates channels through the grounds allowing water to pass through too quickly and thereby poorly extract the grind.

A General Technique of Using a Simple Pour Over System

Here’s how your technique should progress during your coffee brewing using a Kalita Wave dripper (one cup serving size model) as an example:

1. Pour the water into a kettle and bring it to a boil.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, grind the coffee beans to a medium size (rough sand size).

3. Place your dripper over a cup, insert paper filter and add boiling water to the filter until it is filled completely and let it drain through. While draining, add boiling water to any container made of glass or metal that has a handle and preferably a small easy-pour spout. A small, wide bottom, 500 milliliter graduated lab beaker with a pour lip will suffice for now or even a small china gravy server. In either case you will want about 10 ounces (~300 milliliters) of boiling water transferred to your pouring device. What’s happening here is that you are giving the boiled water a moment to cool down a few degrees before adding it to the coffee grounds.

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4. After the filter paper has drained, toss the water from the cup, rinse it with any remaining hot water from the kettle, and then place the dripper/pre-wetted filter combo back over the cup.

5. Add your ground coffee (about 2-3 tablespoons worth) to the filter and shake it gently from side to side to get the grounds to spread evenly within the filter.

6. Now here’s where technique comes to play: Gently and slowly pour about 2 ounces (~60 milliliters) of your slightly cooled boiled water over the grounds, trying to disturb the evened bed as little as possible. Let the water soak in for about 30 seconds and you should see some slight bubbling on the surface as the ground coffee de-gasses.

7. Next, slowly add the remaining 8 ounces (~240 milliliters) of slightly cooled boiled water in a circular motion from center to sides, and sides to center to the grounds in a smooth controlled fashion to avoid disturbing the bed. You should see a nice wet swell of grounds rising about one-half to three-fourths the way up the filter as the grounds soak, swell and begin to extract and drip though the filter. Another technique is to add the hot water in small pulses until all of the water has been added. When all conditions are just right, this should take 2-3 minutes by the time the extracted coffee has finished dripping into the cup.

8. Breathe in the aromas, sip, and enjoy.

Final Words on This Technique

The point of discussing this technique was to just introduce the proper way of adding water to a grind in a paper filter drip system and make you mindful of what you are doing. Other dripper types will require variations of this technique and should be researched before using.

In addition, there are other factors that could result in less than stellar coffee using this technique such as the actual grind, size, bean and water ratio, and perfect temperatures for extraction. The exampled brew method above is a rough guide, but a good starting point for some experimentation on your part. Future lessons will go into more detail, but here’s your chance to try some actual coffee brewing as you learn.

Here is an Informative YouTube Video on How the Pros Do It

Coffee Talk

Coffee Talk is meant to encourage discourse between you and someone you are having coffee with, as well as for the comments section below. If you agree or disagree with the topic and what is said, or have something you would like to share, Coffee Talk is there for you.

Pete Hamill, a famed hard-drinking rough and gritty journalist from a different era of news, died this past week. Yesterday, NPR’s Fresh Talk with Terry Gross played a previously recoded interview with him that gave us insight to the type of men…and women, early reporting depended on and how they did it.

Here is a link to the podcast and a great opportunity to be reminded of what news and news making used to be like…but will never again.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between coffee and healthy living. For continual updates about the benefits of coffee on your health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image source: Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Reference: “Remembering Legendary Journalist Pete Hamill” NPR Fresh Air podcast.

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