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Your adventure begins here with pour over coffee!

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How to Brew Coffee Manually

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With Sensei Joe

Quick reference brewing steps

  1. Watch the "Manual Pour Over Coffee" video to help you!
  2. Heat up approximately 32 ounces of water in a kettle and allow it to cool or stop it at 205 degrees.
  3. Cleanliness is highly important as coffee oils go rancid… ‘nuff said.
  4. With the filter in the basket or upper chamber, run a small amount of water through the filter to remove the paper taste and preheat the brewing device.
  5. Dump out the water used to preheat the brewer and add the coffee into the filter.
  6. Bloom the coffee with about 2 ounces of the hot water for 30 seconds. Make sure the scale doesn’t turn off on you! SET a timer for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I set the microwave timer for 30 seconds and use a separate timer for the brew.
  7. After the bloom, START the 3 and ½ minute timer and brew the rest of the 20 ounces of water I.E. 2 ounces bloomed + 18 ounces brewed=20 ounces total water used for the brew. The final pour should take approximately 1 to 1 and ½ minutes.
  8. The coffee should begin to drip about 10- 15 seconds before the time is up. Remove the used grounds immediately when the timer sounds.
  9. Decant into a thermal vessel to retain the heat.
  10. Dilute the coffee with some remaining hot water if the coffee is too strong.
  11. When cupped allow the coffee to cool for 5 minutes or so to bring out the coffees distinctive flavors.

The manual pour over method is the home barista’s go to method for honing proper coffee extraction. With this method, the barista has full control of every aspect of the brewing process; you can adjust everything from the water temperature to the speed of the pour. Before we go crazy with the brew, let’s look at some of the major contributing factors for great coffee and both excellent and poor brewing practices involved in this method.

Perfect conditions

  1. Brew temperature 200 degrees is perfect and 195-205 is acceptable for great coffee results- Think of it in terms of the hotter the water the faster the extraction. I.E. - hotter water will extract more and cooler will extract less from the ground coffee being brewed.
  2. Grind size will directly impact the timing of the brew. Finer= longer brew cycle and courser= shorter brew cycle.
  3. Speed of the pour will also directly impact the timing of the brew. Faster pour= shorter brew and slower pour= longer brew, but not for the likely reason you are thinking. A faster pour will cause the grounds to separate and more grounds to move throughout the filter freeing up water flow (this may be desirable in certain situations) For this situation a perfect pour will take up the first minute-1 minute and 30 seconds of the brew cycle leaving approximately 2 minutes for the water to slowly filter to the carafe.
  4. Timing is key and the breakdown is as follows: 4 minutes total time, first 30 seconds is for the bloom (I will define this later) the pour stage will last 1 and ½ minutes and the brew stage will last 2 minutes.

Poor practices

  1. 206-212 degree water will cause burnt taste to come out of the coffee; the water actually extracts too much stuff from the coffee giving it a bitter taste of being burnt (even though it is not actually burning it). Remember, the hotter the water the faster the extraction.
  2. Correspondingly 194 and lower temperatures in this method of brewing will result in under extracted coffee. This coffee will be tart, watery or just plainly flavorless. Again there may be certain conditions where this is desirable (not the taste produced, but the temperature of the water) but not in the perfect manual pour over.
  3. Bad practices in grinding: I have heard it said, "If you have a blade grinder, it is best to just grind to powder so that the grind is more consistent throughout." The problem with this is that you will never be fully consistent with a blade grinder and you will end up with powder mixed with finer powder and that is one BAD situation! Whether blade or burr grinder, grind the coffee to hit the timing required as described above.

Let’s dig into the manual pour over brew.

It is important to note we are not doing a Chemex brew but a manual pour over and specifically one developed with a drip brewers carafe and brew basket. This is a great way to get your hands dirty and do some trial brews prior to getting an expensive Chemex brewer and special filters.

While our water is heating up, clean the carafe and basket of surface coffee oil present on the walls of each with a paper towel. Waiting for the water, we can also grind our 1.25 ounces of coffee. This coffee is best roasted 3 days ago but not older than 2 weeks. The 3 day rest after the roast allows the coffee to relax a little; this is another big subject in itself so we will leave it at that for now. When the 32 ounces of water has stopped boiling, we have let it cool to 205 degrees. Run just a little HOT water through the empty filter that is placed in the basket to heat up the basket and carafe. Dump out all of the water or, for fun, taste the water to see what the paper tastes like, yep that’s why we ran water the water through the filter.

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With our coffee ground to the consistency of sand or table salt, it’s time to put it into the filter and begin our brew. The grind needs to be a bit finer than that of store bought ground, which is usually ground specifically for standard drip brewers… Before we go further, I want pause and dig deep into the subject of grinding. Some of you will have a burr grinder and good job for making that small investment in yourself; in the long-run, your coffee will only increase in cost by a few cents. But the value of the cup will raise much more that the cost of the grinder! That is why a coffee shop can charge $3.50 per big cup of a perfectly brewed pour over. I strongly suggest spending $100-$300 on a burr grinder, but if that is too steep get a manual burr grinder for around $40. At that price, odds are your burr grinder is “stepped” which means there are preset grind sizes that you have to use. This will mean that you will never get a 100% perfect grind, for example, one setting might be too fine while the next might be too course. So you don’t have 100% control of your grind size, BIG DEAL. All you need to do is think outside the box a little, bend some rules, and adjust a variable you have full control over. If the burr grinder grinds too course, adjust the temperature of the water a degree or 2 for faster extraction. Remember your brew time will be decreased with courser coffee; it might be only 3 minutes so the top side of 205 degree water may be required during the brew cycle. You could stir the bloom to help the pre-infusion water incorporate with the courser coffee.

Another viable solution is to use a couple of ounces more brewing water. The courser coffee will under extract so adding a couple of more ounces of water, you will extract the last little bit needed out of the courser coffee. Ultimately your coffee will only be slightly weaker; it will be as if you toned your full strength coffee down will a small amount of fresh hot water after the brew is finished. This is all just theory but my pallet tells me that is works!

If the burr grinder grinds too fine, decrease the temperature of the water to slow down extraction. Remember your brew time will be increased with fine coffee; it might be 4 minutes so the bottom side of 195 degree water may be required. The other solution would be to use a couple of ounces less water to avoid over-extraction. After the brew is finished, this will be a coffee concentrate, add hot water to the brew to dilute it to taste. Whether the coffee is fine or course, always adjust only one variable per brew. This will help you log your results and adjust variables as needed. Enough said about grinding for now.

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It is time to bloom our coffee. Blooming is required so that the gasses trapped inside our fresh coffee can escape and to soften the grounds allowing the water to do the cha-cha with the coffee prior to the brew. If we skipped this step the gasses would surround the coffee grounds during the brew and hinder the water from penetrating the coffee causing under extraction. The bubbles will create space between our coffee grounds and allow for faster flow through the coffee again causing under extraction. As you can see, this step is very important, do not skip it.

Here are some easy steps for blooming.

  1. The water should be around 202-203 degrees and with the scale on you need to SLOWLY pour about 2 ounces of water over the grounds being careful to allow little to no water through the coffee and into the carafe.
  2. The water needs to mingle with the coffee for 30-45 seconds for the degassing and softening of the coffee grounds.
  3. While the mixture sits, it may be a good idea to cover it with a kitchen towel to avoid heat loss.
  4. It is feasible to say that you could, with 5-10 seconds left on the timer; reset the timer for 3 minutes and 30 seconds and bam, your bloom should be finished when the timer is ready. Hit start and brew!

The water should now be about 199-201 degrees which is optimal for brewing. Start the timer and begin a slow pour over taking the weight all the way up to 20 ounces. It will take approximately 1minute to 1minute and 30 seconds to finish the pour. While pouring do concentric circles from the middle out, but never down the edge being careful not to go too fast as this will agitate the coffee causing it to over extract. When the pour is finished, give the basket a very gentle twist, rotating it on top of the carafe. This will free up coffee that has stuck to the filters edge and allow all of the coffee to fully extract. Replace the kitchen towel over the basket to retain the heat as it finishes the brew cycle.

OK we need to deal with a highly overlooked principal in the coffee world today. In fact this extremely important step is ignored even more than cleanliness. In order to achieve perfect flavor, you must remove the used coffee grounds immediately after the brew cycle is finished. The last few dribbles that eventually drip out are over extracted enough to ruin an entire pot. The stagnant water/coffee mixture will continue the extraction process and when it finally drips 10-30 seconds later that disgusting drip will spread throughout your once perfect brew. Some people do prefer to do a gentle squeeze of the filter to expel the remaining coffee out of the grounds and is purely a taste issue. Try it once and see if it makes your coffee better or worse.

You now have a perfectly brewed full strength coffee pot of coffee. It is recommended that you make this coffee as described above and if that is too strong for you dilute the coffee to taste with some of the remaining hot water. 4-16 ounces can be added to this coffee depending on you pallet but it is not recommended to use more than 16 ounces as the coffee will be too weak to even taste after that. Of course you will need to boil more water at the beginning if dilution is desired. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the pour over coffee video!

Other videos about brewing

Brewing with a French Press

How to brew Syphon Coffee