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Comparing the Best Pour Over Coffee Makers

Image: V60 and filter paper sitting on top of a glass carafe next to a gooseneck pouring kettle.
Image: V60 and filter paper sitting on top of a glass carafe next to a gooseneck pouring kettle.

There’s a ritual to pour over coffee that makes it popular amongst the most dedicated coffee enthusiasts. Whilst espresso forms the cornerstone of the drinks you’ll find in your local cafe, it is pour over coffee that many home brewers actually love. 

The simplicity and stripped back nature of pour over coffee brewing methods make them appealing to both the casual enthusiast and the aficionado. 

In this article, I’ll break down the most popular pour over coffee makers and explain which of them is best suited to your needs, based on a number of factors. 

Each pour over coffee maker offers its own unique characteristics, brewing techniques, and flavour profiles, making the selection process an exciting journey of exploration. Your level of coffee experience is also a major factor in this decision, as some of these brewers take some getting used to. 

Together, we’ll explore the origins of each pour over coffee maker, how to use them, the pros and cons and ultimately which one is right for you. 

 

What is Pour Over Coffee?

Pour over coffee is the simple process of adding ground coffee to a filter (usually paper or fine metallic mesh), and pouring hot water over, allowing freshly brewed coffee to flow into an awaiting vessel below. 

Pour over coffee is often confused with ‘drip brewed’ coffee, as the coffee tends to drip down relatively slowly into the cup, carafe  or built-in container. 

The main difference between pour over and drip brewed coffee, is that pour over is a manual process requiring precise technique and temperature control, whereas drip brewed coffee tends to be made with an automatic machine. 

 

What to Consider When Choosing a Pour Over Coffee Maker

There are a number of factors to consider when you are deciding between the most popular pour over coffee makers out there. From your personal preferences, to the number of people you’re brewing for, they are all worth taking into account. 

Size

First and the most obvious thing to consider is how many people you are brewing coffee for. This will determine the size and nature of the pour over coffee maker you choose, and will effectively limit your choices. 

Most popular pour over coffee makers are for single serve use, meaning they are designed to sit on top of a single cup or carafe. 

However, larger table top units like the chemex and automatic drip brew coffee makers are designed with larger groups in mind. These tend to work best when making coffee for two or more people, whereas the other pour over coffee makers on this list work best for single use only. 

Material

The material used to produce your pour over coffee maker or choice can influence the taste, heat retention and brewing technique you use. 

Plastic is the most common and convenient material to make pour over coffee brewers from, but in some cases ceramic, glass, metal or cloth can be more appropriate. 

Whilst plastic is definitely the most portable and robust material to make pour over coffee makers from, it isn’t a very good conductor of heat. This means that the temperature of your coffee can fall quite quickly, especially compared to other materials like ceramic, glass or metal. 

The end result is a cup that may not be quite as satisfying as it otherwise could be, which is where alternative materials come into play. 

Ceramic and glass coffee makers like the Melitta and Chemex for example, are much more aesthetically pleasing than their plastic counterparts. However, for practical reasons they may not be appropriate for some kitchens. They can be more difficult to clean, more fragile and harder to store than their plastic alternatives. 

Time

The amount of time you have available to brew coffee is another factor that plays into choosing a pour over coffee maker. I feel like the time needed to brew a cup of coffee is often overlooked, but it is definitely an important part in enjoying the experience. 

Sometimes you can find yourself on a lazy Sunday morning with a bit of time on your hands, happy to put some care and effort into the coffee brewing process and enjoy the perfect cup. 

However, for a busy commuter that still wants to get a delicious brew inside them early in the morning, a faster and more convenient brewing method would be more appropriate. 

Drip brew machines, V60s and the ‘Clever’ Dripper would probably be best suited to the coffee drinker with limited time on their hands. Whereas, a Chemex, Kalita, Melitta, cloth coffee sock or Origami dripper should probably be left to those that have more time to play with. 

‘Topper’ Or Whole Unit

Another factor to bear in mind when choosing a pour over coffee maker is whether you want a mug or carafe ‘topper’, or whether you prefer a standalone whole unit device. 

Automatic drip brew machines and the Chemex represent the whole unit devices here. They are self contained, free standing units that need a designated space on the kitchen counter to be used properly. 

Topper devices on the other hand sit on top of a mug or carafe and house a filter (usually paper). This is then filled with ground coffee and water and used like  a funnel for freshly brewed to drip down into the awaiting vessel below. 

Your Level of Coffee Experience 

Your experience of making coffee also plays a major role in which pour over brewer you should pick. Whilst this is not a complete guide to pour over coffee methods as such, there are a range of different techniques required to master each of the pour over coffee makers below. 

If you simply want to push a button and make a great tasting cup of coffee without any fuss or technique, then an automatic drip coffee maker is a great choice

However, if you prefer the ritual, technique and precision that can be achieved through manually pouring water over your freshly ground coffee, then something like a V60 or Chemex would be more up your street. 

 

Overview of Each Pour Over Coffee Maker

Here is an in depth overview of each of the most popular pour over coffee makers out there right now. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing one of the options below, as there are a number of individual factors that play their part in determining which device is right for you. 

V60

Arguably the most popular pour over coffee maker out there, the Hario V60 is simple to use, but requires proper technique to be honed in. Whilst it is most commonly made from plastic, the V60 comes in ceramic, glass, copper and metal. 

The V60 gets its name from being fashioned in a ‘V’ shape at a 60° angle. It uses paper filters to extract brewed coffee from ground beans, and typically offers a fresh, pure, clean cup of coffee. 

Origin: Developed by Hario in Japan.

Usage: Features a cone-shaped dripper with spiral ridges, allowing for precise control over brewing variables.

Positives: Offers versatility, clarity of flavours, and a wide range of customization options.

Negatives: Requires careful pouring technique for consistent results.

 

Chemex

The Chemex has been around for a long time now, but it still demands respect thanks to its unique coffee brewing characteristics. 

This scientific looking device is beautiful to look at and is made exclusively from glass. There is a lot of ritual involved in mastering Chemex coffee brewing, and pour technique is a very important factor that needs to be honed to get the best out of the Chemex. 

Chemexes require their own specific paper filters, which are larger and thicker than those you would use for a V60 for example. It also needs a slightly coarser grind size to help the flow of coffee and tends to serve 2-4 people. 

Origin: Invented by chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in 1941.

Usage: Utilises an hourglass-shaped vessel with a thick paper filter, resulting in a clean, bright and flavourful brew.

Positives: Produces a smooth and sediment-free cup, ideal for serving multiple people.

Negatives: Requires proprietary filters and can be more challenging to master. Also fragile and difficult to clean. 

 

Clever Dripper

The Clever Dripper is a relatively new pour over coffee maker on the market. The Clever combines the benefits of pour over and immersion coffee brewing as it has a release valve on the bottom. 

Whilst the Clever Dripper looks similar to a V60, it actually produces coffee that is more similar in body and flavour to a French press. The partial immersion brewing offers more body and depth of flavour, as opposed to the traditional clean and crisp taste you would get from a V60.  

Origin: Developed by Alan Adler, inventor of the Aeropress.

Usage: Combines immersion and drip brewing methods, featuring a valve at the bottom to control flow.

Positives: Offers easy and consistent brewing, with the option for full immersion or drip extraction.

Negatives: Limited capacity and may not produce as nuanced flavours as other methods.

 

Kalita Wave

Another rival to the classic V60 is the Kalita Wave. Coming in either 155 or 185 sizes, the Kalita can be made from metal, ceramic, plastic or glass. 

Whilst it may look similar to a V60, the Kalita uses a flared, rigid paper filter and has a flat bottom rather than a funnel. This allows for a faster overall brew time and less variability in results. Whilst this is definitely appealing for the home barista that requires a minimalistic approach to brewing coffee, it does also limit customisation and expression of technique. 

Origin: Designed by Kalita Co. in Japan.

Usage: Features a flat-bottomed dripper with three small holes for even extraction.

Positives: Offers consistent brewing and temperature stability, producing a balanced and flavourful cup.

Negatives: Requires specific filters and may be less forgiving of brewing errors. Also offers a more standardised brew, which limits experimentation with pouring technique. 

 

Hario V60 Mugen

The Mugen is a variation of the V60 by Hario, which aims to slow down the drawdown of coffee through the device. The Mugen has a smoother surface than the classic V60, allowing coffee to slide down the paper filter more easily into the smaller hole at the bottom. 

This creates a more concentrated, full bodied brew with a higher TDS and a stronger overall flavour profile. The Mugen can be made from ceramic or plastic, and offers an alternative to the traditional spiral ridged V60. 

Origin: A variation of the classic Hario V60, designed for enhanced thermal stability.

Usage: Features a ceramic body with reinforced walls for improved heat retention.

Positives: The ceramic version provides excellent heat retention and durability, resulting in consistent brewing.

Negatives: Limited availability and higher price point compared to standard V60 drippers.

 

Melitta

The Melitta is a ridged  pour over coffee maker that allows coffee to flow through a small hole at the bottom of the cone. This means a slightly finer grind size is needed to allow coffee to flow and extract evenly. 

Melitta’s can be used with generic coffee filter papers, and are widely available in supermarkets. They offer less room for customisation and pouring technique compared to a V60, but also offer more margin for error. 

Origin: Invented by German housewife Melitta Bentz in 1908.

Usage: Utilises a cone-shaped filter holder and paper filter for simple and efficient brewing.

Positives: Offers ease of use, affordability, and compatibility with various carafes and vessels.

Negatives: May produce a less nuanced cup compared to other pour over methods.

 

Automatic Drip Brew Coffee Machine

Automatic drip brew coffee brewers offer an all in one solution to your coffee making needs. Many come with built in burr grinders and deliver unmatched levels of convenience. 

Simply add your coffee beans to the top of the machine, push a button and let the coffee flow! There are a lot of positives to using automatic drip brew machines, as they take out a lot of the variability of making coffee manually. 

However, what you gain in convenience you lose in value for money, customisation and precision. 

Origin: Popularised in the mid-20th century for home coffee brewing.

Usage: Automates the brewing process using a water reservoir and heating element, with drip dispersion over ground coffee.

Positives: Offers convenience and consistency for everyday brewing.

Negatives: May lack the precision and customisation of manual pour over methods.

 

Origami Dripper

This aesthetically pleasing coffee maker is not for the faint hearted. The Origami dripper is a ceramic work of art that combines style with substance for your coffee brewing needs. 

Its ceramic walls make for better heat retention so you end up with a hotter cup of coffee and a more even extraction. The Origami dripper is a cup or carafe topper, which makes it convenient to use and store away. 

However, the Origami Dripper also requires its own unique filter papers and needs a very steady hand and precise technique to get the best out of. 

Origin: Designed by Masaki Nakano in Japan.

Usage: Features a unique folding design with ribs for improved water flow and extraction.

Positives: Provides excellent control over brewing variables and produces a clean and nuanced cup.

Negatives: Requires specific filters and may have a steeper learning curve for beginners.

 

Coffee Sock Cloth Filter

One of the more unique pour over coffee makers out there is the cloth coffee sock. They offer an alternative to traditional paper or metallic mesh filters and are designed with traditional coffee purists in mind. 

Cloth coffee filters or socks are reusable and deliver a full bodied flavour profile thanks to their relatively coarse filtration compared to paper. However, they are often very messy to use and can deliver inconsistent results depending on ambient conditions. 

Origin: Derived from traditional brewing methods using cloth filters.

Usage: Utilises a reusable cloth filter for sustainable and eco-friendly brewing.

Positives: Offers a smooth and full-bodied cup, with minimal waste and environmental impact.

Negatives: Requires thorough cleaning and maintenance to prevent off-flavours and bacterial growth.

 

Cone vs Flat-Bottomed Drippers

You may have noticed that there are a range of different pour over coffee makers with cone bottoms and flat bottoms. 

Cone-shaped drippers, such as the V60 and Chemex, offer deeper extraction and highlight the nuances of specialty coffees. They offer more expression and  variability in terms of technique, and tend to deliver a wider range of flavours due to the variances in extraction that can be achieved. 

On the other hand, flat-bottomed drippers like the Kalita Wave and Clever Dripper tend to provide a more even extraction and consistent results. This is because coffee is able to flow through these devices more easily, so extraction of those all important coffee oils is achieved more evenly.

 

Mesh vs Paper vs Cloth Filters

Paper filters, like those used in the Chemex and Melitta, offer clarity and cleanliness in the cup, while mesh filters, such as those used in the Clever Dripper, allow more oils and sediment to pass through for a fuller-bodied brew. 

Cloth filters, like the Coffee Sock, provide a sustainable and eco-friendly option with a smooth and clean cup profile, but offer less consistency and convenience.

 

Pour Over Coffee Summary

Overall, pour over coffee brewing offers a diverse range of options, each with its own unique characteristics and brewing techniques. There is no right or wrong here, just personal preference based on your own coffee brewing wants and needs. Some traditional pour over coffee makers like the V60, automatic drip brew machines and Melitta offer easy and convenient ways to brew great tasting coffee. 

Whereas, more specialised brewers like the Chemex, Origami dripper and cloth coffee sock give coffee enthusiasts more scope for experimentation and customisation. However, more time, effort and dedication is required to master these more nuanced brewing methods. 

Whether you prefer the brightness of a V60 or the smoothness of a Chemex, there’s a pour over method to suit every taste preference and brewing style.

 

Pour Over Coffee Frequently Asked Questions

Which pour over method is best for beginners?

Beginners may find the Clever Dripper or Melitta pour over to be more forgiving and easier to master due to their partial immersion brewing methods.

How do I achieve the perfect pour over coffee?

Achieving the perfect pour over coffee requires attention to detail, including proper grind size, water temperature, pour technique, and bloom time.

Can I use any type of coffee beans for pour over brewing?

Yes, you can use any type of coffee beans for pour over brewing, but lighter roasts with complex flavour profiles tend to shine in manual brewing methods like pour over. Darker roasts on the other hand tend to be better suited to immersion or pressurised brewing methods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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