Pour Over Showdown

May 19, 2016

Hand-poured filtered coffee has its own special place in our hearts and mugs. While there’s nothing like a zippy and complex shot of espresso or a chewy full immersion French Press, for most of us, the pour over is our go-to for home, work and weekend brews.

While pour over coffee is lately garnering lots of buzz in specialty coffee shops and Instagram feeds (present company included), there is not much that’s brand new here. Folks have been making their coffee this same way for many decades – the first Melitta filter was designed in 1908, and can now be found in nearly every grocery shop, corner store, and bodega in America. The Chemex was invented in 1941 and remains essentially unchanged in design.

There have been new developments, though, and there are thousands of new brew methods for each. We’ve vetted and tested the lot of them and have chosen the Bee House, Chemex, Hario V60 and Kalita Wave to sell and stand behind, based on quality and cup character.

We love all of these brewers for many different reasons as explained below, and they will all make you a very delicious cup of coffee, some quicker than others, and some with more technique required. But first, we’d like to offer the most important rule of thumb in making a great cup of coffee, drumroll please: Buy good coffee beans and grind them fresh.

Once you’ve got that part down, you’re well on your way.

Bee House

The Bee House dripper is a sleek and simple daily pour over, and is very well-loved here for its ease of use, and sweet, rich cup character.

Pros

The main benefits of the Bee House is that its filters can be found just about everywhere, as opposed to the Chemex, V60 or Kalita, which must be purchased in specialty shops. It’s also fast and pretty fool-proof. You can brew a 10 oz cup in about 2 minutes, and it’s hard to totally blow it. It’s also the least expensive.

Cons

Not many. Not as customizable as the V60, not as clean as a Chemex. It’s made of porcelain so doesn’t travel well like the Kalita.

Chemex

The Chemex has a thicker patented filter that brews a clean cup while maintaining body and balanced floral notes.

Pros

Its thicker filter brews a cup with enhanced clarity and sweetness. You can also easily brew larger batches (more than one cup) with the Chemex. The thick filter is also pretty forgiving to brew, as opposed to the V60, which offers a similar complexity but is more finicky.

Cons

You can’t find the filters everywhere like the Melitta, but they are more ubiquitous than the Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. Not portable.

Hario V60

Nuanced and versatile, the Hario V60 is an elegant brewer for those who want to perfect the pour. The brewer’s large opening allows for a faster brew, and requires exacting technique and a steady hand. When it’s done well, it can make a beautiful, bright and crisp cup with stand-out citrus notes.

Pros

The versatility here makes this a great brewer for pour over pros who really want to change things up and customize their brewing technique, based on variables like speed and method of pour. It’s more nuanced and more flexible.

Cons

Though it’s more customizable, it’s also less forgiving, and you gotta work for this brewer with your full attention to nail it. All the pour overs greatly benefit from using a gooseneck kettle, but it’s nearly essential with this brewer. Filters not available in most places.

Kalita Wave

The Kalita Wave wins over coffee and design enthusiasts alike. The flat-bottom filter helps with even extraction while brewing. Brews a rich, full-bodied cup.

Pros

The Kalita is lightweight and durable, making it a great on-the-go travel or camp brewer. It's more forgiving than the V60, with a similar cup quality to the Bee House.

Cons

This one takes a bit more attention to brew well as compared to the Bee House – the key here is the slow spiral pour, so a gooseneck kettle is also pretty necessary for this one. It’s the priciest of all the single-cup brewers and filters. Filters must be special ordered online or found in a specialty shop.

All of these brewers bring something unique to the coffee table. We are often asked which is the best for which coffee, but we’d advise you to find which variables matter to you and let that be your guide.

Do you regularly brew more than one cup each morning? Chemex for the win. Looking for something to take camping with you? Kalita Wave is your new tent mate. Looking to customize your cup with a steady hand? Hello V60. Anyone and everyone who wants something quick, reliable and delicious? Bee House, baby. Or, if you’re like most of us, you’ll have many (or all) of these fine fellows in your repertoire.

Once you’ve found your brewer, here are some hot tips on How to Perfect Your Pour Over. For a deep dive on how filters affect your brew read on here.

More brew questions? We’re here to help. Check out our full Brew Guide or reach out to us on Twitter @stumptowncoffee or by email at info@stumptowncoffee.com.