Occam’s razor: A philosophical principle suggesting that simpler explanations tend to be better than complex ones. It has broad application, from medicine to ethics to proofs of the existence of god. Now if we apply the razor to our morning coffee, as the thinking men of Gear Patrol are wont to do, we can scrap our fancy drip machines and super-automatic espresso makers and still get a world-class cup of coffee without doing much more than pouring hot water over coffee grounds.
Okay, the pour over method is a touch more complicated than that, but just barely: pour hot water at 200°F (plus or minus about four degrees) over ground coffee beans, through a filter into a receptacle. Drink it. Making that perfect cup requires the right grind, the right amount of grounds, a kettle with an appropriate spout and a coffee maker that’s easy on the eyes — we’re not barbarians, after all. Based on our experience during the Fortnight of Coffee, we’ve assembled a pour over kit with all the basics to get you started.
Chemex Filter-Drip Coffee Maker
The simplicity of the pour-over method allows for a great variety of apparatuses; theoretically, you could stretch a sock over a large mug to start your morning. Instead we chose the Chemex, a handsome six-cup coffee maker produced in western Massachusetts, wrought of non-porous borosilicate glass and duded up neatly with a wood and leather collar. Chemex makes its own paper filters, but you can also use standard Melittas or opt for cloth or metal filters (e.g., Able Kone), which some people prefer because they allow more oils to pass into the cup.
Red Rooster Camano Coffee Mill
During the Fortnight of Coffee we emphasized the importance of using a conical burr grinder to get uniformly ground beans, rather than a less-expensive blade grinder that just cuts and chops willy nilly like a karate novice. The benefit is grounds with uniform surface area to allow for even extraction and a balanced cup of coffee. For under $100, the best bet is a manual grinder. This mill from Missouri-based Red Rooster has a cast iron hopper to hold the beans and connects via a walnut cap to a ball jar that holds the grounds. It’s more work than an electric burr grinder — too much work if you’re brewing for more than two people — but it’ll keep you in shape to grind pepper over ribeyes when we decide to bring back the Month of Beef.
Bonavita 1.0L Electric Kettle
The ideal kettle for pour over will have a gooseneck that lets you control the water flow better than a traditional kettle. This is important for two reasons, the first of which is that an unrestricted flow of water will splash out your grounds and bust the filter like a wet Kleenex. The second is that pour over is a two step process: (1) wet the grounds with hot water to let them “bloom” for about 15 seconds; (2) pour the water in a circular fashion, continuing to fill the filter as the coffee drips through. Once full, it’s also helpful to give the contents of the filter (called the “slurry”) a quick stir. An electric kettle boils quickly and doesn’t require a flame, making it a more versatile option than the stovetop version.
Jennings CJ-4000 Digital Scale
In our pre-Fortnight of Coffee lives it was enough measure coffee by the scoop — one per cup, and sometimes more. It turns out that getting the ratio of coffee to water is mission critical to brewing a perfect cup of coffee. A good place to start is roughly eight grams of ground coffee for every five ounces of water. From there you can adjust based on personal preferences. This Jennings scale is industry standard in the coffee biz and is accurate to 0.5 grams.
Stumptown House Blend
Though we have our favorites, the most important guidelines for choosing coffee beans is to make sure they’re freshly roasted and to grind them immediately before brewing. Quality degrades quickly after grinding. Beyond that it’s a matter of preference. We’ve usually got a bag of Stumptown House Blend on hand because their shop is near our New York HQ. It’s a mix of Latin American and East African beans that’s floral, nutty and well-balanced.