Pour over is a technique known for its simplicity. It’s one of the earliest coffee-making processes around, but was ultimately overshadowed by the espresso machine. Once lost in a craze of long blacks, lattes and flat whites, pour over is making a return to specialty cafes across Sydney and Melbourne.

Former Australian Brewers Cup participants and specialty coffee retailers Daniel Yee and Devin Loong speak to Hospitality about the world of filter coffee, how to get the best out of pour over and its reemergence in the Australian coffee scene.

Ona’s Devin Loong has made a career out of the filter method. He believes pour over is the purist’s way of enjoying coffee, with the technique celebrating the key distinctions of coffee beans. “Filter coffee or pour over started to become more popular around eight years ago when there was a rise in single-origin coffees,” he says. “It’s a true representation of the coffee, and in a way, it’s not so intense. It highlights the nuances of coffee.”

Daniel Yee from Sydney’s Artificer echoes the sentiment. “If you’re having a coffee as an espresso, it’s big in flavour, but it can often hide nuance,” he says. “With filter coffee, it’s a gentle kind of brew. As it’s cooling, you can taste a lot more of the sweetness and acidity. I like it because it’s approachable. People who don’t usually drink black coffee drink filter coffee or pour-over coffee because it’s easy.”

Pour over coffee Artificer

There isn’t a comparison when it comes to pour-over equipment. The unique and often visually appealing pieces are part of what sets the process apart – for both consumers and baristas. Brewers for pour overs come in a plethora of different materials including plastic, glass, metal or copper, but they all achieve a similar outcome.

Loong names the Hario V60 as the most prominent when it comes to pour-over equipment. Known for its premium glass and ceramic materials, Hario was founded in Japan and quickly became the go-to for filter brews. “When people are talking about pour over, they are talking about the V60,” says Loong.

Yee prefers to use a Kalita, in particular, the wave filters. “It’s similar to a lot of batch brewers and we use it for its simplicity; it’s forgiving in the pour,” he says. “You don’t have to be so particular in how you apply the water to it to get a good cup of coffee.”

Pour-over coffee gives baristas the opportunity to show off the quality of the beans, which is why the consistency of the grind and ratio are crucial in getting it right. Yee usually opts for a lighter roast. “I prefer highlighting more fruit and acidity in my coffees,” he says. “I find that more interesting than just ‘coffee coffee’. Basically, trying to find coffees that are sweet and generally more acidic.”

The grind is dependent on the desired extraction. Loong believes there is no right or wrong way, but he has a specific rule of thumb: “The finer you go, the easier it is to extract the flavours,” he says. “The coarser you go, the harder it is to extract the flavours.”  

Yee maintains a go-to ratio and consistency for his pour overs. “There’s a semi-universal ratio we use, which is about 6 grams of coffee per 100ml,” he says. “If I’m doing a pour over for myself, I’ll put 18 grams of coffee. Generally, it’s on the finer side of coarse; it would be a medium grind. It would look like coarse table salt.”

The method of making pour-over coffee can be a fiddly process if it’s not executed right. The key is to keep it as simple as the concept itself. As a two-time champion of the Australian Brewers Cup, Loong has created a namesake technique known as the ‘Loong pour’.

Pour over set up at Ona

His method has simplified the pour over in a way that allows baristas to focus more on control and technical skill. “It was developed because I had too many baristas doing too many steps,” he says. “The more steps, the higher the chance of screwing it up.”  

Blooming is essential in ensuring the coffee grinds are saturated and undergo a release process. “When coffee is roasted, it produces CO2, so we want to release the CO2 from the coffee; we’re not trying to fight against the CO2 to extract the coffee,” says Loong.

In the initial process of blooming, the Loong pour requires a ratio of 15 grams of coffee to 50 grams of water. As the water is poured to create the bloom, the coffee bubbles and a slurry-like mixture is created and agitated with a spoon to allow the water to travel through. 

Monitoring water temperature is also a critical step to getting nailing the technique. “When you’re doing pour overs, I think one of the things [to consider] is the temperature drop,” says Yee. “We don’t realise as soon as the water is boiled in a kettle or whatnot, the temperature is dropping rapidly.” Both baristas use water that sits at a temperature between 94-97 degrees Celsius to extract the most out of a grind.

Baristas also need to maintain a steady stream when carrying out the rest of the pour. “You let it bloom for 30 seconds and then pour in the middle for a few seconds and the coffee and water slurry will lift up a little bit,” says Loong. “When you pour in the middle and hold it there, the stream pierces through the slurry, brings it up and it slowly goes round and round, creating an even-coloured bit on the top.”

Compared to other coffee-making methods, pour over delivers an end product with a lighter flavour profile. “With pour over, you’re getting more transparent flavours carried across,” says Yee.

Daniel Yee Artificer

“They are more delicate and it also depends on the transparency of the coffee you’re using. So if your coffee isn’t particularly good, it’ll show. There’s more transparency in all regards as opposed to an espresso, where you can hide a lot of faults behind the intensity or even if you’re going to dump 300ml of milk on top of it.”

Pour over has yet to really boom in the specialty coffee market despite its popularity in a home environment. But the consumer shift towards reducing or forgoing dairy altogether has led to pour over becoming a more popular order. However, it’s a process that requires training and technique. “More and more people want it and less and less places want to do it,” says Loong, who believes some venues are deterred from the labour-intensive process.

Although the barista encourages venues to consider adding pour over to their repertoire, he says it’s best not to jump straight in and instead look at batch brew as a potential option first. Not only is it cheaper, but it takes less time to make. “I think batch brew is a good way to get people to start appreciating filter coffee,” says Loong.

The growing selection of coffee beans in Australia means specialty coffee vendors are spoilt for choice. Loong is an advocate for the pour over, which is a technique that’s all about slowing down. “The espresso machine is made to go faster and the pour over is like the old method; it’s slower and [it’s a way to] really enjoy the coffee,” he says. “It’s a little bit more of an experience and there’s a story behind it, so pour over gives you more of a chance to provide an experience to the customer.”

Image credit: Eliza Strydom for Artificer and Ona Melbourne