In Praise of the Pour Over - 12/12/2010
In praise of the pour-over…………..
Most of the best ideas in life are simple. So it is with the pour and serve coffee brewer. This is the most commonly-used method of brewing filtered coffee in the western world. Arguably it also brews the best coffee.
Much of the current technology for brewing coffee derives from knowledge gained in the many years developing pour-and-serve brewers. Commercial wars have raged over the various technologies used. Coffee quality derived from brewing with displacement boilers compared to conventional boilers, circular filter beds compared to triangular filter beds, the depth and shapes of filter pans and brew heads, the wetting pattern and time, pulse brewing, by-passes, filter mediums and holding methods… all can be traced back to the pour and- serve machine.
Photograph courtesy of
Ian Boughton, Coffee House
Not only has much of coffee technology been developed on pour and serve machines, so has much of the coffee competence. The Pan American Brewing Centre, the US Golden Cup Standard, the Norwegian Coffee Brewing Centre (now the European Coffee Brewing Centre) and recently the SCAE Golden Cup Standard, can all be traced back to the pour and- serve machine.
The varieties of coffee types, strengths, flavours and origins available for pour-and serve coffee are much greater than for any alternative coffee equipment in the market. Moreover, with the use of a coffee grinder it is easy to develop individual and endless filter coffee recipes, from beans, as opposed to preground coffees.
In addition they are easy to use; almost everyone in the trade knows how to use them. They are extremely reliable, easy to maintain and to repair. They are inexpensive, maybe between ten and one hundred times cheaper than so-called 'fresh brewers', which often pose as a filter machine, when in fact being the Americano poor relative.
Finally, the relative unreliability of many fully automatic coffee makers (especially if they are not correctly maintained and serviced) seems to make it a 'no-brainer' that every coffee outlet should have a pour-and-serve machine as back-up for that inevitable occasion when the automatic brewer lies down during the busiest time in the day.
Why, therefore, has the pour-and-serve fallen into relative decline? Much has been made of the poor coffee holding quality when glass jugs remain heated on hot plates and the coffee 'stews'. However, there are now many alternative and good methods of holding filtered pour-over coffee, most notably the use of thermos technology, which provides many possible holding options.
The answer to the decline clearly lies in part due to the use and convenience of push-button technology. This and the growth in milk-based speciality coffee have made popular the use of so called 'fresh brew' machines which provide coffee in one-stop push-button solutions. These are seen as an easy alternative to providing a good filtered coffee. The development of the bean-to-cup machine 'Americano', the vending machine using powdered coffee, and soluble concentrates, all masquerading as filtered coffee, has driven consumers away from the pour-over.
The filter coffee industry has also done itself no favours by reducing the coffee grammage and attempting to design machines which will eventually brew coffee out of water alone!
However, more than any of these, it may be the decline in the standard of domestically prepared filtered coffee that has led the decline in the use of pour-and-serve equipment and overall consumption of filter coffee. The Western world is flooded with the supply of very poor-quality domestic filter coffee machines, which are cheap and produce inconsistent and nasty coffee. The resulting beverage is bound to turn coffee drinkers away from filtered coffee. Alternative filter methods such as the cafetiere do not give the exceptional clarity of taste and flavour derived from a properly brewed fresh filtered coffee.
So the solution to the revival of the filter coffee drink may lie closer to home than most people think - in the development of more good-quality well-priced domestic filter brewers. Forget the alternative posers such as pod machines and domestic bean-to-cups and give the market a machine that can brew them the coffee they want to taste - a simple, inexpensive, good-quality domestic pour-and serve brewer.
Combine this with coffee based on the Gold Cup Standard being promoted by the SCAE and coffee-drinkers will have something worth waking up for every morning.
Article written by: Drewry Pearson, Marco Beverages. Originally appeared in BSA In-the-Cup Sept/Oct 2007
Article updated: Friday, 17th December 2010