Doing the Math of a Pour Over

Doing the Math of a Pour Over

Nearly every method of brewing coffee has multiple options except one: the Aeropress. I’m sure somewhere, at some flea market, there might be an Aeropress rip-off but I haven’t seen it.

Every other method has multiple options: drip machines, espresso machines, french press, and pour over. If you opt for instant coffee (I’m not here to judge), all you need is a way to heat the water. Even so, you can boil the water in a pot, a kettle, or the microwave.

As you progress in your coffee-making skills and desires, at some point you will discover the beauty, simplicity, and effectiveness of the pour over method. You will experience a most wonderful cup of coffee, something so incredible that when a typical way of brewing it isn’t available, you will tinker and experiment to find a way (read about my makeshift pour over attempt here).

I’m not a scientist or an engineer; I do watch the Discovery Channel from time to time, but that’s the extent of my formal training. But I do understand a few basic laws of physics and coffee-making — the two great things that keep the world running as it should.

Once you discover the pour over, you will find there are several different options available to you. While operating off the same principles of gravity and extraction, the actual brew cups will be different. For example:

  • Some will ribs (or ridges) that run vertical down the side of the cup. Others will not.
  • Some cups will be rounded; others will be shaped like a V.
  • Some pour over cups have flat bottoms. Other’s don’t.
  • Some will have one large hole or one small hole or three small holes or two medium size holes.

As you would expect, there are people and companies who swear that their cup is the absolute best way to make a pour over. But how do you know? In the end, you taste it — which is a somewhat subjective but normal way of making a decision.

Since I’m intrigued by these sorts of things, I thought I would spend a moment and break-down (not break dance) the different pour over methods. Ready?


The Chemex is perhaps the best known of the pour over methods. In fact, sometimes I’ll ask for a Chemex when I simply want a pour over — like when you ask for a Kleenex and just need a tissue.

The Chemex features a cone-shaped filter that sits directly on top of the glass decanter. Most folks use a paper filter, though there are stainless steel versions available.  Pour in the water and it exits through the hole at the bottom of the filter. Many people believe this is the most dummy-proof way to make a good pour over.

Kalita Wave

True confession: I had my first Kalita Wave cup of coffee about six months ago, took one sip and said out loud, “This might be the best coffee I’ve ever had.”

What makes the Kalita Wave different from other pour over methods are two things: It has a flat bottom and three holes. The theory behind the flat bottom design is that it improves extraction by stabilizing the flow of the water as it moves through the coffee. Think of it as a “kinder, gentler” way to make a pour over.

Hario V60

The Hario V60 is a cone-shaped dripper that is designed to keep the filter from touching the walls. As opposed to vertical ribs, the V60 has spiral lines that work their way from top to bottom. This also allows coffee to be extracted through the sides of the filter in addition to at the bottom.

The best way to experiment without having to buy all three (or others) is to find a coffee shop that has various options and start drinking. You might have to travel a bit to find a shop with the one you want to sample. Trust me – it’s well worth it!