Of all the great minds we have to thank for centuries of coffee-technology advancement, a woman named Melitta Bentz of Dresden, Germany, may be near the top of the list. Her paper filter, created in 1908 out of disdain for washing cloth filters and scraping coffee sludge off the bottom of unfiltered coffee pots, resulted in an easy brew with a cleaner cup and a cleaner brewer.
Since the Melitta hit the scene, the array of manual brewers that have migrated—largely from Japan—to the bars of the cafes of the west have given us many a pour-over option.
This overview of the more commonly seen options runs from Very Cheap to Not Expensive, so why not give them a go?
Perfect cone shape with ridges on the inside, large center hole.
How It Works
The V60 is popular among cafes, but unless you're the attentive type, it can be tricky to work with. The ridges along the walls of the cone keep water distributed evenly over the bed of coffee grounds, deterring "channeling," where water overextracts part of the coffee, leaving the rest of the coffee underextracted.
The Hario's large hole can lead to a fast brew, and thus requires patience and determination to make a good cup. After pre-infusing the grounds with just enough hot water to get them wet, and waiting 30-40 seconds, continue ppouring the rest of the water with a good kettle (such as the Takahiro or the Hario Buono) with small circular motions.
The ridges on the Bonmac cone help pace the flow of water through the coffee bed, so you don't even need a fine-tipped kettle to make a good cup. It’s an ideal cone for busy cafes, the office, or a lazy person’s home brew.
How It Works
The size of the cone and the size of the hole at the bottom force the brew to take the right amount of time to extract the coffee—you can't get the water out of the hole any faster than it can go, so if your grind is right (similar in size to coarse sand), you get the right amount of coffee-to-water contact.
After preinfusing/blooming the coffee, pour the rest of the water over the grounds in stages, slowly filling it to the top and waiting for more room to pour, pouring more, waiting, pouring, until you reach about 12 ounces.
The hourglass shape of the Chemex allows you to brew up to 10 servings at once. You can use the standard Chemex paper filters or an Able Kone (see below) as a filter.
How It Works
Chemex filters are 20-30% heavier (more absorbent) to remove undesirable sediment particles and oils in the coffee. The result is a clean cup that’s still quite flavorful.
Make sure the filter is spread across the vent. If the filter collapses into the vent it will slow or stop the water flow. Use regular, medium or coarse grind coffee; finer grinds will slow filtration rate. After the bloom, pour water up to about ¼-inch from the top of glass. It will take 6 to 7 minutes to brew a full pot—or Chemex—of coffee.
This is actually a brewer, not a filter. It’s essentially a stainless steel cone with small holes in it. It is designed to fit neatly inside a Chemex, but you can brew it into anything that supports it.
How It Works
The difference in taste between a Chemex paper filter and the Able Kone is pretty huge. The Chemex filter is rather heavy, resulting in a very clean cup. The Kone produces a thicker, chewier cup of coffee with more particles, oils and sediment. It’s actually a brew with a mouthfeel and texture similar to French Press.
This one is time consuming. After pre-infusing the coffee, you essentially pour the water slowly over three minutes. Again, with a slow-pouring kettle like the Takahiro or the Hario Buono, it’s pretty easy. You just need patience and a little flair or theater to make it interesting.
One of these machines could be a solid investment as more coffee shops trade in their French presses for pour-over coffee for its often cleaner flavor profile and brew-to-order status that puts it on par with espresso as something you can actually show the customer as its being made.
Cones are also easy to use, super-cheap, and makes a tasty, brewed-to-order cup. By changing grind, stirring speed, and brewing time, you can even make coffee to specific tastes.