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Pour Over vs. Drip Coffee Brewing: What You Need to Know

March 09, 2021 5 min read

Pour Over vs. Drip

There are multiple home coffee brewing methods available to us these days. With everything from automatic single-serve Keurigs to the fancier French Press, it can be tough to figure out the right way to create that tasty cup of coffee – especially if you want to minimize the environmental impact or high expense of heading to your local coffee shop!

But there is one coffee brewing method that seems to stand out time and time again: the pour over method.

This deliberately slow and controlled brewing process claims to guarantee delicious coffee that can be carefully tailored to your personal tastes, enabling you to get that barista-quality coffee from home in minutes.
But the downside to pour over coffee is also the most significant pro: it takes time and control to master!

On the other hand, drip coffee makers have been a staple in American kitchens for as long as we can remember. These machines can brew multiple cups at once and take little to no effort from the user. But the tradeoff is a generally less tasty brew, even if you've forked out cash for a top-end model.

But is it really as simple as taste vs. convenience when comparing these models? Let’s find out!

Is Pour Over Coffee the Same as Drip?

The basic principles of pour over coffee vs drip coffee brewing are similar enough that you would be forgiven for thinking they're the same thing.

Ground coffee is added to a filter in both pour over and drip types – then hot water is poured over them, filtering lovely fresh coffee into your pot or mug. However, several variables between these two methods dramatically influence the quality, texture, and taste of the end result.

What Is Drip Coffee, and How Does It Work?

Most American households already have an electric drip coffee maker, so you’re probably already familiar with the mechanics of how to make drip coffee. You can pick up fancier models that allow you to alter various settings, but most drip coffee makers are straightforward and require minimal interaction to create your morning brew.

  1. Fill the reservoir with the required amount of water.
  2. Insert a paper or reusable filter.
  3. Add your coffee ground to the filter.
  4. Click the 'on' button to start brewing.
  5. Allow the water to slowly pour over the coffee grounds. Brewed coffee will collect in the pot beneath.

While this process is incredibly straightforward from a user's point-of-view, there are a few more behind-the-scenes steps that your machine takes after you press that 'on' button:

  1. Water travels from the reservoir to the heat element via tubing.
  2. The heating element warms the water in the tube and the hot plate that the pot rests on.
  3. As the water boils in the tube, air bubbles are formed (this is what makes the gurgling sound that drip coffee drinkers will be familiar with).
  4. The air bubbles rise through the tubing, pushing drops of water towards the top.
  5. When the drops of water reach the top of the tubing, they fall onto the coffee grounds.
  6. The water then infuses with the coffee grounds, traveling through the filter and dropping into the pot beneath.

When you use fresh coffee beans and ensure your coffee maker is cleaned out regularly, dripped coffee can be delicious and convenient. Many machines even incorporate a timer, so you can have that first cup of joe brewing before you even get out of bed!

What Is Pour Over Coffee, and How Does It Work?

The process of creating tasty pour over coffee isn't dissimilar to how drip coffee is made: both methods involve saturating ground coffee with water and then collecting the infused liquid once it passes through a filter. That said, the preparation of pour over coffee is much more involved and requires more equipment.

There are several different pour over coffee makers you can utilize for making this type of coffee, but generally, you will need:

You'll also want some freshly roasted coffee beans and a burr grinder (the closer you roast and grind before making your coffee, the more robust and tasty flavor you can expect).

To make pour over coffee, follow this basic guide:

  1. Heat a little more water than you’ll need for the coffee to a temperature of 195°F - 205°F (the optimal water temperature range for coffee brewing).
  2. If using a paper filter, prewet the filter using the excess hot water.
  3. Place your paper in the brewer and add your freshly ground coffee.
  4. Slowly pour 1/3 of the hot water over the coffee grounds, spiraling the water flow from the center out.
  5. Wait 20-30 seconds for the coffee to bloom.
  6. Pour another 1/3 of the hot water over the coffee, reversing the spiral to go outside-in.
  7. Wait 20-30 seconds.
  8. Pour over the final 1/3 of water in the same spiral as the second pour.

Because this process is so manual, it can feel more time-consuming and takes a little practice to perfect. But the trade-off for a more manual process allows you to adjust various aspects of the brewing to ensure you get the perfect strength, temperature, texture, and flavor coffee.

What's So Special About Pour Over Coffee?

When you're making your very own perfect coffee, pour over brewing allows you to tailor every aspect of the process to help you make the perfect cup.

  • Want your coffee hotter? Start with hotter water!
  • Want a stronger coffee flavor? Leave the water to sit on the grounds for longer!
  • Coffee a bit too strong? Use more water or fewer coffee beans.

Not only does the manual pour over process enable you to tailor your brew to your specific tastes, but the slow and controlled pouring of water over the coffee gives the beans a better chance to bloom and infuse!

Pour over offers clarity of flavor that's hard to beat using any other method.

Is Pour Over Better Than Drip?

The final question in the battle between drip coffee vs. pour over brewing is: which is better? And the answer generally depends on your personal circumstances and how much effort you're willing to put into making the perfect cup of coffee.

Pour overs are generally considered better when looking at the quality of coffee you can create. Ensuring even water distribution over coffee grounds, allowing the coffee time to bloom, and getting the perfect water temperature are all far easier with a pour over brewer. You can also adjust your brew's strength and vibrancy much easier with a pour over vs. drip coffee.

That said, if you're looking for convenience over quality, a drip coffee maker can be a godsend! The programmable features mean you can set up your coffee maker the night before and awaken to freshly brewed coffee every morning, and you can get on with other tasks while your coffee is brewing.

Drip coffee makers are also considered to be quicker than pour over brewing. However, this can be subject to interpretation. Generally, it takes around 10 minutes to brew a pot of drip coffee in an electric machine. Pour overs can actually be completed in under five minutes.

So, the time-consuming element really relates to how involved the processes are, rather than the actual length of time it takes to brew.

Pour over vs Drip: It Comes Down to Personal Preference!

Overall, I hugely prefer pour over coffee to drip. The better flavor profile and customization options mean you get perfectly brewed coffee every time (once you’ve perfected the technique, at least!), and it's also quicker to get that cup ready.

That said, when I'm in the middle of the morning rush, I do appreciate the programmable settings on my drip coffee maker, so I can get on with my other tasks while coffee quietly brews in the kitchen.

I guess there's a time and a place for both pour over and drip brewing methods in my kitchen!

Care to learn more? Check out our article on pour-over vs french press!

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