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Comparatively, there isn’t a lot of content written on pouring techniques. I think part of the reason for that is it is a little bit of an ambiguous subject. Nearly everyone has their own method of doing a pour-over because everyone tastes and enjoys coffee a little differently. Nevertheless, every pouring technique falls into two basic categories: Pulse pouring and continuous pouring.
Here is a quick rundown on the pulse pouring technique as well as the continuous pouring technique.
First the Basics
Before I dive into the captivating minutia of pouring water onto a bed of coffee grounds, here are some things to keep in mind.
- This is not necessarily a beginner level concept. If you are just starting out, don’t let this post scare you off. Start at the beginning with Getting Started- Drip Brewing 101 to see how simple brewing better coffee can be. At the same time, just because you are a beginner doesn’t mean you can’t use some of these concepts and accelerate your progress.
- Gooseneck Kettles are not required but… very helpful. I wince at the thought of saying you need a gooseneck kettle to participate in the pouring technique adventure, so I won’t. There are many ways to get creative with your brewing techniques and I have heard of people using all sorts of devices for pouring. That being said, the bottom line is that an entry level gooseneck is really not that expensive. If you are serious about practicing your pour-over technique it is twenty-five dollars that is worth spending.
Continuous Pouring Discussed
The continuous pour is a technique that takes a steady hand and the ability to resist the urge to speed up the process and dump the remaining water into the dripper and be done with it (dump and run). Frankly, a continuous pour on anything larger than 350 mL takes more focus and determination than I am typically willing to exert.
Continuous Pouring- A pour-over technique that refers to a continuous pouring of the total desired water over the bed of grounds. Typically, the coffee is still bloomed and then after the rest period, the remaining water is poured over the grounds at as constant of a flow rate as possible.
The basic principle of the continuous pour is flow control, and thus extraction control. This technique is typically more heavily used with a true pour-over style brewer like the V60 or Chemex where the flow is not regulated by the dripper at all.
Compared to a pulse pouring if all other variables (water temperature, grind size, brew time, etc.) were kept the same, a continuous pour should be less extracted as it agitates the ground coffee a little less.
This is a hard technique to accomplish without a gooseneck kettle and some staunch continuous pour advocates will also use a flow regulator (I know, this is getting crazy) to further slow down their pour.
If you are attempting a continuous pour and, despite your best effort, you are unable to reduce the flow rate enough to be successful, try tipping your gooseneck a bit to the side and only partially filling it. This will take some of the water pressure away from the spout.
The Pouring Speed Test
If you are curious about what pour rate you are capable of, try it out. Fill your kettle with water, set a mug on your scale and start a timer. Pour as slow as you can while keeping the flow of water continuous. When the scale gets to 250 grams stop pouring and look at the time.
My time was around three minutes with the Takahiro, which is more than enough time for a continuous pour. It should also be noted that pouring cold water into a mug is a little easier than pouring hot water over coffee grounds (especially if you are using some fancy swirl techniques).
Pulse Pouring Discussed
In my opinion, the pulse pouring technique makes it easier to be consistent and keep the water level low in your dripper. Whether you are making multiples cups of coffee at once or also cooking breakfast, pulse pouring allows you the option of an attempted (and probably failed) multitask.
Pulse Pouring- A pour-over technique that refers to how the water is distributed over the grounds with respect to time. Although the timing and amount of the pulses can vary greatly, the principle is the same. Fractions of the total amount of water are poured at intervals over the bed of grounds until the total volume of desired water is reached.
If you are brewing using a small dripper (such as the small Bee House or the Kalita 155), pulse pouring is practically a necessity as there is not much room for the water level to rise in the brewer. Likewise, if you are brewing a large batch, it is much easier to brew in pulses.
There are many different pulse dosages used in pour-over recipes, but a typical dose is between 50-100 mL or 25 percent of the total brewer volumes (four pulses). The rest times are also all over the place but it is not typical to go past 4:00 minutes or so in total brew time (including bloom time).
If you are brewing without a gram scale or do not have a gooseneck kettle, pulse pouring is probably the better of the two options. In my experience, it is much easier to “eyeball it” with the pulse pouring technique.
There is still a lot more that could be said about pouring techniques and how it impacts cup quality and consistency in your pour-overs but that is, as they say, “above my pay grade.”
To me, more important than specific pour technique is the pouring technique as a whole. Avoid the temptation to simply “dump and run” (if you want to brew this way, check out the Clever). While haphazardly flooding your coffee may have good results on occasion, it is not really a consistent or repeatable technique.
Which method do I prefer?
The majority of my pour-overs are a pulse pour but there really is no point in picking a pouring technique as the be-all-end-all. The best we can do is experiment, find a technique that produces a cup of coffee we enjoy, and then hone it in.
You must also realize that once you have “perfected” your technique and method you are not done. You have simply created a baseline. Don’t be afraid to change it up and experiment with different techniques. That is where the fun is.
How about you? Do you advocate for a particular pouring technique? Have an opinion about the science behind pulse and continuous brewing? Join the conversation in the comments below.