How to Make Pour Over Coffee (without a scale)
A simple, unscientific yet curiously satisfying method
So, let's clarify something from the get-go. Am I a coffee snob? Yes. I only drink strong, black, fresh coffee, preferably whole bean, that has been ground just prior to brewing. If it's weak, old, or full of cream and sugar, I'll take a pass.
Am I an OCD coffee snob? No. I'm after the result, the bottom line. How I get there doesn't have to follow an exact set of rules, specific equipment (that costs an arm and a leg), and a measuring system that drills down to a grain of coffee. And yes, I read a review the other day where the person actually removed grains of ground coffee, one at a time, to get the coffee scale to a precise reading.
That is not me, my friends. When we discuss how to make pour over coffee without a scale, we'll cover the must-haves and need-to-do's, but that list is quite short. It is possible to brew a tremendously satisfying, clean, aromatic cup of java with just a few essential items and they are not budget-breakers.
Plus, you don't need a pad of paper and pen, a calculator, or your smart phone to figure out how to make it happen.
Okay, let's get to the specifics, shall we?
By the way, if you happen to click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Brewing Tools You need Now
Here is the short list of what you will need to create your pour over coffee (without the scale!):
Fresh, whole bean coffee
If you only have pre-ground coffee at your disposal it's not the end of the world. The coffee police won't barge in and drag you away for this, but, your coffee won't have the same depth of flavor, aroma, and richness as one prepared with freshly ground whole beans.
My recommendation is to purchase whole bean coffee and invest in a simple coffee bean grinder, with a burr grinder being preferred. It will grind your coffee beans most uniformly, but again, a conical coffee grinder will get the job done.
OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: If you decide to take this step now, here are some recommendations for you:
A pour over coffee dripper
There are many different options in pour over coffee drippers, and we are going to stick with the basics. A simple ceramic, porcelain, stainless steel or even acrylic pour over dripper will work just fine, my friend.
Pay attention to the size of the dripper, as some are large enough to brew more than one cup of coffee. Most of the time, you'll find that it will brew one cup of coffee with a #2 cone filter. More about that in a moment.
By the way, you can also purchase a reusable cone pour over coffee filter, as shown below.
Some examples are:
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A filter for the coffee dripper
Unless you're using a paperless type, you'll need paper filters that fit into the dripper. It's not a big investment but is very necessary when learning how to make pour over coffee without using a scale. They should be readily available at your local market, but for convenience I've got some examples for you, including a reusable permanent stainless steel mesh filter.
A kettle for heating your water
It's really helpful to an electric kettle with temperature settings, as it makes for an accurate water temperature. However, you can also bring your water just to a boil in a pan or in the microwave, then let it sit for about 30 seconds to cool to the appropriate temperature before beginning the pour.
We'll talk about the specifics of water temperature in a moment, but for now, here are some suggestions for a simple electric kettle.
The Golden Rule of Coffee
There is a standard, or guideline, when it comes to the coffee to water ratio, and it's called the Golden Ratio, or the 'golden rule of coffee': 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water.
Of course, the taste of coffee is a very personal thing, so it's not wrong or incorrect to adjust that ratio. It's what tastes the best and is most satisfying to you.
It's a great fundamental to remember, though, and I appreciate that it's simple and easy to remember. You don't need a coffee scale, you don't have to transform units of measurement (who wants to do that?), nor do you have to take a course in order to understand the ratio.
Now, here is the ratio according to me. I call the CGR ratio: 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of whole coffee beans for every 10 ounces of water. That is the ratio that gives me the depth, taste, and richness of java that I prefer, and am going to suggest that you give it a try if you like medium to strong coffee.
How to Make Pour Over Coffee Without a Scale
This is how I prepare my pour over coffee every day, and I don't use a scale for the coffee or for the water.
The video on this page details the steps below.
First, grind your coffee beans (unless you are using pre-ground coffee). Measure out 4 tablespoons - not heaping - of coffee beans and grind them to a medium - medium/fine level.
If you have a grinder with settings, you're all set. If your coffee grinder is like mine and doesn't have settings, it's a timing thing. You might have to experiment a little bit, but for me, it's a 12 second count to the perfect grind.
Like I said, this is a simple and unscientific method, my friend.
Place a filter in your coffee dripper and put the ground coffee in the filter. Some folks say that if you wet the filter before adding the coffee it helps to keep it in place. Give that a go if you like.
Tap the dripper a time or two, to even out the grounds.
Place the dripper over your coffee cup or mug.
Now, heat your water. It's best to use filtered water because you'll most likely get the truest, cleanest coffee taste. Again, experiment and see what type of water gives you the best result.
If you're using an electric kettle, set it to 195 or 200 degrees and wait for it to heat. You can heat up to 205 degrees but don't go higher than that for optimal taste and extraction.
Are you heating water on the stove? No worries. Let it just come to a boil, take the water off the heat and let it sit for 30-45 seconds, then go to the next step.
If you want to be certain that you're using the right amount of water, pour 10 ounces into a measuring cup. Once you become accustomed to brewing with the pour over method you'll be able to eyeball it and can skip the measuring cup.
Now we are going to let the coffee 'bloom'. Pour just enough water over the grounds to cover them, then wait for the water to drip through. It will take about 30 seconds or so.
A lovely benefit of the blooming process is that you get to enjoy the aroma of the coffee as the carbon dioxide is being released.
Pour more of the water in the dripper, starting from the outside edge and going in a circular motion toward the middle. Stop when the dripper is getting full, and wait for the coffee to drip through to the cup.
One more pour should use up the remaining water. The entire pour over process will take about 3 minutes.
And yes, it's a bit of a ritual once you get the hang of it. I really enjoy the process, and somehow it makes the coffee taste that much better!
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Optional Brewing Tools for the Future
Of course, you can spend more money and invest in some additional tools for preparing your pour over coffee. Let's see what they are.
A Coffee Scale
Using a coffee scale will certainly impact the precision part of the coffee-brewing equation. The folks using scales to measure coffee and water prior to brewing are totally committed to the extra time it takes, and state that the result is a tastier, more balanced and reliable result.
If that is what you're searching for, or if you thrive on the statistics, the math, the measurement, the exact-ness of the process, the consistency from cup to cup, a coffee scale is probably a really good idea!
A Pour Over Stand
A pour over stand is cool. It looks cool. It may even impress your friends with it's tech-age appearance.
Using a pour over stand can be helpful in keeping your coffee brewing gear in place. But it's really more of an aesthetic type of investment in my opinion.
Still, if the idea of a stand for brewing your pour over coffee intrigues you, here are some options to consider.
A Goose Neck Kettle
The long, curved spout on a goose neck kettle will come in very handy when brewing your pour over coffee. An important part of the brewing process is to pour the hot water over the grounds in a circular pattern.
That can be tricky with a regular cup, or kettle. It's certainly do-able; I use a regular electric kettle every day and manage to pour the water over the grounds with a result of some very tasty java!
So again, you don't have to have a goose neck kettle, but it will make your pour over coffee brew a little easier and more precise.
Tips for Brewing an Awesome Cup of Pour Over Coffee
- fresh, quality coffee makes a difference - fresh, whole bean coffee that is ground just prior to brewing will give you the optimum coffee-drinking experience. The roasting date or 'use by' date should appear on the outside of the coffee package. This is an essential that you don't want to skimp on.
- the right water makes a difference - just any old water won't give you the best result. Filtered water or bottled spring water are preferred. Water straight from the tap could include compounds such as aluminum, copper, and manganese, which could result in a metallic taste in your coffee. Gross.
- a little bit of patience pays off - if the pour over coffee method is a new experience for you, give yourself a chance to learn to enjoy it. You may feel a little clumsy at first, until the process becomes more familiar to you. Ultimately, it's a wonderful method of brewing a delicious cup of coffee!
- willingness to experiment with the ratios - my perfect ratio, the cgr ratio, may not work for you. And that's okay. Try a little less coffee, a little more coffee, or switch to a different brand. Just keep experimenting and you'll find the perfect combination.
- keep track of your brewing experiences - a natural result of your experimentation will be to keep track of the different ratios, grinds, coffee brands as well as blends. Unless you have a photographic memory, write it down!
- keep your coffee gear clean - even with a minimal amount of equipment it is still important to keep everything clean. If you're using a coffee grinder, clean it often. The electric water kettle should be rinsed well in between uses. Your coffee dripper needs some love, too. You will be able to taste the results of your efforts!
Learning how to make pour over coffee without a scale is actually kind of fun. It's not an exact science to be sure, but if you enjoy a little experimentation and unscientific methodology, it could work very well for you!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You'll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions.