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What’s behind the enduring popularity of pourover coffee?

In the pursuit of the perfect pourover coffee, home brewers are stocking up on grinders, scales and kettles

The pourover method accentuates the coffee’s experience as the hot water extracts oils and complex flavours. (Luke Porter, Unsplash)
The pourover method accentuates the coffee’s experience as the hot water extracts oils and complex flavours. (Luke Porter, Unsplash)

As cafés shut down during the pandemic, the practice of brewing coffee gained ground in homes. French Press, Aeropress, Moka Pot…coffee lovers are certainly not short of options when it comes to choosing how to enjoy their morning cup of joe. But if there’s one style that has stolen a march over the others, it’s the pourover method.   

It can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it, much like your morning routine. But it’s considered better than other brewing methods at extracting flavour notes from coffee beans, making it a favourite of home brewers as well as roasters. In cafés, in fact, it tends to be priced more expensively. 

The pourover method accentuates the coffee's experience as the hot water extracts oils and complex flavours. While the filter traps the oils and coffee grounds, the filtrate is rich in taste and aroma. Being able to achieve this without expensive equipment is the main draw for homeowners to brew using this method.

All you really need to do is pour hot water over coffee grounds through a filter paper placed on a filter holder or pourover dripper. The dripper is positioned over a cup or carafe—a glass container to store liquids—to allow the coffee to flow in. Now, coffee connoisseurs are going the extra mile to ensure their pourover helps them recreate the café experience at home, ensuring a spike in sales of equipment ranging from digital scales to coffee grinders and gooseneck kettles of all sizes and for every budget. 

The Equipment 

Though there are, of course, premium ways of making pourover coffee—equipment such as Chemex, Clever Dripper and Kalita--it probably now offers the most inexpensive route to begin a deep dive into the world of coffee. All it needs is a coffee dripper (Hario’s V60 is a popular, cheap option) and filter paper. Combined, the two don’t cost more than  900. Aeropress, on the other hand, would cost around  3,300 and Moka Pot, around  3,800. 

It wasn’t always so. “A year ago, there were kettles suited for pourovers in the price range of  15,000-17,000 but now there are many more options for customers to choose from,” says Abhinav Mathur, CEO of Something’s Brewing, which retails coffee and coffee equipment online. He says customers first buy a scale, graduate to a gooseneck kettle and then get a grinder. 

“Investing in coffee during the pandemic is a permanent mindshift among customers. That’s why they are picking up expensive equipment. New brands have come in with lower prices as well,” Mathur adds. This is evident in the pricing of kettles by homegrown brands like Benki and Instacuppa, which sell for less than half the price of Japanese company Hario’s kettles, for example. While Hario’s kettles cost around  4500, Instacuppa’s costs  2199 and Benki retails for just  1254.  

Instacuppa and Benki are newer additions to kettles that didn’t exist a year earlier. Instacuppa kettle, for example, was launched in October 2020 and demand is still so high that it's almost always sold out.

Mithilesh Vazalwar, founder of Nagpur’s Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters says that 30% of their equipment sales, more than any other, come from pourovers. 

The Enthusiasts 

Lzafeer Ahmad, a lawyer in Delhi, says he started with a French Press for black coffee but bought a plastic V60 just before the lockdown last year. When every brew gave a different result, Ahmad checked online and realised his basic hand grinder, bought off Amazon two years ago, just wasn’t cutting it for pourovers. “The grinder was okay for French Press but not for pourovers. That’s when I bought a new grinder called Timemore C2, along with a weighing scale, that together costs  9,000,” he says. 

While the new grinder ensured his beans were ground to the perfect size, Ahmad realised that his pours (the rate and speed of adding water) were getting difficult to control with his regular kettle. Having already spent money on upgrading his pourover setup, Ahmad went in for a Benki kettle that cost  1,500, almost as much as a French Press. 

He didn’t regret the expense. For once he completed his setup, Ahmad began tasting notes like never before. “I used a French Press for five years and all black coffee tasted the same to me. With pourovers, I could make out notes of strawberry and coconut from a Subko Specialty Coffee Roasters coffee and bergamot and tea from Quick Brown Fox’s Ratnagiri estate coffee. I had no idea home-brewed coffee could yield taste this good.” 

Shobhit Agarwal, based in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, began his pourover journey last year. “I started home-brewing and while I could make do with alternate arrangements for other equipment, I was blown away when I bought a C2 grinder in March this year. Suddenly, my speed of grinding went from two minutes on a cheap grinder to 35 seconds. So much so, I wondered if the C2 was actually broken!” 

“Meditative” is a word associated with pourover coffee, especially the first cup in the morning. “It’s both an art and science. When you get up in the morning, you want an association with your coffee, not just press a button and drink it,” says Vazalwar. Watching the coffee “bloom” (extracted in the V60 cup), seeing it drip on to the carafe, tasting the notes, no equipment to use or clean–there’s almost an ASMR quality and visual appeal to pourovers not found in other brewing methods. 

The Costing 

In cafés, pourovers are priced higher than regular Americanos and cappuccinos. Café owners say this is largely because they are brewed manually. Khushboo Tawde, owner of Mumbai’s Sidewalk Café, says people who like lighter styles usually prefer pourovers: “V60-style coffee has science behind it and is time-consuming. The barista is completely dedicated to making your coffee so you are paying more for their skill and time.” Vazalwar agrees: “Their labour and craft are what makes pourover more expensive than an espresso.” 

Ahmad recently purchased a Kalita coffee dripper “because of how beautiful it looked”. His next piece of equipment? “There are no immediate plans but an electric kettle is next on my list.” 

Clearly, when it comes to pourovers, no one can stop at just one. 

Also read | The couple showcasing coffee's dark side

Priyanko Sarkar is a Mumbai-based journalist and writer covering the beverage industry.

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