Poring over coffee…



I have made pour-over coffee for years, but when my electric coffeemaker died after yeoman’s service of two decades, I decided not to replace it. I usually drink coffee by myself, so pour-over is just as handy. And the resulting cup is high quality. The Delonghi coffeemaker I did have is no longer made. It had the unique feature of steaming milk on the side of drip coffee but NOT making espresso. I assume this was aimed to the Latin market, because in a lot of South America, you get steamed milk with your filtered coffee in the morning. My sister introduced me to this marvel when she was staying in Brazil. I joined her at a hotel in San Paolo and she gave me a roguish smile and picked up the phone in the hotel room. “Dois cafés, faz favor!” she said and hung up. (She’d picked up Portuguese in a few weeks, staying with friends.)
What showed up was magic: a huge tray with two steaming silver pots, one of coffee, one of hot milk, two cups, and little sugared rolls, little biscuits, a bit of butter and cheese and cut fruits, papaya, orange, banana.  I was completely done in by my first 12 hour plane flight and this breakfast (at 2pm!) was just what I needed. I had never had hot milk before in coffee. It was fabulous.
It turns out this delicious coffee, made frequently during the day in Brazil and offered at any moment, when you walk into a house, or go shopping–walk into a shop and you are offered that tiny cup of cafezinho to be served with scoops of damp raw sugar.  But how is it made?
Turns out, the method is so simple, it’s laughable to us Americans who like the latest in electric appliances and gadgets. I peeked into my cousins’ kitchen some time later in the week. A ring stand, like in a chem lab. A sock. A glass vessel underneath. That was IT.
But this primitive system made great coffee. Of course, fresh beans from Santos didn’t hurt. Not from a can, fresh roasted and the quality Americans back then never saw (this was in the Seventies.) We had canned Maxwell, which my Brazilian friends dismissed as “the factory floor sweeping we won’t touch.”

Fast forward to 2017. Filtered coffee, “pour over” is a “thing.” Because the Japanese have taken to it. Whether it was a transplant from Brazil, where there are many Japanese emigrees, or just the fact that it is an efficient, energy saving and space saving way to make a great cup, I don’t know. But the Japanese have created a line of coffee filters with tweaks along the way. A pointed filter (not flat on the bottom like Melitta.) A gooseneck kettle to control the pour. It all works really well. There are various versions of the set including some with a scale, but the Hario basic set that comes in red or black with a glass vessel and a filter holder is a good deal.


You fit a cone filter into it (the set comes with some of the V60 size filters) and wet it down. Then you put in 25 grams of ground coffee per about 2 “cups” (one 8 oz mug, I figure) and pour boiling water down the center, wetting the grounds as they foam up. As it filters into the pot, you have fresh coffee. You can warm it up again in the microwave (this is microwavable) but I just prewarm the glass before making coffee and drink it right up.


The hot water kettle should have a gooseneck for optimal pouring out of hot water into the filter. It directs the flow and keeps it from going too quickly.  There are many versions of the gooseneck kettle, from stovetop to electric. I like the Oxo Gooseneck Kettle for its temperature control and keep-warm feature. And it doesn’t risk leaving it on a stove to boil dry.  It doubles as a tea kettle, so it’s very useful –if you don’t have an electric kettle, it’s a versatile choice.  As Japanese kitchens tend to be small, this system is suited to urban life or space constraints, and its energy efficient and makes a lot of sense.


I think pour-over when made correctly gives the best cup of coffee. I prefer it to French Press (which I find gives a woody note if the grounds are not prepared in just the right degree of coarseness.)

The Japanese took to this method some time ago, when coffee became a “thing” in Japan.  My mom, who liked coffee and had a trip to Japan commented on the coffee. “It’s the best in the world. I can’t stop drinking it. But…so expensive.”  Burr grinders (best way to grind beans, and there are manual ones) also, highly accurate scales to go with, so you get that perfect cup. The  Japanese have a philosophy “There is only ONE right way to do anything.” Is this the right way? Maybe…



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