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Published Jul. 24, 2021

A pour-over coffee maker is exactly what it sounds like: You put in your grounds, pour hot water over them via a cone-shaped filter, let the coffee steep and voilà: You’ve got a deliciously analog cup of joe! For java aficionados, the perks of a pour-over vs. a coffee maker are that you can control the temperature, brew time, and everything else to guarantee the perfect cup every time. (And the benefit over a machine like a Keurig or Nespresso is that because it doesn’t require disposable pods, a pour-over coffee maker is much more environmentally friendly.) Think of a pour-over like a French press, minus the press part. The biggest difference between the two is in the texture of the final product: French presses tend to result in a gritty mouthfeel; pour-overs eliminate that. A pour-over is also usually a lighter, slightly less bold brew—perfect if you like your mud on the lighter side.

What to consider when shopping for the best pour over coffee maker

Here’s the great news: No matter what pour over coffee maker you choose, at the end of it, you get a cup of coffee. Hurrah! Beyond that, there are lots of factors to consider, including: Are you looking for something portable? Do you prefer glass to plastic? Would you like a permanent, machine-washable, reusable filter; or do you prefer the disposable paper kind? Do you want to brew many cups at once, or will one at a time suffice? Are you looking for something that will look pretty and cool on the countertop, or is it more important to find something affordable, even if it’s not a beauty? Read on to find the perfect coffee dripper for you.

Does pour-over coffee taste better than the automatically brewed stuff?

While “better” is of course subjective, it’s hard not to give this one an unequivocal yes, if only because pour-over gives coffee drinkers total control over how their brew comes out. Looking for something full and robust? Steep the grounds longer. Want smooth flavor that’s neither bitter nor weak? Pour the water nice and slow (a gooseneck kettle will make it easier). If you’re the kind of person who likes bespoke everything, a pour-over style was made for you.

Is it hard to use a pour over coffee maker?

It’s not hard at all, but it does require more steps than, say, your regular one-button-push machine. You’ll need to boil water and also decide how coarse or fine you want your coffee grounds. Then you’ll pour the water, making sure to get all the grounds equally wet, and steep for as long as you want (which might take a bit of trial and error to get right). So it’s as easy as boiling water and tipping a kettle, but, at least in the beginning, you’ll have to put a little more thought into something you may be used to doing while half-asleep.

Should I look for something with a built-in filter, or are the disposable paper ones OK?

Whatever’s clever! A built-in is better for the environment but will require constant cleaning (which shouldn’t be a huge inconvenience if you have a dishwasher). If you’re looking at a model that comes with a built-in filter, choose metal or cloth over plastic (which isn’t as biodegradable). Beyond being good for Mother Nature, a mesh filter will get the best flavors out of your grounds. Paper filters make things incredibly easy—just toss after each use—but of course create unnecessary waste and absorb some of the flavor. If you are going the paper route, make sure to buy unbleached filters (the bleached variety is worse for the earth). 

The best overall pour over coffee makers

Top pick overall: Bodum 11571-109 Pour-Over Coffee Maker

Sturdy and Reliable

With models ranging from 17 to 51 oz., this lightweight option lets you make as much or as little java as you want. Bodum

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The Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker is made from durable, heat-resistant borosilicate glass, and its permanent machine-washable filter is kind to the environment. Choose from a cork or silicone cuff to keep your fingers burn-free when you handle the carafe.

Runner up: OXO Brew Pour-Over Coffee Maker

Precise Control

All the flavor with the ease of a traditional model; an auto-drip function with two holes controls the flow for a perfect cup every time. OXO

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This dripper fits atop most mugs so you can brew your joe right into the cup! A heat-retaining lid keeps coffee hot and doubles as a drip tray. A precisely controlled water-drip system makes sure grounds are coated evenly and eliminates the need to stand by with a kettle.

Premium pick: Fellow Stagg [XF] Pour-Over Coffee Maker Set

Worth the Expense

Once you get over the sticker shock, you realize that this pretty thing comes with everything you need and you know that all your parts are compatible. Fellow

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This carafe isn’t just great for hot coffee, it’s also fab for cold brew and cocktails! You can brew one to two cups at a time, and a built-in ratio guide guarantees mistake-proof operation. It’s only 15.8 ounces, so it won’t leave a huge footprint on your countertop.

Budget pick: Melitta Filter Coffee Maker

Nice and Simple

This travel-friendly utilitarian baby may not be pretty, but it gets the job done: Stick the plastic cone atop any mug and give yourself a caffeine jolt wherever you are. Melitta

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The German brand invented the pour-over method, so you know it’s trustworthy. This one-cup dripper comes with a starter pack of No. 4 cone filters (which are biodegradable), so you’re ready to roll. At just 2.9 ounces, you can throw it in your bag and take it wherever you go so it’s there when you need a caffeine hit, stat.

Also consider: Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker

Patented Design

This easy-to-use option is dishwasher-friendly, though you might handwash this beauty just to be safe. Chemex

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Chemex takes its coffee very seriously and wants you to too.  It’s made of non-porous borosilicate glass, so odors and flavors won’t leech. For the perfect cup, the company has multiple suggestions, including using a burr grinder and Chemex bonded coffee filters and always using water that’s precisely 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Investing in a Chemex stainless-steel wire grid means you can place the carafe directly on an electric-coil stove to keep it warm.

FAQs

Q: Is pour-over coffee really better?

If you’re a control freak or just really particular about how your coffee tastes, then yes, it’s better! Unlike automatic brewers, a pour-over option lets you control the water temperature, steep time, and water distribution to get the maximum flavor from your grounds. A slower water drip means a more powerful flavor punch. So for many, a clever coffee dripper is must-have coffee equipment.

Q: What is better: French press or pour-over?

The two processes are very similar, with the one main distinction being the “press” part: Unlike a pour-over, which uses a cone-shaped filter, a French press relies on a plunger to push all the grounds to the bottom of the carafe. The French press tends to make a stronger cup of joe but can also let some straggling grounds get through its strainer. A pour-over tends to make a more mellow mug (though you can of course control this depending on what kind of coffee you buy and how coarse or fine you grind it) and tends to have a (literally) smoother, grit-free finish. Pour-overs are also easier to clean. 

Q: What is the black stuff at the bottom of my coffee?

While it’s hard to say without seeing your cup, what you’re likely seeing is residue from grounds that got through the filter. If you’re not using paper filters and are instead opting for metal mesh, some grounds are bound to get through and it’s nothing to worry about. If it’s happening a lot and bugs you, it’s probably time to get a new filter. 

A final word on buying the best pour-over coffee maker for you

There’s something nice about scaling back and getting down to basics sometimes. A pour-over coffee maker lets you do that—you literally just pour hot water over your coffee, so it’s as easy as instant but as delicious as the coffeehouse variety. (Baristas love the pour-over method!) If you’ve had it with your old-school brewer and want a more eco-friendly option than K-cups or Nespresso, give a pour-over a try.

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