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These are perhaps fighting words… every coffee lover has a strong opinion and there is no real right answer to as to what the best pour-over coffee maker is. However, I too am going to try to tackle this big question.
This is a comparison of the most popular manual drippers to find the best pour-over coffee maker. We compare cost, portability, materials, consistency and more.
How to Choose a Manual Drip Coffee Maker
I will chat about some of the more popular manual drip-coffee makers. I will analyse these drippers considering the following:
- Brewing experience/knowledge
- Amount of brewed coffee produced (single or multi serve)
- Filter or no filter
- Brand awareness/preference
- Brewing time
What is pour-over coffee?
I’m sure most of you who are reading this know what pour-over is, but for the select group of you who perhaps have heard of pour-over, are interested in getting into home-brewing but don’t really have any previous knowledge or experience, I’ll run over the process quickly here again.
The Brewing Method
Basically, a pour-over coffee maker is a manual drip-coffee maker, where the barista controls all of the factors involved in coffee preparation, the most critical of these factors being water flow. Instead of water being added to coffee automatically by a machine, the barista (or you) adds the water.
This means that the quantity, water flow, direction etc. can all be controlled for optimum extraction. I’ll explain why this is so important in a bit. If you want to read a more in-depth analysis for pour-over brewing, you can read our article on the pour-over brewing method here.
Why is it so popular?
Pour-over is extremely popular among coffee enthusiasts, which is a little strange considering the brew time and preparation is nearly five times longer then that of espresso. As you guys probably know if you are regulars here on the site, espresso is our favorite way of drinking coffee at Coffee Brewing Methods because we like the strong, bold notes that are typical of espresso. However, many, or dare I even say most, coffee enthusiasts prefer a cup with brighter, more acidic notes. For these brews, pour-over is really the ultimate method for coffee brewing. For a light to medium roast African coffee, there is just no other way to prepare it that comes close. It is also much easier and cheaper to make an excellent coffee at home with a pour-over coffee maker than with espresso.
The Hario V60 is, mostly, the industry standard in coffee shops. When I say pour-over, is it probably what comes to mind first for most people. It is more convenient for specialty coffee shops as it is designed to make single servings (although it comes in three sizes). This is an advantage for specialty coffee shops because they are normally brewing with different beans depending on the order.
The V60 comes in a variety of materials (plastic, glass or ceramic) and colors depending on preference. My favorite material is ceramic. You can preheat the ceramic V60, and this will help you maintain a perfect brewing temperature.
It is also not too expensive, considering the brand recognition.
The V60 features one big hole at its base for filtering. This means that coffee needs to be ground much finer with a V60, otherwise the coffee passes through too quickly and it is under extracted, making this brewer perfect for those who like their beans finely ground.
The angle for pouring is also extremely good with a V60 compared to taller, bigger manual drip-coffee makers, allowing for total pouring control. A V60 is convenient, portable and easy to clean. It uses specific V60 filters that are very thin and compliment the fine grind. This is a potential disadvantage, however, as you can’t use the standard filters you would buy in a Grocer’s that are considerably cheaper. The V60 is also not really suitable for beginners - there is a bit of technique involved in pouring that takes a bit of practice. Read a good review on the V60 here.
While the V60 is the go-to pour-over coffee maker in coffee shops, Chemex is the normally the first choice for coffee enthusiasts who brew at home.
The Chemex is quite literally a work of art (it is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York) and really is an investment piece for your home. The simple glass design with the wooden hand guard is unparalleled in my opinion.
It is always made from glass, the most incorruptible material, that will never affect the taste of your coffee, no matter how many years you keep your Chemex. It was invented in the 60s and has been an industry standard ever since, for good reason. I spotted it not so long ago on an old rerun of Friends from the early 90s!
It is perfect for hosting and brewing for multiple people. It comes in a variety of sizes, starting at a 3 cup and going all the way up to a 12 cup capacity. Though you can brew a single cup of coffee with the smaller Chemex designs, it is not really designed for single servings. It is also not really portable. The facts that it is made of glass, for multi-serve and with specific filters mean that it is one of the more expensive pour-over coffee makers to buy.
The Chemex uses specific filters that are thick with tiny filtration holes, so a medium course grind is necessary. The brewing time takes a bit longer, but you get an ultra clean cup of coffee at the end that is extremely flavourful because of the extended contact with the beans. The glass is thick and durable, especially in the bigger models and, according to this review, nearly indestructible, unless you drop it. However, I have broken a 3 cup Chemex when I was cleaning the counter-top. That’s a story for another article though!
Kalita Wave Manual Dripper
The Kalita Wave is another industry standard and is an ingenious bit of engineering that was invented to try and solve some of the user-friendly problems that are associated with the V60. It has two features that make is much easier to brew a consistent cup with less technique required.
The first of these is the flat base with three smaller holes. This function ensures that the water flow is consistent, even with an inconsistent pour.
The second function is the filter itself which, in my opinion, is the best pour-over coffee filter on the market. Its wave design (where the name comes from) keeps the coffee away from the edges of the coffee maker.
This achieves two things. Firstly, when the coffee is kept to the centre of the cup there is much less likelihood that the coffee will channel and that the water will be in contact with the coffee on the edge less than the coffee in the middle, thus yielding an uneven extraction.
Keeping the coffee away from the edges also serves to insulate the coffee, keeping it hotter for longer. This is something that is very important for a lot of coffee drinkers. The only disadvantage of these filters is that they are very delicate and easily damaged if used or stored incorrectly. Like the V60, the Kalita is convenient, easy to clean, portable and comes in a variety of different materials.
It is also cheaper than the V60 but still has excellent brand recognition in the coffee industry. More about the Kalita Wave here.
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Melitta Ready Set Joe
This is again a pour-over that has been invented to solve some issues associated with the other single-serve pour-over makers.
Essentially, it is cheap (just $6) and can be used with any non-branded filter. It is not the prettiest device, but if you are looking to get into home-brewing without breaking the bank, this isn’t a bad option.
It is quick, convenient, easy to brew and portable. Getting a decent cup of coffee from this little guy is very achievable.
Like the Melitta for single serve, this is the industry’s answer to the Chemex and again, tries to solve some of the problems associated with the Chemex. The first of the two major differences is that this manual drip maker is cheap. If you are on a tight budget but are more interested in batch-brewing or you have a big family who all love coffee, this is a good option.
The second feature is that it contains a permanent, metal filter. There are other filterless pour-overs on the market but this jumped out as being the best. This feature is the one that has earned the most attention.
There are many coffee enthusiasts who much prefer using a permanent, metallic filter instead of a paper filter. This is because with a metal filter there is absolutely no paper taste found in the coffee cup. It also is generally courser than a paper filter and allows more coffee properties into the cup.
However, there are several disadvantages outlined in this review from Honest Roast Coffee, and they don’t even talk about the dodgy name! The glass is flimsy and breakable so it probably won’t last long. The permanent filter is also fiddly, difficult to remove and difficult to clean. Plus, I personally can’t help feeling that it is just trying and failing to be a Chemex.
And the Winner Is…
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Before the big reveal, however, we are going to hand out some consolation prizes.
Best coffee shop pour-over
The obvious winner for best coffee shop pour-over is the Hario V60. It is ideally suited to a coffee shop and a barista with a bit of brewing experience.
You guessed it, our best home-brew pick is the Chemex. The Chemex is a beautiful design piece to have in your kitchen, it produces beautiful coffee and is perfect for families and for home entertaining. The longer brew time and the fact that it is not portable make it generally less suitable for coffee shop brewing. You have also probably guessed that is my personal favorite pour-over coffee maker!
The Best of the Best…
For me, taking into account all the factors, the clear winner for the best, BEST pour-over coffee maker is… The Kalita Wave! It is suitable for professionals and beginners alike. It is cheap, it is stylish, it is innovative, it is portable and it really does tick all of the boxes. This is the pour-over I would recommend first if I was asked so for me it was an easy call to make.
The real observation from writing this article is that there is no messing with the classics! New pour-overs come onto the market every year to try and compete, but the truth of the matter is that there is no competing with the big three. For pour-over, it’s gotta be V60, Chemex or Kalita, and that’s all there is to it!