By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee
Starting to use a pour over method to brew coffee can be daunting and the equipment list can seem long and expensive. But you don't need to invest a lot to get set up, as long as you choose your equipment wisely. Here our guest blogger and keen home brewer James talks us through his home set up for Kalita.
At Christmas, I decided it was time to start using pour-over brewing devices. My motivation was two-fold. I wanted to learn more about brewing coffee at home. I knew there was a world much bigger than the Aeropress and I found the pour-over devices I had read about interesting. I have quite a few coffee books on my bookshelf and a lot of them at least mention pour-over; many of them go into great detail about pour-over devices and how to use them.
My second reason was that I was curious about the impact of the brewing device on taste. How would a pour-over compare to my Aeropress? I'd heard a few people talk about how "this coffee tastes great on pour-over" and some roasters even recommend brewing devices with which to brew certain beans. Rather than leaving my knowledge of pour-over to books, I bought a device and set sail.
I did not have too much trouble figuring out what I needed to start brewing with pour-over but this is because I'd read a lot in books. There is a lot of equipment you can buy. I keep discovering new pour-over devices. To help people new to pour-over get started, I thought I would write a list of the four main pieces of equipment in my home pour-over setup: my Kalita Wave, my gooseneck kettle, my grinder, and scales.
The Kalita Wave
You cannot brew pour-over without some kind of pour-over device. I chose the Kalita Wave to start with because of its reputation as a beginner-friendly device. This is a reputation which the device has lived up to. The Kalita Wave comes in two sizes: 155 and 185. I opted for the larger device, which is capable of making two cups of coffee at one time. I usually brew one cup at a time but I wanted some room in case I wanted to brew more coffee or brew for someone else.
The Kalita Wave has a unique filter with fluted edges. These edges reduce the contact between the brew water and the side of the filter which helps to keep your brewing water at a good temperature. The fluted edges create a small layer of insulation between your brew water and the brewer, just like how many flasks have two layers of metal with air or a vacuum between to keep the liquid inside warm.
I recommend the Kalita Wave because small mistakes do not have a big effect on the brew. I've failed to meet my pouring targets and still made delicious brews. I have forgotten to prewet the filter and the coffee in the end still tasted great. The forgiving nature of this brewer is why I started using the Kalita. I did not want to be put off pour-over by a device that required more advanced technique.
I now have a V60. But, I wanted to talk a bit about how I got started with my pour-over setup so I'm focusing on the Kalita Wave, my first pour-over device, in this piece.
A Gooseneck Kettle
You'll hear a lot of people recommend having a gooseneck if you are brewing with pour-over and it may seem like an unnecessary purchase. I would disagree. You do not need a fancy gooseneck kettle as you can get a basic pouring kettle which is designed to hold your hot water and provide a gooseneck spout. My gooseneck can be used to heat water on the stove top but I do not want to fuss around with the stove to make coffee and so simply fill it from my electric kettle.
A gooseneck kettle gives me control over my pouring. This happens in two ways:
- I can pour slower or faster by slightly adjusting the angle at which I pour.
- I can more easily direct my pouring so that I wet all of the grounds in my brewer.
I tried using my electric, non-gooseneck kettle to do a cupping at home. While I was able to saturate all the grounds, this was in large part because my brewing vessels were small. The Kalita Wave has a wider surface area and I am confident I would miss some grounds. Also, my electric kettle does not give me good control over where or how fast I pour my water. If you pour too fast in the bloom, you may not saturate all the grounds. I noticed this when I tried a really fast pour with my gooseneck and I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to pour accurately with an electric kettle.
Baratza Encore Grinder
I bought the Baratza Encore grinder before I started making coffee with the Kalita Wave. I had a hand-grinder beforehand but I was starting to get tired with all the energy I needed to exert to make one cup of coffee, never mind two cups in a short space of time. An electric grinder gave me more time to focus on equipment preparation because the machine dose all the work.
Any burr grinder -- whether it is electric or manual -- will level up your brewing. Before I had a grinder, I bought pre-ground coffee. While the coffee tasted good, I was blown away by how good coffee tastes when it is ground close to being used. The aromatic compounds -- responsible for flavour -- are absorbed into the air and this happens faster once the coffee has been ground, so pre-ground coffee would never be as fresh. You can use pre-ground coffee to get started, and I'd recommend doing this if you're new to home brewing and do not want to spend even more money on equipment.
I was at first sceptical about having a set of scales for brewing coffee. It seemed like yet another thing I needed to do to make one cup. But, scales have helped me brew more consistent coffee. I use my scales to measure the coffee I am going to grind so that I always use the same amount of coffee. I like to use 15 grams to brew 250 grams of coffee with the Kalita.
Before I start brewing, I put my Kalita Wave and mug on my scales and then I tare the scale. This lets me measure exactly how much water I pour in the device. I keep pouring in 50 gram increments until I hit 250 grams, and then I let the rest of the water drip through.
The Bottom Line
These four pieces of equipment make up most of my brew bar at home and I use every device every day (apart from the brewer, as I like to try different methods). If you're going to get into pour-over brewing, I would recommend buying a brewing device (i.e. Kalita Wave), a scale, and a gooseneck. If you want to use fresher coffee, I'd recommend a grinder. The Hario Mini Mill is a good place to start, a hand-crank grind which is cheap, robust, and reliable.
You can explore coffee at your own pace. I had an Aeropress for months before I even bought a scale or a grinder. It's up to you what you think you need. Pour-over tends to need a bit more equipment than an Aeropress but, as I've come to learn in coffee, there are few hard rules about what to do. Coffee is a creative medium and you get to decide what you think you need to brew the best cup for you.
Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog
Want a recipe to get started brewing with Kalita - take a look at our brew guide and video HERE.