By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee
When you read a pour-over recipe or watch a brew guide, you are likely to encounter the words "pulse pour" or "continuous pour" somewhere. If you do not see these exact words, you may see something like "pour your water in steps" or "pour all of your water in a slow, steady pour." Whatever terminology used, pulse and continuous pouring are the two main schools of thought when it comes to pour-over brewing.
You may be wondering: what is pulse pouring? What is continuous pouring? Why might I use one method over the other? Does pouring technique matter? These are all questions I shall touch on in this article. Let's begin by talking about pulse pouring.
Pulse pouring involves pouring all the water for a cup of coffee in stages, after the bloom phase (which is usually 2-3 times the amount of coffee you use). Often, pours are between 50 and 100 grams each, depending on the recipe. Generally, recipes that let you brew more than one cup -- say, a two-cup Chemex recipe -- will call for larger pours, whereas one-cup recipes call for smaller pours.
In practice, pulse pouring gives you breaks between each of your pours. After you have poured in the desired amount of water -- for instance, 50 grams -- you can put your kettle down and wait a moment until you need to pour in your next pulse. Being able to put down your kettle is helpful if you are new to brewing and are still getting used to holding a pouring kettle, which can be quite heavy depending on how much water you have in the kettle.
Continuous pouring is when you keep pouring all of the water for your brew in one steam, after the bloom. You cannot put your kettle down until all of your brew water has been added into your brewer. Most recipes call for a slow continuous pour with the aim that you pour as slowly as water is drained through the brewer. This means that the level of water in your brewer should never get too high or close to overflowing the filter.
Continuous pouring is a bit harder to master than pulse pouring because you cannot take a break to rest. If you are just getting started with pour-over brewing, not being able to put down a kettle that may contain 500 grams of water (that's half a kilogram!) for one or two minutes can make it more difficult to focus on your pouring technique. If you feel strained, you may find it harder to pour the water at the pace you desire.
Using Pulse and Continuous Pouring
I started off my pour-over brewing with pulse pours because they seemed easier to use. My first pour-over recipes called for 250 grams of water and I poured 50 grams of water at a time. Every 30 seconds, I poured 50 grams of water and then I put my kettle down for a few seconds to rest. I then picked up my kettle and continued pouring, taking breaks until I had finally poured all of the water into my coffee brewer.
I used this technique for weeks, refining my ability to pour 50 grams of water at any one time. I can now say I am good at pouring close to the exact amount of water that I want to pour into my coffee brewer, as long as I use my gooseneck kettle and stay focused. But I did eventually ask myself: what about continuous pouring? Am I missing out on something by not using this technique?
I tried a few brews with a continuous pour using my Kalita Wave and they did not turn out as well as my pulse pouring technique. I decided to keep practising and slowly I was able to make better-tasting cups of coffee. I now use continuous pouring quite often when I brew one cup of coffee for myself. Now that I feel a bit more comfortable using a gooseneck kettle, I am confident that I can pour continuously without my pouring way too fast or stopping the stream of water which could change the taste of the final cup.
For larger brews -- in my case, usually a two-cup Chemex -- I use pulse pouring. For my two-cup Chemex recipe, I pour 100 grams for a bloom, 200 grams, and then another 200 grams. I could perhaps pour all the 400 grams of water after the bloom in one pour but I would have to go really slowly so as not to let the water level get too close to the top of the Chemex. Even after almost two months of practising my pour-over technique, I still have a lot to learn.
I have found that the water in a continuous pour recipe draws down through the coffee slightly quicker than that of a pulse pour recipe. But, I cannot say exactly why this is the case. The difference is negligible but in my experience brewing pour-over coffees over the last two months I have definitely noticed coffee usually brews faster with a continuous pour (with no negative impact on the taste that I have seen).
Which One Should You Use?
I would recommend trying out both the pulse pour and the continuous pour techniques. Start with the pulse pour so that you can build your confidence in pouring and get used to holding your kettle and pouring your desired amount of water. This is especially important if you are using a gooseneck that you have not used before: goosenecks take a bit of getting used to and even now I sometimes make mistakes.
Once you feel confident with a pulse pour, try a continuous pour. See if you can pour all of the water after your bloom in one slow, steady pour. How does the final cup taste? Do not expect your first cup to be the best you have made. Continuous pouring takes practice. Over time, I have been able to make some delicious cups with a continuous pour and I now prefer to use a continuous pour. But at first, my technique was not great. As with everything in coffee brewing, practice will enable you to get better at brewing and, consequently, make more delicious cups of Joe.
Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog