What Is the Best Coffee for Pour Over Brewing? A Buyer’s Guide

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best coffee beans for pour over

When shopping for the best beans to brew for pour over coffee you could be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. Manual pour over brewers have a well-deserved, good reputation with professional baristas. This doesn’t mean, however, that it needs to be complicated. Don’t worry; nobody will ask you to explain how to build your own water before you are allowed to buy a bag.

The best coffee for pour over is always a very personal choice. Traditionally, something light roasted and single-origin would be a commonly proffered suggestion, and it’s certainly not a bad one. 

If that’s what your after, this natural Ethiopian from Volcanica will fit the bill perfectly. With bright, light-bodied, good citric acidity, this coffee has all the qualities you might typically look for in a coffee for pour over.

But we would suggest you don’t feel limited by what you think you should want, and always go with what you actually like. We’ve got some great suggestions below for a range of different coffees and some guidance on finding exactly what you want in a bean for pour over brewing.

The Best Coffee for Pour Over — A Closer Look at Our Favorites

We have tried to keep something for everyone in the coffees featured here. They represent some of the best examples of coffee for pour over brewing that we could find. Keep reading to learn a bit more about why we love the ones we have chosen to feature and what to do with them, as well as to learn how to best choose your own.

Volcanica Coffee – Ethiopia Natural – Best All Round

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Light Roast

Origin: Ethiopia, West Arsi

Flavor Profile: Blueberry / Jasmine / Sugar Cane

This is a very classic example of all that an excellent natural Ethiopian should be. Bursting with blueberries as soon as you open the bag, you could be forgiven for wondering if this was coffee on first sniff. Bright and vibrant, this light roast coffee really shines when brewed using a pour over device.

A very high-quality coffee, this micro-lot is grown by Mr. Abuhasen Reba on a 5.25-hectare plot in the West Arsi district of Ethiopia. It benefits from nutrient-rich red volcanic soil. It is harvested by traditional African methods, picking only the very ripest coffee cherries by hand and drying them in the sun on raised beds.

The first impression is one of sweetness underlined with a sharp twang. The sugars are at the sweeter end of sugarcane and leave an almost jam-like impression when intertwined with the ripe berry fruits. Dancing on the edge of this is an almost nectar-like floral sweetness. On the finish, the bitters have a faintly exotic feel.

To get the most out of this coffee, we recommend hot water, at least 205 °F (96 ℃). This ensures full extraction of all the flavor compounds without needing longer brew times. This is naturally a very bright coffee. A slightly finer grind will not hurt the extraction, particularly when aided by a suitable water temperature.

Blue Bottle – Three Africas Blend – Best Blend

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Dark Roast

Origin: Ethiopia & The Democratic Republic of Congo

Flavor Profile: Chocolate / Dried Blueberries / Cardamom

The Three Africas Blend from Blue Bottle is a very approachable coffee. Expect a real crowd-pleaser that will be perfectly suitable for most brewing methods. We like it best in a pour over device, though. Or even better still, in something like a Clever dripper or Kalita Wave that gives a little more body than a conical pour over without losing flavor clarity.

This coffee starts with a delicately fruity sweetness and continues into a smooth chocolate experience. As alluded to earlier, we think the flavor profile here suits a slightly fuller body to deliver a rich mouthfeel. The lingering sensation on your palate will be relatively clean still, though, with notes of dried blueberry and sweet spices.

Blue Bottle’s blend is very well balanced, profiting from the vibrancy of two different Ethiopian coffees. They are offset against the cardamom-spiced, chocolatey earthiness of a very solid washed Congolese bean. 

This is a fairly dark roast, developed to around second crack, and stands up well to a splash of milk or cream if that is something you are looking for. Blue Bottle describes this coffee as “easy to like,” and we would say they are not far from the mark.

Volcanica Coffee – Colombian Geisha – Best Premium

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Light Roast

Origin: Colombia, Huila Milagros

Flavor Profile: Flowers / Tropical Fruits / Apple Jacks

Geisha coffee is some of the most sought-after on the planet with good reason. All coffee plants of the Geisha variety of Coffea Arabica are descended directly from the specimens identified initially in the 1930s in the mountainous forests of Gori Gesha in Ethiopia. Interestingly, the name Geisha is derived from a misspelling of a British colonial official of the name of the forest where it was first found.

The tropical fruits and floral notes found in this coffee are very typical of the variety. The florals have an exotic aspect reminiscent of jasmine and black tea, with an almost citric quality evocative of hibiscus flowers. The cereal-like notes are almost biscuity with a touch of appley malic acid.

The light roast of this coffee is treated to really leave as much of the origin and varietal in the beans as possible. Each sip feels like it is transporting you to the top lot of Huila Milagros where it is grown. The volcanoes throughout this region of Colombia provide excellent growing conditions that benefit from high altitudes and very fertile soil.

The price of this coffee, albeit a little higher than most, is very easily justified by its superior flavor. The fact that Geisha coffee is so highly prized, coupled with relatively low yields produced by the varietal, makes the green coffee’s market value among the highest in the world. For a real treat, it is well worth the expense.

Intelligentsia Coffee – House Blend

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Light Roast

Origin: Burundi & Colombia

Flavor Profile: Milk Chocolate / Mandarin / Lemon / Apple

The House Blend from Intelligentsia coffee is a fantastic choice to have in your cupboard. It is perfectly suitable for literally any brewing method imaginable and brings something slightly different to each one. Prepared in a pour over brewer, we like it best done with a V60.

Brewed in something conical, with good hot water and a slightly coarser than usual grind, you will get a very light-bodied and vibrant cup of coffee. You would be well-advised not to take this approach too far. As brew times dip below two and a half minutes, it would be sensible to go back a click finer on your grind setting. 

When you get it dialed in just right, you will be rewarded with something like a cacao husk tea bursting with fruits and beautiful acidity, offset against a faintly malty background. The Burundi in this blend is the likely culprit for the more exotic fruity tastes. On the other hand, the smooth chocolates and cleaner acid notes are probably courtesy of the Colombian beans.

Another light roast, the number of chocolate tones left in this coffee even when brewed in a pour over device belies its less developed roast profile. If you want to maximize on this, you could even try brewing in a flat-bottomed device like a Kalita Wave. It will offer you a slightly richer brew and a more rounded chocolate tone.

Koa Coffee – Single Estate 100% Kona Coffee

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Hawaii, Kona

Flavor Profile: Floral / Spices / Dark Chocolate

A very typically Hawaiian coffee, this medium roast Kona brings all the complexity and sweet, floral nuances you should expect from the Big Island. Hawaiian Kona is another highly sought-after coffee. If you are interested in learning more about this one and more of our favorite 100% Kona coffees, you could check out the best beans from Hawaii’s Kona region.

At the first sip, the initial perception of this coffee will be primarily that of a subtly spiced chocolate with quite a bitter finish. As it cools, you should find that the flavor profile changes, and the more complex floral and fruit aspects are allowed to shine. 

Typically quite light-bodied, most Hawaiian coffees will perform well in a pour over. This one, in particular, does well thanks to a slightly more developed roast. It helps to keep just enough richness for a silky chocolate mouthfeel. A flat-bottomed brewer will best do these beans justice allowing for a slightly longer brew time without grinding too fine.

How To Choose Your Best Coffee for Pour Over

Everybody’s tastes are different. The received wisdom with specialty pour over brewing would suggest that you must have a single origin light roast, or you may as well go back to Starbucks for an extra tall, pumpkin spiced latte. However, we recommend exercising a little more free will in your decision-making and following what you like best.

Different roasts, origins and blends, and processing methods will all give you different results in your brew. But if you like a dark roast Central American blend for those rich, smooth, chocolatey tones, and you want to brew that in a V60, you go for it.

Specialty coffee has a tendency to lean towards snobbery and exclusivity, but really it should be all about your enjoyment. 

There are some general good sense rules, which we will go through below. The better you understand how a different coffee will behave with a particular brew method, the better you can tweak your brewing process to get exactly the result you are aiming for. 

Keep reading to learn more about shopping for the best coffee for pour over. Alternatevily, check out our in depth-guide on how to best brew a pour over.

What To Look Out for in a Flavor Profile

Pour over brewers will generally deliver more clarity in terms of flavor nuances in the finished cup. It should be easier to separate tasting notes that may overlap and muddy in other brews. With this being the case, it is advisable to brew with a pour over device if you have a particularly complex coffee. Equally, if you are brewing one where more ethereal floral notes run the risk of disappearing behind bold chocolates.

That being said, though, you should not limit yourself to just the most delicate coffees for your brewer. There is absolutely no reason not to brew a very dark, nutty, smokey coffee in a pour over. It is a very versatile brewer.

It is usually a particular style of coffee that people tend to think of when they think pour over. This is partially because of a general prevalence towards that style of coffee in third-wave, specialty coffee. Also, it would arguably be a waste of a delicately nuanced bean to steep it in a French press until it all tastes the same.

What Roast Is Best?

Light roasts would certainly be most commonly recommended here. However, much like the above comment on flavor profile, it is paramount to appreciate that you should not feel restricted to just one roast profile with a pour over brewer.

More developed roasts work great in these devices too. It is very much down to personal preference and trusting an experienced roaster to do what is best for the beans they are roasting.

What Are the Best Origins for Pour Overs?

Traditionally third-wave coffee enthusiasts would probably recommend something East African, like a single estate Ethiopian or a Kenyan. This most definitely would not be bad advice, but take care not to feel limited by it.

There is more than one road to delicious coffee. When selecting your best coffee for pour over, you should allow yourself to be guided by your preferred flavor profile.

As a rule of thumb, you are likely to find bright, citrusy coffees with floral and winey notes from African origins. Chocolate and nut-forward beans with lower acidity are prevalent in Central and South American beans. Mysterious, smokey coffees with notes of spices and exotic fruits, on the other hand, can often be found in beans from Indonesia and other Pacific islands.

Can You Use Pre-Ground Coffee?

You can use pre-ground coffee for pour over brewers, but you probably shouldn’t. If you are going to get ready ground stuff, try to make sure it is ground as close to the time of purchase as possible and opt for a medium-fine grind. 

As with most foodstuffs and consumables, coffee is best enjoyed fresh. 

Fresh Is Best

This applies to roast dates almost as much as grinding coffee. There is one small caveat. It is best to wait a few days to allow freshly roasted coffees to calm down, as they are usually too gassy to brew right away.

Generally, though, you want to get the freshest roasted coffee you can get your hands on. After more than a couple of weeks from the roasting date, you will find deterioration in quality. It will still be perfectly drinkable (it takes a long time for properly stored coffee beans to go off), but it won’t be at its best.

Related Read: How Long Does Coffee Last?

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Bloom Mean and Do You Need To Do It?

When brewing pour over coffee, it is essential to pre-infuse the grounds to allow gas to escape before continuing with your pour. For a full discussion of the reasons behind this, see our pour over brew guide. Fundamentally, it is necessary to prevent channeling as escaping CO2 pushes up through the coffee bed.

If you don’t bloom your coffee first, you will get an uneven extraction caused by dry pockets in the coffee bed.

What’s So Special About Pour Over Coffee?

Part of the beauty of pour over coffee lies in its versatility. At its most basic, it can be a very straightforward way to brew a single cup of filter coffee with no expensive equipment. At its most complex (and perhaps at its best), it is the most commonly used brew method for the world’s top baristas at global coffee brewing competitions

It is an aesthetically pleasing way of brewing your coffee, and, particularly when coupled with a manual grinder, the process itself can be almost meditative. 

Pour over brewing’s performance in separating the more subtle intricacies of flavor is unparalleled. 

Does Pour Over Coffee Have More Caffeine?

The caffeine content depends on the extraction, as governed by the way you brew it. Coffees that are more extracted will have more caffeine and more bitter compounds. 

Generally speaking, we tend to use hotter water when brewing pour overs than with most other methods. Usually, the grind tends to be a little finer than most other manual brews. With that being the case, typically, you can expect a bit more caffeine in pour over coffee than most other percolation brews, but probably not so much as with immersion methods.

Some coffee beans, though, do inherently have more caffeine than others. Depending on the variety and growing altitude, certain coffees will be higher or lower in caffeine no matter how you prepare them.

Our Verdict

So, with a bit of background knowledge, you should be able to brew whatever type of coffee you like best in your pour over. If you want the classic result, stick with something East African and light roasted like Volcanica’s Ethiopian natural. This coffee is pretty hard to beat in a V60.

Hopefully, this article has answered your burning questions about pour over coffee and left you feeling well equipped to choose your best coffee for pour over brewing.

Further Read: Best Coffee for French Press

Photo of author
Aidan is a former barista and coffee industry professional, turned writer and passionate home brewer. He never travels anywhere without his emergency coffee kit (hand grinder, scales, and v60).

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