Pour Over vs Drip – What’s Better?

On the surface, it’s the same general process: water trickles through coffee grounds that will drip down to a cup.

But, as with most things in coffee, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Let’s take a closer look at these two methods to see how the pour over vs drip each has their own unique advantages.

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What’s Pour Over Coffee?

Since the pour over is one of the most common manual brewing methods, you have a lot of control. You can use a specific water temperature that suits your coffee bean origin and roast profile. There is also an ideal technique of pouring that gets you the best, even extraction.

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The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. As you learn how to harness complete control over your coffee extraction, you will deepen your mastery of brewing coffee manually. 

This may earn you some barista stripes! It sheds light on the art of coffee brewing and allows you to appreciate quality when you’re served it at your favorite cafe.

For what it’s worth, pour overs are also regarded as the best way to taste coffee. Pour overs are a method for many to extract and share how coffee was intended to taste. As with all manual techniques, you enjoy what you make. To do so, you have to spend time to understand exactly what you’re doing.

Related Read: The Best Pour Over Brewers

Pour Over History

How pour over coffee came to be could be very similar to how most of us were drawn to it in the first place: dissatisfaction.

In 1908, Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz was fed up with using her percolator. She wasn’t happy with the flavor and found that her coffee had a dissatisfying taste. This set her on a path to try and come up with a coffee maker that gave better extractions overall.

One of her experiments involved using a pot punctured with a nail and paper from her son’s school book. Amalie was satisfied with the result when she put the grounds inside that paper filter and poured hot water through. 

This is an early iteration of what we now know as the pour over dripper. She would go on to become the founder of one of the more well-known brands in coffee equipment: Melitta.

Why Is Pour Over Popular

Another good question. In a way, it really depends on who you’re asking.

Home coffee makers enjoy crafting their coffees at home. 

Some of them love the flavor and overall quality. Others are just looking for breaks from their usual french press. The taste is different because the paper filters soak up more oils and fines, therefore producing less body and a clean taste.

If you ask coffee professionals, pour over is popular because it gives us so much control over the process of extraction. If we want to test out recipes or discover what flavor notes we can squeeze out of our grounds, it’s the way to go. We also get to put our mad scientist cap on and test how grind size, water temperature, extraction time, and pouring affect our brew’s quality.

In summary, pour over coffee is popular because of its taste and how the brewing process overall is simple, fun, and very informative.

What’s Drip Coffee?

Drip coffee is a category and a specific coffee brewing method.

As a category, it includes any coffee method that makes use of water (hot or cold) and gravity to extract flavor from the beans. As mentioned above, pour over falls under this method of making coffee.

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A specific way to make coffee involves the machines that bring water to a high temperature before releasing it to coffee grounds in a filter basket. Drip coffee machines are common in homes, the office, or even at restaurants! It’s so easy to find that sometimes we may overlook the type of brewer.

What’s Good About Drip?

The best thing about drip coffee makers is how simple it is to use. 

It’s the best choice for those who want to exert little effort in making their coffee. All you have to do is grind, load (with water and coffee grounds), and wait until your coffee brews. Many people who prefer brewing coffee with the flick of a button enjoy drip coffee.

Another positive thing about drip is consistency. Since you don’t need to worry about pouring, you achieve the same quality each time you make coffee with this method. 

Unlike the pour over method, you’ll find that your coffee quality will be largely dependent on your coffee maker (a machine) and the grounds you brew. Add in the (non-tap) water you will be using. Keep in mind that mineral is the best for a clean cup

Does this mean that pour over coffee is better than drip coffee all the time? No.

It depends on the person and the machine.

Bad technique can produce bad cups of pour over coffee. Make sure you understand the correct pouring method. It also helps to know what type of flavor you want in your coffee. This starts in selecting the beans you buy: varietal, process, and roast.

On the other hand, a good machine will distribute water evenly through grounds into your filters. It will also use water that is hot but not boiling. These are the 2 equalizers that can swing the argument for Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA Certified) drip coffee makers.

One such machine is the Technivorm Moccamaster 79112 KBT Coffee Brewer. I make sure to have this drip coffee maker in all my living and workplaces. Yup, I’m addicted. I usually tell clients and customers that it’s more consistent than an average barista.

The Moccamaster heats water at a good, safe, brewing temperature (some models have temperature control). It also uses paper filters to ensure a clean flavor and clear body that many want to taste from the pour over method.

An insulated or glass server comes with the machine, again, to cater to a specific need: unscalded coffee. You may encounter overly bitter coffee if you’re used to using normal drip machine options. This is because of the hot plate that your carafe sits on and then naturally overheats.  

The Moccamaster makes sure that there is a limit to heating coffee that you’ve already brewed. It might sound simple, but a trick to keep in mind if you want the best taste from your coffee each time is only to make coffee when you need it.

Pour Over VS Drip Coffee: The Difference

Now that we’ve read through quick orientations on both brewing methods, let’s look at a run-down head-to-head on the differences between the drip and pour over technique.

pour over compared to drip infographic

Flavour

Pour over: Assuming you’ve achieved an even extraction and made yourself a cup of coffee you actually like, expect the flavors to be clear. 

You end up with enough oils and fewer fines into your coffee cup brewing with paper filters via pour overs. The brewing process lets you make the most of the coffee beans you use. Often you won’t need to look at the label to flavor the notes.

Drip Coffee: Many drip coffee setups use reusable filters. One, you won’t need paper filters with this format because the fine mesh filters theoretically save you money. 

Two, it produces a body and flavor that many who choose to buy these machines actually like. Coffee via drip has a simple, straightforward taste. It also has a thick body, more similar to that of a French Press coffee.

Level of control

Pour over: You get maximum control over the entire brewing process. Especially compared to the automated drip coffee methods. 

From the type and temperature of your water to the kind of brew filters, to how you want to adjust the dose depending on grind size, you’ll have all rights reserved with each coffee you make. 

Brewing via pour over method takes you through a process where you, at the very least, brew with parameters you think you like. It’s a personalized method of brewing coffee.

Drip Coffee: Barely any. Two things you have control of when using the drip method: water type and cup design. 

As you can see, those aren’t many options. Again this is a manner of brewing coffee for those who need speed and simplicity in their coffee routines. It uses minimal effort and therefore saves you time. 

If you want to automate the process, brewing coffee via drip is ideal versus pour overs.

How To Brew

If you’re having a hard time comparing the two methods head-to-head, this next section should help you out. We’ll give a step-by-step outline of ideal workflows for each, complete with the process, time, and little tips and tricks.

Making The Perfect Best Pour Over

You will want to have your equipment prepared, clean, and ready all around you. You need organization when you brew coffee via pour overs because of the variables you need to watch.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Coffee grounds lose freshness at an exponential rate after 1.5 minutes of grinding.
  • Be sure to prepare grounds last and have them ready to pour into a rinsed off paper filter.
  • Water cools by an average of 2 degrees celsius every time you transfer containers. If you’d like to buy yourself some time, heat it to boiling point and work from there.
  • Pour water through the grounds in spirals, circling all grounds in each direction or out.
  • As you complete each inward or outward spiral, be sure that your grounds are fully soaked but not submerged to prevent over-extraction. Keep track of the total extraction time, which is 2.5-4 minutes, depending on your beans and water temp.

Workflow:

  1. Measure your mineral water according to the desired pour over method recipe (ideal ratio is 1:15 to 1:17)
  2. Add 200ml of water to the required amount, as extra to rinse the paper filter
  3. Place your paper filter inside your brewer, and rinse with heated water.
  4. Grinding your beans while allowing rinsing water to drip saves you time and keeps the freshness
  5. Pour out excess water from the server, and immediately load your brewer with ground coffee.
  6. Once your water is at the right temp, it’s time to brew. Pour through grounds with proper technique. Keep track of time.
  7. Once you reach your target extraction, lift away your brewer, and enjoy your coffee!

Brewing With A Drip Coffee Brewer

If all these manual brewing methods (like pour overs) are new to you and usually brew using a drip brewer, fear not! There are still ways to stack up against pour overs, even if you can’t pour anything yourself.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Invest in a great burr grinder. A grinder is more important than a brewing machine in making great tasting coffee
  • Be sure to use mineral water with the appropriate specs for your coffee. This makes all the difference.
  • Thoroughly clean your filter after each use, and descale as needed. Poor maintenance can result in old fines affecting tastes in new cups.
  • When you brew, experiment with coarser beans while inserting a paper filter to see if it can produce a cup profile that’s closer to pour over.
  • Lastly, use high quality, fairly sourced coffee beans.

Workflow:

  1. Measure the amount of water you need for your desired recipe (ideal ratio is 1:15 to 1:17)
  2. Load your drip brewer’s water tank
  3. Grinding your beans beforehand can also work here because loading the tank is a quick task
  4. Press the brew button
  5. Wait, and enjoy!

Summary

At the end of the day, it all depends on you and your preference.

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Coffee professionals do pour overs regularly, so sometimes we crave the simplicity of using an SCA certified drip machine. Sometimes we just need coffee, and that drip machine in a random diner is locked and loaded!

On the flip side, sometimes we crave adventure. A deviation from our daily cup. It can be out of curiosity, or it can be a developing passion.

What’s important is that you maximize what you have or understand completely what you’re getting. Most of all, just keep brewing!

Miguel Papa

Miguel Papa

Barista and coffee writer

Miguel Papa is a coffee fanatic with a passion for brewing. During the weekdays, you can find him experimenting with different drinks while he works as a barista. Otherwise, he’s likely writing here for Sip Coffee or enjoying the outdoors.