The Art of the Pour

A partner brewing Chemex coffee.
A partner brewing a pour over coffee.

Coffee beans, water and a filter. The elements of coffee are surprisingly simple, and perhaps most elegantly deconstructed in pour-over brewing. Rebekah Ramsdell, 10-year Starbucks partner and barista at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery in Seattle, loves the tactile, hands-on nature of the method.

She brews a cup of Starbucks Reserve® Ethiopia Kayon Mountain Farm to demonstrate, and soon the air is filled with the tantalizing aroma of lush berry and lavender.

"The moment the water hits the grounds, you get this incredible bouquet. You can really smell the fruit of the coffee."

With pour-over, every variable is in your control, making the opportunities for experimentation and refinement endless. While there are generally accepted guidelines and ratios involved with pour-over brewing, master baristas can happily spend years honing their individual formulas and techniques.

"I always tell customers to be mindful of their coffee-to-water proportions, but in general to just play with it at home," said Rebekah.

"Everything is on a spectrum-there are so many variables, like temperature, water, pour, and time, that you can keep tweaking until you find what works for your individual palate and for each coffee. For example, with a sun-dried coffee like Ethiopia Kayon Mountain Farm, I like to grind it a little finer than usual to unlock those really deep, complex fruit flavors."

But pour-over creativity has some limits, according to Rebekah.

"You still want to maintain the integrity of your coffee. There's a balance. Finding that perfect balance for different coffees is part of the challenge and part of the fun."

She recommends brewing bright, fruit-forward coffees on the pour-over.

"Coffees like Tanzania Mount Meru and Ethiopia Kayon Mountain Farm are great. We also had Colombia Geisha Cerro Azul last summer that was amazing no matter how you brewed it."

At the Roastery, we typically use a 1:17 coffee-to-water ratio when preparing a pour-over and follow a few simple steps, outlined in the video below. Grab a good goose-neck kettle and your favorite coffee beans and dive right in.