Published on September 30th, 2013 | by Laura Billingsley

How to make pour-over coffee

Pour-over coffee might seem like a new trend, but it’s actually an old brewing method. Before electric coffee machines became common, the pour-over method was a simple system for making coffee with minimal equipment.

The search for pour-over coffee in Des Moines invariably leads to Mars Cafe in the Drake neighborhood and head barista Daniel Bosman. It’s a safe bet you don’t put as much time into thinking about your coffee as Bosman does. He knows a lot about coffee and about why most people are probably doing it wrong.

Do you freeze your coffee grounds?

“Please don’t do that,” he said.

Do you grind up a whole week’s worth of coffee and put it in a canister? According to Bosman (and most coffee experts) it’s best to grind beans just before brewing them.

Pour-over coffee is an art to Bosman, and he likes it because it allows the flavors of the coffee beans to shine, and “it’s going to give you an opportunity to taste the actual coffee from that origin. If you’re over-roasting your coffee or going really dark — not that there’s anything wrong with that — you’re going to taste more of that roast profile, whereas if you brew it with a Chemex, you’re going to taste more of the coffee profile.”

How to use a Chemex

Chemex is a brand name pour-over coffee maker with a long history. Developed in 1941 by German inventor Peter Schlumbohm, the glass vessel is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. According to Bosman, “It was one of the first to catch on again once pour-over coffee became kind of trendy.”

1002HowTo3In many ways, pour-over is the opposite of a French press coffee maker. With a French press, the coffee is submerged in hot water, allowing all the flavors of the roast, as well as fine sediment and oils, to enter the liquid. In contrast, all of this stuff is filtered out with the pour-over method, resulting in “a really clean cup of coffee,” Bosman said.

To use a Chemex (or most pour-over devices) first put a heavy paper filter in the top of the glass vessel. Heat the water in a kettle — Bosman uses a kettle with a long, thin spout that makes it easy to pour the water into the Chemex.

Place freshly coffee (Bosman uses a coarser grind similar to what you’d use in a French press) into the filter, then pour the hot water over the coffee, just enough to saturate it. Wait for about one minute at this point to let the coffee “bloom.”

Coffee is full of carbon dioxide, Bosman explained, and blooming allows those gas bubbles to escape (look close, and you’ll see them, assuming your coffee isn’t so old all the gas is already gone).

After one minute, Bosman resumes pouring the water — slowly, so it won’t overflow — onto the grounds in the filter. The whole process takes about four minutes, and when the coffee has filtered through into the Chemex, it’s ready to serve.

Or, leave it to the coffee experts

Mars Cafe, 2318 University Ave.

What: Hand-brewed Chemex for two, $5.25

Info: 515-369-6277;

PLUS: Click here is our mini ‘best-of’ roundup of spots every coffee junkie should visit.

About the Author

Laura is contributor to Juice Magazine.

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