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V60 Pour Over vs French Press

Written by Phil

A coffee enthusiast and traveler, Phil primarily spends his days thinking and writing about coffee. He also writes for HittingEject.com where he explores ideas of culture, psychology, and travel, and occasionally dabbles in horror.

If you’ve been paying attention to coffee over the past decade, you’ll have noticed the rise of pour over coffees. They’re often more expensive and touted as being better than other methods. Hell, there are even competitions to see who can make the best cup by using the same beans. So here I am, using my French press daily and dragging my feet to buy a pour over – until now. 

What are the advantages of a pour over cup when compared to French press coffee?

French press allows for a bolder, heavier cup that may have some silt in the bottom. It’s low effort, passive, but requires cleaning. Pour over needs more skill, and ranges from bad to great. It’s faster and easier to clean but more hands-on.

They both have strengths and weaknesses, so it’s up to you to decide which will suit your needs.

In specific, I’m going to be addressing the Hario V60, specifically, because it is generally considered the gold standard. I purchased a size 2 and a 600ml gooseneck from Amazon (45 USD/ 60 CAD). Filters seem better to be bought in person, as the cheapest ones seemed to be 7.50-15 USD (for the Japanese, high-quality ones); in person, they were 1.50 for a pack of 100 (no name). 

What is Pour Over Coffee?

Pour over coffee typically involves a device that sits above the cup, often uses conical, paper filters, and requires you to pour the water over the coffee grounds – thus the name. There is more room for skill, resulting in a broader range of likely outcomes, ranging from terrible to excellent.

Favored in the coffee community, as they seem to believe it can help pull out the aspects of the coffee being used and showcase the skill of the barista. It will closely resemble a cup of drip coffee, have no silt, and will usually be smoother and less intense than French press.

Pour Over Method

In case you missed it, this is about the Hario V60! I got a size 2 version, as I figured I’d only be making individual cups with this method, and it was a decent compromise between learning to use it and price. Pay attention to the size of brewer you have so that you can get the appropriate size filters.

Also, since I am brand new to pour overs, I am using this video by James Hoffman, Coffee God, as a guide and adding to it where I see fit (from following along).

The Hario V60 is interesting because, unlike other pour over methods, there is almost no resistance at the bottom of the vessel that will slow the pour – it’s just a gaping hole. Others will have perforations or other means to slow the flow. It’s due to this that techniques that work with this method may not work with others.

Hoffman thinks that plastic ones are alright because they’re better for heat; ceramic needs to be rinsed with boiling water to make sure it’s not cold when you brew. Personally, I’d rather heat up the ceramic and avoid brewing hot liquids in plastic, but that’s just me. 

Then again, the plastic ones are easier to find, cheaper, lighter, and more durable. You do you.

Equipment Required (Optimal)

  • Digital scale that can measure grams to the first decimal (for example, 1.1g)
  • Paper filters – make sure they are the right size for your equipment
  • Spoon – or other stirring implement
  • Kettle – pour directly from the kettle to the Hario; don’t use anything to transfer it.
  • Quality coffee beans
  • Quality water (soft, cold, filtered; read more here, Factor 2)
  • Burr grinder – very consistent, now fairly affordable, even the electric ones.
  • Ratio: 60g coffee per liter (e.g., 30g for 500ml water; 15g for 250ml (1ml = ~1g))
  • Medium to medium-fine grind

Method

  1. Weigh beans fresh, before grinding
  2. Place filter in V60 and rinse with hot water, then dispose of the water. 
    • This will remove the papery taste, and it will preheat the paper and V60. If it’s plastic, you can get away with hot tap water, but if it’s ceramic, you’ll want to use boiling water because ceramic is more of a heat sink than plastic.
  3. Grind beans and pour them directly into the bottom, center of the filter
    • Use your finger to create a tiny depression in the center of the grounds, kind of like an anthill.
  4. Bloom: use the hottest water you can, especially for lighter roasts. 
    • Hoffman says the hotter, the better for lighter roasts. Pour 2g water per 1g coffee. e.g., 30g of coffee, pour 60g hot water. If you still have dry pockets, add more. Try not to exceed a 3:1 ratio of water to coffee.
  5. Quickly put the kettle down and grab your brewer
    • Gently swirl the coffee around in a circular motion, aiming to evenly mix the coffee and water together. Hoffman says that many recommend using a spoon, but he found that swirling tasted better. Given that I have very little experience with pour overs, I’m going to default to his wisdom. 
    • If it’s lumpy, keep swirling! You want it nice and smooth.
    • If you’re using a small V60, such as my size 2, then you may find it difficult or pointless to swirl at this point. I gave it the effort I could, but it passed too quickly – and I almost passed the 3:1 ratio. On my second attempt, it made more of a difference. I felt silly picking up both the cup and V60 and moving them around with both hands holding them together, but it worked.
  6. Let rest for up to 30-45s to allow the CO2 to release.
  7. Pour in two phases:
    • Phase 1: Pour 60% of the total in the next 30 seconds (300g in total (including the bloom) if brewing 500g of coffee; 150g water for 250g coffee (60% of 250)). 
      1. This is important because pouring churns up the bed of coffee and suspends it in the coffee. You want the coffee to be suspended in the water.
      2. If you don’t disturb the coffee bed, it will be slower and taste bad. On the other side, if you pour too aggressively, it seems that beans will be disrupted in a way that can allow water to pass through too quickly, making a weak brew. In smaller brewers, you want a gentler pour because there are fewer grounds. At this point, your V60 will be fairly full, which is good. The more full it is, the more it will retain heat in the desired range.
    • Phase 2: In the next 30 seconds, pour the remainder gently, keeping the cone topped up for the same thermal reasons. If you’re using an average kettle, it’s ok to pulse your pouring.
  8. Use your spoon to stir once clockwise, then once counterclockwise.
    • You want to knock off any grounds that are stuck to the paper near the surface of the liquid.
    • Stir gently; you don’t want to cause the water to swirl, which is why you go both directions.
  9. Allow to drain a little bit, then swirl again (see step 5).
  10. Drawdown, aka waiting. 
    • According to Hoffman, the colder the water, the longer it takes to pass through and will result in a worse coffee. Hotter is better, which is why it’s recommended to pour straight from the kettle it’s boiled in.
  11. Once the water is fully drained, you want to see a flat bed of coffee left over – no peaks or valleys. The edges should have no large pieces of coffee stuck to them. 
  12. Dispose of the filter and grounds.
  13. Enjoy your cuppa. Mandatory step, this one.

Tangent: Most V60 videos apparently tell you not to pour on the paper because they believe the water will travel down the paper and straight to the cup. That doesn’t seem to follow the laws of physics, and Hoffman said that he experimented by pouring solely on the paper, and it ran down the top of the paper and pooled, as it should, among the coffee grounds. 

However, they are correct that it should be avoided because it didn’t disrupt the coffee bed at all. It resulted in the longest brew time and tasted bad.

Coarseness

It will vary depending on your setup, grinder, and beans, but it is the main variable that you’ll want to experiment with when tweaking your method.

If you find that your flavors come out empty, hollow, acidic, and/or unpleasant – go finer because you’re under-extracting. Keep going finer until you suddenly find you’re being hit by bitter, harsh, astringent flavors. Then you will be over-extracting, so it’s time to back it up a bit. That’ll be your sweet spot.

Filters

Not all papers are made equal; some will allow the water to pass through more quickly than others, and this can affect the outcome – though probably not a massive amount. Papers that allow it to pass through faster are better, but the difference is likely negligible.

Here’s a video by Hoffman dedicated to filters, but the main takeaway seems to be this: 

If you want to know the impact of your paper, take the paper and steep it in hot water. Just the paper and nothing else. Then take a spoon and slurp some of the water so that you can see what it is adding. Simple!

Gooseneck Kettles

It’s a thing, these kettles. They look kind of funny, but apparently, they give better control over the flow rate, allow you to be more precise in where you pour, and generally makes it easier. Personally, I wonder how it affects temperature. 

Some of those price tags are definitely not worth it. The fun thing about luxury products: they love to scalp us!

Then again, I ended up returning my cheaper one because it let you know it was done boiling by spitting boiling water out the spout, all over the counter – and my brand new sweater vest (just kidding; I don’t wear sweater vests).

A standard kettle will be good enough but may take a little more finesse.

Pour Over: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Requires more skill to do well
  • May result in an even better cup
  • Easy cleanup
  • More precise
  • Percolation method, the water is not constantly in contact, resulting in a lighter, smoother cup
  • No silt or grit 
    • the primary benefit, according to many
  • Closely resembles what you’d get from standard drip coffee, but with more potential.
  • Slightly faster than French press (~1 minute once you start pouring), but it’s hands-on time

Cons

  • Fragile.
  • Awkward shape makes it slightly harder to store
  • Requires paper filters
  • Requires more prep (to do right)
  • Flavor is less intense (could be a pro if that’s your thing)
  • Broader range of results (from bad to excellent)
  • Have to be much more conscious about each aspect: temperature, rinsing the filter, pre-heating the pour-over (especially if ceramic), actively pouring, etc.

Pour Over Sizes (Hario V60 specifically)

  • Size 1 – Makes 1-2 cups
  • Size 2 – Makes 1-4 cups
  • Size 3 – Makes 1-4+ cups (uncommon, often glass only; for some reason, Hario doesn’t give the same info for this size)

French Press

The original patent (1852)

Though it is called “French”, both they and Italy argue who created it. According to this site, the story goes that a Frenchman had been making some coffee over a fire when he realized he’d forgotten to put the coffee in pot. 

He dumped the grounds in, which floated on the surface. A passing Italian happened to have a wire mesh, and the two worked together to attach it to a stick and press it down to separate the coffee from the water. Both men agreed it was the best coffee they’d had, despite expecting it to be terrible.

Whether this story is true or not, the French maintain it was theirs. However, the first patent was filed by an Italian in 1852.

French Press Method

Since I’ve already discussed this in-depth, I will simply direct you to this article on French Press

It says it’s about comparing French press and drip coffee, but it places a much heavier emphasis on the French press because, frankly, drip is an automatic process.

French Press: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to make
  • Easy to clean (lazy method; just a dump and rinse)
  • Easier to store
  • Allows for more customization, such as extra flavors, but isn’t required
  • Requires far less skill
  • No disposable filters
  • More coffee oils for more complex flavor (no paper filter)
  • Immersion brewer, so it’ll have constant contact and is said to result in a fuller, stronger, bolder cup
  • Can also be used to make cold brew coffee/tea
  • Less temperamental; more consistent

Cons

  • Fragile
  • Grit/Silt in the bottom of your cup when near the bottom of the French press (the main complaint; James Hoffman’s Method aims at eliminating this)
  • Bit of a hassle to clean (disassembling everything)
  • If you don’t pour out all of the brewed coffee, it can over-extract or get cold quickly (glass is a bad insulator)
  • Slower than pour over (3-4min), but passive. Set a timer, and you can wander away.

TL;DR: Which is better for you?

Do you like rich, bold coffee with a fuller mouthfeel, but the chance of silt at the bottom of your cup? Do you like just passively waiting instead of actively doing work? Can you accept slightly more cleanup work? Do you want to be able to add extra flavors into the mix?

Then go for the French press.

Do you want your coffee faster, but requires more hands-on work and skill, but can allow for an even better, smoother, lighter cup? Do you absolutely hate silt? Do you want the easiest cleanup possible? Do you like to play with pouring out of a tiny-necked kettle? 

Then go for the pour over.

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1 Comment

  1. Michael O’Hare

    This was very clear—a nice summary of technique and variances of the two methods. I’ve been using the Hario V60 (02) for some time. This presentation very well summarizes the essentials and niceties of pour over and well describes the French Press method (also used here for years). Thanks for a good presentation.

    Reply

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