Drip coffee vs pour over – what are the differences between the two, and is one better than the other?
Unless you are a coffee nerd (We mean this as a compliment, by the way), it is understandable if you think that drip coffee and pour over coffee are just different names for the same thing. At a glance, drip and pour over coffees look very much alike, but once you dig a little deeper, that is to say, once you have had a taste of these two types of coffee or taken a closer look at the brewing method that produces each, you will be struck by how different drip and pour over coffee really are.
In this article we are going to explore what makes drip coffee and pour over coffee two distinct coffee experiences. We will be looking at flavor profiles, brewing methods and other characteristics that set drip and pour over coffee apart from each other. In case you are feeling inspired, we are also going to point you to some of the best drip and pour over coffee makers on the market. Finally, towards the end of this article, you will find a FAQ in which we wrap up any unanswered questions you might be left with.
We hope that this sounds good – if it does, let’s get started.
Drip coffee vs pour over: Flavor profiles and distinguishing features
It is impossible to take a sip of drip coffe followed by a sip of pour over and still think that the two are the same. Not only are the two types of coffee brewed using fundamentally different methods, they also taste very different and have differences in both aroma and consistency.
Here are the main differences and noteworthy details that set drip coffee and pour over coffee apart.
Most of you reading this are likely already very familiar with drip coffee. Drip coffee is a type of coffee that is made using a (usually electric) drip coffee maker, which takes its name from the specific brewing method the machine relies on, namely dripping hot water through coffee grounds in order to extract the aroma and flavor from the beans.
The drip coffee maker was developed during the 20th Century and gained massive popularity because of the convenience it offers. Before the super automatic espresso machine was even a twinkle in the eye of its inventor, drip coffee makers were enabling people to brew coffee easily and mostly passively. Drip coffee makers are particularly great if you need to prepare large amounts of coffee at a time – most drip coffee makers brew five, ten, twelve or more cups of coffee at a time.
All in all, it is little wonder why the drip coffee maker is still a popular and common kitchen appliance today – you’ll find one in most kitchens across the western world and beyond.
The quality of drip coffee can vary tremendously, depending on a number of factors including the drip coffee maker itself, and the quality of the coffee beans used.
We’ve probably all had a terrible cup of drip coffee at one point or another during our coffee-drinking lifetime. Of course, not all drip coffee is bad quality, but if the machine used to brew it is old or of very low quality, this is bound to have an impact on the flavor of the coffee it produces.
The drip coffee maker is hard to beat in terms of convenience, but the downside to drip coffee is that you have no control over the brewing method – it’s all done for you at the press of a button. While this is convenient, it doesn’t allow you to customise the strength of your brew.
If you have a decent quality drip coffee maker, the result is a decent cup of coffee every time. However, don’t expect an intense aroma or a layer of crema on top.
Another potential downside is the fact that drip coffee makers can’t be used for cold brew coffee. In other words, when you prepare coffee using a drip coffee maker, you know exactly what you are going to get, namely a decent cup of coffee without any fanfare.
Pour over coffee has grown in popularity over the past few years, particularly among artisan baristas and coffee geeks.
Pour over coffee makers were developed by a woman named Melitta Bentz in the early 1900s, based on traditional coffee brewing methods were hot water was poured through a linen filter containing coffee grounds. Melitta observed that the linen filters were difficult to clean between uses, so she invented paper filters instead; a simple invention that eventually gave rise to a whole new way of brewing coffee.
The pour over coffee method using paper filters – and, much later, specially developed glass and ceramic droppers, never went out of style, but its popularity was certainly outshone by the much more convenient drip coffee maker and other automatic brewing methods.
What pour over coffee has to offer is not convenience – it’s pure class. Pour over coffee can only be brewed manually, so the process takes a bit of dedication. The results, however, speak for themselves. While drip coffee makers deliver coffee of varying flavor intensity and quality, a really good pour over brew is aromatic, smooth and rich. Because the brewing method is 100% manual, the barista (or the home barista) has full control over the resultant brew. Do you want it strong, mild, moderate? With a pour over coffee maker, it is up to you to make it how you prefer it.
Preparing pour over coffee requires several different pieces of equipment and a whole lot more expertise than simply adding coffee grounds to the filter and pressing a button, so if you don’t envision yourself enjoying handcrafting your coffee one or a few cups at a time, a pour over coffee maker probably isn’t for you.
Even if it isn’t, you should try a pour over coffee next time you visit your favorite local artisan coffee shop – you’ll be amazed at the sheer richness and complexity of the aroma and overall flavor profile, which is largely due to the longer extraction time required for pour over coffee preparation.
The richness and intensity of pour over coffee explains the soaring popularity of this form of brewing. Black coffee lovers tend to be particular fans, since a bold flavor profile tends to be what they value in a cup of coffee.
As a besides, the pour over coffee brewing method – unlike the drip coffee brewing method – is suitable for cold brewed coffee.
Finally, one of the most beautiful things about pour over coffee is that that no electronic equipment is required, and so you will never run into the problems people experience when their appliances start burning out. Provided that you take good care of your Hario V60 filter and your gooseneck kettle, these simple pieces of pour over equipment will last you years or even decades.
Drip coffee vs pour over: Coffee brewing
Now, let us look at hoe pour over vs drip coffee is prepared. After all, if you are contemplating bringing a new coffee maker into your home and into your life, you should have some idea of what you are letting yourself in for.
Drip coffee is exceedingly easy to prepare. This is how to do it in just a few easy step.
Add coffee grounds and water to your drip coffee maker
The first thing you want to do when preparing drip coffee is to get your setup right. This means making sure your drip coffee maker is switched on and ready to rock, filling your filter with coffee grounds and pouring water in the tank.
Some drip coffee makers feature built-in burr grinders. If yours does, it is recommended that you make use of it as coffee always tastes better when prepared with freshly ground coffee beans. The quality and freshness of the beans you use is always important, but perhaps doubly so when using a drip coffee maker, since drip coffee tends to have less intensity and richness than, say, pour over coffee, and using a fresh coffee bean grind is a means of ensuring that you still end up with a reasonably aromatic and flavourful cup.
Once your drip coffee maker has been prepared for the task at hand, all you have to do is press the button that gets the coffee brewing, stand back and await your coffee.
Not all drip coffee makers are created equal, but most only take 3-5 minutes to prepare freshly brewed coffee.
There is an art to being able to brew the perfect cup of pour over coffee – this is both downside and the ultimate advantage of drip coffee brewing.
If you have never prepared pour over coffee before, you most likely won’t get pour over coffee right on your first try. You’ll soon discover that everything about the pour over brewing process, from your pour speed to the temperature of the water and your coffee grind size have an impact on how your coffee turns out.
If you keep trying, you’ll soon get the hang of it though. Once you’ve figured out the process, you’ll be able to brew a consistently high quality coffee every time you wish.
Prepare your surface, filter and coffee grounds
The first step of the pour over brewing process is to prepare your work surface, your filter/dripper and your coffee grounds. Nobody likes coffee stains on their bleached wood countertop, and if this is your first time preparing pour over coffee, you are likely to spill and splash.
The first real step in the pour over brewing process is to add ground coffee to your filter or dripper. If yours uses a paper filter, place this carefully inside the dripper and then add the coffee grounds.
It’s all about the manual pour
The real secret to brewing the perfect pour over coffee is all in the timed, manual pouring.
What you want to do is to slowly pour hot water in a circular motion into the filter and through the finely ground coffee beans. You want to do this at intervals, waiting a few seconds between each pour to achieve optimal and balanced extraction.
Once you begin to pour the hot water, you will see the coffee grounds rise in response to the water. This is called blooming, and it is essentially the coffee grounds releasing their gasses, aroma and flavor. Watching the coffee grounds bloom is one of the real joys of preparing pour over coffee, as it allows you to visually enjoy the brewing process rather than most or all of it happening inside a machine.
If you would like to prepare cold brew coffee using the pour over method, doing so is as simple as soaking the coffee grounds in cold water before adding them to the filter and slowly pouring cold water through them.
Best coffee makers
Covering the best drip and pour coffee makers in great detail is beyond the scope of this article, but here is our shortlist of suggestions if you are looking for high quality brewing equipment, whether you are looking for a drip coffee maker or a pour over coffee maker.
Capresso Coffee Team TS
Where to get it: The Capresso Coffe Team TS is available from 1st in Coffee.
Get it here: The Technivorm Moccamaster 59162 KGB 10-Cup Coffee Maker in Copper is available from Amazon.
Get it here: The Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper is available from Equator Coffees.
CHEMEX 8 CUP
Get it here: The CHEMEX 8 Cup is available from Equator Coffees.
Coffee Gator Paperless Pour Over Coffee Dripper Brewer
Where to get it: The Technivorm Moccamaster 59162 KGB 10-Cup Coffee Maker in Copper is available from Amazon.
Drip coffee vs pour over FAQ
Is pour over or drip better?
Whether pour over or drip coffee is better is largely a matter of personal preference.
Many black coffee lovers tend to enjoy drip coffee, since it has as a stronger and more intense flavor profile thanks to the longer extraction time inherent to the pour over method.
In contrast, drip coffee tends to be milder and less aromatic, which some mind and some don’t.
Is drip coffee better?
The quality of drip coffee is can vary significantly and is largely dependent on the electric drip coffee maker used to brew it. While most drip coffee makers are capable of brewing good quality coffee, some are not so great.
By contrast, pour over coffee tends to be of a higher quality overall. The reason for this is that there is no machinery getting in the way and potentially fudging up the result.
The barista’s specific pouring techniques play into the quality of pour over coffee, but all in all the drip method is so simple and without any machinery getting in the way that you are more likely to end up with a higher quality coffee when you choose pour over over drip coffee.
Is pour over coffee the same as drip coffee?
No. Although a finished cup of pour over and drip coffee might look similar, they are in fact very different from each other.
The difference lis in the brewing method. While drip coffee is usually handled by an electric drip coffee maker, pour over coffee is crafted manually using a method that relies on timed manual pouring, which allows the barista complete control over the extraction time.
As a result, pour over coffee tends to be much more rich and aromatic than the lighter flavor and more watery consistency associated with drip coffee.
What’s so special about pour over coffee?
Pour over coffee is prepared differently to most other types of coffee. The brewing method is completely manual, with no need for electric coffee makers.
The pour over method consists in pouring water in a circular motion into a filter filled with coffee grounds and letting the water filter through them at timed intervals.
The extraction process takes longer than if you using, say, a drip coffee maker, and the longer extraction time results in an intensely rich and flavourful delicious cup of coffee.
Drip coffee vs pour over: Our verdict
Have you tried both drip coffee and pour over, and if so, which is your personal favorite?
If it were up to us, everyone would take the time and put in the effort reward to brew the perfectly balanced, rich and aromatic pour over coffee at home whenever the craving for a good cup of coffee came over them.
Of course, living in the real world means that not everyone has the luxury of time (or patience) that brewing the perfect cup of pour over coffee demands.
Still, we will contest that the time and effort that goes into the pour over brewing process is worth it, and that it pays dividends. The brewing process itself can come a meditative moment, a dedication to self as the day begins.
Of course, there are millions of people out there who like their coffee quick and convenient – and if this is you, sticking with drip coffee is probably the best choice. After all, you can still enjoy pour over coffee when you visit your local artisan coffee shop.