how to hand drip a great cup of coffee (see also: ten-minute-cup-of-coffee)

My man can make an incredible cup of coffee, and everyone knows it. We shed ourselves of all other coffee brewing equipment years ago, and since then, David has been studying coffee and asking questions all over town, putting coffee gear on his Christmas lists, and has slowly morphed into a coffee snob. San Francisco has several great coffee outlets and cafés (our favorites being Blue Bottle Coffee and Philz Coffee) for finding amazing, delicious hand-dripped coffee. And now we have it at home.

David has perfected the single cup of pour-over, hand-dripped coffee. At its most perfect, it's filling, chocolatey, very rich, but just thin enough to not overwhelm your taste buds all morning. He has rendered me useless in the coffee making department, although if I am stranded at home, unable to visit the coffee shop, I know enough about the process to make a decent cup. Just decent. 

I overheard my friend Mike, who was visiting San Francisco from Austin recently, telling his fiancée over the phone that the cafés "don't make the coffee until you get there". That gave David and I a little chuckle, because it's totally true.

Here's how to make a great pour-over cup of coffee:

1. Water.
Bring cold tap water to a boil. David owns an electric kettle (see specs. below) and lets the water boil, then waits until it drops to 201 degrees before he uses it. If you're boiling it without a built-in thermometer, bring the water to a boil, then let it sit for one minute.
Note: You're going to need enough water to rinse the paper filter once, and also for the actual cup of coffee, so boil accordingly.

2. Sweets.
Make sure ahead of time that you've got something sweet to enjoy with your coffee. We like salted chocolate caramels, cinnamon buns, whatever! Over Christmas vacation we went to Trader Joe's, just to get a cart load of sweets for our two weeks off, and found their powdered donut holes which are in-cre-di-ble with coffee.

3. Coffee.
We buy whole beans, usually not more than a quarter or a half pound at a time. David likes beans from Blue Bottle and De La Paz the best, although this method works with almost any bean he's tried it with. Always mark your caffeinated beans so as not to confuse them with the decaf beans.

You will want to measure out twenty two grams of coffee beans. Around here, because Oliver is still nursing, and because no one needs a buzzy heart attack in the morning, we usually do half-cafs. Eleven grams caffeinated beans, eleven grams decaf. You can adjust accordingly. You might suffer the slightest bit in the flavor and bitterness department with the decaf beans, but again, just the slightest bit. Twenty two grams of beans is what you need.

Here's how you might set your burr grinder, should you own one:

And the grounds should look like this:

4. Cones and filters:
Alrighty, now. We've got so many drip cones in this house. There are two in particular that get the most use. This is the Hario V60 Ceramic Drip Cone, with its swirly interior ridges and giant hole in the bottom. This one is catching on around town. 

Then you've got your standard two hole drip cone. This one below has slots on each side which you can look through into the coffee cup while you're pouring, which is really convenient.

David uses a flat-bottomed #4 filter in the two holed cone, and a special v-shaped #2 filter in the large single hole cone.

Thoroughly rinse the paper filter with hot water. Here David uses his special pouring kettle (see specs. below), filled with the 201 degree water to wash the sides of the filters, effectively removing any paper essence and also warming the coffee cup below. PLEASE remember to dump that water out before you add the grounds to your cone and start dripping your coffee! 

5. The pour-over.
Add your twenty two grams of ground coffee to the cone. You want to gently wet just the grounds in the cone and let rest for a moment (twenty seconds or so) and then SLOWLY, SLOWLY start to pour the 201 degree water over the grounds in a circular motion, and just on the grounds, not on the paper filter. This method works for both of the cones I've shown above. If you were using a one-holed drip cone, you might want to move the water through a little faster, as it is going to take longer to strain through into the cup, and could end up extracting too many solids from the coffee, ending up with a bitter, yucky cup.

David makes about a 10 oz. cup of coffee, f.y.i. We have big coffee cups.

6. The final product.

7. Resources.

I think almost every piece of gear we've acquired over the years for coffee making is from Sweet Maria's. Here is a list of items used above (we won't go into our gear for coffee while camping, our French press, etc. etc., which would just be embarrassing).

+ electric kettle
+ kitchen scale
+ electric conical burr grinder
+ single hole (large) ceramic drip cone and v-shaped filters
+ double hole ceramic drip cone with peeking holes and oversized filters (to prevent grinds from overflowing)
+ pouring kettle
+ one of my favorite coffee cups
+ one of our favorite coffee cups (with ceramic cone dripper coming soon!), inquire here


  1. Totally jealous of your ceramic cones! learned a few tricks too I can't wait to try like the pour through - thanks for the great informative post!

    1. You're welcome, Ann! It's a great ritual for us, and actually doesn't take ten minutes, it just feels like it when you're waiting for a cup of coffee in the morning! :)

  2. We make decent coffee at home (techniform) but our camping coffee make is a 10 year old aluminum percolator... (yummy coffee you can eat) before that we just did open an open pot and sprinkle cold water to make the grounds settle.

  3. I love this! My husband gave me a ceramic cone for my birthday last year and I've had so much fun playing with it and drinking the results. Not as exacting as David's method, but the difference it makes in the flavor is indescribable! We, too, bring the French press camping.
    The only problem with the pour-over method is that I drink about 5 cups of coffee in the morning and I get impatient.

    1. Same problem with me. The cups of hand-dripped are sometimes so rich, I couldn't bear to have another. But there are times I just crave a big old pot of diner coffee so I can pour five cups throughout the day.

  4. Can you believe I've never had a cup of coffee? I finally tried mochas last year but just a few days ago decided I want to try real coffee. And now you've made this great tutorial so instead of going out for it I think I'll try to make it myself! I'm sure you'll be seeing the results on my blog sometime soon. Good or bad, it will either be a great accomplishment or an amusing coffeetastrophe. Thanks for the tips :D

    1. No, I cannot believe you've never had a cup of coffee. I have met only one other adult in my life who has never tried it!

      Don't try a homemade cup of coffee first, or you may never know what it should taste like! :)

  5. LOL Good point. Ha ha...

    Maybe I'll try it at the place that makes the best mocha I've had so far!

  6. Hi! I've always wondered about the long-snout kettle... is there any specific advantage to using it in making coffee? I normally just use the percolator, French press or the Vietnamese drip, but am open to new ways of enjoying a cup. Merry Christmas all the way from Brunei, by the way!

    1. Hello, Anak! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! Sorry for the delay in responding. The long-snout kettle just gives much greater control in where you pour the water and how fast it comes down. I honestly can taste the difference if I personally use the kettle or not. True story. But, I don't think it is a deal breaker. I think using whatever kettle you heated your water in can be just fine. Thank you for asking! :)


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