Updated: May 19
Which brewer is for me?
There are so many different ways to brew coffee it can be overwhelming to know where to start. If you’re reading this you are probably interested in starting to brew coffee at home. But more than just brew coffee, you’re interested in making better coffee at home.
In just a few years pour over coffee has gone from being an obscure hipster trend to the favourite brew method for speciality coffee drinkers everywhere!
So where to start? I’ll take a closer look at the differences between all these models and help you find the right one for your needs.
The Hario V60 is the Gold Standard for pour over brewing. A classic now in modern coffee, the V60 is the standard for a cone-shaped pour over dripper. It is known for its large hole at the base of the dripper, and its spiralled ridges inside that promote even extraction through the entire bed of coffee.
There are a few different models available but most of them achieve the same results. I would always recommend getting the larger, “02” size. This will enable you to brew all types of brew sizes and doses. Aesthetics being the only primary difference between devices. If money is tight, grab the clear plastic model. It will brew just as well as models 3-4 times the price. Regardless of which device you choose, be sure to always pre-warm the device before brewing! While you can brew directly into a cup, I’d also recommend purchasing a Hario carafe to use for those larger brews.
Why the V60?
Hario’s V60 filters do a great job at producing clarity in the cup without getting in the way. They are thiner than some other filters which is perfect for getting those incredible nuances and flavours from your favourite coffees!
Although this is the primary reason I would recommend the V60, it’s also the reason I would advise staying away if you do not yet own a burr grinder. The V60 requires care in brewing as it’s large single outlet and fast flow can at times be unforgiving for the novice and has proven to have quite the learning curve.
Regardless of this, the V60 is king! If you’re looking for simplicity but want to step up your brew, look no further.
Arguably the most classic and legendary pour over brewer. This beautiful vase like brewer has been around since 1941 and has been a coffee lover favourite for years.
The Chemex is available in 3,6,8 and 10 cup sizes, detailed with either a sleek glass handle or a light coloured wooden collar. The most popular option and the one that I currently own is the 6 cup with the wooden collar.
There's no denying that the Chemex is beautiful. It’s a coffee loving hipster’s dream. Classic vintage design perfect for any instagram post. But it’s looks are not the only thing that characterizes this brewer. The Chemex’s filter is much thicker than those found on the V60, Kalita or any other brewer. This difference is what truly defines and separates this coffee maker from it’s pour over friends. The thicker Chemex filters will by their nature filter out more of the imperfections and harsh bitter flavours of coffee. This is great if you enjoy darker roasted coffees but don’t want to have the taste of burnt cigarette lingering in your mouth. But for specialty coffee lovers, it’s a debated subject. Many specialty coffee drinkers enjoy the Chemex and its nuance swiping filter. Others tend to stay away.
Why the Chemex?
Before I answer why you should buy the Chemex, I’d like to give you a thought on why not. It goes without saying that the Chemex is a true staple in the specialty coffee world. Other than maybe an Aeropress, for many of us it was the first pour over brewer we owned. But the thing that defines this brewer is also the thing that makes it the hardest to use. It’s large thick paper filters tend to slow down brew times in ways that are inconsistent and frustrating. I often find myself grinding much coarser than I feel I should just to compensate for these brew times often close to eight minutes or more when really, they should be half that time. To add to this, because of its classic design it does not have ridges or gaps between the filter and the glass. Instead it has a smooth finish where the filter sits. This often leads to “air locking” where the filter cannot breath and the water draw down can come to a halt. All this leading to very long brew times.
For a beginner this can become confusing and create wondering cups of coffee that are unrepeatable and often over extracted. Am I saying the Chemex is a bad brewer? No. It’s a great brewer. But I would highly recommend the Chemex being a brewer in your arsenal to enjoy on a Saturday morning when you have more time to spare. Not your go to pourer for the day to day use. It requires patience and practice. So why get the Chemex? Like I said, it is a great brewer. The Chemex can create a cup with clarity unlike other brewers. Its thick paper filter can really create a cup that sparkles and shines. It’s unique and beautiful and the perfect brewer to show off your pour over skills when company is over.
The newest of the bunch, the Kalita wave is hitting the specialty coffee world by storm. At first glance, ‘the wave’ may seem like your average pour over dripper, but it’s got a bit more going on. It’s flat, three-holed bottom restricts the flow of water simplifying the overall process. This design feature also produces a slightly more concentrated cup of coffee than other drippers.
The Wave’s unique, ridged filters hold the slurry out away from the dripper’s walls, allowing air to balance the flow of water and keeping your brew warm.
Compared to other pour over brewers, the Wave is an approachable device that makes a bold yet flavourful cup of coffee.
There are Small (155), and Large (185) versions of the brewer that have different size filters respectively. Depending on how much coffee you average you may choose one size over the other, but I would recommend the 185 for the average person.
This is a great brewer for those just starting off with pour over brewing, and coffee veteran who’s mastered every brew method possible. It’s known to emphasize sweetness and body, and who doesn’t love that?
Why the Kalita Wave?
The flat bottom of the Wave offers a stable and predictable way to restrict water flow compared to other manual drippers. Kalita claims that the flat bottom helps promote a flat coffee bed during brewing, and that this uniform bed leads to even more flavour extraction. This design feature makes the Kalita Wave much more forgiving than other pour over drippers allowing you to brew consistently tasty coffee without hovering about.
Owning a level somewhere between master and amateur, the Kalita Wave is a great pour over coffee maker for just about any coffee lover.
Brewing with the Kalita Wave dripper is a straightforward experience that requires little practice to perfect. Pour overs should be FUN and enjoyable and Kalita makes it just that. This may make it seem too good to be true. It sure does seem that way. But it’s not.
The Aeropress, though not a pour over by design, is one of the most popular home brew methods for specialty coffee and often gets clumped in the conversation of best pour over. Like it's older brother, the French Press, the AeroPress is an immersion dripper.
The Aeropress has become immensely popular since it was created in 2005. There is an annual Aeropress competition; the World Aeropress Championship and even Canada has it's own Canadian AeroPress championship. Because of its unique design there are endless ways to brew coffee with this special little brewer and these competitions are a testament to that.
Why the AeroPress?
The AeroPress was the first manual brewer that I bought. In fact if you talk to any coffee enthusiast who has had an interest in specialty coffee for any time, they will probably say the same. And there's good reason for this. To start the Aeropress is very affordable. You can find an AeroPress on amazon and many retailers for roughly the cost of two bags of coffee. For that price you'll be making decades worth of coffee. Hard to beat that.
But what's so enticing about the AeroPress for newbies and veterans alike is its versatility and ease of use. This little device is the only one of the bunch that doesn't require a gooseneck kettle, and (while not recommend) can brew a repeatable cup without a scale. For someone just getting their feet wet but not wanting to invest too much into this hobby, it's a great place to start.
So why not the AeroPress? To be honest there are not many reasons I wouldn't recommend this brewer. The one thing that should be noted is that the AeroPress is not a large device. This makes it great for travel and portability but it is also it's biggest weakness when you want to make that extra large cup of coffee to boost you on those early mornings. This is hard to achieve with the AeroPress. Or maybe you want to share a coffee with a loved one? Plan to make two batches with this little guy.
Regardless of its volume limits, this is a top recommendation for anyone just starting in the world of Specialty Coffee and manual brewing.
It really does come down to personal preference. All three of these pour over brewers will deliver extraordinary coffee that may blow your mind. They will last a lifetime and make your coffee better. Can you really go wrong?
Whichever you choose please do me a favour and buy the proper filters to match. It hurts my soul to see someone using a V60 with Melitta filters from Walmart. These brewers were designed with their filter in mind.
Also, if you have yet to purchase a Gooseneck kettle this would be something required for each brewer. Sure, you can get away with your grandmothers tea kettle, but if you’re looking into starting pour overs, chances are you want the best from your coffee and experience. But this is a conversation for another time.