Pour over and drip coffee are two very popular coffee brewing methods. On the surface, pour over coffee and drip coffee seem like the same.
But are they?
Let’s dig deeper into these two coffee brewing methods and find out.
Is pour over coffee the same as drip?
The pour over method and the drip method both utilize gravity to brew coffee through a paper or mesh filter.
In that sense, both pour over and drip are very similar. The main difference is the brewing process: pour over coffee is made by hand, and drip coffee is made in an electric drip coffee maker.
Although the difference may seem trivial and you may think drip coffee makers do essentially the same thing as pour over brewing, there is some nuance here that actually makes a big impact.
What is pour over coffee?
Pour over coffee is a method of brewing coffee where you put freshly ground coffee in a paper filter and slowly pour hot water over it by hand in a circular motion.
There are many variations for the pour over coffee method which involve changing the speed of the pour and the length of the pauses between each pour.
As you pour, the water interacts with the ground coffee and absorbs the flavor. It then filters through the paper into the cup below.
Pour over coffee tends to have a really rich flavor thanks to the lengthy pour, and it is also very clean because of the paper filter.
Pour over was invented by a woman named Melitta Benz. Back in the day, the primary method of brewing a cup of coffee was in a moka pot or coffee percolator. Percolator coffee was good, but it ended up a little muddy because some fine coffee grounds always made it into your cup.
People did try using cloth filters, but since there were no dishwashers or washing machines back then, they were very cumbersome to clean.
Benz tried using her son’s blotting paper to filter the coffee, and she found that it was very effective in making a very clean and tasty cup of coffee.
Pour overs were thus born!
What is drip coffee?
Drip coffee utilizes almost same brew method as pour over with a few minor differences. Drip coffee gets its name because hot water is dripped over the bed of coffee grounds through a filter by a coffee machine.
Drip coffee machines are the ubiquitous coffee machines that we see everywhere. They’re easy to use and produce a large serving of coffee with minimal work.
Because a machine automates everything from heating to pouring water, this brew method is one of the most hands-off methods there is.
That’s probably why drip coffee machines are so popular: they’re easy to use adn you can set and forget, only to have some fresh coffee ready to drink.
Drip coffee brewers come in many shapes and sizes. Most drip brewers use paper filters, though there are many that utilize a reusable filter made from a very fine mesh. The mesh filter is not quite as good as a paper filter, but it does the job well enough.
Pour Over Coffee vs Drip Coffee Differences
Now that you know exactly what these two methods are, it’s time to explore the differences between each of them.
One factor that remains the same is that the quality of your cup of coffee depends strongly upon the quality of your coffee beans. Stale coffee beans or grounds will produce stale coffee, period.
Because pour over coffee involves letting the water interact with the coffee grounds for more time, pour over tends to be a little richer and bolder than drip coffee.
Depending on how you brew the coffee, you can either let the fruity/earthy notes come out more or dull them down.
Drip coffee tastes very balanced and will never fail you: drip coffee makers are incredibly consistent and if you don’t change any variables like the coffee beans or the grind size, your brewed coffee will very consistent every single time you brew it.
Differences in brewing method
The first main difference between pour over brewing and drip brewing is temperature control. A high-end drip coffee maker will have much more consistent water temperature control than a manual pour over.
This is simply because the temperature of the water will continue to drop as soon as you take the kettle off of the heat.
There are high-end kettles available that you can place back on the heating plate in between pours to maintain the temperature, but those cost almost as much as a new brewer!
The next difference is control over your brew. Pour over will give you a lot more control over your brew than a drip coffee maker. This is simply because the only variables that you can adjust with a drip coffee maker is the grind size and the amount of coffee you add.
How much water goes into the brew and how long it brews for is pre-programmed into the coffee maker.
With pour over, you can control the speed and quantity of your pour. It’s completely in your hands, pun intended.
This is both good and bad: it’s good if you have a lot of practice with pouring and are able to change the flavor profile as you pour.
It’s bad if you’re new to pour over and are not completely sure what you are doing!
In this sense, you can rely on a high-end coffee machine to distribute water evenly over the coffee grounds.
Another factor that you can control with pour over is the amount of water to use. Electric coffee makers have fixed amounts of water they draw for every cup of water. With pour over, the coffee to water ratio is completely in your control.
The quality and flavor of your coffee will depend on your pouring skills!
Another difference between pour over vs drip coffee is the grind size, or how fine your coffee grounds are.
The pour over method will have variable grind sizes depending on what brewer you are using. For example, the Hario V60 requires a fine-medium grind, and the Chemex requires a slightly coarser grind.
Electric drip coffee makers are pretty forgiving when it comes to grind size. A standard medium grind does the trick very well, as the brewing process is very uniform.
The uniform brewing process also lets you change the grind size to get different strengths of coffee.
Time to brew
Pour over is completely done by hand, and brewing one cup takes about 1:30 minutes or 2:00 minutes. Realistically, you’ll need to add a couple of minutes to get hot water first.
Drip coffee makers take a little longer to brew coffee, and this really depends on the machine that you are using. The heating block determines how fast you’ll heat water. Once the water is hot, you can have a single cup of coffee in a minute or so and the rest of your coffee shortly after.
Many drip coffee maker models have a brew pause feature that pauses the water shower so you can remove the coffee pot, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and replace the pot for the rest of the coffee to brew.
Brewing large amounts
It’s a huge hassle to brew large amounts of coffee by hand. A single serve is fine, but if you want to brew more than 2 to 3 cups, you’ll find yourself pouring for a very long time!
Drip brewers can brew multiple cups of delicious coffee without any extra input from you. They’re just set and forget!
Why pour over coffee?
Pour over coffee is great for bringing out the hidden flavors from coffee beans. A masterful pour can produce wonderful flavors and really help you get a great taste for coffee.
It’s also a great way to really learn about the brewing process and experiment with a multitude of variables to see what brings out a taste and flavor profile that you like.
It’s quite a manual method and does require some equipment such as a funnel and a kettle, but the end result from the pour over method is really worth it.
Why drip coffee?
If you’re not a fan of very manual coffee brewing and want something that can produce large amounts of freshly brewed coffee almost at the touch of a button, drip coffee is the way to go. The taste is still very balanced and delicious, and you can keep your hands free as you wait for your coffee to brew.
Drip coffee makers also have the advantage of brewing automatically, so you can wake up to a cup of delicious, freshly brewed coffee.
Even though the basic process of brewing is the same in both of these brewing methods, there are differences that can have a big impact.
You have a lot more control over the ratio and taste of the coffee with pour overs, and if you’re looking to get your coffee brewing done with minimal input, drip coffee is the thing for you.
Of course, you can also go all in and say “why not both!”