7 Key Differences Between Pour Over + Drip Coffee

By DeathWishCoffee — / Coffee Talk

Pour Over vs. Drip Coffee

In the United States alone, 75% of adults are coffee drinkers, and almost 50% of Americans drink the elixir of life every day. We clearly love our coffee.

Good coffee is all about good quality. Each home-brewed cup should taste like barista-level coffee. As far as the brewing process goes, if you don’t start with high-quality, organic and Fair Trade coffee beans, nothing else you do will matter. 

Even with high-quality beans, if you’re going to make coffee that is exactly right for you, then you have to master the process. Two of the most popular options for brewing coffee are the pour over coffee vs. drip coffee. Both methods create a quick, caffeinated and delicious cup of joe, but there are clear differences between drip vs. pour over.

 A coffee Chemex pouring coffee into a black mug with a bag of Death Wish Pumpkin Chai coffee on the counter.

Which brew method is right for you? 

While plug-in brewers (drip coffee makers) are perfect for those trying to fit coffee into their busy lifestyle, you may just find that the pour over method can add some bliss to those hectic mornings too. Here are the key factors to consider when choosing a brewing process:  

1. Quality.

Pour over: The brewing method for pour over coffee offers potential for the most variations to your drinking experience, as well as potential for a higher-quality coffee. That’s because pour over is entirely a “manual process” and allows you to customize every aspect to create a perfect cup. To get that precise pour, most coffee lovers prefer a Chemex and gooseneck kettle. This method does require skill, attention, patience and time. Even with the best of intentions, you have to use the tools properly—or yes, you might just end up with a terrible cup of coffee.

Drip coffee: Depending on the quality of your drip coffee maker, you can ensure a flavorful cup of coffee will come out the same each time. This is a quick and reliable brewing option that is accomplished with the flip of a switch or the push of a button every morning. And in recent years, smart, new design features on drip coffee makers have led to higher-quality results.

So with good quality beans and the proper grind size, each method is a viable option. 

A coffee grinder with dark roast coffee grounds.

2. Flavor.

Pour over: Due to the differences in the brewing processes, pour overs tend to create more flavor than regular drip coffee. Because the brewing process takes longer for pour over, the water has more time to pull the flavors and oils from the coffee grounds. As a result, you can expect the flavor to have more clarity and be more robust.

Drip coffee: As long as you use the same ratio of grounds to water, this method ensures the same taste every time. Drip coffee can be strong and bold in flavor too but may have a more simple yet smooth flavor.

3. Control + Consistency.

Pour over:  This brewing method gives you complete control over your pouring style: grind size, saturation of grounds, water flow and temperature, frequency of pours and essentially how long the brewing process takes. All of these variables make a distinct difference in the type, taste and texture of the coffee. For example, for a fuller flavor, use more grounds, or for a lighter flavor, use fewer grounds—you decide. Adjusting the amount of water and pouring water slowly and evenly comes a lot easier with the kettle in your hand. This method, however, allows more room for error because of all these variables. Unless you're really careful with measurements and ratios, it will be difficult to produce the same result twice. Even the slightest differences can change the drinking experience.

  • Pro tip: We recommend a sequence of four pours. Each pour targets a specific volume of water in a specified time frame. The most important, perhaps, is the first pour, nicknamed “the bloom,” for the way the grounds swell up as carbon dioxide releases (a by-product from roasting). By pausing at the bloom and getting the timing right for the three subsequent pours, you’re extracting the coffee’s best flavors and none of the off-putting bitter ones. This is just one of the ways the brewing technique can enhance the final cup.

Drip coffee: Drip coffee machines control all of the variables like pour speed, water temperature or brew time for you. It may appear the power of making the coffee is taken from you, but the drip coffee maker leaves little room for human error and gives you consistency every time. 

A stovetop kettle, a Chemex and Death Wish Coffee Dark and Medium Roast on a kitchen counter.

4. Convenience + Time.

Pour over: The pour over brewing process takes nearly the same amount of time as opposed to the drip method, but an easy and skillful pour over does require more preparation and care to detail. Bottom line—it just takes a little practice (and probably a few sub-par cups of coffee) before you’ll get it just right. You must heat the water, add the filter and grounds and pour water consistently for several minutes. For pour over fanatics, the technique becomes a ritual. But you have to be on the ball, which is why if you’re pinched for time, it tends to be the less popular option.

Drip coffee: For most people, you just have to flip a switch to start brewing the coffee. Even more convenient, many machines have a preset option to get the coffee ready the night before and it automatically starts brewing at the given time. So other than pouring the water into the reservoir and adding the coffee grounds inside the filter, the job is done. It’s all about ease and speed.

The disposable filters also make the drip coffee process easier and more efficient. Coffee drinkers can brew coffee more often and not feel bad about dumping the biodegradable filters in the trash. Add that to fast and easy to use— it’s obvious why drip coffee is a very popular brewing process option.

A black coffee maker with a black mug and a bag of Death Wish Coffee OG Dark Roast.

5. Equipment + Durability. 

Pour over: Pour over’s recent spike in popularity has pushed companies to roll out different devices for using this method. Single-serve, which creates one serving, sits on top and pours directly into the cup, and multi-serve, which makes several servings and collects the coffee in the bottom of a device. If you’re looking for something bigger and a bit more sturdy, then a Chemex and gooseneck kettle are easy ways to brew a pour over. Regardless of the device, very few tools are needed to make pour over coffee—a dripper, a filter and kettle. That keeps it very simple.

Most pour overs are made of glass, stainless steel, metal, ceramic or plastic. Even though coffee might stain the materials over time, if you take good care of your pour over, it will probably outlast you. Just don’t drop it—that will likely require a replacement. Pour over methods run anywhere from $20-$65, which make them a relatively cheap path to an all-star morning pick-me-up. 

Drip coffee: This is the best feature of the drip coffee makers. Since the machine does all the work for you, you will only need a machine that is available in a price range related to the brand and quality level you’re interested in, typically anywhere from $25-$200+.

The durability of the drip coffee maker really depends on the model quality you purchase. If you purchase a low-quality model, for example, you can expect to get a few years out of it before needing to replace it. And of course, since they’re electric, the chances are greater that something may go wrong internally. Sometimes the circuit shorts, water tubes clog, or the heating element decides to quit. Most of the drip machines are made of plastic, so breakages are likely over time as well.

6. Cleanliness.

Pour over: The simplicity of the design is a definite advantage when it comes to keeping it clean. There are typically only one or two pieces of material you’ll have to clean. Also, since the devices of pour overs include stainless steel, ceramic or glass, then just be consistent with cleaning to avoid the coffee stains and build up.

Drip coffee: Since the water and coffee have to travel through many parts of the machine, cleaning is a bit more challenging (without taking the whole machine apart). Many households use the drip coffee maker every day and multiple times a day, so keeping the internal components dry is challenging too. That constant moisture can be a place for bacteria to grow. Run a mix of one-part vinegar and one-part water through the machine periodically to keep any of those cleaning issues at bay.

A black stovetop gooseneck kettle on top of the stove.

7. Temperature.

Pour over: With pour overs, once again, you have complete control over the temperature of your water, but it is difficult to monitor without the right equipment. We recommend the water temp be between 195-205 F. To make sure you get an accurate reading, using a kettle with a built-in thermometer is the way to go.

Drip coffee: Most drip brewers don’t reach the ideal temperature range for  coffee (205 F), and if they do, they likely won’t stay that hot, which will cause a negative impact on your final cup.  

RELATED: How to Use a Stovetop Gooseneck Kettle Like a Pro
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