It is safe to say there is nothing as rewarding when the pour-over you make tastes great. Especially when you know its very easy to make a bad cup. There are two things that can happen that lead to a pour-over tasting bad. That is either over-extraction where the coffee is too strong, dry and bitter or under-extraction where you will get weak watery brews. This post will look into how to avoid under-extracted coffee when making a pour-over.
Under-extraction can happen due to many reasons but it produces very weak, watery and under-whelming coffee. The main reason this happens is the coffee has not been ground fine enough with the ratio of water used. Generally it is very simple to adjust the grind size until you hit the sweet spot. But there are other reasons that can also lead to under extracted like heat, technique and even the equipment you are using.
In this article we will look into these things and how to avoid under-extracted pour-over coffee.
Getting the right grind size is important to making good coffee. But for a pour-over it is paramount. With immersion brewing you can get away with different grind sizes but with pour-over you have little margin for error. So you should always be making note on the grind size every time you make a good or bad cup of coffee.
When you get under-extracted coffee, one of the most common reasons is the coffee is too coarse. Even if other factors (which we will come to) is causing under-extraction, you will still likely need to grind finer to get more out of the coffee. If you are at this point then you should try to go fine, up until you are satisfied with the taste. Keep your method and ratio the same for the time being.
Pouring Skills & Flat-bed
The way you pour will have a big impact on how your brew will end up tasting. There are two pouring mistakes that will lead to under-extracted coffee specifically. Firstly, you should ensure the water you pour makes contact with the coffee. You should not pour on the sides of the dripper or on the filter paper. This will lead to by-pass where the water will just filter through and making the brew watery. So focus your pouring on the coffee bed and not the sides of the pour-over.
Another mistake you can make is from consistent aggressive pouring. It is ideal to have a good tempo when you pour. Going fast and slow has its own benefits depending on how your method works. But if you pour very aggressively you will disturb the coffee bed and allow for water to go through too quickly. Again, that will lead to weaker brews especially if you do it consistently throughout the pour. Now I must add that aggressive pouring can also lead to higher extraction. It all depends on the method and what type of brew you are looking to achieve.
Lastly, you want to ensure the water goes through the coffee bed evenly. So the one way to do it is to agitate the brewer after the bloom and then after you have done pouring. When you do this for the bloom you will ensure all the coffee is wet. When you do it after pouring, then coffee won’t be stuck on the side of the dripper and you will get a flat-bed after the brew. A flat-bed means an even and consistent extraction during the brew.
Heat also plays a crucial part to how well the coffee is extracted. Hot water will not just extract the coffee but it will do it quickly. This is really important with a pourover where the coffee and water contact time is brief. So if you have not measure your water temperature or are using the wrong one it could be why the coffee is so underwhelming and lacking in taste. That is why you may also need to pay attention what the roast level of your coffee is. To extract the most flavours from a light-roast you will need water temperature of 92c (202F) or higher. But note, the darker the roast the lower the water temperature should be.
Another aspect that heat can play a big part is ensuring you pre-heat your pour-over brewer. This will ensure the heat throughout the brew stays more consistent and to even extraction. You should also pre-heat the carafe/ server that the dripper is filtering into as that will ensure you enjoy the coffee longer before it cools.
So ratio is not something you should be changing when you first experience weak watery coffee. As mentioned previously, the grind size is what should be concentrating on. In fact, lot of people say don’t even touch the ratio if you are using a well known method. But lets say you have tried changing the grind size and other things but you still get weak brews. Then you should not rule out using a different ratio including adding extra coffee.
What I have done recently is to just add an extra half gram or more to get a bit more out of the brew. Especially when I am using a dripper with faster paper and I am at the point that I can’t go fine enough. Otherwise I will be making an espresso. So what I like to do is just add extra little bit of beans. It can really change how your final cup tastes. But also that is kind of the way you end up creating your own method. So I would give this a try if you are not getting well extracted brews. Also, try other methods too, sometimes your method just does not work with a certain type of coffee.
The pour-over and paper filter you are using could be a hinderance to your brew. The V60 can be quite temperamental in terms of consistent flow rate. If you prefer the faster papers to avoid slow drawdowns then it can lead to under-extraction. Again, you do want the V60 to have a faster flow rate so its a good problem as its easier to resolve. I have done a post about why the V60 has slow drawdown issues and solutions to fix it. Check out that post here. The Kalita Wave is pretty good when extracting coffee due to it’s restrictive holes on the bottom of the brewer. If you do get weak coffees then likely the coffee is too coarse.
Now the Origami Dripper is known to easily produce under-extracted coffee due to it’s fast flow rate. This is more evident when using the coned-filter papers. Lot of people always have underwhelming brews when they first use the Origami and it is understandable. You just need to go a bit more finer and prolong your pouring to ensure more heat is retained. Just note, the Origami conned-filter paper is even quicker then the Original V60 papers.
For me under-extraction comes in two parts, grind size and everything else I mentioned. The grind size will always require constant changing whether you experiencing under or over extraction. Sometimes you need to tweak the grind size because a new coffee does not quite taste right. It just comes with the parcel with pour-over coffee. The more you get comfortable with a method then you will find it easier to adjust when needed to.
In regards to pouring, water temperature and knowing your equipment then those are really beginner mistakes that with little practice are resolved. If you are struggling to pour then first learn to keep the kettle steady and pour in the middle. You can always give the dripper a little swirl to even out the coffee bed after you poured all the water. Once you feel happy with steadiness then you can try circular pour but again focusing on the coffee bed. A good pour will will allow for better extraction of your coffee.
Finally, under-extraction can happen to anyone if its a beginner to someone experimenting with coffee or methods. But the good thing is it is easy to resolve and avoid once you are aware where the problem is. Let me know if this article was helpful to you. If I missed something out then pop it in the comments.