We spent over 50 hours testing 10 drippers, used more than 10 pounds of quality coffee beans, and drank more than 100 cups of coffee before determining that the Kalita Wave 185 Dripper is the best pour-over dripper for most coffee drinkers. We spoke to leading coffee experts and writers, and we held two blind taste tests at both Lofted Coffee (a coffee roasting company) and our own test kitchen. We’re confident that with our recommended pour-over setup—including a dripper, grinder, kettle, and scale—you can get the best-tasting homemade coffee without having to wait in line at a high-end coffee shop.
The Kalita Wave produced the most consistent, even, and flavorful cup of coffee among the drippers we tested. In addition, it’s incredibly easy to use, and you can clean it with a simple rinse. The Kalita’s proprietary “wavy” filters and flat-bottom design promote more even water drainage and insulate temperature. One drawback: The proprietary filters are slightly more expensive than those of the competition, and they can be difficult to find in local stores.
If you want a dripper with widely available filters, or if you’re shopping for someone new to pour-over, we recommend the Bee House Ceramic Coffee Dripper (large). It costs less and uses standard cone paper filters, which you can find at most supermarkets.
As gorgeous as it is usable, the Chemex made a delicious, bright brew that our testers loved. The original design is also the only coffee dripper featured in the MoMA Collection.
We also love the Chemex Six Cup Classic Series, a nice choice for fans of great design who also happen to love delicious coffee. The Chemex features a built-in carafe, and its larger design means you’ll have no trouble brewing multiple cups at once. Proprietary Chemex filters are harder to come by than Melitta filters but are available online and through high-end coffee shops.
Why you should you trust us
Before becoming an operations assistant for The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, I was a barista in various high-volume Brooklyn coffee shops and restaurants for over three years. I’m an avid coffee drinker and brewer. I also wrote our guide to the best cheap coffee makers. For guidance, I spoke to leading coffee experts and writers, including Oliver Strand, Nick Cho, and Zachary Carlsen. I solicited testing help and input from Lofted Coffee, a lauded small-batch coffee roaster based in Brooklyn, New York.
What is pour-over?
Pour-over is a method of manually brewing a small batch of coffee using grounds and a steady stream of hot water. For the purposes of this guide, we are focusing on drippers and gear that use gravity and pouring to brew (we excluded the Clever Coffee and AeroPress brewers, as they don’t strictly qualify as “pour-over” drippers).
Simply put, the pour-over process entails heating up water to an ideal temperature (around 204 degrees Fahrenheit, or right off the boil), and pouring it in an even stream over your grounds in a dripper fitted with a filter. The dripper, which is usually shaped like a cone or wedge, controls the rate at which the water filters through your coffee grounds. The technique is called “pour-over” because the rate of brew is dependent, in part, on how quickly you pour the heated water over your grounds.
A dripper with a filter, the most important element of a pour-over setup
A kettle with an extended neck for heating and pouring water
A good conical burr grinder for grinding your coffee evenly
A scale for precisely measuring water and grounds
A timer to monitor your brew time
These items are optional:
A stirrer for agitating the wet grounds, depending on your technique
A dedicated carafe to brew coffee, or you can easily use a mason jar or the cup you’ll use to drink your coffee (my favorite option, since it means less cleanup!); drippers like the Chemex have built-in carafes
Handling a pour-over setup works a bit like building up a stereo system: You can start with the basics, namely a dripper and a good grinder, and over time build up your gear to suit your needs. Depending on the setup that you choose, pour-over can also be the cheapest way to get the best coffee.
If you use a countertop coffee machine to brew your coffee, the prospect of a multistep, gear-intensive method might seem daunting and complicated. Once you’ve got the right gear and methods, however, pour-over is a simple, inexpensive, and fun way to make the best-tasting coffee.
Think of it this way: With a press-and-brew coffee maker, you’re able to control only the grind size and the water-to-coffee ratio. More control in the brewing process means you can hone each variable to get the most flavor out of the beans. The right dripper will help to control the rate and distribution of hot water, the appropriate burr grinder will grind your coffee to an even consistency, the proper kettle will allow you to keep your brewing water at an ideal temperature, and a pocket scale and a timer will give you an exact measure of how much coffee and water to use in your brew.
For people who don’t mind engaging in a bit of experimentation to brew the best-tasting coffee, pour-over is worth that extra effort. Take coffee expert and author Oliver Strand’s word for it: “There are people who are consumers who just want ease and facility… But for people who are open to doing something else, if you take a little bit more time and turn something into a ritual, it could be that much more pleasant. I’m a proponent of that.”
While gear is important if you’re after a great cup of coffee, it’s also imperative that you use fresh, high-quality beans. A good pour-over setup will ideally extract the most flavor and body from beans, and is not ideal for use with cheap, preground coffee.
In our previous guide, we tested five drippers in our final roundup. For this update, we looked at more than 15 drippers and settled on testing eight dripper picks, including our previous top picks. We chose to exclude the Clever Coffee and AeroPress models from our roundup this time but added the Melitta and Bonmac drippers plus the Able Kone metal filter. We also added two scales to our competition: the Acaia Pearl and the Hario V60 Drip Scale. I mined Sprudge for the newest in pour-over gear, looked at Amazon best sellers, and spoke to our previous pour-over gear guide writers, Cale Weissman and Matt Buchanan.
I also spoke to noted author, columnist, and coffee expert Oliver Strand, Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, and Zachary Carlsen, editor of Sprudge, all of whom gave me their professional opinions on pour-over gear and technique, as well as insight on their personal tips, favorite gear, and pour-over philosophies.
During the research and preliminary testing stages of writing this guide, I brewed and tasted a lot of pour-over with the help of Michael Hession, our resident photo editor, coffee connoisseur, and intrepid caffeine guinea pig. After a couple of weeks of testing, I narrowed our chosen gear down to five drippers and included a newer scale, the Hario V60 Drip Scale, in our roundup.
I researched brew guides from George Howell and Stumptown and used an amalgam of their recipes to brew our test cups. The recipe I used, while varying slightly, relied on using about 24 grams of ground coffee to about 400 grams of water. Each dripper requires slightly different measurements of coffee and grind texture, so make sure to read a few brew guides particular to your chosen dripper if you’re unsure.
As we did for our guides to the best coffee maker and the best cheap coffee maker, we returned to Brooklyn’s Lofted Coffee to enlist the professional help of roaster Aric Carroll and his team. Using Lofted beans, Aric and I tested each dripper alongside our top grinder, kettle, and scale picks and conducted a blind taste test. We rated each cup of coffee based on balance (or whether we detected any overpowering or uneven flavors in the coffee), strength (subtracting points for coffee that tasted either weak and underextracted or burnt and overextracted), and the overall depth of flavor and mouthfeel.
We followed up with a second taste test at the Sweethome office. This time we invited Emily Rosenberg and Caleb Horton of the Stumptown Education team. We were joined by coffee expert and writer Alex Bernson, as well as previous guide writer Cale Weissman. We also invited Evan Meagher and Alexa Rhoads, two friends of The Sweethome who are newly passionate about coffee and were willing to give us their takes as newcomers. Using Stumptown’s Guatemala Santa Clara beans, we tested each dripper and conducted another blind taste test. We concluded our test with a roundtable discussion of what we liked and didn’t like about each dripper.