Discovering pour-over coffee

Discovering pour-over coffee

© / Olivier Blondeau © / Olivier Blondeau

By Adam Bookbinder  

I credit my uncle with introducing me to good coffee. A singer-songwriter bluesman who got his start playing folk clubs in Greenwich Village in the '60s, Roy Book Binder was a huge influence on my life. As a kid I used to go on tour with him in the summer; we would camp out in his Airstream and drive from gig to gig, which were often held in coffeehouses.

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When we were on the road, we would play guitars, have Scrabble marathons, go fishing, watch old boxing fights on VHS, and hang out. Every morning I would watch him wake up and head straight for the coffee grinder. I remember loving the smell. I was too young to drink it, but it left a strong impression. Roy's maxim was “good things take time,” and nowhere was it clearer than when he made coffee. His preferred method? A pour-over—simple drip coffee made by pouring boiling water over a cone filter filled with freshly ground beans.

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"Growing up in the 50s, I never even knew coffee was from beans," he told me. But he remembers his first pour-over: "I woke up to a loud buzzing was Greenwich Village back in the 60's. I asked my new lady friend what the racket was...she said she was grinding the beans. 'The coffee beans,' she explained. She dripped the boiling water through a cone filter, and the room exploded with a fabulous aroma," he said. "I was handed my first cup of dark roasted fresh French Roast coffee and was hooked for life."

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Just after graduating college, I too found myself in Greenwich Village, in a tiny apartment on Thompson Street not too far from where Roy had lived back in his twenties. I have a lot of great memories living there, but what stands out more than anything was a day that I walked into the Porto Rico Importing Company, a nearby coffee shop, on Uncle Roy’s recommendation. I distinctly remember that blast of sweet coffee smell as I first opened the door, the jingle of the bell upon entering, and most of all the rows and rows of beautiful, shimmering, freshly roasted beans on display in wooden barrels. I bought a half-pound of some dark roast, and headed back to my apartment to give Roy a call so he could tell me what to do.

What he taught me, and what has since become my daily habit, changed my life: buying whole beans by the pound; grinding them fresh each morning; placing them in a single drip cone filter; and pouring boiling water over them. I can honestly say that since that day there has not been a morning that I have not been excited by the thought of my first cup. The ritual of it never gets old.

Since then I’ve experimented with all sorts of expensive coffee gimmicks, machines, pods, and paraphernalia. But in the end I’ve always returned to my simple cup of pour-over coffee—like Roy before me, I'm hooked for life.

The Adam Bookbinder Method for Perfect Pour-Over Coffee

What You Need: A grinder, ceramic or plastic coffee dripper (Melitta and Hario make great ones), disposable paper cone filter, and fresh coffee beans. (I prefer a nice strong dark roast.)

How to Do It: First, rinse the filter to eliminate the papery taste. After dumping this water, add the ground coffee into the disposable filter—I usually add around 3 tablespoons. Then pour boiling water over the coffee grounds in a circular motion. The first pour should be light, to "burst the beans." After that, pour a generous amount of water into the filter, and keep going until you achieve your desired amount of coffee.

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