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The gooseneck kettle has become an iconic symbol of pour-over coffee, but you do not need a gooseneck kettle to make pour-over coffee.
However, if you want to make the best pour-over coffee possible and do it consistently, then a gooseneck kettle certainly helps. The reason I recommend a gooseneck kettle for pour-over coffee is because it gives you maximum level of control over:
- How fast the water flows
- Where the water is directed
I’ll explain why these things can result in better cups of coffee in just a minute. But first, I want to explain why coffee drinkers don’t absolutely need a gooseneck kettle.
Kettles Offer Varying Degrees of Control
Kettles are not binary. It’s not as simple as gooseneck or non-gooseneck. Those aren’t the only choices. Take a look at these kettles:
These kettles offer varying levels of control when you pour hot water. The one on the left offers very little. The gooseneck on the right offers a lot. But the level of control goes up in small increments as you move from left to right.
You can make pour-over coffee with any of these kettles, but you will have an easier time making better coffee as you move to the right.
So why does control matter? Because the more control you have, the more you can optimize extraction.
Extraction, which you’re about to learn more about, is what makes your coffee.
When hot water interacts with those tiny coffee grounds, it draws compounds out of the bean and dissolves those compounds in water. This is extraction.
The first flavors to come out are quite acidic. After that come the sweet, fruity flavors. Finally, the bitter, unpleasant ones. The story below compares a coffee bean to the layers of the earth:
When you brew coffee, you’re aiming to pull out some acidity, all of those nice flavors in the middle, and maybe a hint of bitterness—but not too much.
To get it right, you need each of those coffee granules to be about the same size, and to be in contact with water for just the right amount of time.
This is called even extraction.
Uneven extraction happens when some granules are much bigger than others (you can use a burr grinder to guard against that) or spend much more time in contact with water. Uneven extraction results in the worst of both worlds—sour acidic flavors from granules that are under-extracted, and bitter, astringent flavors from those that are over-extracted.
Even extraction results in a cup full of the good stuff.
A common cause of uneven extraction is channeling. It’s a common problem with espresso, but it can also happen with pour-over.
Channeling is when the water travelling through the bed of coffee grounds finds the path of least resistance and begins to flow more heavily through one particular path. The grounds along that path become over-extracted, while the others remain under-extracted.
Proper pouring technique can prevent channeling. This is most easily accomplished with a gooseneck kettle. So let’s go over the ways a gooseneck kettle can help.
How a Gooseneck Kettle Helps When Brewing Coffee
It’s mostly about having control. A gooseneck kettle helps you be more accurate when you pour and extend (or shorten) your brew time as needed.
You need to direct water to the appropriate places on the coffee bed to ensure even extraction. The best way to do this is to start in the center and move gradually in concentric circles toward the perimeter as you pour, and then back in again.
Because pour-over cones are deepest in the center, that’s where most of the coffee is. You want to spend a little more time pouring in that area. A gooseneck can help you achieve precise pouring.
The ideal period of time for coffee grounds to spend in contact with hot water is between three and four minutes. A gooseneck kettle can make this happen—assuming your coffee grounds are an appropriate size.
If you have a clumsy kettle and dump all the water in at once, the water flows through the grounds more quickly than you’d like and shortens the brew time.
The narrow spout of a gooseneck kettle lets you slow the flow of water to just a trickle—enough to keep the grounds under water, but not so fast that the brewing ends too early.
Stages of a Pour-Over Brew
A proper pour-over brew has three phases: the bloom, dilution, and draw down.
- Bloom: To bloom a pour-over, pour just enough water to soak all the grounds without having anything drip into your carafe. (You’ll love the control of a gooseneck kettle here.) Leave the grounds wet for 30 seconds or so to release unwanted carbon dioxide from the beans.
- Dilution: Dilution is the main phase of your pour-over. You pour more water in a circular motion, try to do it evenly, and keep your coffee grounds submerged for several minutes. The flow rate will depend largely on how finely you have ground your beans.
- Draw down: The draw down happens after you’re done pouring. Whatever water remains in the cone will be pulled by gravity through the grounds and extract any remaining coffee into your carafe. Standing water leaves the bed of grounds, which then begins to dry out.
Pulsing is a technique many brewers use to prolong brew time when making pour-over coffee. It simply means pouring water in stages during the dilution phase. Water poured all at once will drain more quickly from the cone than if you divide it up into several smaller pours. The more pulses, the longer the extraction time.
Agitation can be an important aid in coffee extraction. It means causing movement of the coffee grounds while they are in contact with the hot water. A gooseneck kettle can help you do it with complete control.
If you think about the French press brewing method, there is no agitation. The coffee grounds simply sit there, immersed in water.
In pour-over coffee, the act of pouring causes agitation. The water hitting the slurry churns the coffee grounds as it enters.
You can see how the slow, controlled pour of a gooseneck kettle allows constant agitation for almost the entire brewing time, in contrast to a fast pour that agitates only at the beginning when the cone is filled. After that, the grounds settle while waiting for the water to drain out.
When you nail a good brew, you want to be able to repeat it. Consistency is the key to repeatability.
Imagine making pour-over coffee with a wide-spout kettle that splashes hot water into your Hario V60. You might get lucky and have the coffee turn out great, but how are you going to repeat it? The pouring is so random the first time around that it’s almost impossible to do it the same way again.
With the precision of a gooseneck kettle, you can more easily repeat your method in future brews.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the well-designed handles of gooseneck kettles. They, too, are designed to give you maximum control and comfort as you pour.
A traditional kettle might have a handle that arches right over its top, forcing you to grip it tightly and raise your elbow at an awkward angle as you tilt and pour into a cone. A gooseneck kettle knows what you’re trying to do and the ergonomic handle is in just the right place for it. It usually has a very comfortable grip as well.
As an example, the Hario Buono electric gooseneck kettle has an ergonomically designed handle with a nice grip for easy pickup:
How To Brew Pour-Over Coffee Without a Gooseneck Kettle
If you really want to make pour-over coffee and you don’t have a gooseneck kettle, there are a number of other tools you can use.
As we’ve said, you can use a regular kettle. Some have spouts that aren’t too bad for pour-over brewing. Others do not and might be quite difficult to control. Just do your best. You’ll still get coffee—you just won’t be able to finesse it.
Other Kitchen Vessels With Spouts
You can easily bring more control to your pour by using another kitchen vessel as a “middleman” after boiling your water in a regular kettle. Anything with a spout will do, such as:
- Measuring cup
- Gravy boat
- Lemonade pitcher
- Milk frothing pitcher
Just pour the water from the kettle into your alternate vessel, and then use the spout on the second container for control.
This has the added advantage of allowing the water to cool slightly from its boiling temperature before you use it. You want the water temperature to be slightly off boiling for ideal coffee extraction.
Things That Are More Important Than a Gooseneck Kettle
A gooseneck kettle is nice and even a necessity if you really intend to get into pour-over coffee and perfect your brew method.
However, don’t stress if you don’t have one and still want to make pour-over coffee. There are other ways to do it, and other factors play a much bigger role in the quality of your pour-over coffee.
Good Coffee Beans
You can have the best gooseneck electric kettle in the world, but if you don’t have high-quality coffee beans, it won’t make much difference. The beans are the number-one factor in the quality of your coffee.
A burr grinder that can grind coffee into granules of uniform size is more important for even extraction than a gooseneck kettle. That gooseneck won’t help much if you’ve ground your coffee with a blade grinder that produces large chunks and small fines—all of which will extract very differently. A portable coffee grinder is an affordable option to start.
If manual coffee brewing is going to be your thing, invest in a pour-over scale before you invest in a gooseneck kettle. The ratio of coffee to water in your brew is going to have a huge effect on its flavor, and you can’t get this right consistently without knowing the weight of your beans and water.