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Everyday Coffee: OXO Pourover

The best coffee is the stuff you make by hand. But I don’t always have time to dedicate to crafting that perfect pourover. Mornings en route to work, for example. So when I saw the OXO Pourover Coffee Maker, I had to give it a shot.

Long story short, the art of making a really good cup of coffee involves a few critical factors. The water needs to be between 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit. You need the right amount of grounds. You need the right amount of water. You need the proper saturation and turbulence. It gets a little more complicated than that, but too much or too little of any of the above and your joe will come out bitter, bland, or worse.

The OXO Good Grips Pourover coffeemaker is placed on top of a coffee mug from a local store ("One Good Woman"). The coffemaker resembles a small coffee mug. On top of the coffeemaker is the plastic water reservoir, which holds up to 12 cups of hot water.

Enter the OXO Pourover. A water tank sits on top of a brewing vessel, which in turn sits on top of your coffee mug. Holes in the water tank distribute water throughout the grounds, and a second, smaller hole in the vessel regulates outflow to ensure sufficient saturation.

The website for the OXO Pourover makes some pretty bold claims: “Enjoy the perks of delicious, pour-over coffee!” Right off the bat, this seems unlikely:

Making good pourover requires that you adjust the water flow as the brew progresses; you don’t just dump all your water in and walk away. But in essence, that’s what you’re doing here. You pour the water in the top tank, where it dribbles down into the brewing chamber, and then finally works its way into your cup.

In short, the OXO is a manually-operated automatic drip. That’s not a bad thing: thanks to decades of under-heated water and lackluster saturation, drip coffee makers tend to have a bad rep. But they’re not inherently flawed; put the water at the correct temperature and flow rate, and you can brew an impressive cup using this method. Just ask any Moccamaster owner.

Ground coffee is poured from a glass measuring cup into the OXO Pourover. One of the included paper filters is used to hold the coffee grounds.Operation is simple. Assemble the two pieces, add a #2 cone filter, add your grounds, and pour water in the tank. Since I don’t have anything else that uses a #2 filter, I was happy to see about a dozen filters bundled in the box.

I added exactly 15 grams of medium-coarse grounds per OXO’s recommendations for 10oz of water. I’m using beans from Little Amps, in case you’re wondering.

Brew time was just over 3 minutes for a single mug. Not bad — that’s less time than either a French press or traditional pourover method. Since water leaves the vessel slower than it comes in, there’s a slightly different soak dynamic at work here, so it’s difficult to make an intelligent time comparison against either method.

Of course, what really matters is the end result: how does the coffee taste? Does the OXO Pourover Coffee Maker really stand up to the quality of a solid, well-executed pourover?

Of course not. The flavor was superior to what you’d get out of a cheap automatic drip, so that’s a good start. But everything seemed muted. The flavor of the coffee wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anywhere near the rich, developed profile of what you’d get from a more labor-intensive method. In fact, I’d compare this to the output of an average, run-of-the-mill drip coffee maker.

And here’s why:

A digital thermometer is connected by metal wire to a remote probe, which is placed inside the brewing chamber of the OXO Pourover. The thermometer reads a water temperature of 188 degrees Fahrenheit.

I inserted a temperature probe into the vessel where the water mixes with the grounds, and ran another 10oz of boiling water through. There’s so much heat loss that by the time the water finally reaches the grounds, it’s at a maximum of 188 degrees. That’s far too low to coax out the full flavor of the grounds. While it might be possible to eliminate some of this heat loss by preheating the gadget, that goes against the whole point of this in the first place: convenience. If you’ve got the time to do that, you might as well go with a conventional pourover.

But this isn’t a total writeoff. Remember, I didn’t say the coffee was bad — just that it doesn’t live up to the potential of a true pourover.

I can definitely see a place for the OXO in my camping gear. I long ago gave up trying to lug around my fragile glass French press (stop reading right now if you’d so much as suggest using a plastic press). And while I love the coffee I get out of my Aeropress, it’s a bit of a hassle to use around the campfire. But for $15, the OXO Good Grips Pour Over coffeemaker is rugged, easy to work with, and vastly superior to instant.

The verdict? This is probably the best $15 coffee maker on the market. But spend another $5, and you’ve got a good, glass French press, which produces a superior cup. The OXO Pourover makes a solid balance of price, durability, and quality — just don’t expect a replacement for a conventional pourover.

The quest for the perfect cup continues.