Pour-Over Kettle vs. Teakettle
While I was doing my usual intrepid coffee researcher thing recently, I came across a Huffington Post article titled "Stupid Coffee Accessories That You Don't Need To Buy." It's hard to argue with some of the items listed, like the $124.00 Starbucks pour-over stand, the hand-blown Chemex kettle, the $200.00 French Press, or an odd-looking stand-alone milk frother. But a few of the other items -- like the Cafe De Tiamo Syphon, an admittedly expensive (but well-reviewed) Breville espresso machine, the Hario Skerton Ceramic Coffee Grinder and the Hario Coffee Drip Kettle left us wondering whether the writer actually drank coffee.
Here's the thing: some coffee gear is expensive. Some of it, to the uninitiated, probably seems like the height of pretentiousness. But if you're paying for the best quality beans you can afford because you enjoy a damn good cup of coffee, you want to make sure you're getting the most out of it. That means getting the right grind, and using the right technique to ensure that those good beans taste like they should, instead of tasting like Sanka.
One item in the list above particularly stands out: the humble pour-over kettle. These don't come cheap, exactly, but they won't break the bank either. Odds are better than even that you've already got a stovetop or electric teakettle, so you might be wondering why you need yet another gadget in your kitchen. In a word: control. Optimal extraction is all about control, after all. The right coffee (try our Empire State Medium Roast ground coffee packs), the right grind (for a pourover, it should be a medium-fine grind that's about the size of grains of sand), the right filters (unbleached paper if you're using a Kalita or Melitta pourover cone; other options are available for KONE, Chemex, et al.), the right water temperature (190-200 degrees Farenheit) and the right pour technique all matter. It doesn't pay to half-ass any step in the process.
A pour-over kettle (also called a gooseneck kettle) gives you a degree of control over water flow that a standard teakettle won't. You might be able, with practice, a steady hand, and patience,* to get good results out of a teakettle. Sometimes, however, the best route is to just go with the right tool for the job the first time. The Hario drip kettle mentioned above is a staple in coffee houses (and coffee drinkers' houses) the world over, and with good reason: it's thoughtfully designed, it looks lovely, and it delivers great results consistently. Other less-expensive options are available, but we'd suggest doing your research first. Hario's also gotten into the electric kettle game with a 1-liter electric version of their classic kettle; here again, there are alternatives, like the Bonavita 1.0L Electric Kettle.
Is the pour-over kettle a "stupid" purchase? Like anything else you buy for your kitchen, if it's going to sit unused on a shelf brewing nothing more than dust bunnies, then the answer's probably yes. But if you care about making the most of your beans and your coffee -- and if you plan to put it to use -- we'd come down firmly on the side of calling it a sensible purchase. Further Reading: Serious Eats has a quick tutorial on making pour-over coffee at home: If you're more visually oriented, try this tutorial from Buddy Brew Coffee's Master Barista Ty Beddingfield: *And really, who in the hell has patience or a steady hand before their first cup of coffee? I certainly don't.