Should you Stir Coffee in a Pour Over?

Should you Stir Coffee in a Pour Over?
Photo by René Porter / Unsplash

You should stir coffee in your pour over to fully immerse dry coffee grounds in water and thereby produce a more flavorful cup of coffee.

We recommend swirling your pour over in addition to stirring your coffee–
or replacing stirring altogether with swirling.

Does stirring coffee make it taste better?

Stirring coffee can make your coffee taste better, especially if your coffee tastes “weak”, watery, or too sour.

The point of stirring is not to produce a more even bed of coffee or create a more consistent brew, but to improve extraction.

What is coffee extraction?

Coffee extraction is the process of dissolving flavor compounds from coffee beans into water.

When coffee is brewed, hot water comes into contact with ground coffee, dissolving flavor compounds in the forms of sugars, acids, and fats*.

Because flavor compounds that taste sour dissolve more easily than compounds that taste sweet and bitter, pour overs (and pour overs with light roasted coffees in particular) are often underextracted, resulting in cups that taste mainly sour and underdeveloped.

Stirring coffee in a pour over helps bring out depth and flavor, because at a minimum, it ensures that dry coffee is coated in water, reducing the chance of underextraction. Stirring can also add a bit of agitation or kinetic energy into the coffee bed, further dissolving sugars in the coffee, and resulting in a better extracted, fuller-flavored cup.

When should you stir coffee in a pour over?

You should stir your coffee immediately after the first pour of water into your coffee bed (i.e. the first bloom). The first bloom is where we want the most extraction of acids and sugars to occur.

As you progress with additional pours, we do not recommend stirring, as this can overextract your coffee and result in astringency, an uncomfortable “drying” feeling on your tongue.

If your coffee tastes too bitter or tannic – and you’re able to feel astringency, you’re likely stirring too aggressively. Be more gentle the next time you make a pour over.

Should you stir coffee in a Chemex?

Similar to pour overs in a Hario V60 or a Kalita Wave, you should stir coffee in a Chemex immediately after the first bloom. Because coffee is typically ground coarser in a Chemex, however, you can stir more aggressively to improve extraction, as there’s a greater margin of error.

Should you stir coffee before pressing in a French Press?

Stirring coffee is not necessary if you are using a brewing method that involves fully immersing the coffee grounds in water, such as the French press method. However, if you wish to ensure that all grounds are evenly coated with water and not clumped together, a gentle stir can marginally improve the saturation of your grounds.

Should you stir coffee in an AeroPress?

This depends on your brew recipe. If you are using the inverted method, stirring can help to ensure even extraction and a balanced flavor. However, if you are using the traditional method, stirring is not necessary as the coffee grounds are already immersed in water.

Swirl vs Stir

We prefer swirling over stirring as its achieves saturation without risking channeling.

Why Not to Stir

Many hobbyists and baristas argue religiously against stirring coffee when making a pour over, because the motion causes the coffee bed to become uneven and affects the consistency of the brew. While these points can be true, we disagree with the view that stirring should never be used, because stirring does improve saturation and extraction.

While stirring does not necessitate channeling, it can affect your coffee bed if the coffee grounds do not settle evenly. This can result in a cup that’s simultaneously too sour and too drying to the tongue.

To ensure that coffee is fully coated in water while still maintaining an even coffee bed, we recommend swirling the coffee in your pour over in addition to or instead of stirring.

A simple demonstration of this is in Scott Rao’s guide to pour over.

Conclusion

In summary, whether you should stir coffee grounds before brewing depends on the brewing method you are using. For brewing methods that require even water distribution, such as pour over or Chemex, stirring can help to ensure even extraction and a balanced flavor. For brewing methods that involve fully immersing the coffee grounds in water, such as the French press method or the AeroPress traditional method, stirring is not necessary. As with any aspect of coffee brewing, experimenting with different techniques is key to finding what works best for your taste buds.