How to master V60 coffee prep

V60 is a legendary dripper for preparing pour-over coffee. It is produced by a Japanese company called Hario and appeared on the shelves in 2004. Nowadays it is a staple in cafés all over the world.

Hario V60 is deceptively simple; it is a conical dripper whose walls hold a 60° angle that relies on paper filters to produce a clean cup of coffee. It is also trivial to use – drop in a rinsed paper filter, pour in ground coffee, pour in water. Or is it?

The way of pouring affects the final coffee quality in an astonishing way. A small difference in the amounts and timings will produce an entirely different cup, so V60 is not for the careless and the always-in-a-hurry folks. The importance of preparation also busts one of the classic customer complaints about coffee beans “somehow being s***….substandard”. It is often the wrong preparation that’s to blame.

The prerequisites

Any recipe relies on basic prerequisites. These are:
Quality water; this means pH 6 – 8, with hardness of 50 to 175 PPM (or 0,5 to 1,75mmol) – these can be checked with you water supplier. The water should be chlorine free, bright, fresh and without smells.
Good coffee beans; we want to prepare coffee beans that reflect our taste preference, that have been transparently sourced, processed and roasted 7 – 30 days ago.
Good, even grinding; grinding quality is a key to thorough and even extraction; good extraction means delicious coffee (pending the point above). Freshly ground coffee assures freshness. Pre-ground coffee quickly loses its edge.
Solid methodology; coffee should be prepared according to a chosen recipe in a measurable, repeatable way. We want to note our grind settings, the weight of ground coffee, weight of water (total and per pour), water temperature and extraction time. Knowing these variables allows us to make adjustments while keeping the cause-effect chain intact.

The method

The method I have been using for several years is Tetsu Kasuya’s “4:6 method” with several tweaks I borrowed from Scott Rao’s pouring technique. The method has impeccable credentials because Kasuya used it to secure his victory in the 2016 World Brewer’s Cup. It works with 4 to 6 pours of variable amounts of water. Kasuya figured out that first two pours decide the coffee’s level of acidity or sweetness, whereas the latter two to three adjust its strength and body. You can make your coffee more acidic or less acidic/sweeter, with thinner or thicker body.

Preparation:
Ground coffee weight – 22 grams
Grind setting – slightly finer than medium coarse, or 24-25 clicks on Commandante Grinders
Water volume – 300 millilitres
Extraction ratio (ratio of ground coffee to water) – 1:14
Time between pours – 35 seconds
Total time: 03:00 to 04:00
Water temperature – 90 – 97°C (lower temperature is suitable for commodity coffees of more basic qualities and for softer and darker roasted beans; higher temperatures work wonders with high quality specialty coffee, harder and lighter roasted beans)

Pouring sequences:
Basic sequence: 5x60ml
Higher acidity sequence: 72ml – 48ml – 3x60ml
Lower acidity (sweeter) sequence: 48ml – 72ml – 3x60ml
Fuller body: 2x60ml – 4x45ml
Lighter body: 2x60ml – 2x90ml

The very fist pour dissolves primarily acidic flavours, therefore by making it longer we get more acids into the coffee. The second pour begins to dissolve sugars, therefore by making the first pour shorter and the second pour longer we get less acids and more sweetness into the coffee. As for the body, higher number of shorter pours dissolves more solids from the ground coffee, adding to the coffee strength, while lower number of longer pours dissolves less solids and keep the coffee’s body gentle.

How to choose a pouring sequence? I would advise to go with the character of coffee beans that you have. If the flavour profile speaks of bright acidity (citrus tones, wildberries…), try going for the sequence accentuating the higher acidity. If it speaks of sweeter tones (candies, tropical fruit, honey), maybe the lower acidity/higher sweetness will suit it better. You have to try and see. I usually pick one of these two and combine it with the steady 3x60ml pours for the “neutral” body and make adjustments based on the taste. Each bag of coffee beans shines at different things and it is our goal to pour in a way to make them come forwards. It is not about how I want to pour it, it is the beans want to have been poured through.

Pour the water at a steady flow in co-centric circles from a steady height. Avoid flailing the pouring kettle up and down.

Execution

  • Rinse the filter with hot water and remember to pour it out of the vessel
  • Pour ground coffee into the V60 and shake it to level the coffee bed
  • Make the first pour according to your chosen sequence
  • Gently stir the coffee bed with a teaspoon to ensure that all grounds are wet
  • After 35 seconds, make the second pour
  • Gently swirl with the dripper to level the coffee bed
  • After 35 seconds, make the third pour
  • Lift the paper filter and ‘spin it’, turn it 90°C to prevent it from sticking to the dripper walls and blocking the flow
  • With 35 seconds in between, make the remaining pours
  • Swirl before serving

Note: teaspoon stirs, dripper swirling and filter spinning are tricks I have learned from the legendary Scott Rao. Many thanks for sharing them!

Troubleshooting

  • All of the water has drawn through before the following pour: coffee is ground too coarsely, grind finer
  • Water is not drawing through quick enough and the dripper is filling up: the grind is too fine, dry coarser*
  • The total time was under 03:00: the grind was too coarse and all of the water passed through the coffee too quick to extract it properly
  • The total time was over 04:00: the grind was too fine and water could not get through the coffee quick enough, thereby overextracting it.
    Issues with coffee taste: what was the total prep time? In other words, was the grind setting on point? If these variables are correct, then:
  • Coffee is very sour: try pouring for greater sweetness
  • Coffee lacks a spark: try pouring for higher acidity
  • Coffee is a bit astringent: try pouring for a lighter body, additionally decrease the water temperature
  • Coffee is a bit watery: try pouring for a fuller body, additionally increase the water temperature

*Note that it will flow slower after each pour as small particles settle down in the coffee bed and obstruct the flow, but the slowing down shall not be extreme

Suitable coffees

V60 works very well with medium-light to lighter roasted coffees with medium to high acidity.


If you have read through the article and came up with some questions, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to answer them.

More resources:

E-book

If you would like to dive deeper into coffee preparation at home, take a look at my e-book Home Barista, which deals with all aspects of preparing coffee at home. You can take a look and make a purchase at Gumroad: https://gum.co/rtLln

2 thoughts on “How to master V60 coffee prep

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Petr Klíma