Espresso versus pour over? A question that has no tangible answer. Just to clarify, I use the word “pour over” regarding the Japanese brewing method. Not frenchpress or Mr. Coffee. The Japanese method ensures that the brewer has ultimate control over the coffee, which means desired results can be pinpointed if done right. An espresso, while appearing to be a fairly simple process, is the hardest method to perfect. There are so many variables that affect the outcome. The most important aspect of a pour over lies in the beans. Good beans, plus proficient brewing knowledge will lead to fairly consistent results. Now of course having a proper burr grinder is also important, but lets not get into that. The key to an espresso lies to the tamping. Ideally, one should tamp at 30 lbs, and without a scale, this is very difficult to gauge. Pretend you’re pushing on a small child and you’ll be fine. When it comes to the actual brewing process, it begins to get easier. A slow pour over at a 45º angle does the trick for pour over, and most espresso machines are entirley automatic. In both these methods, preparation is the key.
The actual brewing process, however, is irrelevant; the taste is what matters. Since each beans yields a different taste, I’ll focus more on the bigger picture. A pour over results in a subtle, clean taste. A pour over should be drunk around five minutes after brewing as scalding coffee is bitter and tasteless. As the temperature of pour over changes, so does the taste, and usually for the better. Matalapa (my favorite roast) tastes the best at room temperature when all the citrus flavors begin to emerge. An espresso is less subtle. One sip brings fourth all the flavors present, making it very easy to distinguish flavors. Concerning taste, I prefer an espresso over pour over because it’s easy to get a feel for the coffee.
An espresso is meant to be drunk quickly. There’s no time for leisure while drinking it. Drinking a pour over on the other hand is a more relaxing process. Brew, let it sit, grab the paper and some toast, sit down and enjoy. I often spend upwards of a half-an-hour drinking my pour over. So while an espresso (marginally) wins with taste, pour over offers a more pleasant experience.