Fire Department Coffee
Kalita wave with an agitated coffee bed to show what is agitation in coffee

What Is Agitation & Why Your Pour Over Coffee Needs It

November 18, 2020

What is agitation when it comes to coffee? Well, our first thought is actually the state of anxiety that we experience when we run out of it. 

However, coffee agitation is also a trick that can make or break your pour over brew. After all, why would you want to drink a mediocre cup when you can brew barista-worthy coffee with just a simple extra step?

What is agitation in coffee?

Agitation or turbulence is a gentle disturbance of the coffee bed which consists of shuffling the grounds during the brewing process.

Why bother?

If you’ve recently started using a manual pour over like the Hario V60 or the Chemex, you’ve probably already figured it out: while more control over the brewing process can unlock more flavors, there’s also more room for mistakes.

Don’t let it discourage you!

If your brew didn’t turn out as tasty as you wished, it might very well be because of agitation. Or, better: the lack thereof.

Coffee bed in a Hario V60 pour over after agitating the coffee grounds

The secret to a perfect cup of joe is consistency. If your grounds are extracted at different times, you’ll get a mixture of under-extracted (weak and sour) and over-extracted coffee compounds (stronger and bitter). The result? A messy cup of mediocre joe.

This usually happens because of a tricky issue called channeling. Water always looks for the easier way out, making its way down the coffee bed through the route with the least resistance. If the coffee grounds aren’t even or don’t all get covered in water, the ones closer to these channels will be more extracted than the farthest ones.

In a nutshell, by agitating your pour over coffee you avoid channeling and can guarantee an evenly extracted cup of joe.

How to agitate pour over coffee

Gooseneck kettle being used to show one of the ways to agitate pour over coffee

Agitating pour over coffee isn’t actually as complicated as this fancy word makes it sound and you can choose the method that works best for you!

Stir the coffee with a spoon

The easiest, sounds-too-good-to-be-true method! 

Just stir the coffee grounds after pre-wetting them (before they start to bloom) and after you’ve poured all the water, making sure that they’re all submerged. 

This method is especially practical if you’re using a small pour over brewer like a Kalita Wave.

Swirl your pour over coffee maker

This fancier method is one of the go-to choices of many baristas and professional coffee aficionados. It works particularly well with larger pour overs like the biggest Hario V60 models or the Chemex. 

Hold it tight and swirl it in a circular motion (after pre-wetting the grounds and after the final pour), being careful not to spill its precious content.

Agitate the coffee bed while pulse pouring

Have a firm grip on your gooseneck kettle and pour the water in a strong, circular motion, but only in small increments. 

By doing this (pulse pouring, if you were after your second fancy word of the day), you’re going to keep the coffee bed low and consistent, preventing the grounds from sticking to the side of your paper filter.

Flush the coffee

Not down the toilet! This technique simply consists of pouring the last milliliters of water along the top edges of your filter, sending those stubborn grounds back into the coffee bed.

However, we don’t recommend doing this with the Kalita Wave since, given the peculiar shape of its wavy filter, the water could ‘bypass’ the coffee.

Not too hard, right? So, what is agitation? Definitely not an advanced technique reserved for barista champions. We think it’s just a simple trick to really make the most of your Fire Dept. Coffee when you brew with a manual pour over!

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