Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Do you really need a gooseneck kettle?

1/6/2022, 1:08:27 PM

What's the big deal behind a gooseneck kettle anyway?

Mighty-Lobster asks:

Do I really need a goose neck kettle? I've seen several articles claiming that I totally need one for pour over coffee but they can't manage to articulate why it's going to help me in a language that I understand. "It helps you control the flow rate!" ... Uhm... sure. How is that going to make my coffee better? What happens if my coffee rate is wrong?

Like Mr. Lobster, I was also of the opinion that a gooseneck kettle couldn't possibly offer that much more to the coffee brewing process, compared to being careful with a regular wide-spout kettle.

While in some ways I was right, I was also quite mistaken.

PXL_20211229_214942152 PORTRAIT

The first advantage of a gooseneck kettle is the decreased flow rate. This is what every single article you find online will focus on. The smaller spout will mean water flows out slower, which will allow you to be more accurate about where you place the water. For pour over coffee setups, this is important because you want to completely saturate the coffee grounds during the bloom phase, and to not overly churn the coffee bed when additional water is added.

The second advantage is the shape of the spout. If it were all about decreased flow rate, then a smaller tip on a regular kettle would be all you needed. However, the unique shape of the spout allows you to more easily modulate the flow of water out of the kettle. When using a regular kettle, if I poured too much water at once, I would reflexively move my hand back, but overcompensate in both directions, causing water to stop flowing completely. It was almost impossible to modulate water flow any finer than "no water", "some water", or "a lot of water".

What about the effect on the coffee?

What many of the other articles don't discuss is how using a gooseneck affects the resulting brew. A lot of what I say below is again, conjecture and anecdotal evidence, and I invite you to try it out and see if you concur!

  1. The slower rate of water flow allows the ground coffee to become saturated much quicker and more accurately, during the initial bloom. Less water is used during this phase, meaning less water flows straight through before the coffee has been adequately bloomed... meaning more water for coffee.

  2. During the brew and resulting drawdown, the coffee bed is less disturbed by turbulent water and so extraction is improved.

In both cases, it resulted in a fuller cup of coffee (taste-wise, not volume-wise).

So is it worth it?

The perceived improvement is only marginal. Perhaps a couple percentage points' improvement over using a regular wide-mouth kettle. It comes down to whether you want that extra little bit of improvement and want to spend additional dollars to achieve it.

My opinion still is that the most bang for your buck is upgrading from a blade grinder to a proper burr grinder. Most other changes are incremental at best.