What is a Chemex Coffee Maker? 6 Steps To Perfect Coffee

What is a Chemex coffee maker

What Makes Chemex Coffee Maker Such A Big Deal?

There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee to start your day. Chemex coffee makers rank high in the coffee world due to an  “infusion” or “drip brew” method. Chemex isn’t a new concept. In the 1956 novel, From Russia with Love, James Bond enjoyed a strong Chemex brew with breakfast. With high ratings for complexity, acidity, and taste, a cup of Chemex coffee is worth a try.

A Chemex coffee maker is a glass pour-over coffee pot that is a popular choice for making a perfect cup of coffee. From its origins in a World War II German laboratory to cutting-edge coffee shops today, this brewing device is elegant, portable, and infuses your coffee instead of immersing it like a French press, exerting pressure like an espresso machine, or adding immersive pressure like the Aeropress.

Discover the benefits of using a Chemex coffee maker, how to use it, and what makes the Chemex coffee maker so special.

What Is a Chemex Coffee Maker?

Invented by eccentric German chemist Peter Schlumbohm in 1941 and mass-produced by the Chemex Corporation in the United States, the Chemex coffee maker is an iconic manual glass coffeemaker with a split, heatproof wooden collar tied with a leather thong that makes it possible to create pour-over or drip-style coffee at home.

According to the Illinois Institute of Technology, the coffeemaker is one of the best-designed modern products.

Today, the Chemex coffee maker comes in a variety of shapes that retain the basic hourglass flask shape with a funnel neck that protects your hands from burning when you pick it up. Due to thicker filters and a slower extraction process, Chemex coffeemakers eliminate unhealthy fats and sediment particles that clutter up a regular cup of coffee.

Chemex coffeemakers also use a special kind of grind that is added to a washed paper filter before hot water pours through the grounds and filters it until brewed coffee reaches the flask.

The Chemex coffeemaker is a juxtaposition of traditional and modern that offers an organic element to the coffee brewing process.

Benefits of a Chemex Coffee Maker

Those that swear by their Chemex coffee makers insist that there are several benefits of using a Chemex coffee maker compared to other types of brewing methods. These include coffee that’s cleaner, less acidic, and offers a more balanced flavor.

Filtration

Chemex coffee brews come out cleaner and clearer since the brand’s special extra-thick filters remove fine sediment, fats, and oils. According to Chemex’s official website, the coffee maker uses a special half-moon-shaped filter that’s 20-30% thicker than rival brands.

Heavier than standard drip coffee filter, Chemex filters are made from double bonded paper.

Just like a laboratory technique, you roll the filter into a cone shape that helps the water filter through the grounds evenly until it reaches the top of the cone.

The good news is that Chemex filters come with a company guarantee that they won’t burst when holding liquid during the filtration process. They also won’t tear when you remove the grounds.

Chemex’s proprietary filters make it possible to slowly infuse and filter coffee in a similar way that you would brew and steep a cup of tea.

Acidity

If you prefer a smoother cup of coffee that’s less bitter and has lower acidity levels, a Chemex coffeemaker is a way to go. Although coffee brewed this way retains a rich flavor, it lacks the full-bodied taste that some people prefer.

Taste

Coffee brewed in a Chemex machine has an elevated taste compared to other coffee brewing machines and methods. That’s because the filter removes both bitter notes and helps eliminate a cholesterol-boosting coffee compound called cafestol.

According to a Harvard Study, coffee that’s filtered through Chemex filters removes LD or “bad cholesterol” which can cause health issues. 

With Chemex, your coffee not only tastes better but it’s healthier, too. That’s another reason to choose this gravity-brew method for your morning cup. 

How to Use a Chemex Coffee Maker

Chemex coffee maker close up

Learning how to use your Chemex coffee maker can take some time.

There are several steps that include folding the paper filter into the correct conical shape, rinsing the filter and inserting it into the flask’s neck, adding coarse grind coffee grounds, and pouring hot water heated to a precise 195–205 °F temperature over the grounds to let them bloom.

Using these 6 simple steps, a little patience, and practice, you can create a delicious cup of clarified coffee with a smooth, handcrafted flavor.

1.    Grind and Brew

While grind and brew are important in any coffeemaking process, these two elements are integral to getting Chemex coffee just right.

When choosing a grind, keep in mind that if the grind is on the coarser side, the water will flow through it faster. It’s best to let the water filter through the grind for a few minutes. It may take more or less time depending on the dose amount.

Aim to use a coarse grind that’s like the consistency of kosher salt when using a Chemex. If you use a grind that’s too coarse, the water will soak through the bed of coffee too fast.

This will result in coffee that is not extracted enough. In contrast, using a grind that is too fine will prevent the brew from penetrating and nothing will emerge from the filter.

It’s important to achieve a grind that is lightly coarse since a finer grind that is not too powdery will produce better extraction and yield more flavor.

2. Prepare the Filter

Before you start brewing, select the filter and get it ready for the process. When using a Chemex, there are several different kinds of filters that will work.

If you’re looking for optimal extraction, filtration, and flavor, it’s best to opt for one of Chemex’s bleached or unbleached high-grade filters. Filters are usually available in a pre-folded half-moon shape, an unfolded round shape, or a square shape. Chemex also offers a coffee sock if you prefer cloth instead of paper.

According to Chemex’s official site, here’s how to prepare and insert the Chemex filter: 

  • Rinse the filter before you add the coffee grounds. Pre-wetting the filter removes the taste of paper which can change the brew’s flavor and helps warm up the carafe. 
  • Put your finger between the filter’s third and fourth layers and expand it into a funnel shape.
  • Insert the funnel into the Chemex coffee maker’s neck with 3 layers against the air vent groove.

The Chemex coffee maker has a wooden collar or neck that fits in two pieces. The grooved air vent is not only the spout for pouring, but the gap lets air escape from the bottom of the coffee maker.

This assists with brewing since the air vent allows the coffee to filter through at the correct speed.

Make sure to insert the filter according to the manufacturer’s directions to avoid clogging the vent and slowing down or hastening filtration. Pour out any excess water left over from rinsing the filter before you start to brew the coffee.

3.    Choose the Correct Coffee to Water Ratio

It’s a good idea to use a roast that’s on the lighter side when using a Chemex coffee maker. Since the special filter removes unwanted sediment, fats, and oils, the brew will come out lighter-bodied than some other types of pour-over cup of joe.

Keep in mind that if you want a richer flavor or a little more body, add a slightly higher coffee-to-water ratio than you would for an automatic pour-over brew.

4. Get the Temperature Right

Proper temperature is key to achieving an excellent Chemex brew and it’s part of what sets Chemex’s manual process apart from automatic coffee machines.

The best range lies between 194 to 204.8, so go ahead and play with different temperatures within that range. Raise the temperature to boost extraction and increase the flavor.

5. Let the Coffee Bloom and Agitate

Much of the magic of a Chemex coffee maker comes from the coffee bloom and turbulence process.

With a coarse grind selected, the filter in place, a higher coffee-to-water-ratio set, and a precise temperature achieved, you’re ready to begin to brew.  

Before you start the final step, you will need to make the coffee bloom first. Start pouring hot water in an even, circular motion, starting from the center of the filter and working your way outwards.

Avoid pouring water against the sides of the filter. Saturate the coffee bed evenly to avoid creating channels in the coffee bed.

Once the coffee bed is soaked, wait for 30 to 40 seconds and watch for the coffee to bubble or “bloom”.

Blooming the coffee is important for degassing the coffee bed to let excess carbon dioxide (CO2) escape. Letting your coffee sit and bloom first will make your coffee taste better since CO2 has a sour flavor that would otherwise infuse into your coffee.

Second, since carbon dioxide has water-repellent abilities, this can prevent the water from extracting the oils and flavors present in the coffee during the brewing process. 

Finally, create turbulence to complete the blooming process by briefly agitating the carafe or stirring the grind. Let the coffee sit and brew for 3.5 to 4.5 minutes.

6. Swirl and Serve

For the final step, remove and throw away the filter. Swirl the brewed batch and it’s ready to serve. Keeping a lid atop the Chemex will help the coffee stay hot longer, stay clarified, and prevent its aromatics from escaping. Detach the wooden collar and gently handwash the glass carafe with warm water and soap before letting it air dry.

Chemex Coffee Maker Pros

  • Simple
  • Durable
  • Immersion process
  • Makes multiple cups at the same time
  • Produces smooth, clarified, less bitter, less acidic coffee
  • Low-cost (around $45, depending on the type)
  • Easy to clean with hand washing or with Chemex’s coffeepot brush

Chemex Coffee Maker Cons

  • Can take some practice to make the perfect cup of coffee
  • Requires more time to make
  • Chemex coffee lacks a full-bodied, strong, or bitter flavor
  • Fragile glass carafe
  • Some Chemexes can land on the pricier side

FAQ

Why is Chemex So Popular?

For over 80 years, Chemex coffee makers have set the bar high for pour-over brew machines.

Due to its pure glass structure, unique flask shape, and proprietary filter, Chemex coffee has a richer, smoother, and less bitter taste and offers an elegant coffeemaking experience.

Does Chemex Make Good Coffee?

Does the Chemex Make Good Coffee? The Chemex makes an excellent cup of coffee, one that taste just as good as the coffee maker looks. Of course, brewing great coffee does require some skill and expertise, because the entire process is done by hand.

How is Chemex Different from Drip Coffee?

Chemex is different from your basic drip cup of joe for a couple of reasons.

Essentially, Chemex pour-over coffee brew method is a type of drip coffee. Instead of an automatic and pressurized process, Chemex is a manual and organic process that creates drip coffee in a slower, more artisanal fashion.

Chemex is essentially a combined dripper and coffeepot in one unit.

Brewing a Chemex coffee is different from regular drip coffee since there are precise temperature requirements, unbleached, double-bonded, lab filter paper, saturating the grounds to help them bloom, and then the pour-over process begins. With drip coffee, this is all done faster with more pressure and automation. 

The result is that Chemex extracts a handcrafted kind of coffee while most automatic coffeemakers don’t heat to the right temperature, spray nozzles don’t distribute water in a uniform way to make the grounds bloom, and most filter paper isn’t the same high-quality as the type used by Chemex.

Do You Need Filters for a Chemex?

Yes. A Chemex coffee maker requires special Chemex filters. You can choose from either brown or white filters since both kinds are made from the best lab filter paper. While it’s possible to use a regular filter in a Chemex coffee maker, keep in mind that you may not get the same results. 

These unique and high-quality filters produce a clarified coffee once the pour-over brew process is complete.

What Kind of Coffee Goes in a Chemex?

If you’re using a Chemex coffee maker, you’ll want to select the right kind of coffee. According to coffee experts, it’s best to use a prime roast coffee that’s a light or medium roast coffee. The lighter roast plus the perfect temperature is just what Chemex needs to make the flavors bloom.

While it can take some skill and patience to get the process just right, a Chemex coffee pot can give you top-quality results. 

References And Citations

Cable News Network. (2022, May 6). Making lots of pour-over coffee is easy – and stylish – with the chemex glass coffeemaker | CNN underscored. CNN. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/chemex-pour-over-coffee-maker

Christopher Mize
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