The Chemex is one of the most beloved manual pour-overs. It’s a stylish pour-over that gives the user complete control over every aspect of brewing. In the hands of a knowledgeable barista or coffee enthusiast, the Chemex produces a delicious, clean cup of coffee.
We at Driftaway Coffee are coffee lovers. Everyone on the team, and especially co-founders Anu and Suyog, is passionate about every aspect of making great coffee. We take pride in selecting the finest coffee beans available, masterfully roasting them and delivering them fresh to people’s front doors. We also love sharing our expertise, helping people enjoy the best coffee possible.
As coffee enthusiasts, we’ve tried most brew methods. Previously, we published a guide on the Aeropress. Here’s our take on the Chemex, including who it’s suited for, how to brew with it and whether it makes good coffee. (Yes, it does.)
The Chemex is a manual pour-over that was invented in 1941 and is still widely popular today. Its fame is due not only to the extremely good coffee that it brews, but also to its elegant appearance. The glass pour-over has an hourglass shape, with a bowl-like bottom and funneled top. The classic design features a classy wooden handle around the midsection. A more recent design has a glass handle. The Chemex is one of the few, if not the only, coffee maker to be displayed in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.
The Chemex is well-suited for coffee aficionados who understand that coffee is an art and are interested in learning about all aspects of the brewing process. As is the case with all manual pour-overs, brewing coffee with the Chemex takes a few minutes. Thus, it’s not an ideal choice for coffee drinkers who are in a hurry. For people who don’t mind spending some time making coffee, though, the Chemex lets the brewer adjust any part of the brewing process.
The brewing style of the Chemex and its special paper filters produce clean, crisp brews. While any good coffee brewed in the Chemex will produce a decent cup, the coffee maker is especially suited for light and light-medium roasts.
The Chemex is available in several different sizes, ranging from three to thirteen cups. Thus, there is an appropriate-sized model whether making coffee for one or a whole party.
The Chemex is made of glass, which gives the coffee maker its distinctive appearance. The Classic Series and Handblown Series have a wooden collar around the middle and a rawhide thong, which can come in a number of colors. The Glass Handle Series has a glass handle instead of a wooden collar and rawhide thong.
The Chemex uses special filters, which are made from bonded paper. There are natural and bleached ones available.
The Chemex often comes with just the coffee maker (including wooden collar and leather thong if purchasing a Classic or Hand Blown Series model). Filters may be included in a kit, or they may need to be purchased separately.
To brew great coffee with the Chemex, you’ll need a few accessories:
You may also want a thermometer and time, if your gooseneck kettle doesn’t have them and you don’t want to use a clock. These will help ensure you’re using precise brewing parameters.
Some coffee enthusiasts choose to keep all of these accessories in a brew station, but this isn’t a must-do.
Part of the reason to use a Chemex is to make minute adjustments during the brewing process. There are lots of brew guides that have slightly different parameters. In general, brewing with the Chemex goes as follows:
The coarseness of the grind and exact pour rate are two of the main factors that enthusiasts have varying opinions on.
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.
The Chemex’s bonded filters make the coffee maker a particularly good choice for light and light-medium roasts, such as our #1 Fruity Profile and #2 Classic Profile. The paper filters don’t allow any fines into the cup, creating a bright, clean and crisp brew that showcases the origin characteristics of lighter roasts.
The Chemex is easily cleaned. Models with glass handles are dishwasher safe and require nothing more than being run through the dishwasher. Models that have a wooden collar and leather thong must be washed with soap and water by hand. The collar and thong, however, don’t need to be removed.
|Brew Method||Cups Brewed||Time Required||Flavor||Body|
|auto-drip||1 – many||a minute to setup and clean; can be programed||medium||medium|
|percolator||1 – many||5 – 10 min.; longer for larger models||poor||heavy|
|vacuum pot||1 – many||10 – 20 min., including setup and cleanup||excellent||medium|
|Aeropress||1 – 2||3 – 5 min., including setup and cleanup||excellent||light|
|cold brew||1 – many||12 – 16 hrs.||very good||medium-heavy|
|French press||1 – many||5 – 7 min., including setup and cleanup||very good||medium-heavy|
|Chemex||3 – 13 (5-oz. cups)||5 – 10 min., including setup and cleanup||excellent||medium|
Models from Chemex’s Classic and Glass Handle Series generally costs between $38 and $48, depending on their size. The Handblown Series run from $71 to $111. Paper filters are priced by Chemex at $8.90 per 100 filters.
The Chemex continues to be manufactured in Massachusetts, and it’s received many recognitions over the years. It been featured in the Museum of Modern Art and has won design awards. It’s not only designers who are impressed with the coffee maker, though. The Chemex is President Obama’s coffee maker of choice, and he’s converted the White House to serving Chemex-brewed coffee.