At long last…Chemex

Chemex. It has been around for decades… seven to be exact. It is a pour-over style non-porous glass container coffeemaker that Peter Schlumbohm invented in 1941, and, fun fact, it is one of very few drip-method coffee brewing devices on permanent display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. In my opinion, it is the best way to brew coffee. Here’s why:

  1. It looks damn good. The Chemex has an angular somewhat “cold” design comprised of three sexy components: glass, wood, and leather, giving it a contradictory aesthetic that is at once sterile, elegant and super hip.
  2. It is functional. One simple hourglass shape is both the holder for the filter, the receptacle for the brewed coffee, and the serving container.
  3. The filters are so thick… like really, really thick, and they are just a square (or circle) of paper that has been folded into quarters. This extra thickness filters out more of the coffee oils resulting in a different tasting brew than other coffee makers.

Brewing with a Chemex is… how do you say… a labor of love. It takes time. If coffee makers were classified in such a way, it would be – without question – “high-maintenance.” But trust me when I tell you, it is worth it. It takes about six minutes to properly brew coffee in a Chemex. I decided a few mornings ago to record the entire Chemex coffee-making process. It took me 10 minutes  (including grinding and waiting for the damn water to heat up). The video is included below, and, because I am not a mean type of person, I have sped up a lot of the “waiting” time and have also added lots of “interesting” facts, including very specific brewing instructions, in an effort to keep you entertained. You’re welcome.

For those of you who like to have a list of written instructions, below I’ve included Groundwork Coffee’s version of the Chemex brewing steps. I don’t do it this way, and my coffee tastes delicious, so I personally think this is just a jumping off point which you can tweak to your own preferences. Here you go:

Tools needed: Chemex vessel (6-cup size), Chemex bonded filters, kettle, timer, scale (I do not have and never have had).

  1. Unfold the Chemex bonded filter, making it into a cone, and place it in the top chamber of the Chemex, making sure that the 3-ply side is facing the pouring channel (spout)—this will allow air to escape during brewing and help with the flow rate and extraction time.
  2. Rinse and preheat the filter and Chemex with at least 370g of hot water. This will remove any papery flavors imparted by the filter. Once the filter is completely saturated with hot water, carefully dispose of the rinse water. Do not take the filter out as it may be difficult to get it back into place. Be careful not to over-saturate the area around the spout causing it to collapse.
  3. Place the Chemex and well rinsed filter onto a scale. Tare the scale to zero.
  4. Weigh out the correct amount of coffee (50g) and grind it slightly coarser than the consistency of sand. This is coarser than what would be used for regular drip coffee. Coarsen the grind more for larger volumes of coffee.
  5. Place ground coffee in the pre-rinsed filter. Gently tap the side of the Chemex to level the brew bed. Place the Chemex onto the scale and tare the scale to zero.
  6. Heat the water in your kettle to 195-205F 
  7. Pour 100g of water onto the grounds ensuring that all of the grounds are saturated.
  8. After 30 seconds, continue adding water until the scale reads the correct weight (400g total). Pour in a slow steady stream in approximately 3 cm counter-clockwise circles (What?! Why? Yes, they really included “counter-clockwise” in the instructions). You may need to stop pouring momentarily to allow some of the water to drain through the filter before adding more water. Try to keep the slurry about 2 cm from the top of the dripper. This step should take between 1–2:30 minutes or until the timer reads 2:00–3:30.
  9. After 2-3 minutes, repeat step 8 (note: scale should read 700g after completing this step).
  10. Remove the filter/grounds (discard).

Have you ever had coffee brewed in a Chemex? What did you think?


About The Author

Anne Stericker

City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.

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