How to Use a Chemex Coffee Maker in 9 (Surprisingly Easy) Steps
Maryna Gray • October 12, 2021
We love to start our mornings with a slow, aromatic pour over, which makes the Chemex one of our favorite ways to make coffee here at Bean Box. The classic carafe makes a clean cup of coffee with far less sediment than any other brewing method. And not only is the Chemex surprisingly easy to use, but it's also easy on the eyes, making it the perfect coffee gift and addition to any kitchen.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Is a Chemex?
- Chemex Coffee Maker Necessities
- How to Use a Chemex Coffee Maker
- The Best Coffee for Chemex
- How to Clean a Chemex
- Chemex Comparisons
What Is a Chemex?
So what is a Chemex, anyway?
This coffee maker was invented in 1941 by a chemist named Peter Schlumbohm. Inspired by a laboratory glass funnel and Erlenmeyer flask, the Chemex’s simple, yet unique design encourages excess air to escape from the bottom of the carafe, through a paper filter, allowing the coffee to filter at a perfect rate.
It’s made with just one piece of borosilicate glass and embellished with a wooden collar and rawhide tie, the latter of which comes in a variety of colors to match your kitchen (because this is definitely something you want to show off on your counter).
Fun Fact: Each rawhide embellishment is hand-tied at the factory in Massachusetts!
You can get a Chemex coffee maker in various shapes and sizes, from the Three-Cup Classic Chemex to a 13-Cup Handblown Chemex. According to Chemex, the 6- and 8-cup versions are most popular, however (and we can certainly attest to that!).
Chemex Coffee Maker Necessities
If you’ve purchased or plan to purchase a Chemex, you’ll also need the following accessories:
- Chemex Filters: The branded filters from Chemex are great, but you can find slightly cheaper, just-as-good generic versions on Amazon.
- Coffee Scoop or Scale: Using a scoop works just fine in a pinch, but a coffee scale will do you wonders!
- Grinder: The best coffee grinder for a Chemex (and any brew method) will always be a burr grinder, since burr grinders provide more consistency in grind size and resulting taste than blade grinders. Not sure where to start? Check out the Baratza Encore, our pick for the best entry-level burr grinder.
- Gooseneck Kettle: Gooseneck kettles provide more control and thus, more precision, than standard stovetop kettles. We’ve found electric gooseneck kettles to be the easiest to use.
- Fresh Beans: Last, but never least, always use fresh coffee beans.
How to Use a Chemex Coffee Maker
1. Heat the Water
Bring water to a boil in your gooseneck kettle. If using a temperature controlled kettle, bring the water to 205°F.
2. Prepare the Filter
Open the paper filter so there are three layers on one side, and one layer on the other. Place the three-layered side on the spout side of the Chemex. Pour your heated water over the filter to preheat the carafe and set the filter in place. Called “rinsing,” this step also removes the paper smell/taste from making its way into your coffee. When you’re done rinsing, pour out the water.
3. Measure and Grind Your Coffee
First, measure out 2 tablespoons (10 grams) of coffee beans for every 6 ounces of water. To make a 32-ounce Chemex, we'll use 10 tablespoons (50 grams) of coffee. Or you can skip the math altogether and simply use one Bean Box Sampler Bag for a 6-Cup Chemex!
Grind the coffee to a table salt-like consistency so the beans can fully absorb the water. This grind gives you a cleaner cup of coffee with less sediment when using a Chemex.
4. Calculate Your Ratio
We like to start with a 1:16 coffee-to-water ratio. This means for the 50g coffee in, we’ll use 800g (or 28 oz.) water. Aim for your brew to finish between 4:30 to 5:30 minutes.
5. Let the Water Cool
If using boiling water, allow the kettle to sit off the stove for 30 seconds to cool.
6. Start Your First Pour
Place your ground coffee into the filter and slowly pour over 100 grams of heated water, starting in the center and working your way out. It's important to have a slow, controlled pour, which is why we recommend using a gooseneck kettle when using the Chemex. This will be one of four pours in total.
Next—the best part—let the coffee “bloom,” a process that saturates the grounds and doubles the weight of your coffee. A coffee bloom occurs when water hits the fresh coffee grounds and releases rainbow-colored bubbles of carbon dioxide from the coffee. The fresher the coffee, the longer it will bloom. Let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds while you enjoy the heavenly aromas!
7. Complete Three More Pours
The next three pours should be split into three equal parts. Pour your next round of water in the same concentric fashion and use about 200g of water. As the coffee drains down, repeat this for your last pour to finish up with your goal weight: 800g.
Try not to let the coffee bed completely drain in between pours. You’ll want to see the coffee about 1 inch from the grounds before your next pour. If the coffee is draining too quickly, make your grind finer, and vice versa.
8. Remove the Filter
Let the coffee finish dripping, then compost the filter.
9. Swirl and Serve
Give your carafe a swirl, pour, and enjoy!
The Best Coffee for Chemex
Certain coffees taste better in a Chemex. For instance, you might try brewing an African coffee for a bright, tea-like taste. Some of our favorites:
Light: Camber Coffee - Mosaic Blend
How to Clean a Chemex
Most Chemex carafes are dishwasher-safe, though we personally don’t recommend putting them in the dishwasher. Instead, wash it with warm water, soap, and a soft-bristled brush after every use; otherwise, unwanted bacteria can build up in the carafe. We also recommend using non-scented soap to ensure your next batch doesn’t have tasting notes of Palmolive or Dawn!
Chemex vs. HARIO V60
The Chemex and Hario V60 are both considered pour over coffee makers, meaning they require you to manually pour hot water over ground coffee and through a paper filter. These are the major differences between the Chemex and Hario V60:
- Cost: The Hario V60 costs slightly less than the Chemex (though neither are very expensive).
- Design: The Chemex is a glass carafe while the HARIO V60 is a ceramic, glass or copper funnel that sits atop a coffee cup or pitcher for brewing. The Chemex brewing cone has smooth sides while the Hario V60 has grooves in the dripper.
- Size: The Chemex comes in multiple sizes, from three cups all the way up to 13, while the HARIO V60 comes in three sizes (01, 02 and 03). The Chemex is better for serving multiple cups, while the Hario V60 is best for 1 or 2 servings.
- Taste: The Chemex yields a clean cup, while the HARIO will give you a more flavorful coffee. This is due to another difference: the filters. Chemex filters are thicker than HARIO V60 filters, so more oils will naturally find their way into your cup with a HARIO V60 versus a Chemex.
Chemex vs. AeroPress
If you’re comparing the Chemex to the AeroPress for your next coffee maker buy, we say get both. They’re both different in the way they make coffee, as well as the taste of the coffee they produce, and neither one of them is very expensive. Here are some of the differences:
- Taste: The Chemex will give you a clean cup of coffee, while the AeroPress produces a coffee that’s fuller-bodied in comparison.
- Portability: The AeroPress was practically made for travel while the Chemex, while sturdy, is made of glass and not ideal for travel without a protective case.
Chemex vs. French Press
- Brewing: You use a paper filter with a Chemex, and a wire mesh filter with a French press. The actual process of brewing is entirely different, too, as you literally press coffee in a French press and let the coffee drip in a Chemex.
- Taste: Because of the difference in filters, there’s also a big difference in taste. The Chemex yields a clean, aromatic cup, filtering out the bean oils during the brew process. The French press, on the other hand, doesn’t use a paper filter, so many of those oils and sediments will make their way into your cup for a full-bodied coffee.
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