by Matt Gibson
Invented back in the 1940’s, the Chemex coffee maker is considered the quintessential pour over brewing device and is a staple in the kitchens of coffee connoisseurs around the globe. The simple and elegant design remains the same as it did when the first line of Chemex brewers were released, and the very same components are used to make modern Chemex models, as they have throughout the history of their product line.
Chemex coffee makers consist of a tapered glass cone shaped filter holder and coffee carafe, a wooden handle that fits together where the cone shape converges, and a leather cord that is knotted in the middle to hold the whole package together.
What You Need On Hand To Make Coffee With a Chemex
There are several items that are needed to brew coffee using a Chemex brewer, and a handful of items that are highly recommended but not essential. The must-have items are:
- A Chemex coffee maker, as described above.
- Access to a water source. Do not use filtered water or distilled water, as it is essential to use a water that contains minerals in order to get the best taste out of your Chemex brewing.
- A heat source to heat up the water, such as a stovetop, or an electric kettle.
- Coffee Grounds, preferably freshly grounded just before brewing. The recommended grind size is medium-coarse, or slightly more coarse than most pre-ground coffee.
- A mug, for drinking coffee.
- Chemex coffee filters.
Non-essential items that will ensure that you are better equipped to make the best Chemex coffee possible are:
- A conical burr grinder is an essential device for every coffee fanatic. The way it processes grounds is far superior to blade-style grinders which can burn the coffee grounds while chopping them to size, due to the friction caused by the blades slicing through coffee beans. Not only can blade grinders burn the grounds, but they are also not great at uniformity, and often produce coffee grounds in various sizes, which generally leads to under or over extraction and can ruin the flavor of an otherwise excellent roast. Burr grinders crush the beans to size, and produce grounds with a high level of uniformity, every time, without getting hot.
- Another highly recommended device for Chemex brewing, or any kind of pour over brewing, is an electric kettle with a gooseneck spout. The narrow end of the gooseneck spout provides excellent control over the speed of your pour over, allowing you to slow down to get the proper speed pour for an extended extraction. If you don’t go for a gooseneck spout, look for a kettle with a narrow-mouthed spout to help you get as slow of a pour as possible.
- It is not essential that you weigh out your coffee grounds for every Chemex brew you make, but it does help you achieve the same results each time and keeps you from wasting coffee grounds. A small digital scale can help you get an exact measurement every time so you can decide the coffee grounds to water ratio you like best and replicate it exactly every time you brew.
- Having a thermometer on hand to gauge when the water hits 203 degrees Fahrenheit, can be very handy. However, you can always allow your water to boil and then let it cool for a minute, or bring the water to just beneath boiling to reach temperatures very near the ideal temperature of 203 degrees F.
- Having a stopwatch on hand to time your brew (which should take three minutes and thirty seconds from start to finish) is a handy way to make sure you stay on track and don’t over or under extract your grounds. However, smart phones all come equipped with a stopwatch function that has made actual stopwatches obsolete and unnecessary.
How Do You Make Coffee With A Chemex?
Making coffee using a Chemex is a bit more hands-on and involved than brewing your coffee in an automatic coffee maker or a French press. However, once you know the steps to follow to make coffee in a Chemex, the process is quick and easy. Brewing your morning coffee in a Chemex can be a relaxing, meditative way to start the day. Here’s how to make great coffee using your Chemex.
50 g coffee 25 oz water
The First Pour (Saturation)
The standard amounts of coffee and water that you should use in a Chemex are 50 grams of ground coffee beans and 25 ounces of water. But unlike when you use other coffee brewing systems, you won’t release all the water at once when you brew coffee in your Chemex. After situating the filter on top of the carafe and filling it with your ground coffee beans, it’s time to make the first pour. Gently let 30 milliliters of water trickle over the ground coffee, then wait to allow the water to soak through the coffee beans and saturate them.
This next step is something that happens naturally as a result of the coffee brewing process. You just need to watch the coffee grounds so you know when to move on to step 3. After your first pour saturates the coffee beans, you’ll see the coffee grounds expand a bit. This portion of the brewing process is called the bloom, because the coffee flavor is beginning to bloom and merge with the water. After the coffee grounds have bloomed and expanded a bit, you’ll see them settle back down and stop moving. Then it’s time to move on to the second pour.
The Second Pour
The second pour should be done in a slow and steady fashion. Keep adding water until there is two thirds of an inch of empty space remaining between the water and the rim of the receptacle. You’ll probably have some more water in your 25 ounces that you haven’t dispersed yet, and that’s OK. The coffee grounds will bloom and expand a bit again at this point, but once they’ve settled down and stopped moving, you can continue to the next step: the final pour.
The Final Pour
This one’s easy. Once the grounds have settled after their second bloom, simply pour the remaining water from the original 25 ounces into the Chemex. Now you just need to wait to allow all the water you’ve poured in over the coffee grounds to steep with the beans and trickle through to the carafe.
Immediately after making your coffee is the best time to quickly wash your equipment. Dried-up, stuck-on coffee grounds can be a real pain to clean up, but when the mess is fresh, it just takes a quick swish with the sponge to get your Chemex sparkling clean. If you don’t have time to clean the Chemex properly right away, it’s a good idea to at least rinse it under the faucet to remove most of the debris that would be difficult to clean after sitting out for a while.
Now you know how to make coffee using a Chemex like a pro. As you can see, the process of making coffee in a Chemex isn’t really more complicated or more difficult than other ways or brewing coffee. It’s just a new technique and a new system, which has a bit of a learning curve as you learn to use it properly when it’s new. Armed with what you’ve learned in this guide, you’ll be brewing the perfect cup of coffee in your Chemex in no time.