How Do You Make Coffee With a Chemex?

by Matt Gibson

Chemex coffee might seem like a new fancy trend, but the makers have been around for a little over 70 years. They were invented in 1941 by a man named Peter Schlumbohm. The simple device was the first pour over coffee maker to hit the market. Though it wasn’t an overnight success, it has quietly and steadily gained a following of Chemex coffee enthusiasts who are loyal to the brand and the pour over coffee brewing method. Chemex coffee makers seem to immediately hook people in once they try the device. 

Those that use Chemex coffee makers swear by them, and many users have developed complex mathematical techniques for brewing coffee through their Chemex, using scales to measure the perfect amount of coffee grounds and a timer to make sure they pour their water at the appropriate speed (very slowly) to achieve the ideal four minute extraction period. However, you don’t have to approach every cup of coffee with mathematical equations and timers to enjoy coffee with a Chemex. Even when your brewing technique is not an exact science, the Chemex pour over coffee maker will still produce a fine cup of coffee.

What Is A Chemex? 

The Chemex coffee making device is a simple and elegant design, and its design has never changed, using the same basic materials as it did when it first hit the market. A Chemex pour over device is constructed out of tapered glass, a wooden cone-shaped handle, and a simple leather cord. The brewing style mimics drip coffee, but allows the user more control over the brewing process instead of letting the entire process occur within a machine. No electricity is needed to make coffee with a Chemex. Just the device, water heated to just below boiling, a kettle for pouring the heated water, specially made Chemex coffee filters, and freshly ground coffee beans. 

Allowing the user more control over the brewing technique delivers more room for experimentation, but also more room for error. The best brews are made with medium-coarse grinds, grinded just prior to brewing in a conical burr-style coffee grinder, as well as an extra-patient and ultra-steady pour technique. The care taken to construct the perfect cup (or carafe) of coffee is something users grow to appreciate when using a Chemex device. 

You may not be the type of person who wants to have complete control over your coffee brewing. Some people prefer the convenience of simply pressing a button and walking away or even setting a timer and waking up to freshly-brewed machine-made coffee. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying convenience. For those types of people, the Chemex is probably not the right coffee maker to suit their needs. 

For people who want to learn more about coffee, and really dive into more involved ways of concocting the perfect cup, the Chemex device and the pour over coffee method is one of the most hands-on ways to brew coffee, and with the right technique, an excellent way to create a delicate and complex brew. Chemex users eventually grow to enjoy the process of brewing coffee almost as much as they enjoy drinking it. Chemex coffee makers allow users to truly get the very best out of their coffee beans every time they use it. 

What Chemex Model Is Right For Me? 

There are several different sizes of Chemex coffee makers, but which one will work best for your needs? The answer depends on how many coffee drinkers are in your household that would use the machine, and how much coffee you consume daily, as a household. If it’s normally just one person, but someone who drinks a few big cups of coffee every morning, getting a larger size model is probably a good idea. Chemex devices are available in 1, 3, 6, 8, and 10 cup sizes, but each cup, according to Chemex, is a mere five ounces. In the US, most coffee drinkers prepare a 12-16 ounce cup, and would need at least a three cup model to brew a single satisfying cup of joe.

So, with this in mind, you can see why most people invest in the larger, six, eight, and ten cup Chemex models, as there are often situations in which more than one person wants a cup of coffee, and a bigger model is called for. Some users go for a three cup model for when they only need one cup, and a larger model for when they have guests. If you enjoy iced coffee, you can always use your leftovers for iced drinks if you brew a little more than you can drink. 

The ten cup model can brew a maximum of 50 ounces of coffee. The eight cup model can brew 40 ounces, the six cup can brew 30, the three cup brews 15, and the single cup brews a ridiculous five ounces maximum. Each size has a button marking on the glass which indicates when it is halfway full. On the ten cup model, the button would indicate 25 ounces of coffee. If your household goes through a large amount of coffee, the ten cup model is a no brainer. If it’s just you and the occasional guest, a three cup model and a six cup model should do the trick, but if you regularly have multiple guests, a three cup model and a ten cup model will suit your needs better. 

How Do I Use Chemex Coffee Filters? 

If you are familiar with a standard electric drip coffee filter, the Chemex coffee filter will look very confusing to you at first glance, as it doesn’t look easy to use. However, it’s design is quite simple once you are used to it. Keep it folded up the way it comes in its package until you are ready to use it, then open it so that one layer is shifted to one side, while the other side has three layers, and place it into the device so that the three-layered side is against the pour spout. 

Users can choose between square and circular filters for your Chemex device. The points on the square filters allow for easier grasping when removing them after brewing, but otherwise the square and circular filters are pretty similar and can be used in the same way on any Chemex device. There are also bleached and natural options as well. We recommend the natural brown filters, as we don’t like drinking bleach residue in our coffee, but to each their own. 

What Grind Size Is Best For Chemex Coffee? 

Chemex coffee makers work best with a medium to medium-coarse grind of coffee. The ideal size is slightly larger than what you typically find in pre-ground coffees. If you like drinking the best possible coffee, it is essential that you own a good coffee grinder. We recommend conical burr grinders over blade grinders. Blade grinders can get hot very quickly due to all the friction they cause, and excess heat can burn your coffee grounds. The slow, crushing technique of the burr grinder not only grinds your coffee without burning it up, but the grinds always come out evenly ground and consistent, which is very important to a good cup of coffee.  

How Much Coffee Grounds Should I Use When Brewing With A Chemex? 

The amount of coffee grounds that users should use when brewing with a Chemex can vary greatly based on the preference of the user. You will have to experiment a bit to find out what you like the best, but the standard recommendation from Chemex users is to use 40-50 grams of ground coffee for every 25 ounces of water. 40-50 grams is about four to five scoops of coffee, as each scoop is around 10 grams. Some coffee drinkers may find this suggestion much too strong, however, so if you don’t like your coffee to be overly strong, you might want to start out with a little bit less than the recommendation. 

What Do I Need To Make Chemex Coffee? 

  • A Chemex Device 

Available in 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10 cup sizes. Chemex cup sizes are five ounces per cup. 10 cup model can brew 50 ounces of coffee. 

  • Chemex Coffee Filters

Available in circular or square types, bleached or natural. 

  • A Water Source

For the best brews, use filtered water, or purified drinking water instead of tap. 

  • A Way To Heat Your Water (Electric Kettle) 

Stovetop pots will work for this purpose, but what you really need for Chemex brewing is an electric kettle with a gooseneck spout. The gooseneck spout is perfect for pouring your water slowly, and using one will really help you develop a nice, slow pouring style.

  • Coffee Grounds 

We’ll discuss what coffees are best suited to Chemex brewing later in this article. Any ground coffee will serve, but the best Chemex brews call for freshly ground coffee beans, which leads us to our next item. 

  • Coffee Grinder

You can’t get freshly ground coffee without a coffee grinder. We suggest purchasing a conical burr grinder over the bladed grinders. Burr grinders don’t get too hot when grinding up your beans like bladed grinders do. The heat can burn your coffee beans, which should be left to the roasters. Burr grinders are also great at creating a uniform grind that is evenly distributed and perfect for any brewing style. 

How Do You Make Coffee With A Chemex? 

For visual learners, click here [] to watch a video for a complete tutorial in under five minutes. 

For those who prefer written instructions, follow the following steps for using a Chemex: 

  1. Heat your water to just under boiling. The ideal temperature is between 200 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. For perfectionists, it’s 203 degrees. Some electric kettles will allow you to set it for 203 degrees. If you have one of these, do that. To get it pretty close, just bring your water to a boil and then let it cool for a second while you prepare your brew. Only use the amount of water you will need for your brew. Heat up 50 ounces of water for a full brew in the ten cup model. 
  2. Grind your beans to a medium to medium-coarse grind. Only grind up what you need for your brew. You will need to determine your own ratio as you get to know the strength of the brew, but you can start with four scoops for a full brew using the eight cup model or five scoops for a full brew using the ten cup model and adjust to taste. 
  3. Line your Chemex device with a Chemex coffee filter with the three-layered side facing the spout. Wet the filter by pouring a little bit of hot water on it. This will get any papery residue off the filter and warm up the Chemex glass, readying it for the heat that you will soon apply. Dump the papery water out. 
  4. Put your coffee grinds into the damp filter. 
  5. Pour about 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of water, which should be just enough to fully saturate your freshly ground coffee. Allow the coffee and hot water to react to one another and bloom, which takes about 30-45 seconds. 
  6. Slowly add the rest of the water using your gooseneck spout to create slow concentric circles, filling the tip until the water level reaches about one half-inch below the rim. Wait for the water to drain, then continue adding more until you empty your kettle.
  7. Throw away the filter and coffee grounds, and enjoy your Chemex coffee.   

Can A Chemex Make Iced Coffee Too? 

Yes, in just under 10 minutes, you can prepare iced coffee in your Chemex. Plus, you don’t have to chill it in the refrigerator or anything. It’s ready right when you want it. All you have to do is put ice into the bottom of the device, and it will chill your coffee right as it brews. Genius! Click here [] to check out a full recipe. 

How Do I Clean My Chemex? 

One of the greatest perks of owning a Chemex coffee maker is the simple clean up. All you really need to do is to rinse it out with cool water and a couple drops of dish soap. If the glass part starts to get a filmy residue on it, just pop it in the dishwasher and let it spin. Be sure to remove the wooden part of the device and the leather strap before putting it in the dishwasher, as only the glass part of the device is dishwasher safe. 

What Are The Best Coffees For Chemex Coffee Makers? 

The brewing method you use for making coffee in a Chemex will bring out the best taste of any coffee you purchase, so you can afford to be less selective when shopping for coffee to brew in your Chemex. The brewing technique removes the majority of the oils that make dark roasts taste bitter and heavy, so there is no restriction on what type of roasts you can use for Chemex brewing. To fully enjoy the brewing method, however, we recommend trying out a few nice coffees with very nuanced and complex flavors. Go for single origin coffees, medium roasts, and medium to high acidity coffees for the best possible Chemex experience. 

Learn More About Chemex Coffee

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