Is Chemex Coffee Drip Coffee?

a chemex coffee maker

QUESTION: Is Chemex coffee drip coffee? Or is it a brand of coffee or what? What does it even mean when people talk about Chemex coffee? – Wendell V

ANSWER: Although both Chemex coffee and drip coffee seem to have the same type of movement through the systems in which they are brewed, drip coffee and Chemex coffee are not quite the same. Drip coffee is a term to describe coffee made in automatic coffee makers, and the Chemex is a pour over brewer, which is a different type of system. Coffee made in pour over brewers is a little different than drip coffee made in automatic coffee machines. Keep reading to learn about the differences between these two types of coffee.

What is Drip Coffee?  

Drip coffee is a very common way of making coffee, the type you get from an automatic coffee making machine. Most of the coffee people make in their homes and in offices is drip coffee made in these kinds of brewers. It is not the same as coffee made in a Chemex, a pour-over coffee brewer, a French press, or a percolator. Let’s take a look at the process by which drip coffee is made.

The automatic coffee makers that produce drip coffee consist of very similar setups. Drip coffee makers tend to consist of a carafe that holds the brewed coffee (which is often made of glass), a basket above the carafe that holds the coffee grounds in their filter, and a container to pour the water into. Water is heated and then moves from the initial container as it is dripped into the basket and over the coffee grounds. That water steeps with the ground coffee and moves through it to finally drip into the carafe that is below the basket. 

Thermal pressure as the water is heated moves the water upwards from its container to a shower head that moves the hot water to the basket with the ground coffee beans. After that, gravity is responsible for the movement of the water down through the coffee grounds and into the carafe below. Because the water is continually dripping through the system, we call this type of coffee drip coffee.

What Is Different About Drip Coffee?

Calling coffee made in these automatic coffee brewers drip coffee also helps to distinguish it from other types of coffee. Drip coffee made in these brewers is not the same as espresso or coffee made in other types of brewing systems. 

First of all, automatic coffee makers dissolve less of the soluble mass of the coffee grounds as the water moves through the system than when you make other types of coffee. That means that the coffee made in an automatic coffee brewer will be extracted less than when coffee is made in other types of coffee systems. When an automatic coffee maker is not functioning well, it is more likely for the machine to produce under-extracted coffee that tastes watery and weak than it is for the machine to produce over-extracted, bitter coffee. 

The way that automatic coffee brewers work with the paper filters that these machines use can also contribute to the machine’s tendency to produce under-extracted coffee when it’s not running optimally. The paper filters tend to trap the oils from the ground coffee beans that are responsible for a lot of the aroma and flavor of a tasty cup of coffee. So you will experience a less full-bodied smell and taste when your coffee is made in an automatic coffee brewer than you would with some other types of coffee preparation.

Why Do People Like Drip Coffee?

So far we’ve only explained the drawbacks to these kinds of systems, so you may be left wondering why people use drip coffee makers so frequently. As we’ve mentioned, however, the coffee makers are only likely to produce noticeably under-extracted coffee when they are not working quite right. Because the automatic coffee makers are so common, especially in America, people are pretty used to the way coffee made in these brewers tastes, and they are not likely to notice a difference unless  they usually prepare their coffee in another way.

Also, as the name of automatic coffee makers suggests, the process required to make coffee in these systems is uncomplicated and is hands-off for the person making it. After setting up the machine and pressing the start button, the person brewing the coffee does not need to stand nearby and watch. They won’t be required to make any changes or move any parts of the brewer to help the coffee-making process. The machine does it all on its own. That means that people can start the coffee brewing and go on with their morning routine, getting things accomplished while the system brews the coffee automatically.

Automatic coffee brewers are also very affordable. Both the coffee making machine and the supplies the machines (the filters, water, and ground coffee) use are not expensive and do not require a large investment from the consumer. That makes these machines accessible for a large portion of the population and is a big part of why they are so popular. 

What Kind Of Coffee Do Chemex Coffee Makers Make?

Though the coffee that you can make in a Chemex is very similar to drip coffee, it is actually considered a pour over style of coffee maker. Drip coffee makers are great for those that don’t want to be involved in the brewing process. For people who would rather just add coffee grounds and water, push a button and walk away, the machine of choice is the automatic drip coffee maker. But for those that want to truly enjoy their morning cup, the pour over method can bring a lot more depth and complexity to the coffee you brew. 

What Is Different About Pour Over Coffee? 

Pour over coffee is a more involved brewing process in which the user gets to have more control over the different variables that go into their brew. The brewing process is a little more complex, and can take some practice to perfect, but once you have the technique down, and the proper materials at hand to help you, there is no better coffee in the world, than what you can achieve through the pour over brewing method. 

Simple But Elegant Design

Chemex is just one of the brands that make pour over brewers, and their machines are simple and beautiful. They have the exact same design and use the exact same components as they did when they first came out over 70 years ago. The brewing device, which sits over a glass carafe, is a glass, cone shaped device which is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. For many pour over devices, that is all you need. 

The Chemex also has a wooden structure that goes around the glass, which is held together by a leather strap that is tied in place. The wood and leather components are mostly in place for decorative purposes, but they also allow users to touch the device without touching the hot glass areas, which can be very hot during the brewing process. 

All in all, the pour over design is simple, but elegant. It is often stored on the kitchen counter as a conversation piece due to its simple beauty. However, it can easily be stowed out of the way when not in use. 

Better Quality Coffee

Using a pour over machine can really get the best out of your coffee beans. There is nothing better than a well made cup of pour over coffee. Sure, it takes a little more time and effort, and a little bit more skill and knowledge, but once you know what you’re doing, the coffee that you produce will be far superior to anything you might be able to get out of a drip machine. 

Consistent Product 

It does take a little bit of getting used to, but as soon as you are able to get the right timing down with your pour over device, you will have it all figured out, and you can easily get the same consistently brilliant cup of coffee from your pour over every single time you use it. Sure, the convenience of a drip machine can come in handy when you are trying to rush out the door for work, but it will never make as high quality of a cup as a pour over device can make in the same amount of time. 

The Right Temperature 

One of the reasons why the pour over coffee brewing method is able to achieve such a superior product time in and time out is because of the temperature in which the water is used to brew the coffee. Most drip machines don’t even come close to reaching the appropriate temperature for brewing coffee. With pour over devices, you can bring your water right to the edge of boiling, where it needs to be for coffee brewing. Anything less, will result in mediocre extractions and a lackluster cup of joe. 

Durable Coffee Makers 

Because the Chemex coffee maker is produced from sturdy materials and does not involve a lot of technology or moving parts, consumers know when they purchase a Chemex that their coffee making setup will last a long time. After the initial investment of purchasing the Chemex brewer, they will have what they need to make coffee and will only need to purchase their filters and the coffee beans themselves. 

The Chemex coffee maker, in most cases, will last for a long time. A consumer who has purchased a Chemex can expect to be able to keep brewing coffee in the Chemex for a long time before they will need to think about purchasing a new brewer to replace it. They will be able to stretch the value of their initial investment in the machine across many years in most cases before needing to consider making another investment in a new coffee setup. Unless, of course, it drops on the ground and breaks, but you might be surprised at how durable the Chemex, and other pour over devices actually are. It may take more than a drop to break it. 

How To Make Coffee Through A Pour Over Machine

To prepare your pour over device to brew coffee, you simply put a filter in place into the cone, pre-wet the filter with hot water, dump the filter water from the base of the device, add your coffee grounds, and get your hot water ready to pour. 

Then, slowly wet the beans with hot water. Once the beans are wet, the user pauses to allow the grounds to bloom. Blooming occurs when the grounds first make contact with hot water, and it is the process of the coffee beans releasing carbon dioxide. The wet grounds expand, or bloom, while the gas is being released. Once the grounds settle back down, you can complete your pour in two more pours, the first longer and larger than the second. 

When you first continue your pour, pour in slow concentric circles, but do not pour so slowly that the water is waiting for the drip to catch up. Stir the top layers of grounds while stirring but do not disturb too deeply, as the bottom layers of coffee should be left untouched. Do not wait for levels to drop down, but continue pouring until the water level reaches up to about three fourths of an inch from the rim of the device. At this point, pause to allow the water level to drop back into the coffee bed. This could take up to one minute. Once the coffee bed is settled again, finish your pour.

Cleaning is simple and easy. All you have to do is remove the filter and toss it into the trash. Then give the device a quick rinse and a few drops of dish soap for a gentle wash, rinse the soap from the device, and you’re all done. Set the device upside down to dry. You’re all done. As soon as the device is dry, it can be placed on the kitchen counter for decoration, or stowed away to save room on the counter for cooking or other kitchen projects

The Final Product

The kind of quality you can get in the coffee produced with a pour over device is otherworldly. Once you get the hang of the process down, every cup becomes a perfect brew. At first, you may have to make some adjustments to your grind style and your pour technique, and you may end up having to invest a little money into a burr grinder for more uniformly ground coffee, and an electric kettle with a gooseneck spout to slow down your pouring speed, but once you have the appropriate gear and a little bit of practice, making coffee through a pour over machine, becomes a science that comes out just how you like it every time. 

As you can see, the Chemex machine and automatic coffee brewers are not quite the same type of brewer. And although the processes used to make Chemex coffee and drip coffee are similar, they are not quite the same either. As a result, there are differences between drip coffee made in an automatic coffee machine and coffee made in a Chemex. Which setup is the right one for you simply depends on what is most important to you when you make your coffee. If cost and a simple coffee-making process that doesn’t require a lot of oversight from the person preparing the coffee are paramount to you, it makes sense to choose an automatic coffee machine. If the most important thing to you is the taste of your coffee or you simply prefer the hands-on process of the durable Chemex coffee brewers, then you may decide to go for a Chemex instead. One type of coffee machine is not necessarily better than the other: they both excel in different situations.

Learn More about Chemex vs. Drip Coffee

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