The Chemex coffee maker is a popular pour-over coffee maker (and carafe) made from borosilicate glass.
Most models (including the 6-cup version I'll be reviewing here today) have a wood collar and leather tie for safe-handling and aesthetics.
Who The Chemex is For
If you're looking for a coffee maker that makes great coffee and looks great in just about any space, you really can't go wrong with the Chemex.
Ideally, you'd also have some interest in the ritual of brewing coffee manually.
Finally, if you enjoy "clean" coffee with very little body, the Chemex is just about as good as it gets with its heavy duty paper filters, which are really the secret sauce of this coffee maker.
Who The Chemex is NOT For
If you're looking for convenience, the Chemex is frankly not a good choice.
Brewing with a Chemex is all about the ritual of brewing coffee. If you don't have time to actively pour the hot water on the ground coffee, you'll likely find the Chemex burdensome.
This is also a somewhat fragile coffee maker with relatively poor heat retention. So if you're clumsy and/or looking to drink your coffee at piping hot temperatures, the Chemex will not be your best choice.
- CHEMEX - simple, easy to use with timeless, elegant design
- All CHEMEX Coffeemakers are made of the highest quality, non-porous Borosilicate glass which will not absorb odors or chemical residues
- The patented CHEMEX pour-over design allows coffee to be covered and refrigerated for reheating without losing flavor
- All CHEMEX Coffeemakers are measured using 5 oz. as 1 cup
- Use CHEMEX Bonded Filters FP-1, FC-100, FS-100, FSU-100
The first time I laid eyes on the Chemex coffee maker was in my friend's apartment.
My initial reaction was confusion: "a decanter for coffee?"
Well, turns out that decanting has pretty much nothing to do with it, and that would make sense given that the longer you wait to drink your coffee, the colder it's going to get.
When I tried the coffee I was definitely impressed. Very little bitterness and a nice rich flavor.
In comparison to my cheap plastic coffee filter cone at home, the Chemex seemed like a home run.
Chemex Models: Compared
The Chemex comes in two different styles, in a variety of different sizes.
In terms of style, you can either go with the "Classic", which includes the wooden collar, or you can go with the all-glass style, which has a glass handle.
I imagine that most people are drawn to the classic style (I mean, it's featured in the MoMA), but hey, to each their own.
In terms of size, you can choose anywhere between 3 cups and 10 cups of coffee. Keep in mind that the manufacturer defines a cup of coffee as 5 ounces of brewed coffee.
The Classic Chemex
The All-Glass Chemex
As pretty as the Chemex is by itself, the truth is that its design has virtually no impact on your final cup of coffee.
Some coffee snobs may say otherwise, but I'd be surprised to get any evidence beyond the anecdotal.
Still, what most coffee enthusiasts will agree on is that the Chemex's filters are the true secret sauce in what helps make the coffee taste great.
Of course, you'll need to take care of some other important prerequisites before you start brewing great coffee, but the filters will definitely make a difference once the basics have been addressed.
There are essentially 3 types of Chemex filters out there, each of which is made from different materials.
Let's break down the differences.
Natural Chemex Paper Filters
Natural Chemex filters are one of the two options Chemex owners have in terms of the paper filters that were designed specifically for the Chemex.
These filters are made from thick paper, and un-bleached.
While "natural" sounds appealing on the surface level, my experience with these filters has been anything but pleasant.
They impart a strong paper taste in your final cup of coffee and require ample pre-rinsing to mitigate this undesirable paper flavor in your final cup of coffee.
Classic Chemex Paper Filters
In my opinion, the Classic Chemex paper filters are the truly *natural* choice.
These white paper filters are just as thick as the natural paper filters, but they impart no paper taste in your final cup of coffee.
To me, this is what makes them the winning choice for Chemex owners.
You can buy them either as pre-folded or circular, I recommend the latter for the slight edge in convenience.
Reusable Metal Filters
Third-party manufacturers like Able Brewing have come along to create reusable metal filters designed specifically for the Chemex.
These are obviously the most economical choice in the long run, since you don't have to continuously buy Chemex's relatively expensive paper filters.
Reusable filters are also the most eco-friendly choice, since you're not contributing to more trees being cut down just to filter your coffee.
With all that said, in my opinion you might as well not even buy a Chemex coffee maker to begin with if you're not going to take advantage of the special filters that are made for this coffee maker.
With reusable metal filters, you'll get a lot more coffee oils passing through into your final cup, which completely changes the flavor profile and body of the coffee.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's more in tune with the coffee you would brew with a French Press.
Chemex Filters: Compared
How To Use The Chemex
Step 1: Add filter to Chemex and pre-rinse
If you're using paper filters, you'll especially want to pre-rinse your filters to eliminate any unwanted paper flavor in your final cup of coffee.
Regardless of the filter you use, adding some hot water in the beginning allows you to pre-heat the Chemex for better heat retention.
Don't forget to dump the hot water in the sink before adding your ground coffee to the filter.
Step 2: Measure coffee beans
I'm not going to shame you if you decide to use volume-based units of measurement, but ideally you'll want to be using a gram scale to measure out your beans.
I usually weigh at least 30 grams for 2 cups of coffee.
With a 6-cup Chemex you can probably go as high as 60 grams of coffee for the full 6 cups of coffee.
If you are using tablespoons to measure, 1 tablespoon per 6 ounces of water is a common rule to go by. I'd use at least 2 tablespoons.
For 6 cups of coffee, you'll want about 5 tablespoons.
Step 3: Grind the coffee
An easy mistake to make when brewing coffee is to grind too coarsely or too finely for the brew method you're using.
The Chemex thrives with a coarser grind. Specifically, a medium-fine grind.
Feel free to experiment though.
A brew time between 3 and 5 minutes is a good range to aim for. Grind coarser if too slow, grind finer if too fast.
Step 4: Add ground coffee to filter
With your Chemex sitting on your gram scale, add your ground coffee to the filter, level the bed of coffee with a few gentle shakes, then tare the scale.
You're now ready to brew.
Step 5: Bloom/pre-infuse the ground coffee
Pour about twice the weight of your coffee, in water, slowly over the ground coffee, making sure to evenly saturate the entire bed of coffee.
Wait about 30 seconds before continuing on with the rest of the pour.
Step 6: Continue pouring the water in intervals
This final step is a pretty subjective one.
Some coffee pros will tell you to pour in evenly timed intervals until the total weight on your scale reaches about 15 times the ground coffee's weight.
Others will tell you to basically do most of the pouring in just a couple of pours.
Honestly, the differences will likely be negligible for you.
Just make sure to evenly saturate the ground coffee with targeted pouring. You can also use a small spoon to mix the coffee slurry for a more predictable extraction.
Step 7: Serve your coffee and enjoy!
I think you'll have no problem with this step.
Chemex vs. The Competition
I reviewed the Chemex across 8 different rating categories that I feel are most important to your typical coffee-lover.
Let's take a closer look at each.
Did I mention that you can find the Chemex in the Museum of Modern Art?
Yeah, enough said.
Design & Materials
The design and materials are essentially flawless in the Chemex.
I feel the need to pull a half-point for the simple reason that the Chemex is made of glass, which will always be fragile and not offer the best heat retention.
Ease of Use
While you don't need to be a rocket scientist to brew with the Chemex, it does take practice.
This is a not a coffee maker that will magically make your coffee better.
It will however teach you (perhaps) what's important in making better coffee.
Hint: it starts with the ingredients.
The coffee will only be as good as your ingredients (coffee beans and water) and grind.
If you get these parts right, you'll set yourself for some of the best coffee one is able to brew.
The classic filters are truly magical in making a clean cup of coffee.
Some people will complain about the Chemex being difficult to clean.
Personally, I think it's one of the easiest coffee makers to clean, especially if you're using the paper filters.
Usually a quick rinse with water does the trick.
A bottle brush can also be used for the tougher stains, but my personal favorite method is using Cafiza.
While the Chemex is relatively compact, it is not really made to be travelled with.
If you do decide to travel with it, make sure you wrap it up in newspaper or bubble wrap before packing it into your suitcase.
For a beautiful piece of art that makes good coffee, I think the price is fair.
This is especially subjective though.
This is the achilles heel of the Chemex.
While it has no electronic components that can break on you, it is still made of glass.
I still haven't shattered mine after 5+ years of ownership (*knocks on wood*), but it can definitely happen to you if you're not careful.
I've gone through a lot of coffe makers over the years, but the Chemex is still one of the few that remains in my regular rotation.
If you're looking to get into Specialty Coffee at home, the Chemex is an excellent starting point.
Tried The Chemex? Leave a Review Below!
If you own a Chemx, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments, questions, or reviews below!
Chemex 6-Cup Coffee Maker$41.32
Last update on 2020-07-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API