The Chemex is an easy-to-use, elegant, USA made coffee maker that is easily one of the most popular ways to make pour over coffee.
So what makes brewing with the Chemex different from brewing with other pour over coffee makers?
Mostly, it’s the filters, which are made of thicker paper that is meant to remove more of the fats, coffee oils, and other undissolved solids from the ground coffee. They are 20-30% heavier than most paper filters and are “scientifically formulated” to keep the bad stuff out of your final cup.
Given the filters’ thickness, it’s important that you don’t go too fine with your grind. So if there’s one thing to focus on with the Chemex, it’s getting your grind right by starting on the coarser side of the spectrum.
What You’ll Need (required)
Here are the things you must have in order to brew coffee with the Chemex:
- Ground coffee (medium)
- Good quality, filtered water
- Chemex coffee maker
- Bleached Chemex coffee filters
- The “natural” ones impart too much of a paper taste in my opinion
What You’ll Need for the Best Results (optional)
If you really want the best results and are willing to spend a little bit more money, this is everything you will need to make great Chemex coffee:
- Coffee beans that have been roasted less than 2 weeks ago
- Good quality, filtered water
- Gram scale
- Gooseneck kettle
- Burr grinder
- Bleached Chemex Paper Filter
Chemex Pour Over Steps Outlined
If you really want to experience a notable difference in the way your coffee tastes when brewing with the Chemex, use these steps as a starting point.
Keep in mind that everybody has their own technique when it comes to preparing coffee, so following this guide exactly as-is will not guarantee great results. The beauty of pour over coffee is that you can adapt it to meet your own personal preferences.
So with that in mind, here are the steps I take to brew coffee with the Chemex:
- Add fresh, filtered water to your gooseneck kettle and bring the water to a boil.
- Many gooseneck kettles can’t be placed over a heat source, so if your gooseneck kettle is one of these, boil your water with another kettle and then transfer it to your gooseneck kettle.
- Weigh out 15 grams of whole coffee beans on your gram scale. If you’re making two cups, use 30 grams.
- Add 15 grams for every cup of coffee you plan to make. The Chemex comes in multiple sizes, so make sure you have the right sized model before you make too many cups of coffee.
- Add the coffee beans to your burr grinder’s hopper.
- Make sure your grinder is set to a medium-coarse/drip grind setting.
- Add Chemex paper filter.
- When water is just off the boil, pour the hot water into the coffee dripper making sure to thoroughly wet the entire filter.
- Or, you can use a variable temperature kettle like this one, and set the temperature anywhere between 195-205˚F. These days, I heat the water to about 207-208 due to significant heat loss during the brew process. I recommend experimenting with temperature.
- Dump the hot water from the Chemex into the sink, then place the Chemex top of your gram scale.
- Grind your coffee and dump it into your Chemex filter.
- Shake the Chemex to settle the ground coffee so it is distributed evenly throughout the filter.
- Tare your scale.
- Slowly pour about 30 grams of water onto the ground coffee, making sure to evenly wet all of the ground coffee.
- You should be pouring twice the weight of the coffee, in water. So if you’re using 30 grams of coffee, pour 60 grams of water.
- Pour slowly from the center of the bed of coffee in a spiral motion towards the outer edges.
- Try not to pour any water directly onto the filter. Water should always be coming into direct contact with ground coffee as it’s being poured.
- Let the coffee “bloom” (expand and bubble as the CO2 is escaping) for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- If your coffee is a couple weeks past the roast date, let it bloom closer to a minute.
- Close to the roast date? A shorter bloom should be sufficient
- Pour about 30-60 grams of water every 15 seconds until you reach 225 grams on your scale.
- Try and target a total brew time between 3 and 4 minutes.
- A good starting point for amount of water you use in your brew can be anywhere between 15-18 times the amount of coffee you used. In this case, 225 grams of water is 15 times the weight of the coffee. Therefore, it’s a 15:1 water-coffee ratio.
- Remove the Chemex filter from the carafe while there is still a little bit of water remaining in the coffee filter.
- Sip your coffee and enjoy!
There are so many variables that come into play when making coffee, and this is especially true when you’re using a pour over brewer like the Chemex. Still, it’s a lot of fun making adjustments to these variables to see how it affects your brewed coffee.
If your coffee isn’t tasting the way you want it to taste, I’d try making the following adjustments in this order:
1. Adjust Water-Coffee Ratio
Adjusting your brew recipe (water-coffee ratio) is perhaps the easiest, and most impactful way to change the way your coffee tastes.
If your coffee is too strong and/or bitter, you should try using more water or less coffee in your brew recipe. So 15 grams of coffee with 225 grams of water could instead become 14 grams of coffee with 225 grams of water or 15 grams of coffee with 270 grams of water.
Always experiment with your brew recipe first.
2. Adjust Grind
Adjusting your coffee’s grind to be finer or coarser is kind of an arbitrary science, but it’s important nonetheless.
I normally like to use a coarser grind with the Chemex because of the thick filters and small surface area for the brewed coffee to pass through.
If the grind is too fine your coffee is at risk of over-extraction and potential bitterness.
A good rule of thumb is to adjust your grind so the total brew time is between 3 and 4 minutes. Anything less, and your grind may be too fine. Anything more, and your grind may be too coarse.
3. Adjust Pour
How, when, and where your water comes into contact with the ground coffee will have an impact on the final cup of coffee. Try pouring the same amount of water in the same pattern across 15 second intervals. From there, you can always experiment with pouring more water at once, in different patterns, and at different rates.
Just make sure you are taking notes on how this impacts your final cup of coffee.
The most important part of making pour over coffee is to have fun while doing it. Experiment. Take notes. Drink great coffee. Rinse and repeat.