Chemex vs. Kalita Wave

  • Name
    Name of the coffee maker
  • Serving Size
    How many cups of coffee does the coffee maker make?
  • Type of Coffee Maker
    What's the coffee maker's method of brewing?
  • Materials
    What's the coffee maker made out of?
  • BPA Free
    Is the coffee maker free of Bisphenol-A?
  • Manufacturer Origin
    In what country is the coffee maker made?
  • Chemex
    Name of the coffee maker
  • Up to 13 cups (5 oz)
    How many cups of coffee does the coffee maker make?
  • Manual drip/Pour-over
    What's the coffee maker's method of brewing?
  • Glass and wood
    What's the coffee maker made out of?
  • BPA Free?
  • USA
    In what country is the coffee maker made?
  • Kalita Wave 185
    Name of the coffee maker
  • Up to 4 cups (5 oz)
    How many cups of coffee does the coffee maker make?
  • Manual drip/Pour-over
    What's the coffee maker's method of brewing?
  • Stainless steel
    What's the coffee maker made out of?
  • BPA Free?
  • Japan
    In what country is the coffee maker made?

Pour over coffee makers – you see them everywhere these days. Perhaps two of the most popular options for making pour over coffee are the Chemex and the Kalita Wave. So naturally, I decided to compare them head-to-head in a blind taste test for the 7th iteration of the Coffeemaker Showdown series.

But first, a little bit of background on both of these coffee makers…

The Chemex

chemex

I reviewed the Chemex awhile back highlighting its elegance, it’s clean coffee, and the fact that it’s manufactured in the USA. This is a coffee maker that has a lot going for it to say the very  least.

The key to the success of the Chemex largely has to do with its thick paper filters that keep out more of the bitter compounds found in brewed coffee.

Additionally, being all glass as well as 100% USA made are big selling points for this pour over brewer.

The Kalita Wave

The Kalita Wave has picked up a lot of steam in recent years as one of the top pour over coffee makers, and for good reason.kalita-wave-185

Not only do the 3 small, evenly spaced holes at the flat bottom allow for a more even extraction than many of the Wave’s counterparts, it also comes in either stainless steel, glass, or ceramic versions. So just like the Chemex, all materials are food safe and the Stainless steel option conducts heat especially well.

The Kalita Wave also features very thick paper filters that allow for a cleaner cup of coffee than most of its counterparts. It will be especially interesting to see the differences between the coffee these two pour over brewers make.

How These Coffeemaker Showdowns Work

If this is your first coffeemaker showdown, welcome! Basically, I take two coffee makers and declare a winner amongst the 9 rating categories I normally look at in my reviews.

Price, coffee quality, coffeemaker quality, durability, brew speed, versatility, appearance, ease of use, and cleaning ease.

You can learn more about how I rate coffeemakers here.

The Showdown

Results

In a perfect world I’d be brewing both cups of coffee at the exact same time with the exact same flow rate. I’d also have more than two people tasting the coffee. Finally, I’d also run multiple trials with different grinds and brew ratios.

But alas, my coffeemaker showdown world is not perfect. So feel free to take these results with as many grains of salt as you’d like.

If you watched the whole video you will have seen that the Kalita Wave was our winner. But instead of simply saying the coffee was better, let me do my best to describe the differences between the two cups of coffee.

The Coffee

I didn’t mention this in the video but it’s pretty important to note here. I used the Kenya Gachatha AA from Case Coffee Roasters which was all well in good except I brewed it about 3 weeks after it was roasted.

Some people may cry foul, but I actually don’t think it mattered because the coffee was really good.

But I just wanted to throw this out there in case anybody cares!

Both cups of coffee in the end were pretty bright. But for whatever reason (water temperature I’d guess) the Kalita Wave was noticeably more balanced.

Even more interesting was the fact that there was virtually no noticeable aroma from the Kalita Wave brew, yet it still had the better overall flavor and balance.

But enough about the coffee, let’s talk about the other important things that go into comparing these two coffee makers. Particularly, the rating categories themselves.

Price

Depends on size (and material). The Kalita Wave comes in three different materials and two different sizes. At the time of this post, the cheapest option is glass Kalita Wave 155 (1-2 cup version).

For the Chemex, it’s only about size. The cheapest version is the 3-cup and it comes in at $35 at the time of writing.

Winner: Kalita Wave

Coffee Quality

It could really go either way depending on your grind, water temperature, and of course, coffee. In this showdown however, we know who the winner was.

Winner: Kalita Wave

Coffee Maker Quality

I think there are few coffee makers (if any) that are manufactured as well as the Chemex.

There is an entire handblown series offered by Chemex, plus all of their coffee makers are made here in the USA. The Kalita is definitely well-made, but it’s hard to argue against the Chemex here.

Winner: Chemex

Ease of Use

Because it’s harder to regulate temperature with the Chemex (as demonstrated in the video), I think I’m going to go with the Kalita here, even though there is virtually no difference in the pour over technique itself as far as I’m concerned.

Winner: Kalita Wave

Cleaning Ease

With the Chemex, you have to get in there with a brush at times to remove any residual coffee oils. With the Kalita, just dump your filter and rinse with water and you’re done.

Both easy to clean, but the Kalita is easier.

Winner: Kalita Wave

Durability

If you’re using the glass version of the Kalita, it’s probably a toss-up. But since I use the stainless steel version I’d say it’s definitely more durable.

Winner: Kalita Wave

Brew Speed

Great question. I haven’t put this to the test, but if I were a betting man I’d say the Kalita is a bit faster given that there are 3 holes instead of the one “hole” for the Chemex.

Winner: ?

Appearance

Chemex will always win, no matter who it’s up against.

Winner: Chemex

Versatility

Well, the Kalita takes up less space and is probably more practical for your home or your cafe. But I can’t say that either is particularly more “versatile” than the other.

Winner: none

Chemex or Kalita Wave?

Can I say definitively that the Kalita Wave is better than the Chemex?

Absolutely not.

It may have won under these particular conditions, but the problem with comparing two manual brewing methods is that there is a lot of human involved.

If it were auto drip coffee makers it may be easier, but in this case there is simply too much at play.

Choose the Kalita Wave if…

You are new to pour over coffee, have limited space, want something portable that retains heats very well, I’d go with the Kalita Wave.

This is also a far more practical option for coffee professionals who need to brew one cup of coffee at a time.

Choose the Chemex if…

If you want your coffee maker to double as decoration, make the cleanest cup of coffee, and help keep some jobs in the U.S. (or whatever other motivations you have for buying USA made products), the Chemex is your best bet.

Share your questions & comments!

I’d love to hear what you think about this coffeemaker showdown, so if you have any comments or suggestions please leave them below. Same goes for questions, ask away!