Invented by a chemist in 1941, the Chemex Coffeemaker is simple in appearance and in use, but its extraordinary engineering is designed to brew the best cup of coffee possible.
This coffee brewer is a beautifully crafted, simple to use, organically shaped vessel made of high quality borosilicate, a heat-resistant glass that imparts no flavors of its own.
This brewing device, together with its propriety bonded paper filters, makes a near perfect beverage that’s clear, pure and flavorful without bitterness or sediment every time. The coffee only comes in contact with the scientifically designed filter and non-porous glass.
With this apparatus, you can make coffee as strong as you like without bitterness. It’s perfect for making iced coffee drinks (like this recipe, our version of a Vietnamese-style iced java made with homemade sweetened condensed milk). You’ll also love it for preparing coffee flavoring for gourmet recipes.
Because of its purity, the resulting extractions can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for reheating… without losing flavor! There are no oils left intact in the brew to go rancid.
Models and Products
The traditional “Classic” model is simplicity at its best, and features a polished wood collar and leather tie.
The collar serves as an insulated handle around the middle that protects your fingers from the heat. Simple, functional operation and a visual elegance combine for the optimum extraction of full, rich-bodied brews.
Available in three (16 oz.), six (30 oz.), eight (40 oz.), and ten (50 oz.) cup versions, the Chemex Classic Series coffeemaker is both elegant and versatile. Check out what other reviewers have to say on Amazon.
Glass Handle Series
The Glass Handle Series is also available, and this line features beautifully curve glass handles that add an elegant but useful feature to the device.
Chemex Eight Cup Glass Coffee Maker with Glass Handle available at Amazon
Hand Blown Series
Another popular option is the Hand Blown Series, completely handcrafted by skilled tradesmen utilizing ultra-clear glass. These are available in three, five, eight, and thirteen ounces.
A hand blown Chemex Water Kettle is also available, and it’s a pure testament to the idea of form following function. Designed at end of the Art Deco era with a touch of mid-century modern, using this water kettle is one of the classiest ways to boil up to two quarts of water.
A “steam stopper” valve directs steam up and out and the neck remains relatively cool to the touch, serving as a handle. The Hand Blown Kettle also functions as a beverage server, as its nonporous glass will not impart any flavors to any hot or cold liquid. This is one of the most elegant ways to present coffee and tea products to your guests.
The Glass Coffeemaker Cover is a must for keeping coffee warm. The glass cover keeps coffee at the proper strength as well, by preventing evaporation.
It fits all of the Chemex coffeemakers.
One of the key factors that makes the Chemex Coffeemaker so functional is its proprietary filter paper. Not just any filter paper will work.
The extra thick filter is strong enough to be removed from the brewer without disintegrating and leaving you with used coffee grounds all over the place. Stronger paper is also required to keep its shape, so it doesn’t slide down into the vessel.
The thick paper also traps sediment that other filters miss. This sediment is responsible for the bulk of the bitter taste often associated with other coffee brewing methods, such as the basic French press.
However, the most important reason for using the proprietary paper is to remove oils that may quickly oxidize and become rancid, giving a sour taste to the coffee. These oils also contain some LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Together with the advanced filter paper, the non-porous glass prevents off flavoring. If sealed using the Chemex CMC Glass Coffeemaker Cover or other methods, coffee can be stored in the refrigerator to be served cold or reheated without losing flavor and without becoming sour.
Brewing with a Chemex Coffeemaker – Instructions and Tips
The process used to brew coffee using the Chemex is very simple. Use these steps, tips, and techniques to brew up the perfect batch.
Step 1. Start off by boiling some water.
Once your kettle or pot has finished boiling, let it sit for a few moments to cool down to the optimal temperature – around 200°F. This is one of the best parts of this brewing system, in that you get to control the temperature.
The ability to maintain a good temperature all the time means no more weak coffee from old drip machines that are notorious for brewing at too low of temperature – especially as they age.
Step 2. Place filter into the top section of the brewer and wet it.
Take care to assure that the thicker, 3-layered side of the filter faces the spout. Pour some water over the filter to wet it. Get rid of the water collected in the vessel by pouring it out, and the filter should stick in place.
Step 3. Put in coffee grounds and wet them.
Why wet them? This is called “blooming” and it opens up the coffee particles, letting more of the
oils break away into the hot water.
How? While the temperature is still optimal – 195 to 205°F – pour water over the
grounds until they’re just about to start floating. Let it sit for a few
moments. In other words, soak the coffee grounds just a bit.
How much coffee to use?
About 8 grams per 5 oz. cup. That’s two flat tablespoons for mild roasted coffee. Heap them just a little if you’re going to use a darker/Italian roast, as the grounds are lighter and therefore take up more volume.
What about the grind?
As for all methods of coffee preparation, the grind is important. Pre-ground coffee with a “regular” grind (the kind made for the old percolator pots) works much better than the “automatic drip” grind made for modern coffee makers.
However, drip grind will work, albeit at slower pace. We really recommend grinding fresh roasted beans obtained from your local coffee roaster or the internet by using either a high quality hand operated burr grinder or an electric burr grinder.
Blade grinders are not recommended, as they are suitable for spice grinding only. We recommend the Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder as the biggest bang for the buck in electric burr coffee grinders.
Step 4. Pour the water.
Now you can start pouring the water gently into the coffee grounds. Try to distribute evenly, not just pouring from one side. Let the brewer fill according to how much coffee is in the filter.
They are disposable and both filter and grounds can be composted. If you’ve purchased the optional lid, put it on to keep the coffee warm until you serve it. Enjoy!
Other Chemex Coffeemaker Tips
- Use some boiled water to preheat your coffee cups, like the coffee shops do. This helps to ensure that your coffee temp doesn’t drop a couple of degrees when you pour it into the cup.
- The more coffee you brew at a time, the better. Brewing just one cup lets a lot of its heat escape. A bit of a paper taste is also said to creep in. Plus, it’s fun to be around fellow java junkies and share the experience.
- Coffee should not be brewed with boiling water. This will burn it, giving it a bitter taste. Brewing temperature should be around 200°F. If you have a thermometer, why not use it? If not, letting the boiled water sit for half a minute does the job.
- An electric kettle that has a temperature control or a stove top kettle with a built in thermometer is a very good investment, and will make life so much easier if you are using the Chemex Coffeemaker, French press, or other pour over methods on a regular basis.
Although it may look like a flower vase, or something that belongs in a haiku, the functionality of the Chemex Coffeemaker blends beautifully with its elegant, organic form. Most importantly, it brews an excellent, lively cup with a tasty bouquet of flavors. See all Chemex products on Amazon now.
Graphics by Josh Ponelat © 2014 Foodal. All rights reserved.
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.