Chemex is an excellent manual drip brewing method. Peter Schlumbolm, a German chemist who immigrated to the United States, invented the Chemex coffee maker in 1941. As a chemist, he was familiar with filtration and extraction techniques, and he applied his knowledge to create a superior method of brewing coffee.
The coffeemaker design is one of those rare achievements of simplicity and functionality which takes on an elegance of its own. It was recognized by the Illinois Institute of Technology as one of the best-designed items of modern times. The Chemex brewer is also in the permanent collections of several prominent museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Museum. There are a few advantages to making coffee with a Chemex brewer.
- Most Automatic drip machines generally brew coffee at a lower water temperature than the optimum 195F. Similar to a French Press, you have more control over brewing at the proper water temperature.
- Paper filters used with other brewing methods tend to absorb some of the coffee flavor. Chemex filters are 20-30% heavier than other filters and are designed to remove unwanted sediment but still allow more of the flavorful coffee oils and taste elements to pass through.
- Brewing time is a little longer with a Chemex due to the finer grain of the filters, but this is actually a positive. The slower filtration speed causes the water to stay in contact with ground coffee longer enabling more complete infusion.
- The Chemex filters do a great job of filtering out the fine sediment making this method a perfect combination with the less expensive blade grinders. Blade grinders produce more fine powder that tends to pass through other filters.
- The simple glass flask design is very easy and convenient to clean. For the best coffee result, it’s very important to keep your brewing system clean and free from foul tasting buildup and residue.
- The Chemex coffee maker comes in several sizes. The classic 6 cup Chemex coffee maker is the smallest size. The larger 8 cup and 10 cup models are best if you need to brew more cups of coffee at one time.
As with any coffee brewing method, water is the predominant ingredient so always start with fresh, clean water. If your water has a bad taste or aroma, the tainted effect will be even more pronounced in the coffee you brew. If your tap water isn’t fresh or good tasting, use a water filter or bottled water instead.
You’ll need a separate tea kettle to boil the water for brewing the coffee. Always rinse out your tea kettle and start with fresh water. Don’t use water that you might have left standing in the kettle for any length of time. The ideal temperature for extracting the optimum flavor from the ground coffee is between 195F and 200F. A good technique is to bring the water to a full boil and then remove from the heat before you grind your beans. By the time you’re done grinding the beans (about 30 seconds or less), the water will have cooled down to the ideal temperature.
For the optimum cup of coffee, always start with fresh beans. Beans quickly lose their freshness once they’re ground, so always wait to grind the beans until just before you’re ready to brew.
The Chemex filters do an excellent job of removing any sediment, so a blade grinder works fine.
The Step by Step Method
- Heat water in a tea kettle. Use 8oz of water per each cup that you are planning on brewing and an additional 12 oz of water to pre-soak the filter (see steps that follow).
- Open the Chemex-Bonded® Coffee Filter into a cone. One side should have three layers. Place the cone in the top of your coffeemaker with the thick portion toward the pouring spout.
- Using hot water from the tap or from your kettle, pour about 12 oz of water to pre-soak the filters. The Chemex filters will stick to the glass as you invert it to drain the water into the sink.
- Using your preferred grind, use 1 – 2 rounded tablespoons of coffee per 6 oz. cup into the filter cone. If you prefer stronger coffee use more – adjust to taste and preference. The Chemex filtration system will naturally cause the water to progress more slowly through the filters. This is a benefit that keeps the water in contact with the ground coffee longer for more complete infusion. To fine tune the filtration speed, you can adjust for a finer grind to further increase filtration time, and you can adjust for a coarser grind to speed up the filtration time.
- When the water is boiling, remove it from the heat until it stops boiling vigorously. Let it stand for 30 seconds which should reduce the temperature to about 195°F, a perfect brewing temperature. Pour a small amount of water over the coffee grounds, just enough to wet them without floating. After this initial wetting of the grinds, wait 20-40 seconds to allow the grounds to “bloom”. This is important because it releases the desirable coffee elements for more flavor and body.
- After this first wetting, gradually pour more water, but be careful not to fill all the way to the top of the filter cone. It is best to leave at least an inch from the top of the filter cone to the water level.
- Once the desired amount of coffee is brewed, dispose of the spent grounds by lifting the filter out of the coffeemaker. And that's it. You are now ready to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee!