At my coffee shop, people where always wanting to learn how to brew coffee in a Chemex since not only does it make a great cup of coffee, its also a beautifully designed pour over coffee maker that great for when coffee friends come to visit.
This article is going to go over a step by step how to properly brew coffee using a Chemex and give you tips and advice on the best way to make sure it comes out perfect each and every time. I will also include what equipment you will need (in addition to the Chemex)in order that you get the best tasting results.
Why Use A Chemex?
The Chemex is one of the best, most aesthetically pleasing and simple pour over brewing methods out there. In fact, the brewer is actually featured at MOMA ( Museum of Modern Art) in New York City and was selected by the Illinois Institute of Technology as one of the 100 best designed products of modern times.
In addition to making a great cup of coffee, I always like the versatility of a Chemex. You can do as little as a single cup but its also can be large enough to be used for groups. I always have found it to be a great conversation starter when you put out a full “pot” of Chemex brewed coffee in the center of the table with cups for everyone.
Who Invented The Chemex?
The Chemex was invented by the unconventional German Peter Schlumbohm during World War 2 in the year 1941. His creation was one of about 300 patents that he developed and the one by which he is best known. The idea behind his design was that he wanted to create something that not only brewed a superior cup of coffee without a lot of fuss but be also wanted it to look like a piece of art. I think he succeed on both accounts.
The Equipment You Need
- 8 Cup Chemex – There are smaller versions but why limit yourself? If you just need a single cup you can still use this size but if you have friends over you can use this size Chemex as well. You can check out the latest prices and size options at Amazon
- Scale – Check out my review of coffee scales and there importance but make sure you get one as it makes all the difference in the world.
- Fresh Roasted Coffee – Get coffee from a local roaster (if possible) or join a coffee subscription service like Bean Box either way make sure you get coffee that was roasted within two weeks of it roast date. (preferably sooner).
- Burr Grinder – You can with either a manual or electric grinder depending on your budget and how much exercise you want to get.
- Chemex Filters – These filters are a bit unusual as they are thicker and have a trifold. The reason for this is to remove unwanted oils and fats. To use, keep it folded, then open it up so you’ll have one layer on one side and three layers on the other. The side with three layers is what you’ll put against the pour spout.
- Timer – Any timer will do, for example using the one on your phone, but in the simplest of terms, a properly timed brew will help avoid either over extracting or under extracting the coffee.
- Goose Neck Kettle – A goose neck kettle a gives you pinpoint accuracy on pouring your water. This helps in saturating the coffee grinds evenly so you don’t have any “channeling” whereby getting an uneven brew.
- Stir Stick- You can use an “official” stick or really anything such as spoon just so you can move the coffee grounds around slightly to make sure they all get saturated when brewing.
Lets Begin The Brewing- Step By Step
Fill your goose neck kettle with water and start heating it up until it reaches 195 – 205 degrees. It going to take a few minutes so in meantime lets gets the other things ready to brew.
Grab one of the trifolded filters and put it into the Chemex. Remember that when you unfold it you want to put the single layer on one side and other three layers on the other. The side with three layers is what you’ll put against the pour spout.
Once your kettle is hot enough, grab it and rinse the filter so that it forms a kind of seal around the Chemex. The reason for doing this is 2 fold (get it?) The first reason is that it removes any paper flavor the you might get from the filter and the second reason is that it will preheat the Chemex. Once you do both of these, then simply dump the water out by turning the Chemex upside down while holding the filter in place.
Now is the time to break out the scale, turn it on and and tare it, (means zero it out).
When it Doubt – Weigh it Out
Grab your fresh roasted coffee and weigh out 25g grams of coffee since we will be using 400g of water for this brewing. I like to use a 16 to 1 ratio (Water to Coffee) for a Chemex but that’s personal preference. You can use whatever ratio you find tastes the best i.e. 15 to 1 or 17 to 1 etc..
Open up your manual or electric grinder and pour your pre measured beans into. You are going to want a medium coarse grind or something that resembles the size of kosher salt. This is again, a guideline since every grinder is different.
When you make your coffee if you find the coffee bitter, the grind may be to fine and therefore its getting over extracted. However if you find your coffee is sour that the grind may be too coarse and the coffee is getting under extracted. Adjust accordingly if you find either of these happening.
Its Brew Time!
Put your Chemex and rinsed filter on your scale and pour your ground coffee in the filter. Then Tare (zero out) your scale and get out your timer.
We are now going to start the timer and take the hot water and begin to saturate the coffee until you get to 75 grams. At this time we are going to take our stir stick and briefly move the coffee around GENTLY to make sure there aren’t any dry areas and then wait 30 seconds.
If you are using fresh coffee you will see a “bloom” where the coffee is getting rid of the C02 that was created when the coffee was roasted. (if you don’t see a bloom it means your coffee is probably not fresh)
Add More Water
Once you hit the 30 second mark you will then start adding more water. You want to pour from in either a clockwise or counter clockwise motion moving from the center out. You will do this until the water gets to just a little bit from the top of the rim of the Chemex, and once it lowers a little add some more water until you get to 400g.
This should take about one minute or until you get to the 1:30 mark on your timer. At this point put your kettle down and wait until your timer gets to 4 minutes. Once it hits 4 minutes, lift up the filter and coffee grounds and let it hang for a second or 2 over the Chemex to get a few more drips of coffee and then put the filter in the sink so as not to create a mess.
Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy!
Now the best part! Grab your favorite ceramic or porcelain mug and after swirling the Chemex around a couple of times, pour it into the mug and then just put on some Thelonious Monk or whatever music you prefer, sip slowly and enjoy.
By the way and as a side note, if you have used fresh roasted coffee, as the the coffee cools you should notice a change in flavors! Great Coffee can just be amazing!
Cleaning the Chemex – UGH!
Its not that bad… really! All it usually takes is some warm water and liquid soap. Just swirl around and rinse until all the soap is gone and then let air dry.
If there are some persistent residue on the bottom you can just add some salt to that water soap combination and move it around and that should get rid of it.. In a worse case scenario, just stick it in the dishwasher after removing the wood handle and your good to go!