brewing a chemex

How to Brew a Chemex

The Chemex is an old-school coffee maker that’s actually made its way to icon status thanks to its quirky laboratory look and natural features. It’s even a part of the Modern Museum of Art’s (MoMA) permanent collection; it’s that unique. 

Not to mention, it makes one excellent cup of coffee.

Of course, there’s a whole different learning curve that comes with making the perfect cup of coffee in a Chemex. Once you learn it and try it out, however, it’ll be simple enough to become a part of your regular morning routine.

So, if you want to learn more about what makes Chemex coffee so special and how to make it the right way, keep reading!

What Exactly Is Chemex?

In a nutshell, Chemex is a manual pour-over style coffee maker made of non-porous borosilicate glass. It was invented by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. He created the Chemex in the shape of an Erlenmeyer flask, and it’s fastened with a wooden collar and tie.

The Chemex came back in style somewhere around the early 2000s. Many coffee shops even use Chemex coffee makers as part of their “slow brew bars,” while others keep a few on the shelves for decoration. The coffee maker brews coffee using the infusion method, making it quite similar to drip coffee in terms of taste and body.

However, Chemex coffeemakers use filters that are 20-30% thicker than those used for other pour-over and drip methods. The heavy filter helps eliminate fats and oils from the coffee grounds, resulting in a cleaner, purer, and somewhat richer cup of coffee—minus the bitterness and sediment.

Why Choose the Chemex Method?

Everyone’s got their preferred style of coffee. Whether it be espresso, french press, americano, latte, iced, a white flat—even regular old drip (no judgment!), there’s a style, texture, and aroma out there for everyone.

So what makes a Chemex coffee so special?

Well, to put it simply, it’s kind of the coffee that meets you in the middle. Chemex coffee is an excellent choice for coffee lovers who are looking for something smooth and full of body, minus the bitterness. It’s like the opposite of a french press in that the end result is bright and light, rather than thick and heavy and full of sediment, without sacrificing the richness of the brew.

How to Brew a Chemex Step By Step:

It’s pretty easy to brew a Chemex coffee, as long as you have the right equipment and supplies. Here’s what you need to get it right:

  • A 6 or 8-cup Chemex coffeemaker
  • Chemex square or circular coffee filter
  • A scale (optional)
  • A gooseneck kettle*
  • 36-43 grams medium-coarse ground coffee 
  • 600-700 milliliters filtered water

* It’s okay if you don’t own a gooseneck kettle (or don’t want to shell out the cash for one). A regular kettle will work, however, gooseneck kettles offer more pour-over control and balance when it comes to the saturation of the coffee grounds.

Now, here’s how to brew a Chemex coffee:

1. Heat Your Water

If you’re working with an 8-cup Chemex coffeemaker, you’ll need to heat 700 milliliters of filtered or purified water to between 198 and 205 degrees. (If you’re working with a 6-cup Chemex, you’ll only need up to 600 mL).

Keep in mind you’ll need a little extra water for rinsing as well.

2. Grind Your Coffee

If you’re working with whole beans, you’ll need to grind your coffee to a medium-coarse consistency. Remember, the amount you’ll need will vary depending on the size of your Chemex—for 8-cup coffeemakers, you’ll need approximately 43 grams and 36 grams for a 6-cupper. 

This is where the scale comes in handy. Of course, if you don’t have a scale then you’ll need to resort to doing the baking conversions in your head:

There are roughly 17 grams to a tablespoon, so for an 8-cup brew, you’ll need about 4-5 tablespoons of coffee and 3-4 tablespoons for a 6-cupper. It’ll also depend on how strong you like your coffee, but it’s not a good idea to add more than a tablespoon over the recommended amount.

3. Insert and Rinse the Filter

Now you can go ahead and place your filter inside the top of your Chemex. If you’re using a square filter, make sure that the side with the three-section is just over the lip used for pouring.

Pour a little warm water through the filter to rinse it. This also pre-heats the carafe portion of the Chemex to get it ready. Make sure to discard the water afterward.

4. Add Your Ground Coffee and Pour the Water 

Now add your designated amount of medium-coarse ground coffee to the filter portion of your Chemex.

Once your water reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and let it sit for about 30 seconds before pouring.

Your initial pour is critical, so pay attention to this part:

Instead of pouring all the water at once, only pour enough to saturate the grounds. Soaking the grounds this way allows them to “bloom,”. In other words, it allows trapped carbon dioxide to escape from the grounds for optimal extraction and to get rid of the bitter, sour taste.

So, soak your grounds and let your coffee bloom for 30 seconds. During this time, feel free to give your soaking grounds a light stir with a wooden spoon.

5. Add the Rest of the Water

Once the soaking is done, you can start adding the rest of your hot water a little bit at a time. Make sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of the filter, letting most of it pour through before adding more.

6. Serve and Enjoy

Once the last of the water has poured through, you can remove the filter and begin serving. Enjoy!

A Chemex coffeemaker would make a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen countertop as its design allows it to blend in seamlessly with all aesthetics. Of course, if purchasing your own is out of the question, you could always get your fix by popping into one of our nearby coffee shops for your morning caffeine fix.

Brew a Chemex at home!

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