How to Brew Coffee with a Chemex

The Chemex is a favorite of many coffee lovers, including myself, because it produces such a bright, clean, flavorful cup.

What You Will Need:IMG_3599_Fotor

  1. Chemex
  2. Chemex Filter (bleached)
  3. Fresh Coffee (50 grams)
  4. Scale
  5. Coffee Grinder
  6. Water Kettle
  7. Gooseneck Water Kettle (optional)
  8. Timer

Instructions:

Step 1: Begin Heating Water. As mentioned before, proper water temperature is very important. The correct temperature range for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need 800ml of water to brew 50 grams of coffee, so make sure to boil enough for brewing and for rinsing the filter.

Step 2: Weigh and Grind Coffee. For this method, weigh out 50 grams of whole bean coffee. If you would like to make a smaller batch, use a 16:1 water-to-coffee ratio and adjust. For example: you could use 32 grams of coffee for 512 ml of water. This method is for an 8 Cup Chemex, so if you have a 3 or a 6, you will want to reduce the amount you are making.

Then, when it comes to grinding your coffee, you should use a medium-coarse grind. This is somewhere between what you would use for an auto-drip brewer and a French Press. Baratza suggests a grind size of 21, which I have found to be a great place to start. That said though, if you do make a smaller batch, you are going to have to slightly adjust the grind size as well, making it a tad finer.

Step 3: Prepare the Chemex: Transfer Water, Rinse Filter, Remove Water. Insert a clean Chemex filter into the chemex. Chemex filters are either big squares or big circles that have been folded in half two times. Either works fine. Now, when opening a Chemex filter, simply pull 1 layer away from the other 3, creating a funnel. Place the side with 3 layers on the side with the pouring spout. This keeps the filter from collapsing inside the pouring spout.

Then, after the water has reached boiling point, pour the water into a gooseneck kettle, if you have one (some boil directly in a gooseneck kettle). If you do not have a gooseneck kettle, it is okay; but they are significantly helpful when it comes to pour over brewing. As mentioned before, one of the downsides of transferring water from an electric wide-mouthed kettle to a gooseneck kettle is that you can easily drop the temperature too much. So if you are using one, be cautious, and quick.

IMG_3584_FotorAfter that, pour the water into the filter in a clockwise fashion, wetting the entire filter. As mentioned in the V60 how-to guide, there are multiple reasons for doing this: (1) it removes paper flavoring from the filter; and (2) it warms the brewing device, preparing it for the actual brewing process.

Then, after all the water has gone through the filter and the entire filter is wet, pour the water out of the pouring spout with the filter still in it (this is truly an art). Some people remove the filter, holding on to one corner, and then dumping the water out. If you do that, make sure that when you put the filter back inside, it sits in the right place.

Step 4: Start the Brewing Process. Now that you have prepared the Chemex for brewing coffee, place it on the scale and pour the freshly ground coffee inside the filter, giving it a little shake to make an even bed of grounds. Be sure to tare the scale to 0 and check the temperature of the water (between 195 and 205F), before pouring any water into it.

Then, with the scale reading zero, start the timer and pour 110ml of water into the Chemex. When you pour, make sure to pour slowly, beginning in the center of the bed of grounds, pouring in a clockwise fashion, and working your way out until you have poured all 100ml. If you do not have a scale, the goal is to use twice as much water as coffee grounds, ensuring that all the grounds are saturated. Avoid pouring directly on the filter—the water can bypass the coffee, bringing papery flavors with it.

After pouring 100ml of water, wait 40 seconds to allow the coffee to properly bloom.

IMG_3604Step 5: Add Water: First and Second Pour. When the timer reads 0:40, begin pouring as before: start in the middle and pour in a clockwise fashion, working your way out near the edge. Pour until you reach half of the total amount. Thus, when you reach 400ml of water, wait until much of the water has drained, before Second Pour. Both First and Second Pour will bring the grounds to nearly 1/2 of an inch below the top of the Chemex.

Then, once the water has nearly drained, pour the remaining 400ml in the same fashion as above—this is the Second Pour. Again, be careful not to pour directly on the filter.

IMG_3612Step 6: Remove the Filter and Grounds, Swirl, and Enjoy. After all 800ml have been poured into the Chemex, wait until all of the coffee has drained. The entire brewing process should take between 4 and 5 minutes. So if the coffee has not drained to a slow drip by 5 minutes, your grind is too fine; but if it is quicker than 4 minutes, your grind is too coarse.

What Sets the Chemex Apart?

Truly, what sets the Chemex apart from other pour over methods is the filter. Because the filter is more dense (about 20-30% more dense), the water does not drain through it as quickly; this is why grinding for a Chemex requires a bit coarser grind than other pour over methods. The filter allows the water to extract much more flavor, while it also helps to remove more of the non-solubles, leaving a clean cup with little body.

Links for Purchase:

Chemex Classic on Amazon.com (Amazon sells 3, 6, 8, and 10 cup versions—Chemex measures cups as 5oz)

Chemex with Handle on Amazon.com

8 Cup Chemex Classic on World Market.com

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15 thoughts on “How to Brew Coffee with a Chemex

  1. Great intro! Question, how do you feel the chemex sets itself apart from the aeropress? And I usually brew at 170 degrees…do you have a sliding scale of recommended temperature vs degree of darkness of roast?

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    • Joel, thanks for the comment and follow! Though there are differences, both are capable of producing great cups of coffee. As mentioned in this blogpost, the Chemex’s filter is significantly thicker than other filters, including the AeroPress filter. This allows less non-solubles to pass through the filter, in turn, creating a cleaner, less-bodied cup. While the body from an AeroPress is noticeably heavier, both, in their own ways, are great at extracting wonderful flavor notes. Nevertheless, the biggest difference is body, and the fact that the AeroPress only makes 1 cup of coffee compared to multiple cups with the Chemex.

      With regards to water, Verve released a video a few years ago talking all about water temperature when brewing coffee. Their conclusions are definitely in line with my experience. I would say that most of the time you will get a better extraction from a temperature between 195-205, but I have also had some really great coffee brewed as low as 175F from an AeroPress. The National Coffee Association suggests 195-205, and the SCAA’s requirements for cupping is 200F (plus or minus 2 degrees). It is often understood that it is at these temperatures that the best extraction of good flavors is possible. That said though, if you have had Toddy Cold Brew, it is clear that coffee can be extracted well at room temperature. I would say that when brewing with lower temperatures, it will likely affect other elements of brewing, such as grind size, or extraction time.

      Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Really appreciate the insight! I have yet to use Chemex. I used a french press for years, then migrated over to aeropress. But that’s interesting, it’s the filter…I bet there also are minor differences due to the pressure you get off the aeropress. My fellow coffee lovers swear by both methods. I definitely need to segue next over the Chemex. The first morning brew on the aeropress is great, but then I have the problem of only getting one cup for the effort.
        The water is interesting. I might have to turn my temp up on the water I use to see how it works. I used right around 200 on my french press and it was always spot on. Great research and really appreciate it. When I brew in the morning I’ll jack the temp up to ~200 in the aeropress and see what it’s like. Awesome blog btw! I’ll definitely be a regular reader going forward and will probably binge read most of the past articles lol. Have a nice evening! 🙂

        Like

      • Agreed! I bumped it up to about 200-205 for my three presses today and wow…it really made a difference. It wasn’t burned and the flavor was on point. Thanks for the advice! Cheers!

        Like

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