We're answering all of your brewing questions about the famed Chemex coffee makers in this handy Chemex guide.
The first coffee maker I ever purchased was a tiny red 4-cup coffee maker for my dorm room. The glossy finish and KitchenAid logo made me so happy.
Coffee has long been a beloved part of my morning routine and over the years I’ve owned just about every kind of coffee maker there is on the market.
I've bought endless drip machines, Keurig and Nespresso brewers, vintage percolators, coffee cone drippers and French presses of all shapes and sizes.
Five or six years ago my husband and I started making coffee with a Chemex and we have never looked back, begging the question - does a Chemex really make better coffee? In my personal opinion - absolutely yes!
Why I Love My Chemex
While I still keep a couple of my favorite French presses tucked in a cabinet, our Chemex immediately beame our go-to coffee maker for daily use.
This guide is part love letter to my Chemex, part informational resource if you're curious about the recent hype surrounding Chemex coffee makers.
I preface everything by saying that I am not a coffee aficionado nor do I claim to be! My love for coffee is simple and uncomplicated.
I absolutely do not get fussy over the finer points of roasts and brews, and I have no real interest in doing so. If it tastes good, I am sufficiently happy.
My husband and I are simply coffee lovers who love making good coffee at home without having to think too hard about what that looks like.
That is precisely why we love our Chemex so much!
What Is a Chemex?
Invented in 1941, a Chemex is a pour over style coffee maker with a sleek hourglass shape reminiscent of a glass flask one might find in a laboratory.
The unique, clean-lined design is part of the wide appeal of the Chemex coffee maker because it looks as good as the coffee it makes tastes!
Available in a variety of sizes the Chemex features a wooden collar around the funnel neck that is held snugly in place with a tied leather cord.
This unique wooden collar not only lends a cool look to the Chemex, but also provides a heatproof place to hold it to pour your coffee once brewed.
With a noteworthy yet simple design, the Chemex brews incredibly delicious coffee while also looking good enough to be displayed when not in use.
Why I Love My Chemex
I mentioned before that I am not a coffee snob, despite regularly waxing poetic about my love for my Chemex. (I promise the two things can actually co-exist.)
Rather, I am someone who finds comfort in holding a mug filled to the brim with a cup of good coffee with just a splash of cream - no sweeteners for me.
Having worked from home for over a decade, my morning routine is part of how I transition from busy mom in the morning to work mode.
The process of heating the water, setting up the Chemex, measuring the coffee and making that first perfect cup of coffee of the day grounds me.
There’s something a bit meditative about that routine - and for what it’s worth, it also makes the whole house smell cozy...and I am all about a cozy vibe.
I find using a Chemex to make pour over inspired coffee at home easily allows me to make delicious, smooth coffee shop quality coffee without a lot of hassle.
And it’s a lot more cost effective than ordering coffee delivered to your house every day! Yes, that’s a thing. Yes, I’ve done it. No, I do not have any regrets.
How to Brew Coffee with a Chemex
To brew coffee with a Chemex, you will need:
- Gooseneck kettle (sometimes called a pour-over kettle)
- Chemex coffee maker
- Chemex coffee filter (or equivalent)
Learning how to brew coffee with a Chemex is super simple so don’t be intimidated!
The basic steps are no more or less complicated than learning how to make coffee in an auto drip coffee maker, but with far tastier results.
- Place the Chemex coffee filter into the Chemex. The thicker side (with three layers) should face toward the spout.
- Wet the filter with hot water, heated to roughly 200° to 205°, which helps to preheat your Chemex before brewing.
- Pour out the hot water, pointing in a direction other than toward the spout.
- Zero out your food scale, place the Chemex with the filter on top and measure out the coffee - you’ll want 30 to 40 grams of coffee or approximately 6 to 8 tablespoons.
- Pour hot water over the grounds, just until they’re covered. Let sit for 1 minute, which allows the coffee to bloom.
- Pour in the remaining water until you’ve added a total of about 520 grams of water, using the scale to verify what you’ve added, tweaking the exact amount as necessary to suit your taste.
- Allow the coffee to finish dripping, then discard the filter, pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!
Do You Need a Scale to Make Coffee With a Chemex?
A quick note about the scale - if you’re a true purist, using the scale is fully considered the proper way to brew coffee with a Chemex coffee maker.
If you’re like me and you love coffee, but you don’t consider yourself a connoisseur of the trade, you can skip the scale and wing it with solid results.
I like a different amount of coffee depending on the roast, so I play around with it until I find what I like. It’s coffee, not rocket science. You do you, boo.
What Kind of Coffee Do You Use in a Chemex?
For the best results, I suggest using a medium ground coffee when making coffee with a Chemex brewer.
My husband and I recently started grinding our own coffee and we’ve played around with the size of the grind to find what we like best, but it’s a great idea to start with something that is medium coarse as you’re getting started.
Grounds that are too fine can take on a bit of a sour taste while too coarse of a grind can give you grounds that tend toward the bitter side of things.
From there you can tweak to a coarser or finer grind to find what you prefer.
While you can brew virtually any roast of coffee in your Chemex, I find that a medium roast is particularly well suited to brewing with a Chemex.
Light roasts also take on a beautifully developed flavor when brewed with a Chemex coffee maker, but again it's all about what you prefer best.
Can You Use Regular Filters with a Chemex?
We’ve had a lot of friends watch us brew coffee with our Chemex and they’ve wondered about using regular filters with a Chemex.
The short answer? Yes. You can technically use any kind of filter you’d like with your Chemex. Will you want to? Nope. Definitely not.
Regular coffee filters are made from a thinner, lower grade paper than Chemex filters, which makes a huge difference in the final coffee.
Being thinner, regular coffee filters allow the water to filter much quicker giving the grounds less time to steep and resulting in a less flavorful coffee.
In a pinch? Go for it! Even coffee that isn’t quite as you'd like is still coffee. Whenever possible though, opt for filters made for use with a Chemex.
Chemex filters are much heavier and designed to filter out as much sediment as possible when brewing, which is where the difference lies.
The heavier weight filter not only allows for more flavor extraction, but it also allows the filter to hold up better to the weight of the saturated grounds.
The heavier weight makes for far less chance of your filter breaking and polluting your coffee (or your countertop) with coffee grounds.
How to Clean a Chemex
If you’re wondering how to clean a Chemex, don’t be stressed out by the cool beaker-inspired glass design - cleaning a Chemex is easy!
On a day to day basis, I simply rinse mine out or swirl it with a bit of dish soap and warm water using a long dish brush.
Over time, the Chemex can build up with the oils from your coffee and mineral deposits, which is when I suggest cleaning your Chemex with a vinegar solution.
I am a true believer that you should be cleaning kitchen appliances with vinegar on the regular. Vinegar is non-toxic, eco-friendly, affordable and effective.
To clean a Chemex, you will need:
- Warm water
- White vinegar
- A bottle brush or dish brush with a long handle
- Dish soap
Once you’ve gathered those items, cleaning a Chemex with vinegar is easy!
- If you’ve just used your Chemex, empty it, rinse it and let it cool completely.
- Untie the leather cord and remove the wooden collar while washing.
- Use dish soap and water to gently scrub the outside of your Chemex. I like to use the brush to clean the outside so I don’t have to pick up the glass while it’s soapy.
- Rinse the exterior carefully, then fill the Chemex to the top with a 1:1 ratio of warm water and white vinegar.
- Let the Chemex sit in a safe spot for several hours or even overnight if it’s particularly grimy or has lots of build-up. Dump out the vinegar solution then use the brush to scrub the interior of the Chemex.
- Rinse the remaining vinegar solution from the inside, then wash the entire exterior and interior of your Chemex with warm soap and dish soap a final time.
- After rinsing well one additional time to make sure there’s no vinegar residue left behind to flavor your coffee, allow the Chemex to dry.
- Reattach the wood collar using the leather tie and you’re ready for another cup of coffee!
And there you have it! A beginner's crash course in everything you need to know about using, cleaning and enjoying a Chemex coffee brewer.
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Cyd is a native of Upstate New York, born to a family of women who love to cook and host parties. She shares her love of all things food, home and entertaining on her blog, The Sweetest Occasion and on Instagram.Coffee, How To Guides