The Beginners Guide To Great Coffee – Part 3 – The Chemex

The Chemex.

I look forward to it every day – the sound of the paper filter as I unfold it and place it in the top of the chemex. The scent of the beans as I crank the first couple turns on my grinder. The steam of the arc of water coming out of the kettle wafting in the morning sunlight. The aroma as the coffee is infusing in the water. The steady, circular motions, and the quit drip of coffee into the carafe. Then finally, raising that cup of carefully crafted goodness to my lips.

Bliss.

A perfect marriage of the beautiful and the practical, the Chemex has a permanent home in the Museum of Modern Art and adds a clean modern flair to any counter top.

Beyond good looks, the chemex makes excellent coffee.

Simply an elaborate and well designed carafe, the chemex is a pour over coffee maker that comes in multiple sizes.

I love the chemex for a couple reasons:

  • It makes delicious coffee.
  • It takes a while to get the technique right – so I don’t get bored.
  • It takes me about 7-8 minutes to brew a couple cups – so it forces me to slow down and provides a nice relaxing ritual in the morning.
  • It’s beautiful.

The chemex is flattering with light, bright and fruity roasts, but I don’t find it well suited to darks. If you love dark roasts… the chemex may not be for you.

When people ask me to describe the flavour of coffee made in the chemex, I’ll say it really punches out the brighter and more distinctive flavour notes of a specific bean or roast.

Depending on the quality of your roast, this could either be good or bad. Compared to the well rounded and forgiving flavours evoked from an aeropress, a chemex will brew cups with more distinguished flavours.

It’s also a little more temperamental….

Get your grind size a little off, your pouring method too irregular, or the temperature wrong, and you’ll be left with a cup of coffee that could make you cringe. I certainly did, and still do when experimenting or trying a new bag of beans.

I got my chemex at Christmas, and there were many times I almost decided it wasn’t for me.

If things go really sideways you may think the chemex is better left as a counter ornament.

It’s for this reason I would say the chemex isn’t for everyone.

If you don’t like to move slowly, or view coffee as a means to an end, stick to the aeropress.

However – put in some practice with the chemex, get consistent and you can brew some truly amazing coffee.

Before we get started, there are a couple things you’ll need – most of which is covered in my first coffee guide post.

  1. A chemex – Do I really need to say that?
  2. Filters – bleached or unbleached (doesn’t affect the flavour) – chemex brand.
  3. A Gooseneck kettle – just a cheap one from amazon. In a pinch, anything that will allow you to do a really controlled pour will work.
  4. A small kitchen scale.
  5. Something to use as a timer (iPhone??)

For method, I basically use Pilot Coffee’s Brew Guide for the chemex (disclaimer, I also use Pilot Coffee). The brew guide is simple and helpful. Print it.

  1. Put the filter in the chemex. Put the side that has three layers over the spout.
  2. Boil your water and grind your beans (30g)
  3. Just before the water is boiled, pour some in the chemex with filter. Wet the filter and slosh the water around in the chemex to warm it up. Pour the water out through the spoutonce warm.
  4. Pre warm your cups using hot tap water.
  5. Start a timer once the water is boiled – take it off the stove and let it sit for 30 seconds. During this time, put your beans in the filter.
  6. After 30 seconds reset the timer.
  7. 0:00 – Pour 50 grams of water onto the beans. As soon as you have the water in there, stir to get all the beans wet. – Let it infuse for 45 seconds – starting from when the water first hit the beans.
  8. 0:45 – Start your first pour. Pour a 250g of water over 30 sec with high agitation. Keep the coffee submerged.
  9. 3:45 – The water should take about 3 min to draw down. Once it is fully drawn down,  pour an additional 200g of water over 30 seconds with mild agitation.
  10. ~6:00 – It should draw down a second time somewhere around the 6 minute mark.

The main key is to adjust your grind size until you get the brew times indicated in the brew guide. You’ll know by the flavour when you are hitting the sweet spot.

Who here uses a chemex? What works for you? I’d love to here from you after you try this method!

Justin

Justin according to Sarah – thrives at almost anything he applies his head and heart to. He never stops learning, and loves dreaming up new challenges to grow himself. His introvert ways give him incredible insight into life’s obstacles, of which he’s had his share. But best of all, Justin fully engages in his relationship with God, our marriage and the beginning of parenthood. Oh, and he spoils us with great coffee and cooking!

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