I finally got around to buying a Chemex. I remember when I first saw a Chemex brewer in Peet's coffee, long before I was roasting my own coffee and it intrigued me. But, at the time I wasn't going to dish out $40 for a glass flask. The Chemex has been around for 70 years and the basic design has remained unchanged. It is in the category of pour-over brewers, but it does create a unique brew that is distinctive from other pour-over methods. The method is great at bringing out the bright and clean elements in a coffee. For this reason, it really excels with coffees that are naturally strong in these areas, like my Ethiopia Yirgacheffe or Guatemala Antigua Santo Domingo.
Today I brewed my Colombia Huila in the Chemex and I really enjoyed the way it elevated the brightness and brought out the sweet aromatics. I brewed the same coffee in my French Press yesterday (it was sweet, rich, and lingering) and it is amazing how different the coffee is based on the brewing method. Both were delicious, but emphasized different flavors in the coffee.
Of all the brewing methods I have used, I think the Chemex is the most visually appealing. And since the thick paper filter removes most of the dissolved solids the coffee comes out a beautiful deep amber color. The flavor is on the lighter end, so if you like a thick, bold cup of joe, this may not be for you. I will give my own brewing guide below. But I really love this whimsical guide from Intelligentsia Coffee.
Chemex Brewing Guide
My guide is for a standard-size Chemex and makes about 20-oz of coffee (700 g). The Intellegentsia video used 25-oz, but the ratio is the same. Two notes: 1. Because the brewer uses a thick paper filter, it is very important that you rinse the filter with water first. 2. The Chemex works best when making a larger amount of coffee. A single cup will likely draw too much of the paper taste into the cup.
1. As always, use good water (at 195-205 degrees F), freshly roasted coffee, and grind just before brewing.
2. The grind should be close to a French press grind (medium-coarse), similar to kosher salt. You will know if you got the grind right because the right consistency should make for a brewing time that is 3.5-4 minutes. For 20-oz of water, we will use about 42 grams of coffee (4-5 scoops with a coffee scoop, or 8-9 tablespoons of ground coffee).
3. Insert the paper filter. The thick side goes against the pour spout. Rinse with hot water to remove paper taste and to preheat your Chemex brewer, discard water. You can either brew your coffee on a scale (brew is done when the scale reads 700 g of water), or you can pre-measure out your water. Add your 42 grams of ground coffee and shake the brewer to level the grounds.
4. Begin by pouring a small amount of water (a few tablespoons) on the grounds to saturate them (having a gooseneck kettle makes this easy, but anything that allows you to pour slowly and accurately will do). The goal is to wet the grounds without having coffee drip through the filter.
5. Pour the rest of the water slowly in a circular motion, staying away from the sides of the coffee bed. It is OK to pause and let the coffee drip a bit so that you don't overload the brewer, just don't let the coffee bed dry out until the brew is complete.
6. Once the coffee is done dripping discard the filter and serve. Enjoy!