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How to Make Chemex Coffee

Great For
Clean Single Origin Coffees • Pour Overs for Two • Lighter, Brighter Roasts

The Chemex is a design icon (part of MoMA's permanent collection) thanks to a quirky, eclectic mash-up of laboratory-like features and natural materials. What makes the Chemex truly unique, however, is the design of its proprietary bonded coffee filters which are considerably heavier than others and result in an unmatched clean cup. This makes the Chemex a perfect choice for enjoying more acidic or floral light roast coffees that take on an almost tea-like quality (though it’ll brew you a delicious dark roast as well). The learning curve is a little steeper than other methods but most home-brewers have no trouble making really good coffee after a little practice. If you feel like making a bit more or less coffee, our recipe is totally adjustable, just use a gram of coffee for every 16 grams of water.

Let's Get Started
Prep Filter
1. Prep Filter

Unfold the filter with the three-fold side facing the spout. This is important to prevent the filter from collapsing into the spout when it gets wet.

2. Rinse

Rinse the filter with plenty of hot water to help “seal” it against the glass and remove the papery taste — it also preheats your Chemex. Discard this rinse water (magically, you don’t actually need to take out the filter to pour out your water) and set up your brewer on a kitchen scale.

Add Grounds
3. Add Grounds

Now’s the time to grind your beans on a medium-coarse setting on your coffee grinder, which is a little coarser than for most other pour overs. Chemex paper filters are designed with a thickness and shape that can restrict the flow of water through the coffee grounds, so this medium-coarse grind size will keep things flowing.

Add your grinds and tare scale.

Bloom Coffee
4. Bloom Coffee
The perfect bloom is easy to achieve, here’s how:
  • You want your water temperature around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait at least 20 seconds off the boil, as using boiling water can extract some harsh flavors.
  • Start a timer and slowly pour filtered water equalling double the weight of the coffee (about 3 oz or 84 g).
  • Make sure to evenly saturate all the grounds, hitting any spots that are still dry after your initial pour (this is where having a gooseneck kettle’s pour spout really helps).
  • You’ll notice carbon dioxide bubbles exiting the coffee grounds, especially if you’re working with freshly roasted coffee.
  • Wait 30 seconds.
Pour Water
5. Pour Water

Slowly pour water in a spiral or circular motion until the water level reaches around a half inch below the top rim of the brewer. When the level drops by about an inch (you don’t want to see the top of that coffee bed while brewing) pour again and repeat as needed until you’ve used all the water. With as much water as you’re using in this recipe, you’ll want to get all your water in at around two minutes.

For a tasty flash-chilled coffee, use half as much water as usual and weigh out a half batch’s worth of ice (for this recipe, 350 g) directly in your carafe. You’ll have to pour a lot slower, but the coffee will drip directly onto the ice for tasty iced coffee.

Let Drip
6. Let Drip

Keep an eye on the water level as it drips and when you start to see the coffee grounds appear, remove the filter and let it drain in the sink (the last few drops of water can be a little bitter). The timer should read between 3:30 to 4:30 minutes. If your water is taking too much time to drip through, try either pouring faster or grinding a little coarser next time. If it’s going through too quickly, pour slower or grind finer.

7. Serve

The Chemex carafe is a beautiful serving vessel, so bring it over to the table for a nice centerpiece, or just pour your coffee into mugs and serve right away. To clean up, just dump the drained filter in the trash and rinse the Chemex with any hot water remaining in your kettle.

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Coffee Talk
Our Coffee Expert Says

What makes a Chemex unique?

Everything makes a Chemex unique! Chemexes were invented by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941 using materials not needed for the war effort. It’s often described as being one of the best designed products of modern times (a hand-blown model is the only piece of coffee equipment in MoMA) and the Erlenmeyer flask-like design is not only beautiful, but also functional. The formulation of the Chemex filter permits the proper infusion time by regulating the filtration rate — not too slow, not too fast. This gives the coffee a richer flavor while at the same time making precise fractional extraction possible. The filters catch additional oils and fats from the coffee, to allow for an excellent level of clarity in the brewed coffee. For at-home coffee makers looking to experiment, Chemex is a forgiving brewing method that’s easy to use without additional equipment like a scale or a timer. You can follow simple visual cues on the Chemex itself – the “button” on the bottom portion of the brewer indicates how much the total brew volume should be. And while you’re pouring, make sure the brew bed never gets higher than an inch from the rim of the Chemex.

What kind of coffee is best for Chemex?

Because Chemex creates coffees that are clean with a lot of clarity, single origins really shine. You can play around with what works best for you, and coffee from any roaster and any roast level will definitely work, but light to medium roast coffees really pop and take to the cleanliness and clarity of the brew method.

How does a Chemex work?

The Chemex is super-simple! It uses gravity to pull hot water through a bed of coffee, which makes it most similar to an automatic drip coffee maker in terms of body and taste. Chemex filters are 20 to 30 percent thicker than those used by other pour over methods. The result is a slower brew and a richer cup of coffee. Although not as rich as the French press, the Chemex does produce a sediment-free cup of coffee that will impress anyone used to the weaker taste of most less than carefully calibrated auto-drip coffee machines.