Coffee Methods: The Chemex Carafe

Among many coffee purists the Chemex brewer is the gold standard. Its elegant shape is perfectly melded to function, and it's a design classic that resides in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian. But how's the coffee?

The Chemex brewer was invented and released in 1942, and since then they have been made by a small company in New England. The hourglass shape and leather and wood saddle have not changed since then and the blend of design and function is beautiful.

The Chemex brews very simply. A paper filter is inserted into the top half of the hourglass and filled with ground roasted coffee. Then barely boiling water is poured through and allowed to filter down into the bottom half of the hourglass.

Like the French press, the Chemex gives complete control over the grounds and water temperature. Each element can be controlled. Time, too, can be controlled; it's recommended that a Chemex brew should take about 4 minutes. The paper filters used for Chemex carafes are thicker than the filters used in traditional drip brewers and they filter out more of the sediment. They also trap the water a little longer, letting it slowly drip through the grounds for a rich brew.

Unlike a French press, however, the Chemex removes all of the gritty sludge and chewiness from the coffee, leaving only the rich taste. Some French press aficionados dislike this, but others prefer the brighter, clearer taste of the Chemex. They are really at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the texture and oil content of the coffee.

Chemex brewers are available directly from Chemex Corp for about $30-40, depending on size. Filters are $7 per box of 100.

If you use a Chemex brewer, sound off here. Any tips for getting the most out of it?

11 Comments