I'm a big fan of my drip coffee maker, but some of my friends have been telling me to get a Chemex. They say that the flavor is better, the coffee is fresher, and the cook has more control over the brewing process.
Of course, I'm not one to buy a product without researching it first. That's why I decided to look up the Chemex and see what all of the fuss is about.
How do you compare a Chemex to a drip coffee maker? A Chemex produces clarified coffee using a pour-over brewing method. A drip coffee maker like this brews coffee by using pressurized water. The Chemex requires more skill but gets higher-quality results. Drip coffee makers are a good choice for a simple cup of joe.
These two coffee-making processes are very different. Keep reading to find out why Chemex coffee has such a unique taste.
Comparing a Chemex to a Normal Drip Coffee Maker
If you're thinking of replacing your coffee maker with a Chemex, you probably want to know how the new product measures up. Here is a quick comparison of these two surprisingly different coffee brewing methods:
|Drip Coffee Maker||Chemex|
|Brewing Method||Electric drip||Pour-over|
|Water||Pressurized by machine||Boiled in kettle|
|Temperature||Determined by the coffee machine||boiled to perfection|
|Water Distribution||Random||Based on skill|
|Filter||Any coffee filter||Chemex-brand filters|
|Flavor||Mild and aromatic||Deep and concentrated|
|Brewing Time||10-30 minutes||5-10 minutes|
|Attention Required||Set and forget||Involved brewing process|
As you might be able to tell, it's difficult to compare Chemex coffee to drip coffee because the brewing methods are so different. One isn't necessarily better than the other; it all depends on what you're looking for.
In general, drip brewing (coffee maker) is a hands-off solution that will let you make fresh coffee while you're attending to other things. A Chemex requires an involved brewing process, but the results can taste absolutely delicious.
It's also worth noting that flavor and caffeine content will vary greatly based on how much coffee you scoop into the filter. Using more beans will always result in richer coffee. The taste can also be impacted by the way that those beans are ground.
One unique feature that drip coffee makers have is the ability to keep the coffee hot on the warmer plate. When you're using a Chemex, you're relying on the heat-resistant glass. Since there's no heat going in, the coffee cools down over time. On the other hand, you also can't burn your leftover coffee in the Chemex carafe.
So if you're looking for a relaxed coffee maker, the Chemex probably isn't for you. But if you love the taste of fresh coffee and want to up your game, the Chemex is a good way to enhance the flavor of your favorite beans.
Chemex: High-End Pour-Over Coffee
The Chemex design is incredibly high quality, but the product isn't the only one of its kind. That's because Chemex is using a classic brewing style known as pour-over coffee.
Pour-over coffee is made by pouring water through a filter and into a carafe. This is similar to how a drip coffee works; the main difference is that you're the one pouring the coffee.
The benefit of pour-over coffee is that you get complete control. Because you're pouring the coffee by hand, you can guarantee an even pour that completely soaks all of the grounds. When you use a drip coffee maker, the machine will pour the water unevenly through the filter basket.
It might be pour-over coffee, but the Chemex still has a few features that make it unique. The most important feature is the hourglass shape of all Chemex products.
The Chemex is made from a single piece of heat-resistant glass. Whereas most pour-over coffee makers require an additional filter basket, the Chemex's unique shape lets you ditch this piece of equipment. Instead, just place a special Chemex filter in the top part of the hourglass.
Chemex filters are stronger than normal coffee makers and significantly larger. The company sells both circular and square filters, but there isn't a real difference between the two. It's all about which filter you think is easier to pull out of the Chemex before you serve.
Because there's no filter basket, the hot water passes through the grounds more quickly. This means that you're less likely to burn or over-brew your coffee, and it guarantees that your fresh drink will be piping hot.
The extra-thick Chemex filters catch almost everything that's in the coffee. All of the tiny coffee particles that would normally end up in your cup get stuck to the filter instead.
This produces an extremely distilled form of coffee. When you use a Chemex filter, you're getting almost nothing but caffeine and aromatic oils. Some people love this method of extraction, but others think that it's missing that classic “coffee” taste.
As a final benefit, the one-container design of the Chemex means that you don't have to do any extra dishes when you're done the brewing. I'm a big fan of this feature in particular; all of my previous pour-over coffee makers were a bit of a hassle to clean.
Why Pour-Over Coffee Has More Caffeine
Chemex coffee is known for having a higher caffeine content than coffee made with other tools. But what makes it so different from drip coffee? The answer is in the method of extraction.
Extraction is the process of getting the caffeine and flavor out of the beans and into the pot. These ingredients exist as oils trapped within the bean. When hot water hits those oils, they're pulled out of the bean and into the carafe below.
Making coffee is actually a lot like making tea. The longer that you let the coffee beans sit in the water, the more coffee oils will come out. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing. If you let the coffee steep too long, the result will taste bitter, and the hot water might even burn the beans.
Pour-over coffee uses a slow pour with boiling hot water. This gives the beans plenty of time to absorb the water and drip it back out. Coffee made this way is richer, and the caffeine content is usually higher.
In comparison, a drip coffee maker pushes hot water very quickly through the beans. There isn't a lot of time for the water to immerse the beans, so the flavor is often weaker and there is less caffeine per cup. You can fix this to some extent by blooming the beans before you start the machine.
Whether or not your Chemex coffee actually has more caffeine depends on which beans you used, how you ground them, and how quickly you poured the water. But in general, you can expect pour-over coffee to be stronger than coffee made in a normal pot.
How to Use Your Chemex
You won't get any of the benefits of making coffee with your Chemex unless you know how to use it. These simple steps are the same ones found on the Chemex website.
- Boil your water. The Chemex website recommends grinding your coffee before you even start the water. But from my experience, fresh beans are always better. Get the water started while you prep everything else that you need.
- Place the filter in your Chemex. Make sure that the filter is aligned properly, or it might fall down while you're pouring.
- Grind your beans. The way you grind your beans is up to personal preference. Chemex recommends using a burred coffee grinder and going for a medium-coarse grind.
- Scoop coffee into the filter. You should probably scoop with a spoon; if you just dump the grounds in, you might disturb the filter. Use about 1 tablespoon for every 5 ounces of water.
- Bloom the grounds. By now, your electric kettle should be coming to a full boil. Gently pour just enough water over the grounds to make them slightly damp. Let them sit for thirty seconds. Put the water back on so that it stays hot.
- Pour the water. Use slow circular motion to make sure that you cover the grounds evenly. This is the part of using a Chemex that requires a bit of skill, so take your time while you're still learning.
- Let it brew. Your coffee is done when all of the water has dripped through the filter and into the carafe. This should only take about 5 minutes at the most.
- Remove the filter. Pull it out carefully; if you drop it in your Chemex, your coffee will be full of grounds.
Once you've mastered the process, you'll find that making coffee with a Chemex is as fast or even faster than using a normal coffee machine. On the other hand, if you're the type of person who is clumsy in the morning, the Chemex might require too much attention and work.
The Pros and Cons of Drip Coffee Makers
The most obvious reason to own a drip coffee maker is that they're incredibly easy to use. Pour water into the chamber, put your grounds in the basket, and wait 10 minutes for a delicious cup of coffee.
Drip coffee makers use electrically-generated heat to pressurize the water in the chamber. When the water finally does make it to the filter basket, it's usually moving pretty fast. This can create a quick-brewed taste that's similar to espresso, especially if you use enough beans.
However, if you don't heat up your water in advance, this pressurization process might work against the quality of your coffee. As the water heats, it will pass through the coffee maker at an uneven rate. You might see the machine pour out some coffee, pause for a moment, and then drip out a little more.
When you have a high-quality drip coffee maker, the flavor is usually rich and consistent. If you use a cheaper model, you might get a different cup of coffee every time you brew a pot.
I really love my drip coffee maker, but I'm also used to the taste. There's no denying that pour-over coffee has a certain unique charm that drip coffee simply can't match.
Mimicking the Chemex Flavor with a Drip Coffee Maker
Let's say that you had Chemex coffee at a friend's house, and you're dying to taste that flavor again. But without a Chemex, you'll have to make do with your good old drip coffee machine.
Luckily, it's not that hard to get a similar taste at home. It won't be exactly the same, but you can mimic the best parts of the pour-over extraction process.
- Buy thicker filters. Chemex filters are extra thick and filter out every tiny coffee ground. If you can't find extra-thick filters at the store, try using Chemex filters in your drip coffee machine.
- Use more coffee. The standard amount of beans for a drip coffee maker is 1 tablespoon for every 8 ounces of water. You can get a richer taste by doubling the amount of coffee that you use.
- Preheat your water. The main advantage of using a Chemex is knowing that the water is boiling hot. But there's nothing stopping you from boiling your water before you pour it into the chamber of your coffee machine. You can also preheat your coffee maker for a similar effect.
- Bloom the grounds. In order to bloom coffee grounds, place them in the filter and pour enough hot water to make them damp. Let the grounds rest for thirty seconds so that they can start to release aromas and flavors. This is an important part of the Chemex process, but you can bloom grounds in any coffee maker.
These tips won't give you clarified Chemex coffee, but they'll definitely increase the strength and purity of your brew. Play around with blooming times, coffee amounts, and water heat until you're satisfied with your delicious cup of joe.
Are drip coffee and pour-over coffee the same thing?
Drip coffee is made with an electric drip coffee maker. The water is pressurized in the machine's chamber and pumped through a basket full of coffee grounds. In comparison, pour-over coffee is made by hand-pouring coffee through a filter basket and into a carafe.
How should I heat water for my Chemex?
An electric kettle like this is the easiest way to heat water for your Chemex. When you use a kettle, you can pour the water straight into the filter basket while it's still boiling hot. If you don't have a kettle, it's fine to boil water on the stove. Make sure it's as hot as possible before pouring.
How do I get a richer flavor from my drip coffee maker?
Drip coffee is notorious for having a weak or inconsistent flavor. Preheat the water before you begin the brewing cycle. Try using more coffee grounds. You can also change the way that you grind your beans to alter the flavor composition. In general, finer grinds make stronger coffee.