The Chemex coffee maker delivers fantastic coffee at home with minimal effort. However, the filters that are used are disposable, and this can seem wasteful and even expensive.
Their one-and-done use is easy for clean-up. However, it can make people wonder if reusing them is possible as could potentially be a more eco-friendly option and help you cut back on costs.
Just because paper Chemex filters aren’t supposed to be reused doesn’t mean you’re stuck wasting money on a forever-disposable product. For more information on why you should not reuse Chemex filters and what the alternatives are, read on.
What Is A Chemex filter?
A Chemex filter is a specialized paper coffee filter made for a Chemex coffee maker, which is a carafe dripper in which coffee is brewed. Typically, you’d toss one of these bad boys into your Chemex coffee maker, add the coffee grounds after you have put them through your grinder, and brew it.
Then after you’ve made your cup of coffee, you would pull the disposable filter out along with the used coffee beans and toss both into the trash. It’s just that simple. The resulting brew is often as good as a cup you’d get from a barista in your local coffee shop.
In fact, we’ve heard many experts call it the perfect cup of coffee at home.
Some coffee lovers, however, realized that this can be both pretty wasteful and rather expensive over time. Once people started paying attention to the long-term costs of making coffee this way and the impact of our modern disposable society, there were many questions. The biggest was whether you could reuse a disposable coffee filter or not.
Chemex Paper Filters
The paper filters that are made for a Chemex coffee maker are made to be disposable and easy to use. That means that they haven’t really been created with longevity in mind. But could you reuse them if you cleaned them carefully? Well…
Unfortunately, the lightweight, thin paper that makes up the Chemex coffee filter just wasn’t designed to be put up against any stress other than regular, one-time coffee brewing. This means that no matter how careful you are being when you try to remove the old coffee grounds, you’re either not going to get them all, or you might tear the filter. In fact, tearing the filter is nearly guaranteed due to the way they’re made, which just means you wasted a whole lot of time.
The paper of a Chemex filter is also slightly absorbent, as paper usually is. Why does that matter? Simply put, some coffee is always going to be trapped inside the filter, no matter how hard you try to clean it.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of all that old, stale coffee grime still lingering around in the filter that makes my precious coffee, contaminating it, is just a little too gross for me. So, can you reuse Chemex filters? Technically, you could try, but it’s not going to make the best coffee. In fact, your results might be barely palatable.
Even if you have the gentlest and most sanitary hands in existence, there will always be some residue left over in the filter. That’s going to change the taste of your next cup if the filter survives another brew at all. And depending on how long you leave the filter out for its next use, it could potentially end up getting grimier, to the point it may form mold and make someone ill.
And there is nothing quite as upsetting as being betrayed by your own coffee.
Alternatives If You Want To Reuse Chemex Filters
The disposable nature of Chemex filters could almost make someone give up coffee. Almost. Instead of ditching that magic bean juice because of the cost and waste of disposable paper filters, perhaps an alternative is in order.
Something reusable, that can make you feel better about your cup of Joe.
Whether it’s out of a need to save money or out of shame for destroying the environment with disposable products, finding an alternative to a Chemex filter is a top priority. Good news: reusable alternatives to one-time Chemex filters do exist! In fact, they’re becoming quite popular.
Reusable coffee filters can be made of a few different materials, though some are better than others. Most reusable coffee filters are a combination of metal (typically a stainless steel filter or aluminum mesh, and a plastic ring or handle) or cloth. But some reusable metal filters are made of gold, which is great if you fancy a bit of bling to your morning brew.
The reusable cloth filters are becoming more common but don’t have the same longevity as their metal counterparts. If you are interested in those, Coffeesock is a good brand that makes filters from organic cotton (they also do brilliant reusable filters for cold brew).
Environment-friendly filters are a snap to use. Simply fill them with your grounds, get hot water pour over coffee filter to brew your coffee, and toss the old ground coffee when done. Then you simply wash the coffee filter with hot water and dry it well with a paper towel.
Some can be put in the dishwasher, which makes this process even more simple. Gone are the days of needing to constantly buy paper filters and then throw them out after a single use. By buying a reusable coffee filter, you’re eliminating the need to purchase those finicky paper filters, but that’s not all.
You’re reducing not only your monthly coffee prices, but you’ll be drastically reducing your household waste output, too. You save a ton of space, as well, and in homes with small kitchens or limited storage space, that’s a huge bonus.
The disposable filters definitely win inconvenience, if I’m to be frank. All you have to do is drop one in the correct place and toss both it and the used grounds inside in the trash when you’re done. You don’t have to wash anything.
That’s pretty appealing for busy people. That said, while I agree that doing the dishes isn’t exactly the most fun thing in the world, and the initial cost of a reusable coffee filter for a specialty coffee brewer like the Chemex can seem pretty high, I firmly believe that it’s worth it.
Not only does the reusable coffee filter last a good while, but the fact you don’t have to keep buying and tossing filters is good for the environment, your storage space, and your bank account.
But what about coffee’s taste? After all, if you’re on this site, you love coffee as much as I do. That means how it tastes is going to play a big role in this decision.
Does A Reusable Filter Taste Different From A Paper Filter?
For some, the flavor of the coffee is second to the potential energy it gives. If you’re someone who drinks coffee solely for the caffeine boost, then whether you use a paper or metal filter is mostly up to what you can afford and feel like dealing with.
For others, though, all the nuanced notes and bold flavors every cup packs take center stage as the most important part of coffee. If this sounds more like you, then the choice between a paper or metal filter takes a little more consideration.
Before we discuss the taste, I’d like to go into the physical differences between the two kinds of filters.
A paper filter is typically going to be light, rough feeling, either white or brownish, and have no visible holes anywhere. Whereas a reusable filter is typically going to be a little bit heavier than a paper filter, made of some kind of metal mesh with some having a plastic or rubber ring or handle somewhere.
While a paper filter is going to filter every part of the grounds from your coffee, the reusable filter may not filter the really tiny coffee sediment, usually called fines, from your coffee. The smaller the holes in your coffee filter, the more fines will be filtered out. However, similarly to a French press, you should expect some sediment.
However, the fines aren’t really a bad thing. They aren’t usually very noticeable and can carry extra flavor and add to the body of the coffee. Now on to taste!
The preferred taste and texture of coffee are different for everyone. So, while I can’t give you a guarantee that you’re going to like one or the other better, I can describe what both are like to the best of my ability.
I will describe these two with the assumption that the coffee has been made the exact same way, with the only difference being the type of filter used.
Taste From Paper filters
The taste of coffee that traditional paper filters give can be described as lighter in the body. It’s often described as a more crisp, bright, clear, and straightforward taste. Sometimes it can be seen as sweeter and delightfully simple.
However, some of the reusable cloth filters provide a similar taste to what you may be used to with paper filters.
Taste From Reusable filters
The taste of a coffee that has been prepared with a reusable filter can be described as heavier in body, more aromatic, and more complex in flavor profile. The fines and oils that are let through the reusable filter add to the swirling complexity of this kind of coffee, as well as make the coffee darker in appearance.
Reusable filters are not very expensive either. In fact, there are reusable options for every budget available on Amazon. Also, as long as you have been taking care of your filter, you may not need to replace it for years.
That means paying special attention to how you wash the filter, how often, and how well you dry it between uses.
The only question left now is: which one sounds like the better coffee to you? If you’re still unsure, you can always try out both back to back, comparing each one’s flavor carefully before deciding who is the clear winner to you.