At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Chemex as a decorative element for your kitchen instead of a tool that’s capable of producing an amazing brew.
While learning how to make Chemex coffee isn’t as quick and easy as other brewing methods, once you get the hang of it, we’ve found it to be a fun and rewarding way to make our morning coffee.
Below, we provide step-by-step instructions, pictures, and a list of everything you’ll need to get started brewing your very own cup of Chemex coffee.
Table of Contents
What Is Chemex Coffee?
Chemex coffee is a form of pour-over brewing that combines both aesthetics and function to produce an exceptionally clean cup of coffee.
Invented in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, the Chemex quickly became a design icon and was eventually inducted into the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
The coffee maker itself consists of an hourglass-shaped glass carafe, a polished wooden collar, and a leather tie. Its specially designed paper filters are thicker than standard ones and play a key role in its ability to produce a clean and pure-tasting brew.
Chemex coffee is known for its clarity, smoothness, and brightness. It excels in highlighting the subtle flavors and unique characteristics of different types of roasts and coffee bean varieties.
Equipment & Ingredients Needed to Make Chemex Coffee
Before jumping into the brewing process, we first need to make sure you have the necessary equipment and ingredients to brew a great cup of Chemex coffee.
Below, we’ve provided a list of everything you’ll need to brew the perfect cup of coffee, as well as included links to some of our favorites.
- Whole Coffee Beans: Opt for whole beans instead of pre-ground coffee whenever possible, as this will ensure that your coffee is at its freshest. Additionally, we recommend using a light or medium roast when making Chemex coffee.
- Filtered Water: Regular tap water often contains excessive amounts of minerals, chlorine, and other impurities that can affect the taste of your coffee. An easy solution is to use spring or bottled water instead. However, if you really want to elevate the quality and taste of your coffee-brewing water, we highly recommend using Third Wave Water.
- Chemex: The Chemex is available in two versions: the Classic design with its trademark wood collar and the Glass Handle version. Both come in multiple sizes. However, when choosing a particular size, be aware that Chemex defines a cup as 5 fluid ounces.
- Chemex Filter: Chemex filters are thicker than those used for other pour-over methods, resulting in a cleaner, smoother cup of coffee with less sediment and oils. We recommend using the white/bleached filters over the natural ones to avoid any papery taste in your coffee.
- Burr Grinder: Burr grinders produce more consistent and uniform grounds than blade grinders, ensuring an even extraction of flavors during the brewing process. If investing in a burr grinder isn’t feasible at the moment, you can always purchase whole coffee beans from a local coffee shop and ask them to grind them for you.
- Scale: Although not a necessity, a scale provides more accuracy and consistency than a measuring spoon when measuring coffee beans or grounds.
- Electric or Stovetop Gooseneck Kettle: A kettle is essential for heating water to the appropriate brewing temperature. A gooseneck kettle is preferred when making Chemex coffee, as it gives you more control over your pouring speed. Whether you choose an electric or stovetop version, it’s important to ensure it includes a thermometer.
- Timer: A timer is essential to ensure the precise brewing time so you avoid under or over-extraction. A simple kitchen timer or the timer on your phone will work perfectly for this.
How to Make Chemex Coffee
The Chemex is not only an enjoyable way to brew a cup of coffee but delivers an extremely rewarding result as well.
Here are the key steps required to make a great cup of Chemex coffee:
1. Choose Your Ratio
One of the most essential factors in brewing the perfect cup of Chemex coffee is finding the ideal coffee-to-water ratio. This ratio will ultimately determine the strength and flavor of your final brew.
A good starting point is a 1:15 ratio, but feel free to experiment and adjust based on your taste preference.
|Whole Coffee Beans (grams)
|Whole Coffee Beans (tablespoons)
2. Boil the Water
Fill your kettle with more water than needed for brewing and bring it to a boil.
Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly to between 195°F and 205°F (90°C and 96°C). If you don’t have a thermometer, wait approximately 1 to 2 minutes before pouring.
3. Measure & Grind the Beans
While the water is being heated, use your scale to measure the amount of coffee beans needed based on your chosen ratio from step one.
Next, grind the beans to a medium-coarse consistency, similar to Kosher salt. If you’re only brewing a single cup, you’ll want to grind the beans more finely. When brewing a larger amount, the grounds should be more coarse.
Then, transfer the grounds to a small bowl or container and set aside.
4. Prep & Preheat the Chemex
Once the water is heated, place the filter in the Chemex with the three-layered side against the spout.
Rinse the filter with hot water. This will create a seal between the filter and the brewer, preheat the brewer, and help remove any potential paper flavor from the filter. Once finished, discard the rinse water.
5. Add the Grounds
Place the Chemex on the scale and pour the coffee grounds into the filter.
Gently shake the brewer to level the grounds, then zero out the scale.
6. Bloom the Grounds
In a circular motion, slowly pour just enough water over the grounds to ensure they’re fully saturated (approximately twice the weight of the coffee grounds). This allows the grounds to expand and release trapped gas, creating a bloom effect.
If needed, gently stir the mixture with a chopstick or small spoon to eliminate any dry clumps.
Wait approximately 45 seconds for the bloom to settle before moving to the next step.
7. Add Remaining Water
Add the remaining water by slowly pouring in a continuous circular motion, moving out toward the edge of the grounds and then back toward the center. While doing so, be sure to avoid pouring directly on the filter.
If the water level nears the top of the Chemex, pause until it drops approximately 1 inch below the rim before continuing.
Repeat this process until all of the water has been poured.
8. Let It Brew
Once all of the water has been added, allow the coffee to finish draining through the filter.
From start to finish, the total brew time should take somewhere between 3 ½ and 4 ½ minutes. If it’s faster than this, you’ll probably want to use a finer grind for future brews. If slower, consider using a coarser grind.
After it’s finished draining, remove the filter and discard the grounds.
9. Serve & Enjoy
Now, all that’s left to do is to give the Chemex a quick swirl, pour the brew into your favorite cup or mug, and enjoy!
How to Add Variety to Your Chemex Coffee
Although the process for making Chemex coffee can seem pretty basic and inflexible, in reality, there’s no shortage of ways to add variety and different flavors to the brew that ultimately finds its way into your cup.
With that in mind, here are just a few of the many possibilities:
- Adjust the Grind Size: Different grind sizes can produce different flavors and taste experiences. For example, a finer grind will typically yield a more intense flavor, whereas a coarser grind will bring out lighter notes.
- Incorporate Spices or Extracts: Adding spices like cinnamon or nutmeg directly into the grounds before brewing or vanilla or caramel extracts post-brew can be fun ways to compliment the flavor profile of your favorite roast or coffee bean variety.
- Try Chemex Iced Coffee: Making Chemex iced coffee requires three simple changes to the recipe above. 1) Reduce the amount of water used for brewing by ⅓, 2) Add ice cubes to the bottom of the Chemex brewer equaling the weight of the water that was removed, and 3) Use a medium-fine grind to ensure more flavors are extracted during the brewing process to counter the dilution from the melting ice. Once brewed, serve over ice and enjoy!
Pros & Cons of Chemex Coffee
The Chemex has been a popular method for brewing coffee since its invention. However, as with other brewing methods, it too has its own set of pros and cons.
Understanding these strengths and weaknesses will not only help you determine if the Chemex is the right brewing method for you but also help you get the most out of your coffee experience.
While it does require a little more skill and practice than other brewing methods, learning how to make Chemex coffee is both rewarding and a lot of fun. Not to mention, it provides opportunities to experiment and get creative. So, if you haven’t yet, we highly recommend giving it a go!
Frequently Asked Questions
While the Chemex is a type of pour-over coffee, there are a couple of key differences between it and other pour-over methods such as the V60 and Kalita Wave. The first being that the Chemex uses thicker filters, which results in a smoother, cleaner cup of coffee with less oil and sediment. The other is its shape and size. Whereas these other methods are typically used for single servings, the Chemex is designed for brewing larger batches.
It’s recommended that you wash your Chemex after each use to prevent any old and unwanted flavors from creeping into future brews. To do so, simply use warm water, unscented dish soap, and a soft-bristled brush. Avoid using any abrasive materials that might scratch the glass. After washing be sure to rinse thoroughly with water and then allow it to dry. For a deeper clean, soaking it in equal parts warm water and vinegar can be effective for removing stains, residues, and buildup.
Yes, you can absolutely use pre-ground coffee in a Chemex. However, for optimal flavor and extraction, grinding your beans just before brewing is always ideal. If you do opt for pre-ground coffee, it’s essential to ensure that it’s ground to a medium-coarse size. Pre-ground coffee is often on the finer side, which is more suitable for drip coffee makers. A finer grind may result in a slower brew and over-extracted taste when used in a Chemex.
The amount of coffee a Chemex can make will vary based on size. Common sizes range from 3-cup to 10-cup models. A 3-cup Chemex brews approximately 16 ounces (475 ml), which can be perfect when brewing for just one or two people. The 6-cup model can make 30 ounces (887 ml), the 8-cup will brew 40 ounces (1.18 liters), and the 10-cup version yields up to 50 ounces (1.48 liters). These different capacities provide flexibility, catering to individual needs as well as serving multiple people.
How to Make Chemex Coffee: 9 Steps to a Perfect Cup
- 40 g whole coffee beans (6.5 tbsp medium-coarse coffee grounds)
- 600 g filtered water (20 oz)
- Determine your coffee-to-water ratio. A good starting point is a 1:15 ratio, but feel free to experiment and adjust based on your taste preference.
- Fill your kettle with more water than needed for brewing and bring it to a boil. Then let the water cool slightly to between 195°F and 205°F (90°C and 96°C). If you don't have a thermometer, wait one to two minutes before pouring.600 g filtered water
- While the water is heating, measure the amount of whole coffee beans you need based on your chosen ratio from step one. Grind to a medium-coarse consistency. Then set aside in a small bowl or container.40 g whole coffee beans
- Place the filter in the Chemex with the three-layered side against the spout, then rinse with hot water. Once finished, discard the water.
- Place the Chemex on the scale and pour the coffee grounds into the filter. Gently shake the brewer to level the grounds, then zero out the scale.
- In a circular motion, slowly pour just enough water over the grounds to ensure they’re fully saturated (approximately twice the weight of the coffee grounds). If needed, gently stir the mixture with a chopstick or small spoon to eliminate any dry clumps. Wait approximately 45 seconds before moving to the next step.
- Add the remaining water by slowly pouring in a continuous circular motion, moving out toward the edge of the grounds and then back toward the center. Be sure to avoid pouring directly on the filter. If the water level nears the top of the Chemex, pause until it drops approximately 1 inch below the rim before continuing. Repeat until all of the water has been poured.
- Once all of the water has been added, allow the coffee to finish draining through the filter. After it's finished, remove the filter and discard the grounds.
- Give the Chemex a quick swirl, pour the brew into your favorite cup or mug, and enjoy!
- Although the recipe calls for 600 grams (20 oz) of water, be sure to boil more so that you have extra to rinse the filter in Step 4.
- When brewing a smaller amount of coffee, be sure to grind the beans more finely. When brewing a larger amount, the grounds should be more coarse.
- Once you start pouring the water, the total brew time should take somewhere between 3 ½ and 4 ½ minutes. If it’s faster than this, you’ll probably want to use a finer grind for future brews. If slower, consider using a coarser grind.