There’s no doubt about it, whatever your thoughts of it as a brewing method may be, a Chemex makes a gorgeous design object. But, as far as home brewing goes, very few of us spend as much time brewing from it as the Chemex’s rich history and elegant aesthetic deserves.
The Chemex continues to be one of our classic, best-loved coffee brewers to this day, largely due to its combination of a slick design, its ease of use and the divine, crisp coffee flavours that it brings through into the cup.
What Makes This Brew Method Unique?
It’s a chic staple for the shelf of any speciality cafe. You’ve almost certainly seen it proudly positioned in your local coffee shop, or spotted it popping up here and there on your Insta feed as you browse speciality coffee snaps. However, you may not know that this hipster vessel was actually invented 80 years ago – it’s been around since the 1940’s, and was invented over in the U.S. by Peter Schlumbohm.
We got in touch with Brodie Vissers from The Nomad Barista, who has helped us showcase the Chemex in all its glory. He shared his personal recipe for a Chemex brew with us, as well as a few of his own tips and tricks (which you can use as you gradually get more confident with the process of Chemex brewing) to get the very finest cup from this particular brew method.
Below, you’ll find Brodie’s exacting go-to home brew recipe, which you can use to recreate his crisp, clean and clear Chemex coffee for yourself.
Homebrew Chemex coffee recipe
Weigh out 30g of coffee at a medium-coarse grind.
Pop the filter in the Chemex and reset the scale.
Set the timer to three minutes.
Boil some water, so that it reaches 97°C. You will then pour over your water bit by bit (for this recipe, you will gradually add a total of 480ml of water).
For your first pour, gently pour 60ml of water over the coffee grounds, in a circular motion. This is the preinfusion phase (what we call the bloom). It allows the coffee to de-gas a little bit and soak in that first splash of water.
After the bloom phase, briefly wait (for about 30-40 seconds) before you go ahead and pour in more water. For the second pour, you will pour an extra 140ml of water into the Chemex (bringing the total amount of water in the Chemex at this stage to 200ml).
Stop and let it drip for a while, before you continue pouring. For this, the third pour, gradually continue to pour the water until you have added 400ml (so a further 200ml of water to the Chemex).
Once the water has reached the bottom of the coffee grounds (you should see this just as you approach the three minute mark), top it off with the final 80ml of water.
And there you have it – a step-by-step guide to a stunning Chemex coffee.
Understanding The Chemex Process
Right from the moment that the first pour starts, the entire pouring process should all take place over the course of just three minutes.
It sounds like a pretty straightforward process, right? That’s where the beauty of the Chemex lies – in essence, you’re just pouring hot water over coffee grounds. From there, achieving the perfect cup comes from a process of trial, error and experimentation. That’s where the technique comes in.
This method is one which takes a little bit of practice to perfect. But for us, this level of precision and attention to detail is synonymous with the scientific delights and striving for perfection that being a lover of specialty coffee is all about. Keen Chemex brewers can find numerous great strategies out there, which you can learn and use to get a sensational cup out of this brewer. All that’s needed is a little bit of finessing and, yes admittedly, extra work than opening up a packet of instant.
Use a little scale to make sure that the recipe is as precise as possible. If you do deviate from the measurements in the recipe, that’s absolutely fine. Just make sure that you do it in a controlled way – you need to know what you’re changing, and how that will affect the extraction of the coffee.
Try to pour your water into the Chemex in concentric circles.
Use a coarser grind size than normal for your grounds – if you find that the coffee grounds are clogging up as you use your Chemex, this might be being caused by using too fine a grind size. The factor which differentiates the Chemex from other pour-over brewers is the fact the side is completely smooth, with no ridges or divots. So, this flat glass actually creates a bit of a vacuum, which can sometimes stop the water from dripping down as fast. You can stop this by, during the brewing, lifting the filter paper up a bit. This will prevent some of that pressure from building and allow the coffee to continue dripping through.
Don’t go over the three minute mark with this process – you don’t want to over-extract the coffee. Over-extraction creates a lot of bitter notes in your cup, whereas under-extraction is going to produce a lot of sour, more acidic notes.
The optimum point (that comes from using a slightly coarser grind) that you should be aiming for is a medium extraction – not too quick or taking too long. A nice balance and blend of those two extremes is what produces a well-balanced cup.
Chemex filters come in a range of different varieties: bleach paper, craft paper, rounded, square, and cloth. They all share the same thickness and density. One of the benefits of using a Chemex is its ability to filter out a lot of the oils and fine particles in coffee grounds, to produce a very clean cup of coffee.
It may seem very detailed and exacting, but mastering the Chemex process is well worth investing a bit of extra time into. It’s a highly meditative process which (the more patient amongst us) will get a lot of satisfaction from. Treat the Chemex as a bit of leisure time in your morning routine – wait patiently for the coffee to drip down, and ponder the experimental modifications you can make to the recipe for your next brew.