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How to Brew Awesome Coffee with the Chemex Coffeemaker

March 17, 2020

Want to make coffee like James Bond? Then try the Chemex® Coffeemaker. In From Russia with Love, Author Ian Fleming revealed that the manual brewer with the hourglass shape was Bond’s preferred method of brewing morning coffee in his London flat.

And no wonder. Created in 1941 by inventor Peter Schlumbohm, the Chemex® is known both for its iconic design as well as the awesome flavor of the coffee it brews. It is featured in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and other museums. So you know it will look good in your kitchen or coffee house.

Enough trivia. We love the Chemex for its simplicity. Made from non-porous, borosilicate glass and fastened with a wood collar and leather tie, it brews coffee without imparting flavors of its own. And, like other pour-over methods, the Chemex gives maximum control over every aspect of the brewing process.

Because supporting small business is our passion at Crimson Cup, we also love that the Chemex comes from a family-owned business in Massachusetts.

Prepare to Brew with the Chemex

Here’s what you need to brew two amazing cups of coffee using the Chemex:

  • A Chemex Coffeemaker (available in 3-cup to 10-cup sizes).
  • Chemex Filters (circle, square or half-moon). Chemex filter are thicker than most others and adhere closely to the glass walls. Because the thick paper filter sits flush against the walls of the spout, water flows through the grounds more slowly and the brewing time is longer than other pour over methods.
  • Fresh roasted coffee.
  • Burr Grinder. The Chemex uses a coarse grind.
  • Filtered water that’s just under boiling (205 degrees).
  • A goose-neck hot water kettle with a thin spout.
  • Scale
  • Timer

Chemex Brewing Step by Step

Follow these steps to produce awesome coffee in an eight-cup brewer:

  1. Unfold the Chemex Filter. Place it in the brewer with the single fold away from the spout and multiple folds lined up against the spout.
  2.  Rinse the filter and preheat the Chemex for 15 seconds using hot water (about 205 degrees). Make sure the filter gets a nice, even seal all around the brewer. Dump the preheated water.
  3. Grind 50 grams of coffee. Grinds need to be fairly coarse.
  4. Add coffee to your brewer. Level the coffee in your brewer and zero out the scale.
  5. Start the timer when you add 205-degree filtered water. Pour just enough hot water on the grounds to saturate them completely (about 100 grams). This allows the coffee to “bloom” – swelling and releasing carbon dioxide.
  6. Allow the water to filter through for about 30 seconds. Watch for the bloom to deflate.
  7. Pour water in pulses. Start with 300g, then 100g at a time. Start in the center and move out in even spirals. Circle in and out, stirring all coffee evenly. Avoid pouring against the paper filter.
  8. Stop pouring at 800 grams of water. 
  9. Wait for the coffee to brew. Total brewing time should be between 4 and 5 minutes.
  10. Allow the water to filter through. Watch the flow and wait for the stream to break.
  11. Lift the filter and grounds and throw away.
  12. Swirl the Chemex around a little and you’re ready to serve two cups of brewed coffee.
  13. Serve immediately.
  14. Enjoy!

Coffee Extraction and How to Taste It

When coffee professionals taste espresso or brewed coffee, they often describe it as either over- or under-extracted.

When you mix coffee and water, the water acts as a solvent, extracting the flavors from the coffee grounds.

The compounds in coffee extract in order. The process starts with most of the pleasant acids and salts, bringing in the balance of sugars until finally unpleasant acids or tannins are most of what’s left.

When over extraction occurs, you will taste bitter, papery, ashy or smoky dryness with a thin, watery body.

When your coffee is under extracted, it will taste sour, salty, muddy and weak.

You can fix under- or over-extracted coffee by making small adjustments in the grind and amount of coffee.

Adjusting the Variables

Use a consistent technique. Only change one variable at a time, then track your results.

Evaluate the Grind

A finer grind of coffee  increases extraction. The brewing process will flow slower and last longer.

A coarser grind decreases extraction. The brewing process will flow faster and shorten your brewing time.

Consider the Strength

If the coffee tastes right but you want more or less body or presence of coffee flavor in the liquid, you can adjust your coffee to water ratio.

If the coffee tastes too dense or thick, use less coffee.

If the coffee tastes weak or watered down, use more coffee.

Changing the strength of the coffee often means you need to adjust your grind.

Choosing a Coffee for Hand-Pour Brewing

The Chemex highlights the brighter notes in coffee and yields a clean, sweet cup. Try it with our craft coffees. This brewing method allows their natural sweetness and subtle flavors to shine through.

If you’re in the Columbus or Tallmadge area, you’re invited to stop by one of our Crimson Cup Coffee Houses to sample micro-lot coffees at our Brew Bar. Our Cuppers will be happy to discuss the fine points of pour-over while serving one of the best cups of coffee you’ll find anywhere.

Check Out Our Other Home Brewing Tutorials

Once you get the steps down, pour-over coffee is actually quite easy. It takes a little more time and attention than drip coffee or French press, but you gain control over all aspects of the extraction process.

The process differs slightly depending upon the brewing equipment you choose.

Check out our other home brew tutorials before choosing your brewer:

Looking for everything you need to brew awesome coffee at home? You can stock up on coffee, brewing equipment and beverage ware in the Crimson Cup store

Originally published: November 27, 2012

Last update: March 17, 2020

Categories: Coffee, Running a Coffee Shop, What's New at Crimson Cup

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