When the inventor of the Chemex coffee maker Dr. Peter Schlumbohm showed off his pour over coffee brewer at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, he later bragged that it would allow “even a moron to make good coffee.”
This device forever changed the world of pour over coffee. Its elegant hourglass shape, borosilicate glass material, and polished wood collar look like a work of modern art. And the custom filter paper creates a unique flavor.
But even though the Chemex coffeemaker will look beautiful in any kitchen, there are a few downsides you should know. Every coffee lover should probably have this brewer around, but let’s explore a complete Chemex coffee maker review to see how it stacks up against other popular pour over coffee makers.
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Chemex Coffee Maker: What to Consider Before Buying
Before you decide that one of the Chemex coffee makers is right for you (there are multiple sizes), there are some considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, you should be willing to set aside the time to brew coffee manually on a pour over. Brewing coffee manually takes time and attention, and to pour water correctly you will likely need a gooseneck kettle.
It is also ideal to own a grinder so you can buy whole coffee beans and grind them at home—whole beans stay fresher. Coffee grounds will work, but the resulting flavor might not be worth the effort. So consider these questions before buying a Chemex:
- Do you have the time/patience to brew coffee manually?
- For how many people do you regularly make coffee?
- Do you own other coffee equipment (kettle, grinder, scale) that will make brewing on the Chemex easier?
- Do you prefer the bold flavor and heavy mouthfeel of the French Press or a cleaner flavor of filtred coffee?
As a blog devoted to the art of specialty coffee, we, of course, think the delicious coffee you can make with a Chemex is worth the effort and price. But let’s review some of the pros and cons of the Chemex coffee maker. Later, we will compare it with other pour over drippers.
Personal preferences will play a role in choosing the best pour over coffee brewer, but these are the general pros of the Chemex brewer:
- Stylish and elegant one-piece glass design that looks beautiful in the kitchen
- Flexible recipes (including iced coffee options)
- Clean flavor (no oils) that allows coffee to shine
- The largest size brews 10 cups
- Safe in the dishwasher
And here are some cons of the Chemex worth considering as you shop for a pour over dripper:
- Expensive compared to other drippers
- Difficult to clean by hand
- Glass can break when traveling
- Must use official Chemex filter paper
Chemex Coffee Maker vs Other Glass Coffee Makers
We reviewed those and compared them with the Chemex in our general overview of the best manual drip coffee makers.
Why Should I Get A Chemex?
Even if you are not a passionate coffee lover, you might want the Chemex in your kitchen purely for aesthetic reasons. After all, even New York City’s Museum of Modern Art has it on display.
But in terms of coffee brewing, the Chemex method is all about clarity—the double-bonded paper filter removes the oils and sediment to let the delicate coffee flavors shine. Compared to a French Press, you will be able to brew delicate/light-roasted coffees with the Chemex.
Another huge plus of Chemex coffee makers is that they come in many sizes: 3, 6, 8, and 10-cup options. The largest brewer can make up to 50 ounces of coffee at a time.
Comparing Chemex To A Normal Drip Coffee Maker
There is no doubt that a drip coffee maker is convenient, especially for those that have early mornings. So if speed is a crucial factor for you, you might not want a Chemex to replace your coffee maker—maybe save Chemex brewing for the weekends.
But in terms of flavor, Chemex produces a superior cup of coffee. When you pour water gently over the coffee bed, preferably with the speed control of a gooseneck kettle, you can get an even extraction.
The brew time is longer than a machine and you will have to be present the whole time. But the control and flexibility will allow you to brew much more delicious coffee on the Chemex than on any drip coffee maker.
Chemex Coffee Makers Vs. Other Pour-Overs
Chemex coffee makers are one of many pour over brewers on the market. Compared with many of the popular models such as the Hario v60 and Kalita Wave, the Chemex is larger. For example, if you anticipate needing to brew regularly for three or more people, Chemex is superior.
It is also worth noting the uniqueness of the Chemex paper filter, which is thicker than most other drippers. Thick paper removes even more oils/sediment and makes a clean-tasting cup.
The closest design to the Chemex would have to be the Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker, which we reviewed as the budget-friendly way to buy a Chemex. You can also read our regularly-updated roundup of the best pour over makers for even more detail.
The Chemex one-piece design is made from non porous borosilicate glass, and it includes a convenient pouring spout to easily pour coffee after brewing. We love the polished wood collar models because of their aesthetics, but some versions replace the wood collar grip with a glass handle.
The key design features include:
- One-piece hourglass shape glass coffee maker
- Borosilicate glass that does not absorb odors
- Polished wood collar with leather tie
- Pouring spout
- Dishwasher safe
While the design of the Chemex coffee maker is beautiful, in terms of engineering it is like most other drippers: it allows you to pour water over ground coffee. So the magic behind the unique flavors of Chemex coffee is the filter.
The Chemex bonded coffee filter is thick and sturdy compared to other coffee filters on the market. So besides the fine coffee particles that most filters catch, the Chemex filter also absorbs the coffee oils that can mask the most delicate flavors. This light mouthfeel is why Chemex produces one of the cleanest cups of coffee.
How Do You Clean a Chemex?
The hourglass shape of the Chemex does make cleaning more difficult, but that is easily solved with a bottle brush. Be sure to remove the collar and leather tie before washing. And even though the Chemex is sturdy, handle it with care because it is still a glass coffee maker that can break.
And since the Chemex is dishwasher safe, you can always remove the collar and secure it in your dishwasher whenever it needs a good clean.
What Size Chemex Should I Get?
The Chemex comes in the following sizes, with corresponding ranges of cups/ounces:
|Model||Brewing Range (cups)||Brewing Range (ounces)|
|Three Cup Classic||1-3||10-20 oz.|
|Six Cup Classic||3-6||15-30 oz.|
|Eight Cup Classic||4-8||20-40 oz.|
|Ten Cup Classic||5-10||25-50 oz.|
If you are unsure, play it safe and go with the six or eight-cup models, which are the most popular. While you cannot brew one cup on those, they give you the flexibility to brew for many people when needed.
Other Chemex Coffee Maker Tips
If you are ready to invest in a Chemex, be sure to check out our favorite Chemex recipe, which is our brew guide for making delicious Chemex coffee.
And to make the most out of your Chemex, you should consider investing in other specialty coffee equipment and practices such as:
- A scale
- Gooseneck kettle
- Using filtered water or third-wave water
- Grind whole bean coffee before brewing
The last tip has to do with cleanliness. Even though the glass does not absorb odors, it will stain if you forget to rinse out your Chemex. After brewing, be sure to pour the remaining hot water into the bottom to prevent staining.
Chemex Coffee Maker Review: Final Verdict
If a one-piece glass coffee maker is what you want, you are probably weighing the Chemex against the Coffee Gator or Bodum coffee drippers. And while those glass coffee makers are budget-friendly, we believe that the Chemex comes out on top as the superior glass coffee maker.
The Chemex has a long history, has flexible recipes, and has multiple sizes to fit your needs. And even if you do not brew on it every day, it will still look beautiful in any kitchen!