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Chemex Guide: Classic, Glass Handle, and Handblown

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What is a Chemex?

The Chemex is a pour-over coffeemaker that was invented in the 1940s. Unlike some pour-over style coffeemakers that sit on top of a mug, the Chemex is a glass carafe that allows you to make multiple cups of coffee at once.

Chemexes also use filters; however, you must fold the filter so that one side of the filter has three leaves. This side is placed against the spout of the Chemex. According to the Chemex Corporation, this folding technique prevents the filter from sagging into the spout of the Chemex and creates an air channel for brewing. This removes bitterness and improves the flavor. You can pour directly from the Chemex when you remove the filter and coffee grounds.

Since its invention in the 1940s, Chemex has been a popular way to brew coffee. It’s popular because it’s easy to use, doesn’t have any additional parts or pieces, and produces great-tasting, smooth coffee due to the filtration process. We also think it has a beautiful design, so it’s a coffeemaker you won’t mind leaving out on the counter.

How to Use a Chemex: Step-by-Step Instructions

Below we cover some essentials before diving into the instructions.

Supplies needed
  • Paper filters (round or square)
  • Recommended: Electric or stovetop gooseneck kettle to help with pouring and/or larger-sized Chemexes
Coffee grind size Medium coarse grind
Coffee to water ratio 1 gram of coffee to 15 grams of water (or 1 rounded tablespoon of coffee to 5 oz of water)
Time to brew 5-10 minutes

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, read below for step-by-step instructions on how to use your Chemex. We’ve also included information on how to clean it.

1. Gather your supplies
You’ll need a medium coarse grind for a Chemex, hot water heated to 195 to 205 degrees Fahreinheit, and a paper filter. You can either purchase square filters made by the Chemex Corporation or fold a round or square filter to fit. The company provides detailed folding instructions on its website.

To fold a filter:

  • Fold the filter in half and then fold it in half again
  • Place your finger between the third and fourth sheet and open the filter into a funnel

For the hot water, if you don't have a thermometer, we recommend boiling your water and removing it from heat. Once it stops bubbling, it should be about the right temperature.

2. Place the filter in the top part of the Chemex with the three-sheet side on the spout

3. Optional: Pre-wet the filter with hot water
Some people like to rinse filters with hot water before brewing coffee to remove any paper taste or extra bitterness from the coffee. We personally don’t do this and have never had an issue with the taste of our coffee.

If you want to pre-wet your filter, make sure to wet every part of the filter. After you’ve finished, dump the hot water out and place the filter back into the Chemex.

4. Put coffee grounds into the filter
One rounded tablespoon of medium-coarse grind is used to produce a 5 oz cup of coffee, though you can use more if you prefer a stronger brew.

We usually drink 8 oz cups of coffee in our house and we generally don't gram out our coffee and water. If you're like us, you can use the following conversions to convert to 8 oz cups:

# of rounded tablespoon scoops Amount of water (# of 8 oz cups) Minimum Chemex size
1.5 scoops 8 oz (1 cup) Any Chemex
3 scoops 15-16 oz (2 cups) 3-cup Chemex
5 scoops 24-25 oz (3 cups) 6-cup Chemex
6.5 scoops 30-32 oz (4 cups) 8-cup Chemex
8 scoops 40 oz (5 cups) 8-cup Chemex
10 scoops 48-50 oz (6 cups) 10-cup Chemex
11.5 scoops 55-56 oz (7 cups) 13-cup Chemex
13 scoops 64-65 oz (8 cups) 13-cup Chemex

5. Pour a small amount of water into the Chemex in a circular motion to wet the coffee grounds
Pour water in a circular motion to cover the coffee grounds. Make sure to wet all of the coffee grounds. Do not pour all of the water in yet.

Your hot water should ideally be between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, we recommend boiling the water and pouring it in once it’s no longer bubbling.

Doing this first pour allows the coffee to bloom, which allows gases to escape from the beans and helps improve the taste of the coffee. You’ll notice the coffee grounds bubbling.

6. Pour more water into the Chemex, making sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch from the top of the Chemex
Pour water in a circular or back-and-forth motion over the coffee grounds, making sure to continue wetting all of the coffee grounds. Make sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch from the top of the Chemex. Repeat this step as needed depending on how much water you are using.

7. Remove the filter and coffee grounds once you are finished brewing
After you’ve finished pouring the water and it’s filtered through, remove and dispose of the filter and coffee grounds. If you purchased filters from the Chemex Corporation, those filters are biodegradable and compostable.

8. Enjoy your coffee!

9. Optional: Keep your coffee warm
You can place a Chemex on a glass or gas flame stovetop on low heat to keep your coffee warm. Make sure there is liquid in the Chemex. Do not put the Chemex directly on an electric coil stovetop. The Chemex Corporation sells a stainless steel wire grid that allows you to put the Chemex on an electric coil stovetop.

How to Clean A Chemex

The Chemex is very easy to clean. Depending on the type you have, remove the wooden and leather handle and set aside. Wash the Chemex by hand using soap and water or place it securely in your dishwasher.

You don’t need to scrub the Chemex everyday, simply swirling hot soapy water in it is enough to clean it. Give it a good scrub about once a week, depending on how often you use it.

Speaking from experience, be careful putting a sponge into the carafe as you might not be able to get it out easily. We recommend using a dish-cleaning brush. The company sells a special cleaning brush, but we think that’s overkill given that you can use a regular dish-cleaning brush.

About Mariana Arrioja

Mariana is the co-founder and chief taste tester at First Coffee Then. She’s been drinking coffee as long as she can remember. She’s an industrial designer by trade, so she applies that knowledge when searching for the best coffee gadget and beans. She has a fondness for cortados. When not drinking coffee, you can find her doodling, gardening and playing crossword puzzles.

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