How to Brew Coffee in a Chemex

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[Photos: Liz Clayton]

It's easy, it's delicious, and it couldn't be more stylish. In recent years, the super-simple Chemex coffee brewer has come out of the garage sale and into the limelight and regained its place on the counter and coffee bar. The handsome flask-carafe is American-made (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) item of both form and function, available surprisingly widely from grocery store aisles to haute cafes.

It comes in a confusingly similar variety of shapes and styles—three-cup, six-cup, twelve-cup, wooden collar, glass handle, individually handblown—each with its own slight pros and cons, but all working on the same easy principles.

Though there are some famous detractors of the brew method, who believe the Chemex loses too much heat, extracts unevenly, and doesn't produce a full-bodied enough cup, others find it produces a highly flavorful, clean-tasting coffee with little fuss. Let's brew a cup and you be the judge:

What You'll Need

Water, coffee beans, Chemex square or round filters (bleached produces a purer taste), or for advanced students, a KONE filter, large (anything not the three-cup) Chemex, pouring kettle (optional).

Coffee Dose

60 grams or 8-9 level tablespoons

Step 1

Place the filter in the Chemex, with folds facing towards the front spout, and pre-moisten your coffee filter with hot water then pour out the water from the Chemex spout.

Step 2

Begin boiling water. Measure your coffee beans and grind just slightly coarser than you would for drip.

Step 3

Add grounds to the Chemex and saturate the coffee just enough with your water fresh off the boil, pouring very evenly. (Some prefer to use a fancy Japanese pouring kettle, like the Takahiro or the Buono, to control their stream of water more gracefully.) After the initial bloom—around 30 seconds of allowing the grounds to rise, bubble, and begin to crust over a little—continue to add water slowly the brew in the center of the Chemex. Avoid the temptation to "wash down" the sides of the filter where coffee gathers: it's forming a natural coffee barrier to make extraction consistent along all areas of the filter cone.

Step 4

Continue to add water to the Chemex until the extracted coffee reaches approximately the height of the "nipple" on the Chemex carafe. (For a 60 gram dose of coffee, this should take about 650 mL of water.) Remove filter before the final drips of water extract, and serve.

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Notes:

Halving the dose (30 g/325 mL) for a single-cup brew works fine with this method, though the flavors seem to taste best in a standard sized (6-8 cup) Chemex with the larger dose.

Some people also enjoy measuring their water by brewing the Chemex directly onto a kitchen scale. This ensures more accuracy and may get you comfortable with your brewing parameters if you're finding extractions inconsistent. Experiment with how you like to measure (and how much water to coffee you prefer) and pick the method that makes the most sense to you while producing a delicious cup.

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