At my coffee shop, people where always wanting to learn how to brew coffee with a Chemex. The reason being was not only does it make a great cup of coffee, its also a beautifully designed pour over coffee maker that is simple, elegant and great for when coffee friends come to visit or even just for yourself.
This article is going to go overstep by step how to properly brew coffee from Costa Rica, or anywhere for that matter, using a Chemex coffee maker and also give you some tips and advice on the best way to make sure it comes out perfect each and every time.
What You Need to Make Coffee with a Chemex
Before brewing your first cup of coffee with a Chemex you should have some essential pieces of equipment. At first, you make think this is a lot of stuff, but keep in mind, except for the coffee, all are one time buys and for each cup of coffee you brew at home think how much money you are saving!
- 8 Cup Chemex – There are smaller versions but why limit yourself? If you just need a single cup you can still use this size but if you have friends over, you can use this size Chemex as well. You can check out the latest prices and size options at Amazon
- Scale – Check out my review of coffee scales and their importance but make sure you get one as it makes all the difference in the world.
- Fresh Roasted Coffee – Get coffee from a local roaster (if possible) or join a coffee subscription service, either way try to get coffee that was roasted within two weeks of the roast date if possible.
- Burr Grinder – You can with either a manual or electric grinder depending on your budget and how much exercise you want to get.
- Chemex Filters – These filters are a bit unusual as they are thicker and have a trifold. The reason for this is to remove unwanted oils and fats. To use, keep it folded, then open it up so you’ll have one layer on one side and three layers on the other. The side with three layers is what you’ll put against the pour spout.
- Timer – Any timer will do, for example using the one on your phone, but in the simplest of terms, a properly timed brew will help avoid either over extracting or under extracting the coffee.
- Goose Neck Kettle – A goose neck kettle gives you pinpoint accuracy on pouring your water. This helps in saturating the coffee grinds evenly, so you don’t have any “channeling” whereby getting an uneven brew.
- Stir Stick – You can use an “official” stick or really anything such as spoon will do just so you can move the coffee grounds around slightly to make sure they all get saturated when brewing.
How to use a Chemex Coffee Maker
Step 1 – Heat Water in the Kettle
Fill your goose neck kettle with water and start heating it up until it reaches 195 – 205 degrees. It going to take a few minutes so in meantime lets gets the other things ready to brew.
Step 2 – Place Filter in Chemex
Grab one of the tri-folded filters and put it into the Chemex. Remember that when you unfold it you want to put the single layer on one side and other three layers on the other. The side with three layers is what you’ll put against the pour spout.
Step 3 – Rinse the Filter
Once your kettle is hot enough, grab it and rinse the filter so that it forms a kind of seal around the Chemex. The reason for doing this is 2 fold (get it?) The first reason is that it removes any paper flavor you might get from the filter and the second reason is that it will preheat the Chemex. Once you do both of these, then simply dump the water out by turning the Chemex upside down while holding the filter in place.
Step 4 – Weigh the Coffee
Now is the time to break out the scale, turn it on and and tare it (zero it out).
Grab your fresh roasted Costa Rica coffee and weigh out 25g grams of coffee since we will be using 400g of water for this brewing. I like to use a 16 to 1 ratio (Water to Coffee) for a Chemex but that’s personal preference. You can use whatever ratio you find tastes the best i.e. 15 to 1 or 17 to 1 etc.
Step 5 – Grind the Coffee
Open up your manual or electric grinder and pour your pre measured beans into. You are going to want a medium coarse grind or something that resembles the size of kosher salt.
Step 6 – Start the Brewing
Put your Chemex and rinsed filter on your scale and pour your ground coffee in the filter. Then Tare (zero out) your scale and get out your timer.
We are now going to start the timer. Take the hot water and begin to saturate the coffee until you get to 75 grams. At this time we are going to take our stir stick and briefly move the coffee around GENTLY to make sure there aren’t any dry areas and then wait 30 seconds.
If you are using fresh coffee you will see a “bloom” where the coffee is getting rid of the C02 that was created when the coffee was roasted. (if you don’t see a bloom it means your coffee is probably not fresh)
Step 7 – Add More Water
Once you hit the 30 second mark you will then start adding more water. You want to pour from in either a clockwise or counter clockwise motion moving from the center out. You will do this until the water gets to just a little bit from the top of the rim of the Chemex, and once it lowers a little add some more water until you get to 400g.
This should take about one minute or until you get to the 1:30 mark on your timer. At this point put your kettle down and wait until your timer gets to 4 minutes. Once it hits 4 minutes, lift up the filter and coffee grounds and let it hang for a second or 2 over the Chemex to get a few more drips of coffee and then put the filter in the sink so as not to create a mess.
Step 8 – Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy!
Now the best part! Grab your favorite ceramic or porcelain mug and after swirling the Chemex around a couple of times, pour it into the mug and then just put on some Thelonious Monk or whatever music you prefer, sip slowly and enjoy.
By the way and as a side note, if you have used fresh roasted Costa Rica coffee, as the the coffee cools you should notice a change in flavors! Great Coffee can just be amazing!
For those who may learn more easily by watching, I have included this video to give a better visual on how this process works. It’s not my exact process but may help in getting you started.
When you make your coffee if you find the coffee bitter, the grind may be to fine and therefore its getting over extracted. However if you find your coffee is sour that could mean that the grind may be too coarse and the coffee is getting under extracted. Adjust accordingly if you find either of these happening.
The Chemex is one of the best, most aesthetically pleasing and simple pour over brewing methods out there. In fact, the brewer is actually featured at MOMA ( Museum of Modern Art) in New York City and was selected by the Illinois Institute of Technology as one of the 100 best designed products of modern times.
In addition to making a great cup of coffee, I always like the versatility of a Chemex. You can do as little as a single cup but its also can be large enough to be used for groups. I always have found it to be a great conversation starter when you put out a full “pot” of Chemex brewed coffee in the center of the table with cups for everyone.