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The Chemex: A week or two on

Written by . Published on under the Coffee category.

A Chemex on top of a scale in a kitchen

NB: This post is about two months old but I did not schedule it for publishing.

When I buy a new brewing device, I tend to use it almost exclusively until I move onto the next one. The Chemex has been no exception. Since I purchased the Chemex, I have made almost every cup of coffee I have consumed using the device. But this time feels a little bit different. Whereas in the past I have been more concerned about perfecting the technique, I have found myself quite attached to the Chemex.

One part of my attachment is down to the aesthetics. The Chemex feels excellent and I have a good experience brewing with the device. Coupled with my new Acaia scale, the Chemex elevates my morning brewing experience. I have noticed that brewing coffee is not so much about the final cup but the process that goes into making something delicious. When I brew with the Chemex, I can see the coffee dripping into my cup. When the light catches the Chemex a certain way, I am more attached to the device.

Looks aside, the Chemex is capable of making a tasty cup. When I first got my Chemex, I was impressed by how smooth and sweet the coffee was. I do not understand what it means when people say “this method accentuates X” in most cases but I can say the Chemex makes coffee taste sweeter. This is probably my perception of the coffee through the thicker paper filter.

The cup profile of a Chemex is quite similar to that of a V60 but I feel like a V60 does not bring out as many of the sweet notes as the Chemex. Maybe the oils the Chemex paper filter removes from the final brew contribute to my perception of sweetness, enhancing my ability to taste this flavour characteristic.

I have encountered two issues brewing with the Chemex, and both of them relate to using the square filters. These issues are: the filters obstructing my gooseneck kettle and the filters not adhering to the sides of the device.

I like to keep my gooseneck kettle as close to the coffee bed as possible. This is the technique I have been using since I started brewing with the Kalita Wave and it has worked well. The closer the kettle is to the bed of coffee, the less likely I am to break the stream of water. When I use the Chemex, I need to use a new technique because the square filter paper obstructs my ability to pour closer to the coffee bed. I need to keep my gooseneck higher, which means I need to put in more effort to ensure that the water does not flow out of the kettle too fast.

In general, I pour water into my Chemex a lot faster than I do with my V60 and my Kalita Wave. This is especially a problem when I get to the opposite side of the coffee bed, where more water sometimes comes out of the kettle than in the rest of my pour. I have not noticed any issues by pouring quicker but I do sometimes feel like it is hard to repeat my brew. I want to be able to repeat my technique so I can make good cups whenever I want. Maybe I will grow into using a new technique with the Chemex.

The square filters do not adhere well to the edges of the Chemex. In most of my brews, I have noticed a few gaps. In a coffee I made this morning, the coffee bed was visibly distorted – it was not circular like I aim for – because one part of the filter had not properly adhered to the side of the device. Although I have still made delicious cups when the filter is not fully on the edge of the Chemex, I sometimes have to fidget around with the filter so that it sticks well to the side of the Chemex.

These are nit-picky issues. I may be able to solve these issues with the cone-shaped filters which are in the shape of a cone rather than a square. These issues have been on my mind as a home brewer and I wanted to share them. I’ll consider buying cone-shaped filters when I run out of the square ones I have.

When I use my Chemex, I like to dial in for a particular brew time, which is a technique I found out about online. With the Chemex, my goal is for my coffee to brew between four and five minutes. If I am brewing two cups, I extend my range from five to six minutes. If my brew is running too slow, I will grind coarser. At the moment, I’m grinding a bit coarser than I was in the past. I am using the 21 setting on my Baratza Encore grinder for one cup (although this is an experiment and I need to make more cups to see if this is the optimal setting) and the 23 setting for two cups.

All in all, brewing with the Chemex is a pleasure. The device looks great and the cup profile is excellent. I enjoy the sweeter brew I can make with the Chemex. I am somewhat frustrated by the square Chemex filters but the issues I am experiencing have not had a dramatic effect on the taste of the coffee I am brewing. I’m glad I invested in the Chemex and I have had a great time using the device so far.

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