Chemex 101: Brewing Tips and Advice From a Coffee Novice
Learn how to brew coffee in your Chemex! I’ve got tips on brewing, filters and the simple way to clean your Chemex. Make sure to watch the video tutorial at the end for for step-by-step instructions on brewing Chemex coffee.
Over the last few years I’ve really come to enjoy a good cup of coffee. Especially one from the beautifully designed Chemex. I mean, it is gorgeous, right? Not only will it make your coffee taste good, it’ll make it look good.
But as much as I like coffee, let’s be clear – I’m by no means a coffee connoisseur, guru or expert. I’m just your run-of-the-mill coffee drinker who likes to brew a warm cup at home or relax in a fab coffee shop when I’m out and about.
You’ll find lots of posts online about Chemex brewing that talk about measuring your coffee into proper gram weights (using a scale) and pouring the water slowly (with a timer) to ensure an exact volume of water over the ground coffee in 4 minutes to extract the perfect cup of coffee. There are even some apps.
When I first got my Chemex, I’ll be honest. That stuff intimidated me. I’m a smart girl with an MBA, but I sure didn’t feel like doing math equations and pulling out timers and scales every morning just to brew a cup of coffee!
I’m sure there’s valid science to extracting a perfect cup of coffee (coffee is a massive industry after all), but I view coffee like wine. Everyone likes something different. And no choice is wrong. You simply like what you like.
So today I wanted to share with you everything I’ve learned about brewing coffee with my Chemex Coffee Maker – and let you know that you too can take the easy brewing route – and still have a darn good cup of coffee.
What is a Chemex?
I first discovered Chemex on Instagram, perusing other food bloggers feeds a few years ago. No joke. I kept seeing this gorgeous beaker-like thing with a stunning wood handle filled with coffee and I had to figure out what it was. Well, clearly I was late to the party as Chemex has been around for more than 70 years.
The Chemex Coffee Maker is a pour-over style of coffee brewer, with a glass flask shaped like an hourglass. The neck or handle of the hourglass is then wrapped in wood with a leather tie. The Chemex is so simple in design it’s stunning (which is what lured me in). In fact, the design is so noteworthy that it’s featured in The Museum of Modern Art in New York. And to think, I just wanted it for a food photography prop, initially.
What size Chemex should you get?
I struggled with this for a while because I’m just one person and at first I thought I should go with the three cup model. But cutting to the chase, I purchased the eight cup Chemex and here’s why. Chemex measures cup size on each model as a 5 ounce cup. Therefore, the eight cup model (when full) is 40 ounces.
If you’re like me, your regular coffee cup is much larger than 5 ounces. Mine (the one you see pictured) is 16 ounces. So that’s actually three cups according to Chemex.
In other words, if you purchase the three cup model and have a large coffee mug, you’ll get one true cup of coffee. With the six cup model you’ll get about two large cups of coffee. And with the eight cup model you’ll get anywhere from two to four cups of coffee, again, depending on the size of your mug (hint: go measure your mug right now).
Therefore, if you’re more than one person, I really only recommend purchasing the six or eight cup models. If you’re three or more adults at home, go with the ten cup model. When I fill my Eight Cup Classic Chemex full with water from my 1.2 liter kettle (approx 40 ounce), it fills my Chemex up nicely and I get about three true cups of coffee.
When it comes to kettles, do purchase a gooseneck kettle as well. I love my Hario Kettle and it makes brewing pour-over coffee abundantly easier.
So what do I do after I’ve brewed a full batch in my Chemex? I save and refrigerate my leftover coffee to be reheated the next day. I’m sure this is blasphemy to coffee connoisseurs, but I’m all about easy and not having to wash my Chemex every day if I don’t have to. It’s like batch cooking. To my credit, Chemex themselves state that coffee can be reheated (without any bitterness) after it’s been refrigerated in sealed container. Win!
What about Chemex filters?
What really makes Chemex special and distinguishes it from other brands are the filters. Chemex filters are 20-30% thicker than regular coffee filters which filters out bitterness, oils and grounds. That means you get a super clean and clear cup of coffee.
I had to laugh when I first purchased my square natural filters because I was like, “what the heck?” Having only used single sheet coffee filters, I didn’t understand this origami-like Chemex filter. But it’s really quite simple. 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 on the Chemex.
As for the square versus circular filters, there’s really no difference. Though I do find the little points on the square make it easy to lift out. And of course I went with natural, because I always choose unbleached anything if possible.
What is the best Chemex grind size?
Based on my research (from the coffee gurus), it seems a medium to medium-coarse grind works best. When you grind your coffee to this consistency, it should resemble the texture of sea salt. If you grind your coffee too fine, it will take longer for your coffee to brew given the increased thickness of the Chemex filters.
When grinding coffee at home go with a burr grinder for a more even consistency. You’ll find burr grinders ranging from economical to expensive. I purchased a middle-of-the-road Cuisinart Burr Grinder and have been quite happy with it.
Most coffee aficionados will say that you should grind your coffee beans right before you brew, for the freshest coffee. And I don’t doubt that. But the reality is I usually grind enough coffee for a week or so. I store my grinds in an airtight glass Weck Jar and use this 2-tablespoon coffee scoop to scoop out my grinds as needed. If you want to label your glass jar as I did, read my pantry organization post.
How much ground coffee should you use?
Now this is where all the ratios and scales typically come into play. If I were to follow the coffee experts’ advice, I’d use 40-50 grams of coffee for 700 grams of water (which is about 25 ounces). But because I didn’t want to pull out my kitchen scale every morning, what I really wanted to know was what that translated to in coffee scoops.
So let me break it down for you. 40-50 grams of coffee = 4-5 coffee scoops. One coffee scoop = 2 tablespoons = 10 grams.
Interestingly enough, all brewing examples I found online only showed brewing a Chemex half full – I have no idea why. If you purchase the eight cup Chemex and would like to brew a full container, based on the math above you’ll need 70-80 grams of ground coffee or 7-8 coffee scoops for 40 ounces of water. Personally, I found this much too strong.
Chemex themselves recommend one heaping tablespoon for 5 ounces of coffee, which means 8 heaping tablespoons or 4 heaping coffee scoops per 40 ounces of water. At the end of the day, I actually preferred 3 coffee scoops with a full kettle of water. Remember though, I’m a coffee novice who doesn’t like my coffee overly strong.
There’s always talk of over extraction or under extraction when you start to alter coffee measurements, but really, it’s all about personal preference and taste. Each person is unique (genetically) in our ability to taste, particularly when it comes to bitter compounds. So tinker around with ratios until you find what works for you.
How do you brew coffee with the Chemex?
I recommend watching my Chemex brewing video at the top of this post. But if you prefer step-by-step instructions, I’ve got those for you as well. Remember, it may take you one or two tries to get comfy brewing with your Chemex, but after that, you’ll be golden. Promise.
Step One: Heat the water in your 1.2 liter kettle and bring to a boil.
Step Two: Grind your coffee with a burr grinder and determine how much coffee you’ll use based on how many cups of coffee you’re making. For a full container (on the eight cup model), try starting with 4 coffee scoops and adjust as necessary.
Step Three: Place a filter in your Chemex (with the three layer side of the filter facing the spout) and pour a little hot water to wet the filter. This warms the glass and removes any paper taste from the filter. Dump out this water. Note: because you just used water from your kettle, you’ll have less than 40 ounces to brew. If you’d like, you can fill the kettle back up and bring to a quick boil again. Or, you’ll have just slightly less coffee if you don’t refill.
Step Four: Add your coffee grounds onto the pre-moistened filter.
Step Five: Pour just enough water to fully saturate the grounds and let the coffee expand and bloom for 30-45 seconds.
Step Six: Pour your water in a slow, circular fashion until you’ve filled the top nearly full (about a half inch below the top). As the water starts to drain, continue adding more water until your kettle is empty (if you’re using an eight cup Chemex), or until you’ve reached just below the wood handle.
Step Seven: Once your Chemex is full, remove the filter and grounds and enjoy your freshly brewed cup of coffee.
How do you clean a Chemex?
After you brew your coffee, just rinse it out with warm water and a few drops of liquid soap. I don’t even remove the handle for this. Then turn it upside down to dry. This is how I wash my Chemex 90% of the time.
If you have residue on the bottom or feel you need a deeper clean, fill your Chemex halfway full with ice and a quarter full with water. Add a few tablespoons of salt and a couple drops of liquid soap. Swirl and slosh this around until it’s all bubbly, then pour it out and rinse.
The Chemex is also dishwasher safe (with the wood handle removed), though I tend to hand wash using the two methods above.
What type of coffee do you recommend?
Oh, geez. I’m probably the worst person to ask this question as my tastes are not the most discerning. Currently I’m enjoying this one. But what I can say is do pay the extra and buy organic coffee. Conventional coffee is one of the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world. So I choose quality over quantity.
Most of the time I drink my coffee black with a little stevia. But if I’m wanting some dairy-free creamer, I’ll usually add a little homemade Cashew Milk or vanilla-based Cashew Cream. So good.
I hope this post on brewing coffee with a Chemex was helpful – and if you still have questions feel free to pop them in the comments section below. Lastly, if it just so happens to be blazing how where you’re at right now and the thought of hot coffee doesn’t get you excited, don’t forget about my Cold Brew Coffee Recipe. That will definitely cool you down.
Watch the video and learn how I brew Chemex coffee:
And subscribe to my YouTube Channel for weekly cooking videos!
Originally published May 2017, but updated to include new information.
Waiting on my Chemex pot to get here, so I used the Stumptown beans you mentioned in my Keurig, along with cashew cream and I have to thank you. Great recommendations. I’m guessing my cup of coffee will be even better when the pot arrives.
I stumbled upon you via a food search and wow! I feel like you opened my eyes to a new world of recipes and the coolest and best bakeware – items I was never aware of! It’s like talking to a girlfriend over coffee and learning and sharing new items and ideas!!! Love your information and recipes!!!!!
Thanks so much – you are amazing!
Welcome to the Downshiftology community Cheryl! I’m glad you’re enjoying all my content so far and can’t wait for you to start whipping up some recipes :)
I enjoyed reading this after I saw this article because you have presented some good points. Everything has represented in a pretty good way. Thanks a lot for sharing your amazing tips and guides about coffee brewing. It helped me a lot. Keep sharing.
Glad you enjoyed how the information was presented in this post and video Ashley :)
I agree Ashley. This was so well written. I will definitely look for and read other articles written by Lisa.
Thanks so much Stephanie!
My coffee maker is fairly new. I am saving this for my next purchase of a coffee maker :-)
Thank you so much Lisa!!
You’re going to love this one Patty! :)
For a so called “novice”, this is one very complete article. Good job!
One point I might add, it really helps to have smooth beans. By smooth, I mean not bitter and not burnt. The best way to find smooth coffee beans is to search the internet for “Smooth Coffee”, or “Smoothest Coffee”, or “Smooth Coffee Beans”. If you’ll do that, you’ll end up with a number of good options.
How do you keep coffee hot after brewing?
I usually just make enough to enjoy fresh and hot. But you can also reheat an individual cup in the microwave.
Chemex container can go on a glass top stove on low. That’s how I keep it warm. 😊
How do you reheat leftover coffee?
Love your channel. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Blessie – I normally just reheat using the microwave.
This was great! Easy reading and super honest suggestions and tips! Thank you
Hi Jacklyn – I’m glad you found this helpful! Hope it helps you brew coffee well :)
I’m always surprised when people are reluctant to use a scale. I find it way faster to just dump 40 grams of coffee onto a scale than scooping into it a bunch of times.
thank you for your approach! Very informative. I have found that Better Half is the dairy free product that works well with coffee or tea. Let know if you like it?
Please don’t pass my email around. Act Blue did and now the DNC and everyone else contacts me for money.
Hi! Thanks for your instructions. I just bought a Chemex and my first attempt was terrible – coffee weak with no flavor. I’ll try increasing the amount of coffee used. I wish I had bought a french press. I used a french press years ago with good result. Any ideas on what I may be doing wrong? I am trying to get coffee ready for visiting adult children who are coffee snobs!
Hi Roslyn – you may just need to add more coffee to your Chemex if you prefer it stronger. Also make sure that you’re grinding your coffee beans on a medium to coarse grind. :)
Love your approach to this topic. Exactly what I was looking for. Is the gooseneck kettle for a consistent, slow pour? You mention it makes it easier, just wondering how so. I’ve not heard of ice and salt for cleaning, but totally makes sense! I’m a big fan of vinegar for that, but sometimes you need a scrub after to remove the softened deposits in hard to reach places and that would be perfect for that. Thanks!
Yes, the gooseneck gives it a slow, steady stream of water. Glad you found the post helpful! :)
Thanks for your help. I was wondering why I always have to pull the Chemex filter (I use the bleached) up to get the coffee to drip down into the carafe. I use 5 level coffee scoops of beans ground in my OXO Burr Grinder on 12 which is the setting before course. It goes to 15. Also it’s taking almost 5 min to brew 32 oz of coffee. And both my husband and I think the coffee has a sharp sour taste. This has been the case when I used beans freshly roasted from a local roaster and with 8 O’clock whole bean. When I use a Melita unbleached filter the coffee brews faster and has less sourness.
Glad you found the video and post helpful! :)
Thanks Lisa! for such a detailed and amazing article for brewing coffee. I think no one will have any confusion after reading this. You explained it well. :)
I’m so glad you think so! :)
Hi Lisa! What brand of decaf coffee do you use? You mentioned it recently SOMEWHERE, but I cannot find it, and it’s driving me crazy! I’m having a hard time finding a tasty decaf roast, so am curious as to what you drink!
Also, thank you for this video-I love your simple approach.
Hi Carly – I use Stumptown decaf. It’s delicious! :) x
Thank you! :)
Thank you for explaining how you brew a FULL Chemex! So helpful.
You’re welcome! Glad you found that helpful.
Very interesting I just bought a coffee maker after research never herd of this wish I would have maybe next time thx
Yes, it’s a wonderful coffee maker! And love that it’s all glass. Definitely keep it in mind for next time! :)
Great information! I have what may be a completely dumb question…Can I put the Chemex in the fridge? (with the coffee in it if I want to save leftover for the next day)? I’m assuming I can, but I didn’t know if there was something weird with the glass since it’s pretty thin, like it could crack or something in cold temperature.
Hi Darlene – yes, you can absolutely do that! In fact, I do it every time I make coffee. Then just pour the leftovers into a cup and reheat. I’m sure coffee purist would cringe (ha!) but it works for me! ;) x
Thank you so much for an informative yet straightforward post on Chemex brewing. I’m shopping for a gooseneck kettle and interested in the Hario. Did you purchase yours on Amazon? The Amazon listing is confusing – “Made in Japan, Design in Japan” yet some buyers received made-in-China kettles. I have concerns after reading the issues with the ones made in China. Yours looks great still (assuming you’ve had it for a while) so I’m curious if yours was made in China or Japan.
I did purchase mine on Amazon (and love it), though not sure where it was made. You’d have to check with the manufacturer. :)
Having watch a half dozen videos of measuring, timing and algebraic functions just to get a cup of coffee almost put me off of the idea of a pour over; your Chemex video brought it back down to Earth for me. Whew!
It’s time to toss the Keurig and trade instant gratification and awful tasting coffee for a few minutes of my time and a real cup of fresh brewed Joe!
Thank you –
You’re welcome! And I’m right there with you Kelly. A good cup of coffee shouldn’t make my brain hurt in the morning. Haha! ;)
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Oh, I hear ya! Now that you’re comfy cozy with it, sounds like its time to get yourself a little gift. ;) x
I’ve never heard of a Chemex before, but it is very interesting. The blog is really informative. Love learning new things.
Thanks Amanda! It’s always fun to stumble on new info (or products), isn’t it? :)
I am not a coffee drinker but I loved reading all this wonderful information. I learned so much I have no clue what a Chemex was.. Now I know..! Thanks
You’re so sweet! So glad you found the information interesting! :)
I love the design of this. Thanks for the thorough review
It’s beautiful for sure!