Pour Over vs Chemex: Everything You Need to Know
Wait a minute, aren't Chemex and pour over exactly the same?
So it would seem to a java novice at first glance. But once you take a closer look, you'll notice subtle differences that set Chemex apart from other pour over drippers. Does it mean it's the best? Read on to learn the answer and decide whether you should splurge on a Chemex or stick with a good-old V60 or Kalita.
Chemex Coffee vs Pour Over Coffee: What's the Difference?
When we're talking about pour over, we should differentiate between the brewing technique and the hardware. In essence, all devices that make hot water pass through the beans and a filter to produce coffee are pour over coffee makers. This category includes everything from Sanyo Sangyo to an electric drip machine in your office. However, Chemex stands out from the bunch, and today I want to emphasize the differences between this brand and other pour over drippers, such as Hario V60, Kalita Wave, and others.
A German housewife invented the brewing method over a hundred years ago, looking to get rid of sediment in her coffee. However, most common coffee makers you know and love haven't been around that long. For instance, Hairo started producing coffee hardware in the middle of the 20th century, but the ever-popular Hario V60 came around barely 15 years ago. Kalita Wave hasn't been around that long either but is still among the drippers most favored by coffee connoisseurs.
- Faster brewing
- Compatible with standard paper filters
- Durable models made of plastic and ceramic
- Server to be bought separately
- Only big enough for one or two servings
- Simplistic design
While still technically a pour over coffee maker, Chemex was introduced in 1941 as a new and improved way of brewing coffee in an elegant design supplemented by patented bonded filters. The device became instantly popular and is still a part of exhibitions in MoMA and the Smithsonian. Who wouldn't want their coffee maker to be a beautiful piece of art that delivers delicious java?
- Pitcher capacity from 3 to 13 cups
- Striking, elegant looks
- Extra-clean and crisp flavor
- Expensive single-use filters
- Fragile glass-only hardware
- Slower brewing
Chemex vs. Pour Over. A Closer Look
Chemex is an all-in-one coffee maker, combining the filter chamber and the serving carafe in one streamlined design that hails from lab glassware. This beauty has an unmistakable hourglass shape with a thin neck and a groove on one side that serves as a spout for pouring the brew. The top funnel accommodates a thick filter, while the bottom half collects the elixir of the gods.
If you have your Chemex and filters on hand, all you need is a grinder to prep the beans and a kettle or pot to supply hot water. Get the mugs ready for serving the brew and enjoy watching the extraction magic.
Pour over setups come in many forms and sizes, some of which are blatant Chemex ripoffs with metal mesh filters instead of the patented bonded ones. I won't focus on those, as they are mostly inferior to the original design. Instead, let's look at devices like Kalita Wave that comprise a dripper and a serving carafe. If you're going to brew by the cup, you can get away with using a dripper over your trusty mug. But if you want two or more servings at a time, take out a glass pitcher or buy a branded carafe for serving.
Similar to Chemex, pour over coffee makers need a grinder and kettle combo to work, as they don't produce the grounds or the hot water for your coffee.
WARNING: pay close attention to the instructions on using the Chemex and glass serving carafes. Most of them can stay warm on a glass or gas stove but require a steel grid to use on an electric coil stove. Ignore the instructions, and your coffee maker is likely to crack.
There's nothing special about pour over filters. You've seen and used them a hundred times with your drip coffee machine. They are made of thin paper, reminiscent of the blotting paper that inspired this brewing method. Considering the shape of most common drippers, you should go with cone-shaped filters, not flat-bottomed ones. And while many home appliance brands offer original filters, any no-name paper filter will work just fine with your Kalita Wave, Hario V60, or Sanyo Sangyo.
Chemex filters are a whole different breed, as they are the secret behind the cleaner taste and minimal sediment in your cuppa. Bonded filters are at least 20% thicker than alternatives, made of the finest raw materials, and shaped for best fit with Chemex coffee makers. The extra layers and the thicker paper of the Chemex filters reduce the bitterness, bind excessive oils, and prevent even the finest of particles from getting into your cup. Of course, you can substitute them with your average paper filter, but you won't get to enjoy all the benefits of this brewing method.
If you're looking for the fastest way to brew java, pour over coffee vs Chemex isn't the choice you need to make. Both fall far behind espresso makers, Aeropress, and even some automated drip machines. You can't bend the laws of physics, and diffusion and filtering take time.
Your average pour over dripper is designed for a serving or two, and it relies on a standard coffee filter. Expect your cuppa to be ready within five minutes if you're using the suggested medium grind. Increasing the amount of beans or using a finer grind will slow down the extraction process, but it should still be done in under ten minutes.
Chemex coffeemakers hold anywhere from three to thirteen cups of coffee, so you'll need to use more grounds, and the brewing process will last longer. Besides, the thicker bonded filters don't let the water pass as quickly as paper filters do. Therefore, brewing in Chemex takes longer. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes to prep a full carafe and don't treat it as a drawback. Consider watching the coffee slowly drip into the bottom of the coffee maker, a meditation or a drinkable kinetic sculpture. It's a mesmerizing sight!
Are there other ways to use your pour over or Chemex? I can think of at least two!
First, you can enjoy an iced coffee using any brew method. Wait for your coffee to cool down in the pitcher. Then fill a glass with ice cubes, add coffee, sugar, and milk to your liking, and enjoy a refreshing summer beverage. Just remember to use twice as much grounds when brewing or your iced coffee will taste weak and watered-down.
Second, you can use the dripper and server set or a Chemex to filter out the grounds of your cold brew. It's always a pain to get rid of coffee particles, and with a pour over setup, this process is super-fast and easy. If the filters are fine enough to capture the medium grind, they will work great for the coarser cold brew grind. You can then dilute the concentrate inside the carafe and serve the coffee hot or cold.
Besides, they say that pour over is the most flexible of brewing methods for a reason. Sure, it won't produce espresso or a French-pressed cuppa, but it provides hands-on control over every aspect of the extraction process. Once you feel comfortable with the brew sequence, experiments are in order. Try changing the water temperature, blooming time, grind setting, brew ratio, pouring speed, and pattern. With so many variables, there's no competition of Chemex vs pour over cone if you're looking for fun ways to learn more about the physics and chemistry of the extraction process and develop your unique brewing style.
Most pour over setups online are cheaper than a Chemex. For instance, a ceramic Hario H60 dropper is under $30, and plastic alternatives are even less expensive. If you don't have a glass carafe, you'll need to buy a server, and those will cost an additional $30.
On the bright side, pour over drippers work with just about any disposable paper filter you can find, including box store brands. You can find them as cheap as $6 for a 300-count pack.
So why is Chemex so expensive if it relies on the same principles? For one, the glass pitcher can hold anywhere from three to thirteen cups, ranging in price from $40 to over $110. The hand-blown options are made of thicker glass and are more sturdy, making them almost twice as expensive as cast glass alternatives. The latter are made of thinner glass and are therefore cheaper and less durable.
The filters are another story. To enjoy the true benefits of Chemex, you need to splurge on original bonded filters that are about $35 for a 100-count pack. You can find cheaper non-branded alternatives, though they may not produce the signature clean flavor palette you'd expect from Chemex.
If you try to Google pour over coffee vs Chemex, Reddit discussions on brewing tricks will come by the dozen. But I believe it's all about prep work. Whether you use a dripper or a Chemex, the effort you put into getting ready for brewing will return tenfold in a delicious cuppa. You'll notice professional baristas go through these subtle steps, and I urge you to give them a try at least once. You won't be able to return to the old way of brewing again.
First, you want to learn the proper way of folding and placing the Chemex filter. Fold it in half two times until it looks like a quarter of a circle. Make a funnel with a single layer on one side and turn the side with three layers towards the spout-groove. This setup will let the gas and vapor escape the carafe throughout the extraction process.
Second, splash some hot water on the filter before placing it inside the dripper. It will sit more snugly inside the funnel, and the coffee grounds will be saturated faster. Works for Chemex as well.
Finally, don't skip the blooming! Pour a bit of hot water onto the beans and hold the rest for up to 60 seconds until the coffee gets warmed up and releases the carbon dioxide. This way, the saturation will be better, dialing up the flavor to fifteen.
Chemex vs Pour over: Coffee Flavor
I can share my take on the flavor profiles, but it will be just as subjective as any other comment you'll find online. You need to try both and experiment with different blends to decide which device suits your taste better.
Overall, pour over is much milder than almost any other brew. It's nowhere near as intense as espresso or French press. I'd say it has similar qualities to a cold brew. The slow extraction process infuses the water with all the subtle notes present in the beans without exaggerating acidity or bitterness. It's the best brewing method to appreciate single-origin beans in all their glory, especially the more exotic ones, like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe or Hawaiian Kona.
It would seem that pour over couldn't get any better, but Chemex manages to take the experience up a notch. The thick filters absorb most of the oils and heavy chemicals that make the roasting profile more pronounced. Instead, you get an extremely clean and crisp brew that allows you to appreciate the subtlest of fruity and floral notes you would miss otherwise. It's perfect for taste-testing exotic beans and experimenting with your brewing technique, as even the smallest changes are translated into your cup.
Pour Over vs Chemex: Caffeine
I've said this a million times already and will repeat a million more: the brewing method is NOT the critical factor deciding the caffeine content in your cuppa. Besides, pour over and Chemex rely on the same basic principle of filtering hot water through the ground beans. It's not surprising caffeine content is nearly equal at about 180 mg per an 8-ounce serving.
There are plenty of variables you can alter to make your pour over or Chemex brew stronger or lighter. Let's consider your options if you want an extra punchy java in the morning.
The first thing you need to revisit is the coffee variety. Replace your usual 100% Arabica with a Robusta-supplemented blend, like Death Wish or Lavazza Super Crema. Both include a healthy dose of caffeine-rich Robusta beans that add a depth of flavor and supply an energy boost.
If you're partial to a single-origin variety, try to find it in a lighter roast or finer grind. The shorter the heat exposure of the bean, the more caffeine remains inside. And the finer coffee particles infuse water with flavor and caffeine faster than a medium-coarse grind.
Finally, you can experiment with brew parameters, including water temperature, extraction time, and bean-to-water ratio. Increase all three, and you're in for a more intense cuppa, rich in caffeine. Just don't try changing all these factors at once; experiment with them one at a time until you find the right brewing ritual for your extra-punchy java.
I am a sucker for beautiful glassware, so Chemex is the obvious choice for me. It looks gorgeous and has the bonus of being strong enough to withstand continuous heating on a glass stovetop, perfect for nursing the carafe throughout the day. Still, I wouldn't mind adding a pour over setup to my kitchen for an occasional fast brew to enjoy on the spot. There's also no competition of Chemex vs pour over when choosing a gift for caffeine lovers in my life.
Where Are Chemex Coffee Makers Made?According to official info, Chemex coffeemakers are made in Massachusetts, though some parts may be imported.
How to Make Pour over Coffee Stronger?You have several options that include: using a slightly finer grind setting, increasing the grounds-to-water ratio, or switching to an Arabica+Robusta blend instead of your usual 100% Arabica.
What’s the Temperature of Chemex Coffee?Most brewing methods call for hot (not boiling) water, and the acceptable temperature is 195 to 205 F.
How Much Caffeine Is There in Pour over Coffee?The exact number depends on many factors, including the blend, the roast, and grounds-to-water ratio, but on average, an 8-ounce serving of pour over coffee holds up to 200 mg of caffeine.
Founder and owner of Lion Coffee and 3ChampsRoastery, 1st place winner of Ukrainian Barista Championship 2017. Interested in travelling, football and Formula-1 (besides coffee, of course).