Chemex How To – Remove the mystery
At first, preparing coffee with a Chemex® seems a bit daunting. In this Chemex how to, we will try to remove some of the mystery and provide you with easy to remember tips. It shouldn’t feel like a high school chem lab when preparing your first cup of coffee in the morning. Of course, the starting point in any brewing method is to use a great a selection of coffee beans. For this guide, we are using our own WHALE BAY Colombian Supremo whole beans.
Weigh Out the Beans
Some precision and care should be taken in this step. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a digital kitchen scale. There are many on the market, which can be found on Amazon or variety of other online retailers. We were able to find one for under $15 that works perfectly well every time.
We brew up two cups of coffee in the morning, starting with 35g of whole beans. That equates to about 1.2 ounces or about 2 tablespoons of coffee. We found that it is much easier to think in grams (metric system) as opposed to ounces; it’s much more granular. In any case let the scale do the arithmetic for you.
Grind the Beans
The next step is to grind the beans to a medium coarseness, something similar to the grind size of sea salt. This is one of the most important steps in preparing your coffee and ultimately greatly affects the taste. I can sort of eye ball it, but I found that it is easier to leave it to the grinder. Just set the grind level and let the machine do the work.
As for the grinder, it is recommended by all that a burr grinder be used. It produces a far more controllable and consistent grind than the lower cost blade grinders. We just purchased a Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder to try out as an entry level grinder for the home. We picked it up on Amazon for about $100, but more on grinders in another article.
So far we have used it to make espresso using an extra fine setting, French press brewed coffee with a coarse setting and of course Chemex brewed coffee using a medium grind setting. There are four granular settings within each of four main grind settings. We have found that the 3rd position in the medium grind setting works well for the Chemex brew system but ultimately this is a matter of individual taste.
Prepare the Chemex Filter
When we first acquired a Chemex, not knowing better we tried using standard filters that we had in the pantry. The coffee didn’t taste great; in fact, it was a little too bitter. Apart from the bitter taste, the filters had a tendency to break. The seal holding the filter was not strong enough to support the weight of the coffee and water. After several failed brewing attempts, I decided that it was time to get the correct filter for the Chemex brewing system.
The filters are especially designed providing an additional thickness to the filter, ensuring that all of the unwanted particles are filter out during the brew process. The filter is also a one piece design either round or square and folded in such a way as to provide the strength the hold the weight of the coffee and water. The filter comes in a white or natural material, folded or unfolded. The choice of square vs round, white or natural, folded or unfolded comes down to personal choice. Trying to keep it simple, we selected the folded, white round filter.
Since we chose the folded version, all we need to do is place it in the Chemex with the three layer fold centered over the pour spout. Once in place, rinse the filter with hot water to remove any paper taste and causes the filter to seal to the sides of the Chemex. When fully saturated, pour out the water; it should flow easily out the Chemex spout. Now onto the next step of this Chemex how to.
Add the Coffee
Once the filter is in place and we have our measured ground coffee, pour the grounds into the filter and shake the Chemex a bit to level the coffee. Now we are ready to add the water.
Pour the Water
Here’s where we need a little precision. We are going to add a total of 490g of water using a 14:1 ratio that is about 200 degrees or just below boiling The pouring process is completed in stages. The first is creating the “bloom”, which will saturate the coffee and ensure a consistent extraction. Since we are starting with 40g, double that and pour 80g of over the grounds; that will saturate the beans. Let it sit for 30 to 45 seconds before starting the next round.
Next starting at the center, pour in expanding circles 200g of water avoiding pouring on the filter; stir gently. Let it drip until it’s just above the grounds and then add the remaining 210g of water and stir gently again. This extraction phase should take from 3.5 to 4.5 minutes depending upon the size of the grind. The ratio and grind size can be varied to each individual preference.
Let it Drip
Now let it drip down to the where there is about 10g of water left in the filter and then remove the filter and let the remainder drain into the sink. This will prevent the last bit of extraction becoming bitter.
Your coffee is ready. Pour it into a warm cup and enjoy. If you haven’t already noticed, the Chemex is a piece of functional art. It is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, enjoy. Stay tuned for our downloadable Chemex how to.
Images are the work of Carolina Grabowska @ kaboompics.com. Thanks for making them available.