The Chemex – An Icon of Coffee Brewing

In the latest video, the Chemex coffee maker takes center stage, kicking off a new series on coffee icons. Despite its American reputation, the Chemex was invented by German-born Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. Drawn to the US by its patent laws, Dr. Schlumbohm invented over 300 items, but the Chemex, patented in 1941 and produced in 1942, is his most enduring creation.

The Chemex is a model of simplicity yet elegance: a single piece of glass with a wooden collar and tie. This distinctive design has made countless appearances in popular culture, from Friends and Mad Men to Interstellar. The Chemex has a dedicated following, with many forming an emotional attachment to the brewer and, by extension, the coffee it produces.

The design of the Chemex, however, isn’t without its critics. Two key features stand out – its single-piece glass construction and its unique paper filters. The single-piece design, while aesthetically pleasing, can create an airlock if air can’t flow freely from the bottom chamber, disrupting the brewing process. To counteract this, the Chemex features a channel that allows air to escape. Additionally, the paper filters are designed to prevent stalling by having one side much thicker than the other, aligning with the spout to ensure proper airflow.

These thick filters, though effective, add more paper taste and resistance to the brewing process, affecting the coffee’s taste. Many users grind their coffee coarser and use higher doses to compensate, often resulting in slightly weaker brews. While it’s not a flaw, it requires some adjustment to avoid under-extraction.

The Chemex comes in various designs, including a version with a glass handle instead of a wooden collar. While the handle may be more practical, many still prefer the classic look of the wooden collar despite its inconvenience. Some smaller models exist, but they lack the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the original size.

For those looking to master the Chemex, a V60 technique serves as a good starting point. Keeping the dose at 60 grams per liter is ideal, with a bloom period of 45 seconds. Expect longer brew times compared to other brewers, but rest assured, you’ll achieve a great-tasting cup of coffee.

A handy tip to avoid airlocks is using a chopstick to keep the filter from sealing against the glass. This ensures proper airflow and prevents stalling. Rinsing your filters and paying close attention to the spout area can also make a significant difference.

One final note: coffee looks stunning in a Chemex. The design catches light in a way that highlights the coffee’s vibrant colors, adding to the overall experience. It’s these little details that make the Chemex special for many coffee aficionados.

The Chemex stands out not just for its design but for the unique coffee experience it offers. While it has its quirks, the adjustments needed are minor compared to the beautifully clean and vibrant coffee it produces. Its place in popular culture and the hearts of coffee lovers is well deserved.