How-To & Diy

How to Use a Chemex

November 20, 2013

Here at Food52, we're serious about our coffee. So we got our friends over at Stumptown Coffee to teach us everything there is to know about it -- and to make our morning (and afternoon) routines a little bit brighter.

Today: The best way to brew coffee in a Chemex.

Chemex from Food53

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We are huge fans of the Chemex around here. This classic brewer elicits scores of devoted followers, and it's no great mystery why. The Chemex was created in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, a chemist and inventor. The original design has not changed to this day, and it sits in the permanent design collections of the MOMA and the Smithsonian. Though the Chemex was the most popular of Schlumbohm’s many inventions -- and seen as the most patriotic, too, because no metal parts were used to impede the Allied war effort -- he also invented some short-lived gems, like the disposable aluminum frying pan. 

The Chemex differentiates itself from other pour overs, too, because it uses a lab-grade filter, which collects many of the oils and fines while brewing and which allows for a very clean cup -- often highlighting the brighter, fruitier notes in a coffee. 

chemex from Food52

To brew: 

First, grind 42 grams (about 6 tablespoons) of coffee -- the ground coffee should be about as coarse as kosher salt. 

Next, place the filter inside the Chemex, lining up the multiple folds with the spout. Pre-rinse to seal the filter and rinse out the paper flavor. Discard the rinse water and add your ground coffee.

Now pour just enough water (30 seconds off the boil or about 200°F) to saturate the grounds and let it bloom for 30 seconds. The fresher the coffee, the more of a bloom you will see. 

Next, pour water evenly in a spiral over the coffee bed and slowly fill to the top of the brewer. For an even extraction, pour over the dark spots and avoid the light ones. Continue to add water periodically until the brewed coffee reaches the glass button on the Chemex. 

Lift the filter out of the Chemex and pre-warm your favorite mug with hot water, drink it up, and now you’re ready for anything.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Avon Leekley
    Avon Leekley
  • xhille
  • pc501
  • Larry
  • Jo B
    Jo B
Katie Bernstein

Written by: Katie Bernstein

Forever barista and current social media tweep at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Born in the South; at home in the Northwest. Hard-nosed recipe reader. I like a good shelf. Soup for days.


Avon L. January 26, 2016
Any hints to a new owner as to how to clean my Chemex?
Larry January 26, 2016
I use a gentle dish soap after each use, and about once a week, I take the wooden yoke off and run it through the dishwasher. Works fine.
Avon L. January 26, 2016
Yes but what do you use to get thru that narrow neck?
Larry January 26, 2016
Nothing. I clean it right away, and swirl it, and that works fine. I suppose you could use a long brush, but I don't think it's necessary.
xhille February 26, 2014
I've been using the filter-rinse water to warm my mug while waiting to finish my coffee. Works like a charm.
pc501 November 27, 2013
As a science geek I've always had a chemex. In the intervening years we've had multiple others including the new-fangled cup system, but nothing compares to a good cup of fresh drip coffee. Within reason the slower the water pour and higher the contact time with the grounds the better the coffee. (btw, cold-brewed coffee concentrate is also excellent.) Hard to improve on the gold-standard imo. An electric kettle for my tea (ok, I admit it: caffeine addict here) or to heat H2O for the Chemex and I'm a happy camper. Obviously the range of coffees and brew methods expresses our wonderful cultural diversity.
Larry November 20, 2013
For what size Chemex is the 42 gram coffee weight intended?
Katie B. November 20, 2013
It's intended for the 40 oz Chemex brewer, but this method is for making about 20 oz of coffee.
Larry November 21, 2013
Yowsa! Way too strong for me! I used a dark roast Sumatra (can't recall which one). Almost blew my socks off! Will experiment a bit tomorrow. Feet haven't hit the ground yet this morning!
Jo B. November 20, 2013
I've been using a Chemex for a million years (35, actually) and this is my method, except that I don't weigh the bloom water (tested myself once and I'm close). My personal taste runs to strong coffee so I use about 65-ish g for up to the button). But it does depend on the coffee!

I recommend the square filter (same company, same price as the round ones) because it's easier to lift out the water-and-coffee-ground-laden filter when you want to decant it into a thermos, which is what I do every morning.

But first I grind our coffee in a cute little Kyocera handgrinder (Amanda Hesser mentioned it in a tweet a year or more ago)--it's a burr grinder but not a bazillion bucks, and it's good exercise (I read the New Yorker while grinding coffee cause I don't have to turn the pages frequently).
Katie B. November 20, 2013
Nice! The Chemex really is timeless and the burr hand grinders can't be beat on price and efficacy! We love the Hario and Porlex models. I'll have to try that New Yorker grinding method. Very clever.
Phil D. November 20, 2013
I have always been under the impression that the more oily the coffee the better. Have I been misled?
sygyzy November 20, 2013
It's interesting how things change. Sometimes its hard to keep up with what's "good" in coffee anymore. Aged beans vs fresh, heavily roasted vs light, oily vs dry.
Katie B. November 20, 2013
Coffees are oilier based on the roast and age -- if a coffee is pushed further in the roasting process (roasted darker) and is older it tends to look oily. We medium roast our coffees (with the exception of our French roast) and recommend that you drink them within 2 weeks of the roast date, so Stumptown coffee won't look very oily. Good questions!
Dianne V. November 20, 2013
The filter takes out the oil which is the best part of the coffee. In the picture you can see all the oil is on the paper.