Non-Toxic Brew: A Chemex Coffee Maker Review

What is your morning drink of choice?  Coffee?  Tea?  Dr. Pepper?  I’m a coffee girl all the way – I take after my grandma 😊  This Christmas, after extensive research, I asked for a new non-toxic coffee set-up.  Previously, I had been using the Hamilton Beach Flex Brew, which has both a coffee pot side as an option as well as a single cup pod option.  It was very convenient; however, it is designed more for people who typically make a pot and only occasionally make a single cup of coffee.  I am the exact opposite.  Thus, I ended up asking for the 6-cup Chemex coffeemaker for Christmas.  (Thanks mom 😀)   Spoiler alert, this has been my favorite coffeemaker to date.  Read on for my Chemex coffee maker review, specifically the classic series, as well as a quick run down of my morning coffee routine. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on some recommended accessories. 

Chemex Coffee Maker Review: Classic Series

Let’s start with the pros…The Chemex Pour-Over Coffee Maker is made in the USA, which is always a plus.  It was invented in 1941 and is still made the same way – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

First and foremost, this coffeemaker itself is completely non-toxic.  It is made of borosilicate glass.  Y’all know I love glass!  It is one of very few completely non-toxic materials(See my posts on glass straws and safer cookware for more glass products I love.)  The maker also has a wooden collar, which serves as an insulated handle, but there is also one with a glass handle, if that is more appealing to you.  The collar is easily removed for cleaning.  Side Note:  The filter is not glass and not included with the coffeemaker, but there are a couple great options that offer little to no toxicity concerns.  

Second, the coffee is wonderful!  I am not a coffee connoisseur by any means, but I can definitely tell the difference.  I still have the other coffeemaker I mentioned above as I thought I might use it when I needed a quick K-cup option.  I have used it maybe 5 times in the last 6 months, and a few of those were because I ran out of coffee grounds/beans.  There is definitely a difference in taste, and Chemex wins hands down.  The best part is the ability to tailor your cup of Joe to suit your taste.    

Third, the coffeemaker is very durable.  As mentioned before, it is made of the strongest commercially available glass.  Mine has survived a few whacks on my stainless steel sink when I got a little crazy with the swirling during rinsing.  

This coffee maker is incredibly easy to clean!  Cleaning the Chemex is as simple as disposing of the grounds (or repurpose them), rinsing with hot water, and sitting it to dry.  About once a month I hand-wash it, just to say that I did.  It is dishwasher safe, but it doesn’t fit on the top shelf.  It is such an easy hand-wash job that I’ve never felt the need to run it through the dishwasher.  This is coming from a person who loathes hand-washing and avoids it at all costs.  It really is a very quick clean, but again, I typically just rinse with hot water. If I’m being honest, I rarely cleaned my traditional brewer, which is disgusting I know.  The whole reason I began looking for a new coffee set-up was because I became aware of the breeding ground that is a traditional coffee brewer.  The worst part is these microbes tend to grow in the tubes your water travels through before it becomes your coffee.  Traditional coffeemakers are so difficult to clean and descale.  Even if you wanted to clean the tubing, you couldn’t get to all of it if you tried. 

It’s so pretty!!  The coffeemaker is sleek and modern, and unlike it’s bulky eyesore counterparts, it looks great sitting out on the counter or stove top.  It also has a much smaller profile, which frees up a lot of counter space!  Skeptical?  The Chemex coffee maker is in the permanent collection of New York’s Corning Museum of Glass.  It was also selected by the Illinois Institute of Technology as one of the 100 best designed products of modern times.

Did you know that the Chemex Brewer can also be used for tea?!  I actually just discovered that fun fact as I was writing this post.  Obviously, I will have to try it an get back to you.  Or better yet, any readers mastered pour-over tea?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

One neutral comment…While this coffeemaker is, on average, the same to slightly cheaper than a nice drip coffeemaker, I would highly recommend some accessories to go with it.  Depending what you choose, the completed coffee set-up may be cheaper or more expensive overall.  

Now let’s talk about a couple potential cons…When switching from a traditional coffee brewer, there is a small learning curve.  It is actually more of an experimental time, but it is much quicker than I was expecting.  With the Chemex, you will have to play with the grind size as well as how much coffee to use.  However, this would be true anytime you switch the type of coffeemaker you are using.  If you already use a pour-over, then this would not apply as you are already familiar with the process.  

Initially, I was very weary of breaking the container during rinsing.  However, as mentioned in the pros, it is made of a very durable type of glass; so, don’t let the fact that it is glass steer you away!

If you are using a traditional drip coffeemaker, the pour-over style does take a little more “active time” to prepare.  It is not just “pop in the K-cup and press start,” BUT it tastes better and does not add toxins to your morning jump start.  And again, this only applies to people switching from another type of coffeemaker and is not specific to the Chemex itself.  I’d like to point out that I have two children who are incredibly needy during their first hour awake, and I manage just fine with this coffeemaker.

One last potential con would apply only to those who make highly variable amounts of coffee.  If you make 1-2 cups in the mornings but need to make 12 cups for parties, then this may not be the coffeemaker for you.  Each series comes in various sizes ranging from 1 cup to 13 cups.  You would either need to err on the larger size to accommodate for gatherings; or, you could purchase a thermal carafe and make several smaller “pots” ahead of time.   

 

Chemex Coffee Maker Review Recap:

Pros: non-toxic, superior taste, durable despite being glass, easy to clean, looks pretty on the counter, lower profile to free up counter space, and it also works for tea

Cons: small learning curve, feels/seems more fragile than it is, more “active time” during brewing than drip coffeemakers, and size of maker may be limiting

 

My Morning Coffee Routine

I like to prep the night before (again, with children, this is really helpful).  I fill my grinder with beans, fill my kettle with water, and ensure the Chemex and reusable filter are clean and sitting on the stove.  I will be writing a separate post on my favorite Chemex accessories later this week.  

In the morning, I turn on the kettle and start grinding the beans.  Everyone recommends a medium coarse grind for pour-over coffee, but I personally found the resulting coffee to be weak.  I learned that I prefer a fine medium grind – this is that experimental stage I was referencing above.  

I place the reusable filter into the Chemex.  Side note, if you use a paper filter, I have read that you should pour some water through it and dump it out to get rid of the paper taste.  Tip: keep your kettle on warm to keep it at a good temperature throughout brewing.

I dump the grounds into the filter.  You will learn what the perfect amount looks like and won’t need to measure it.  

Pour about 1-2 ounces of water all over the grounds, just enough to get all of the grounds wet.  Then STOP and wait at least 30 seconds.   You will see bubbles on the surface, and the grounds will swell a little – this is the “bloom.”  This is what gives your coffee that edge in taste.  

After the bloom, slowly pour water over the grounds.  Stop when the water level gets to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the top of the Chemex.  Tip: pour in a circular or back and forth motion rather than pouring continuously down the center – this prevents a big hole from forming in the middle of your grounds.  Depending how much coffee you want to make, you may need to repeat this step several times.  For one large cup, I usually do this step 1.5 to 2 times.  

Once the coffee is done dripping, pour it into your mug.  Add sugar and cream because it’s yummier that way, and enjoy!

If you have a glass or gas stove top, you can place the Chemex directly on the burner on LOW to keep it warm.  If you have electric coils, you must use a stainless steel wire grid between the Chemex and the stove coil to prevent breaking the coffeemaker!  Also, be sure not to leave an empty Chemex on a hot burner.  

Chemex Coffee Morning Routine Summarized

  1. Prep the night before (optional).
  2. Heat water.
  3. Grind beans (if you use whole beans, obviously).
  4. Insert filter and fill with desired amount of coffee grounds.
  5. Pour small amount of hot water over grounds and allow to bloom (i.e. wait 30 seconds).
  6. Pour hot water over grounds and fill to a little below the top of the coffeemaker.  Repeat until desired amount of coffee is brewed.
  7. Pour coffee into cup and enjoy.  
  8. Discard grounds (and filter if single-use) and rinse Chemex (and filter if resuable) with hot water.  Sit out to dry for tomorrow.  

Concluding Thoughts/Disclaimers

After 6 months of use, I would highly recommend the Chemex pour-over coffeemaker.  I think you will get the best cup of coffee if you use a burr-grinder with whole beans right before you make your coffee.  I also think a kettle of some sort is a must.  Trying to pour slowly out of a saucepan into the Chemex, would probably result in some frustration.  I’d also recommend a reusable coffee filter over the single-use paper filters.  Lastly, to truly detox your coffee, you’ll want to get some glass mugs.  Glass again, I know, but seriously it is way safer.  I have yet to find a ceramic mug that does not leach some level of lead.

My one disclaimer is that the Chemex is the only pour-over coffeemaker I have used.  Thus, I am unable to tell you if it is better than other ones available on the marker.  However, the reviews on Amazon are impressive with 89% 5 star reviews on 1,300+ reviews. I can tell you, as someone who has never been a coffee connoisseur and feels like there is never enough time in the day, I won’t go back to a drip brewer.  The Chemex coffeemaker is non-toxic, easy to clean, and it looks like a piece of decor on my stovetop!  I love it!

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Heidi Written by:

2 Comments

  1. Joni
    August 3, 2020
    Reply

    I’m sold. I’ll have to give this a try. I love pour overs at the coffee shop.

    For a special treat- put a little cinnamon in your grounds. Add 1-3 tsp of vanilla syrup ( depends on how sweet you like your coffee) and cream ( use a frothed if you have one) to your brewed coffee. You now have a cinnamon toast latte. Yummy!

    • Heidi
      August 3, 2020
      Reply

      I was really hesitant to try the pour-over because it seemed like too much work. I was surprised how easy it is and the taste is so worth it! And that sounds amazing! I’m going to try that for sure 🙂

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