Excellent Cup o’ Coffee

I used to be a complete french press fiend. However, the combination of the tedium of cleaning with the potential, now largely considered true, of increased cholesterol pushed me over to drip. (Espresso is like a pet snake — awesome when I get experience someone else’s but I ain’t gonna deal with that crap on a daily basis).

I tried a couple of electric drip pots but they pissed me off. The first featured a carafe that would drip coffee all over no matter how you poured and the second was optimized towards ensuring maximal grounds in your coffee cup.

Disgusted with technology, I decided to go the luddite route. Simple as possible. Carafe. Filter holder. Filter. Done.

In looking around, the Chemex Coffeemakers kept popping up. Gorgeous, simple design. Given the raves I read about the chemex coffeemakers, I decided to give one a try (like the one at left) and, also given reviews, decided to compare Chemex filters with a gold plated reusable coffee filter.

End result?

The Chemex + the Chemex filters produce the smoothest cup of drip coffee I have ever had. Flat out delicious. Start with a really good bean, freshly ground, and the Chemex consistently delivers an amazing cup of joe.

Frankly, I don’t believe for a second that it is the Chemex, itself, that is imparting such quality to the coffee. It is really the filter and the Chemex is just a gorgeously designed carafe to carry it.

In particular, the Chemex filters are a surprisingly heavy paper that seems to do a brilliant job of filtering both the really fine bits of the ground beans (which the metal filters let through), but also the oils and other nasty bits that contribute to the bitter flavors (and, potentially, cholesterol).

Frankly, coffee through the metal reusable filters flat out suck by comparison.

I have since bought a second Chemex for the office and have picked up a couple of Chemex for friends who have been amazed by the quality of the resulting coffee.

Again — the filters do seem to be the key (as long as you are brewing into a non-reactive vessel). The filters can be found online and at both esoteric hardware stores and your more obsessed coffee shops (Barefoot Cafe, for example — awesome place, coffee obsessed).

Highly recommended.

Update: I’m not interested in “fixing” french press or espresso. Espresso is too damned fiddly and I don’t want that many tubes, pipes, pumps and boilers between me and my coffee in the AM. The Aero-Press is an awesome contraption but, again, not interested. French Press with a filter sounds double-plus-fiddly & annoying.

No, I’m not trying to convince anyone that drip is superior, just that the Chemex filtered drip is superior to other drip.

I will, however, be perfectly happy to test drive a cup of coffee in any form, if you want to demonstrate the awesomeness of your extraction device & beans.

20 Responses to “Excellent Cup o’ Coffee”

  1. Ben Goldenberg says:

    If you do like espresso but don’t want the hassle of an espresso machine, you might enjoy the Aeropress. It’s sort of like a manual espresso machine, but doesn’t technically make espresso, just very strong coffee. It’s essentially self-cleaning, although a quick rinse is a good idea. I’ve been very pleased with mine. It’s also very convenient to travel with. Just add hot water!

  2. Jay S says:

    +1 on the Aeropress.

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  4. Mike B. says:

    Not sure if anyone answered your coffee-filter-in-a-French-press question from your coffee cholesterol post, but yes, it can be done. At my last job, one of my co-workers brought in a French press, but didn’t bring beans or a burr grinder, so he used the standard ground coffee (read: crap) found in most workplaces. Since the grounds were small enough to pass through the press’s filter, he cut up a coffee filter so it was big enough to cover the press filter. I’ve never had bonafide French press coffee, but I will say that the press and filter made a noticeable improvement in the quality of the crap coffee on hand. Then again, maybe it was placebo…

    By the way – is it just me, or does Chemex sound like a bad name for a coffee maker company (at least until you read about the inventor and his history)?

  5. Jason says:

    Did you try the plain ‘ol Melita filters? I use those and a simple little $5 plasic cone to make a cup every morning. But if the Chemex filters really taste better, I’ll pick some up. I always loved the look of the Chemex carafe, but I only drink one cup at a time, and the glass carafe is bound to get cold by the time I want a second cup.

  6. bbum says:

    Jason — I have tried the Melita filters. They aren’t nearly as heavy and don’t produce anywhere as good of a cup. The Chemex is a beautiful piece of laboratory grade glassware and, certainly, the neutrality of the glass is key. However, a glass lined insulated carafe with cone filter & the chemex filters on top would likely be more convenient in the “keep more than a cup warm” department.

    I have a plate warmer at home that I use to keep the excess coffee warm. Amazing how quickly the coffee gains off flavors on such a things. Really, it is best to use every drop that you make in a Chemex immediately.

  7. PAPA JOE says:

    … and there is always Dunkee Donut coffee…

    can’t beat my perked coffee!!!!

  8. Jim Correia says:

    When I tired of the lousy coffee produced by my cheapish Krups drop maker, I picked up a Yama 5-cup siphon brewer.


    It makes a good cup of coffee. Cleanup is a bit of a pain in the neck. I can’t compare it to the Chemex brewer since I don’t have one.

  9. greg says:

    -1 on the Aeropress. The proper pressure isn’t there, and it’s just another piece of plastic bound for the landfill in our consumerism-mad culture.

    You’re right about the filters though — that is one of the Chemex’s prime advantages.

    The only complaint I have about the Chemex is, a little like a Cona vac pot, the effort involved. You cannot just set it aside and let it brew its thing. It’s a small investment to keep the grounds wet and slowly pour over them. But when you’re in a morning rush, it’s a detail that can become an annoyance for some.

  10. Chris B. says:

    Hey, thanks for the post. I’d been looking for a replacement to my French press for the same reason. Ran out and bought a Chemex today, and it’s great!

    The lady at the coffee shop said the unbleached filters were the way to go, but Chemex is having some supply issues with them, so they might be hard to come by for a while. The regular filters I bought seem fine, though. Fantastic cup of joe.

  11. Luc J says:

    Got myself a fully automatic espresso machine. Simply press the button, the coffee is grounded and the espresso comes out of the nozzles. I need something strong enough to make it through the day!

    Quite a lot of comments, though. Coffee is a hot item apparently!

  12. Luc J says:

    Almost forgot to mention: check out this one if you want to take it all the way 🙂

  13. Jim Puls says:

    The only problem I have with this post is that you’re drastically understating how awesome Barefoot is. Just sayin’.

  14. annbb says:

    Wonder where they’re sold in Columbia…sounds like something mom and dad need!

  15. bbum says:

    @annbb Actually, what Mom&Dad need are the filters. They have a decent insulated carafe. Frankly, I’ll probably pick up an insulated carafe before their next visit as the one issue with the Chemex is the inability to keep coffee warm for any length of time. Fine if you drink it all at once, not so good if you want to sip all day. The filters really are the key — they are simply awesome.

    @jim I have been to Barefoot exactly once, but I know many folk that worship their caffeine addiction at Barefoot’s altar. I was certainly impressed on my one visit. I should return. I simply have a bit of a problem paying anything more than $1 for a cup of coffee when I can make an awesome cup myself.

  16. peterb says:

    I went through the same process about 6 months ago. I deep-six’d the chemex because they (or at least the ones I was looking at) weren’t dishwasher-safe, and my space-age-au-go-go lifestyle requires something I can throw in the dishwasher and ignore. So instead, I got a Zojirushi carafe to keep the coffee warm, and a small porcelain filter-holder that ran about $15. Combine those with unbleached bamboo coffee filters, and you’re good to go.

    The chemexes do look beautiful, though.

  17. Marc says:

    Thanks Bill. After reading this post, I picked up a Chemex. I roast my own coffee so I combined it with an order for some more coffee. I’m currently drinking my first cup out of the Chemex. I don’t know if I’m being influenced by all I’ve read or not but this is a killer cup of coffee. I am enjoying some Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca La Maravilla
    I had to roast some coffee fresh so I’m looking forward to trying it over the next few days as the coffee rests.
    I have used an AeroPress for a longtime and lately I’ve been back to a French press. I have a fancy automatic drip that I haven’t used in years and a Bodum vacuum coffee maker. Working from home allows me the indulgence of taking time with my coffee. The Chemex is a bit of work but if this pot is any indication, it is worth it. I love the glass carafe too. I recently picked up the Medelco Glass Kettle which is great. I went through three “stainless steel” kettles. So far, this glass one has not rusted :).
    I just wish there was something like Barefoot in Boston. I have been roasting my own coffee for two years but there is definitely more to learn and the tastings at Barefoot sound interesting.

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  20. Deirdre says:

    I dig my Aeropress, but I see I’m not alone.

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