Chemex

Chemex
Chemex

Usually, I’m the only one in my house who likes to have coffee every morning. My wife says she enjoys coffee, but she actually prefers weak “coffee-flavored tea” (as she calls it) with copious amounts of cream and sugar, and more often than not, prefers instant coffee or Roma to real, brewed coffee. I prefered brewed coffee, and used to like it with cream and sugar, myself, but being allergic to milk, that wasn’t very good for me, not to mention an additional source of fat and sugar that I didn’t need.

Eventually I went on a Paleo-style diet for a while, and on their suggestion, switched to drinking it black. It was a bit of a rude awakening to how awful my coffee really was, and how it was only really drinkable with all of that fat and sugar thrown in to cut the acidity and bitterness.

Consequently, I’d been fiddling with my coffee for quite a while, trying to find a way to make just enough coffee for me, that gives it the best flavor. I started out with a single-cup drip maker, a slightly more clever version of that, and french press. I very nearly tried a cold brew method to prepare a coffee extract for morning, but it seemed like such an involved process that I never really gave it a chance.

Eventually, I settled on an AeroPress, which to be sure, made the best cup of coffee I had ever had at home, to that point. (The best cup of coffee I had ever had, period, was at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Florida, which I am still trying to replicate to this day.) The AeroPress brew was strong and delicious and not very bitter or acidic. I could live with this.

And I did, for quite a while — two years. I got a better grinder and a scale, and measured my coffee carefully, and made it practically every day — or often, my wife did, bless her for learning that complicated process. And it was complicated. I made peace with it for a while, but that’s what finally killed it for me. It made great coffee, but boy howdy was it incredibly fiddly.

So, a few months ago, I started looking for a way to make great coffee that didn’t so tax my motor skills first thing in the morning. I’d heard great things about Chemex, and while their instructions look fiddly, it’s actually a pretty simple drip process with a few precise measurements on top. SCIENCE! Sounds good.

I asked around to my online friends and followers, to see what their experiences were, and specifically asked Bill Bumgarner, since I knew he had some experience with Chemex. He replied that the Chemex filters were the key to keeping the acidic and bitter flavors at bay, and all I really needed was a thermos (that would keep the coffee warmer than the Chemex pot) and a funnel to set the Chemex filter in. I tried that method for a couple of months, with a metal thermos that I had on hand, and a plastic funnel. I ran into a few issues: the Chemex pots have a channel down one side of the funnel area that appears to be for pouring, but actually it allows air to vent up as the coffee filters down, for uninhibited flow — I eventually learned to stick a chopstick down one side of my funnel to allow for this. However, my coffee was still a bit acidic, and I wasn’t especially happy with it. At least it was a little less fiddly than AeroPress.

Then yesterday, for yule, my wife got me a Chemex 6-Cup Coffee Maker, and it has made a huge difference. The vent in the filter area is there, of course, and the filter support area (the “funnel”) is so much taller that I can pour in all of my water at once, which makes the drip process much less fiddly and a lot smoother. Plus, the coffee is now amazingly smooth-tasting. Gone are the acidic and slightly bitter notes that were present in my Chemex-filter-and-metal-thermos method. I’m not sure if it’s the smoother flow or the glass carafe (I’m guessing a combination of both), but man is this Chemex coffee tops.

Next on my list: finding a glass thermos that can keep extra coffee warm (if I actually make the full six cups) without affecting the flavor!