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Brewing with Chemex


So you've decided to level up your coffee experience and you bought yourself a Chemex!  Great!  The Chemex Coffee Maker is one of many wonderful ways to  brew excellent coffee at home.  

First, a bit about the history.  You can read it yourself here, but I'll paraphrase. The Chemex was created in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm as a way to brew a better cup of coffee. Before this time, coffee was brewed like tea.  Put a bunch of ground coffee in a jug or pot, and add hot water.  Let it settle, and pour a cup.  Also a product called Camp Coffee, a liquid essence was also popular.  Instant coffee by Nestle had just hit the market, but didn't take off until almost a decade later.  So you can image, the market was looking bleak and cups were bland. 

Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, a chemist, began to explore a better to extract and filter coffee.   Being familiar with lab equipment and design, be combined the designs of his laboratory glass funnel and Erlenmeyer flask, adding an air gap to the funnel design, and thus the chemex was born.  

His product was highlighted at the MoMA as the best designed product in 1943 and over the next 20 years he continued to earn accolades and endorsements.  In 1962, Dr. Peter Schlumbohn passed away, and chemex was given to it's Vice-President Marie Foley. Over the next years Chemex ownership would change, and product lines would be added, however ultimately, the core product, the 6-cup brewer, would retain its purpose and design.  Chemex has been highlighted in various media, from Ian Fleming's James Bond, to sightings in the background of "Friends". 

Today, you can still buy this brewer and enjoy, in my opinion, one of the most well rounded cups of coffee from any home brew system.

So how do you brew with this marvelous device?  Simple:

First, pick your coffee.  Given the way this device extracts flavors, I always recommend brewing with washed, light to medium roast coffees. I'll get into coffee selection in a later blog, but for now, just try me. 

Step 1 - Prep

Pre-heat 800g (27 fl oz.) of water, to boiling.  While that is heating, grind 50g of fresh roasted coffee on a medium - coarse setting.  This should be roughly the size of grains of sea salt.  

Step 2 - Setup

Now you're going to prepare your brewer.  Pick your filter.  You'll want to open one side of the folder paper filter and situate the thicker part (3-ply) over the air gap (the section of the funnel which looks like a spout). Note: If you are using natural brown paper, we highly recommend that you rinse the filter with hot so no fibers migrate into your brew.  If you're using a white filter, pre-wet the filter so it stays in place.  In both cases, discard any excess water before brewing.  

Step 3 - Add Grounds

Pour grounds into the center of filter and try to evenly disperse them to create an even flat bed at the top.  (no mounds)

Step 4 - Bloom  

Now comes to the fun part.  Place your brewer with grounds added on a scale.  You'll want to brew in about 4 pours.  We recommend the first pour be about 2.5x the mass of the grounds. So if you've got 50g of coffee, Pour 1 will be about 125g. 

Notice the coffee will "bloom" during this first pour.  What's happening here: You've got dry grounds are absorbing water, which is displacing any gasses trapped in the seed structure.  This initial bloom creates a fair amount of turbulence in the slurry and is necessary to generate an even extraction.  Allow it to bloom, for 30-45 seconds, and then pour your next set.  

Step 5 - Extraction

Now that the bloom is complete, you'll want to pour the remaining water in 3 sets.  So if you've got 675g of water left, pour in 3 sets of 225 g.  Try to maintain the same height, pour pattern, and timing.  All in all you'll want to finish pouring your water by 3:30 total time.  

Allow the coffee to extract, remove your filter, and give it a swirl and pour a cup.  

Step 6 - Enjoy.

Grab your favorite mug and enjoy a stellar cup of amazing coffee from the original Pour Over method of coffee brewers.  

Happy Sipping,

Erik W. 


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