Brew Basics: 10 Steps on How to Use a Chemex the Proper Way

A CHEMEX ® is one of the most beautiful looking coffee makers out there. So let's do it justice and learn how to use a Chemex to make the most beautiful brew too!
a Chemex coffee maker

A CHEMEX® is one of the most beautiful and elegant looking coffee makers out there. With its slim, tapered glass waist reminiscent of a vase, it looks more suited for housing a fresh bouquet of flowers than fresh coffee. 

It’s an all-in-one coffee maker: the one-piece hourglass shape eliminates any fuss needed to get a separate filter cone or carafe. You brew coffee in the top half, and it drips into the bottom. It brews clean, rich and flavourful coffee, free of bitter oils if done right. Follow this guide and you’ll be up and brewing in no time flat. 

What You’ll Need

  1. Your chosen Chemex model
  2. Coffee beans (single origin beans are recommended)
  3. A burr grinder
  4. Filter papers – both circle or square ones work fine
  5. A digital scale
  6. A gooseneck kettle (highly recommended)
  7. Clean water (filtered is recommended)
  8. A wooden spoon or whisk

The Brew Ratio

This guide will use a six-cup classic Chemex, but whatever make or size your model is, the process is the same. Just use the same brew ratio outlined here, and you’ll be all good.

We’ll be using a standard pourover brew ratio for the Chemex, which is 1:17

In other words, use about 60 g of ground coffee for every 1 Litre you want to brew. 

  • This is why a digital scale comes in so handy for a good brew. It may seem like an extra step that further complicates the process, but trust me, it actually makes it easier. Instead of going: “Oh, I need one spoon and maybe a little more for one cup”, you know exactly how much to use. You’re not trying to “guesstimate” your morning coffee (the last thing you want is amazing coffee on Monday and disgusting coffee on Tuesday). Plus, you’ll be able to easily repeat this recipe over and over for great coffee every day. It’s so worth it to use a scale.

This guide’s recipe is to brew 500 ml of coffee, so you’ll need about 30 g of coffee. 

How to Use a Chemex: Step-by-Step

how to use a chemex pourover brew method

Total Time: 5 minutes

Step 1: Fold the Filter Paper

Open a piece of filter paper into a cone shape. You’ll want to open it so that it has a thick side and a thin side: one side of the cone has 3 layers, and the other side has only a single layer. Place this opened filter paper into the Chemex. The 3-layered side should face the pouring spout of the Chemex.

Step 2: Rinse the Filter Paper

Rinse the Chemex with the filter paper under warm water. The filter paper should then stick in place against the glass wall. Then, hold the filter paper in place and tip out the excess water.

Step 3: Grind Your Coffee

To brew about half a litre of coffee, weigh out about 30 g of coffee beans. Grind it to a medium-coarse grind size. Visually, the particles should look slightly larger and rougher than regular sand. 

Step 4: Distribute Your Grounds

Place the entire Chemex on top of your scale and press the ‘tare’ button to reset to zero. Tip the coffee grounds in and double check the weight is still at around 30 g. 

Distribute the coffee grounds by using your palm to tap the side of the Chemex. Or shake it gently. You want to get a nice, flat bed of coffee grounds. There should not be a pile-up anywhere.

Step 5: Boil Your Water

Fill your gooseneck kettle with clean water and start boiling it. Once it’s finished boiling, open the lid and allow it to sit for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. You don’t want to be using boiling hot water on your sensitive coffee grounds.

If your electric kettle has an adjustable thermostat to control the temperature, aim for 91°C to 96°C (195 – 205°F). This is the approved “hot, but not too hot” water temperature by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. 

Step 6: Pour and Bloom

Tare your scale underneath the Chemex once again. 

Pour in about 100 g of hot water in a circular motion to evenly wet the coffee bed. Grab your wooden spoon or whisk, and very gently stir the slushy mixture of water and coffee grounds around. Your goal is to make sure the hot water soaks evenly all across. 

Allow it to sit for 30 seconds. During this time, coffee bloom will occur. The grounds will expand and release unwanted gas. This boosts the aromatics and taste of your coffee.

Step 7: Keep Pouring

After 30 seconds, start pouring the hot water in again. Do it slowly, and in a controlled, circular motion. The water should be poured across the entire bed of coffee grounds, and not just in one spot. 

With a gooseneck kettle, this step will be a lot easier on the arm. If you’re using a regular kettle, you’ll have to exert more force to steady the flow of water. 

If you notice the water level reaching the brim of the Chemex, stop pouring for a bit and wait for the water to drip through before adding more. 

Whilst doing this, keep an eye on the scale. We are brewing half a litre (500 g) of coffee, so the total weight of water you pour in should be exactly 500 g. Don’t pour in any more water once this is achieved. 

The amount of water you pour should be equal to the amount of coffee you want to brew. As an example, if you’re brewing 300 ml, the weight should not exceed 300 g. 

Step 8: Wait 

Be patient and watch as the water seeps through the coffee grounds before dripping into the bottom half of the Chemex. 

Step 9: Discard the Filter

Once all the water has dripped through, lift the filter paper up and out. Throw it into your compost bin. Do so with caution as it will be hot.

Square Chemex filters will be easier to lift up by the corners and throw out after brewing, as they stick out quite significantly. Whereas it’s slightly trickier to peel off round filters. You may want to factor this in when buying the type of filter papers for your Chemex.

Step 10: Enjoy

Swirl the coffee, tip the Chemex and pour the freshly brewed coffee into a mug. Enjoy whilst hot!

Time the entire brew process from the moment you start pouring hot water in. The timer on most smartphones will suffice. The total time taken for the water to drip through should be about 3-5 minutes. If it’s taking too long, try it with a slightly coarser grind in the future. If the water flows through too quickly, aim for a finer grind.

FAQs for Your Chemex