The Chemex is an incredibly popular coffee maker, used extensively in home setups and specialist Café’s.
The simplicity of its design and the consistency of its extraction makes the Chemex a great choice for coffee novices choosing their first proper setup. It is simply more forgiving than other popular pour overs, such as the v60.
Yet the Chemex is far more than just a starter brewer. Its ability to produce clean, vibrant cups of coffee make it an excellent choice for beans with a lighter body and a more floral taste. It therefore has equal appeal to third wave coffee fanatics, who often covet the complexity of lighter roast profiles.
Ultimately though, the final quality of a cup of coffee brewed using a Chemex is heavily influenced by the quality of the grind – something that is true of any brewing method! If you pick a bad grinder (or the wrong grind size) then the chances are that your final cup will suck.
I think we can all agree that life’s too short for bad coffee; hopefully taking the few minutes required to read this post helps you make a more informed choice.
Just want to see grinder recommendations? No problem, skip to the end using the menu below.
- What is a Chemex?
- Do you need a grinder to use a Chemex?
- What grind to use for a Chemex?
- Can you use a blade grinder for a Chemex?
- Do you need an electric grinder for a Chemex?
- Our top 5 coffee bean grinders for a Chemex
The Chemex is a type of pour over coffee maker invented by chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. Constructed out of borosilicate glass, it is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, whilst making brewing a good cup of coffee as simple as possible.
One of the major differences between a Chemex and other pour overs such as the v60 are its bonded filters. These are thicker than standard paper filters, resulting in the removal of more sediment and undesirable oils, and better controlling the speed of the infusion.
The removal of more sediment helps to produce the clean, bright tasting cups of coffee that the Chemex is known for. Equally, being able to more easily control the infusion speed makes it easier to achieve a consistently good cup.
No. You don’t strictly need a grinder to use a Chemex. However, it will significantly improve your coffee drinking experience if you do get a grinder and switch from pre-ground coffee to whole beans.
The freshness of coffee can have a big impact on the overall flavour of your cup. Stale coffee is primarily a result of oxidation; oxygen in the air interacts with the various compounds within the coffee, releasing those responsible for its taste and aroma. Grinding beans kick starts this process, which is why you want to ensure that:
- You use your coffee within 30 minutes of grinding it (ideally straight away)
- You buy whole beans that are freshly roasted in suitable quantities for your consumption rate (aim to source beans that were roasted no more than 2 weeks beforehand and consume within 1 month)
Chemex’s perform best with a medium to course grind that resembles a fine sea salt (note the fine – you don’t want to make a batch with coffee grounds that look like Maldon sea salt flakes).
A great way to tell you have the correct coarseness is by making a batch and measuring the brew time. It should take 3.5-4 minutes; any slower and your grind is probably too fine. Quicker and your grind is either too course or you need to lower your pour rate.
Blue Bottle Coffee have a fantastic step-by-step guide, which covers the brewing process in more detail and gives a good starting water to coffee ratio.
Blade grinders are not really suitable for coffee and should only be used as a last resort. This is true of any coffee maker or brewing method.
A blade grinder effectively chops beans into smaller pieces, resulting in particles that are inconsistent in size. Equally, as grind time is the only way to influence coarseness, it is more difficult to get the correct size anyway.
In contrast, a burr grinder works by crushing beans between 2 surfaces, the distance between the surfaces dictating the particle size. Crushing the beans in this way produces far more evenly sized particles and the plates allow the user to easily control the coarseness of the grind.
Both electric and manual burr grinders work well with a Chemex – the choice is entirely up to you.
Manual grinders are often a lot slower, so an electric coffee bean grinder can be a real time saver. That being said, they are significantly cheaper; if you want a good electric grinder then you will be paying out at least £140.
1. Hario Skerton
Description: The Hario Skerton is widely regarded as the best entry level grinder available and for good reason. The ceramic, conical burrs produce a reasonably consistent grind that is significantly better than electric grinders in the £80-100 range.
The overall build quality is excellent – lasting 2+ years with daily use is not uncommon – and it is easily to adjust the grind size. The only flaw with the Skerton is the time required for the grind. 50 grams at the required courseness for a Chemex will take about 5 minutes.
2. Porlex Tall Hand Grinder
Description: The Porlex tall coffee grinder is slightly more expensive than the Skerton, but the grind size is easier to adjust and it has better stability. The slim design also makes it easier to transport and the total grind time is marginally lower.
3. Made By Knock Aergrind
Description: First beginning life as a Kickstarter campaign, the Aergrind is designed to be a solution to the lack of mid-range grinders suitable for travel. It packs in all of the build quality and grind consistency of its larger sibling – the Feldgrind – and fits snuggly inside an Aeropress.
4. Baratza Encore
Description: The Encore is widely considered to be the best entry level electric grinder on the market – and for good reason. It produces a consistent grind that is ideal for filter coffee. Baratza’s customer support is also legendary. They’ve been known to send out free replacement parts for grinders bought second hand.
5. Baratza Virtuoso
Description: One step up from an Encore is the Virtuoso; a good mid-range option that can handle grinding for espresso as well as pour overs.
The difference in price is primarily because the Virtuoso has a higher quality burr than the Encore. This means that it can grind slightly finer (by 200 microns to be exact), more consistently and about 50% faster. It is also quieter than an encore because it has a metal casing.