Exploring alternative brewing methods: The Chemex.
Words and pictures Jamie Braun
The Chemex Coffeemaker has been around since a clever German inventor dreamed it up in 1941. Essentially, it is a glass decanter used for making pour-over style coffee. One of the many advantages of brewing coffee this way is that it highlights the brightness and fruity characteristics of certain coffees. My absolute favourite coffee to use with this method is a washed Kenyan.
Here is my how-to guide on brewing delicious Chemex coffee:
1. Grind your coffee to a medium-course grind. Use freshly ground coffee wherever possible.
2. Place your Chemex filter paper into the holder and wet evenly with hot water. This is done for three reasons: to minimise the chance of a “papery” taste to your coffee; to seal the filter which ensures a slower drip and thereby ensure maximum flavour being extracted; finally, the hot water will also preheat the Chemex. You can just pour this water out before adding your coffee.
3. Add your ground coffee to your pre-wet filter. I would recommend starting with about 40-50g of coffee (about 7 or 8 Tablespoons) for every 500–600ml of water. You can always adjust according to your taste, but this is a good place to start.
4. Next, slowly pour your hot water in a circular motion over the coffee. Ensure that all of the grounds are evenly saturated and then stop and let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds. During blooming you can also stir the coffee gently to ensure even saturation.
*Blooming is the process that occurs when hot water meets ground coffee and causes a release of gas from the coffee. The more gas that escapes, the bigger the bloom will be. (The coffee will swell and bubble up a bit.) Blooming is a very interesting process as it can tell us a few things about the coffee: the older the coffee, the less gas will escape as it has degassed over time. Most coffee bags have a one-way valve that releases carbon dioxide from the coffee and doesn’t allow any oxygen in. So, the amount of gas released during blooming can show us how fresh the coffee is.
5. After you have waited about 30 seconds to let the coffee bloom, you can continue pouring your hot water slowly in a circular motion over the coffee. Maintain a slow and steady speed and aim to pour over the dark spots of coffee and avoid the lighter ones that form as this will aid in even extraction. The entire brewing process should take about 4 minutes to complete. So aim to finish your pour around then.
6. Lastly, remove the paper filter and place it in the sink to drain before throwing away.
Most of your local coffee roasters stock this and many other alternative brewing devices. So don’t let load shedding get in the way of your caffeine fix: all you need is a flask of hot water, a hand grinder and your trusty Chemex and nothing can stand in your way!
Jamie Braun is a KZN-based barista trainer and coffee consultant at Mokador. She lives and breathes the world’s favourite caffeinated pick-me-up. #CountryCoffee is where she keeps us up to date with the latest and greatest in the local coffee scene.
Read more of Jamie’s intriguing coffee musings for #CountryCoffee here.