A little while ago, I was asked to make chemex coffee at a fair trade event I was going to. This elicited two equal and opposite reactions in me; pride, and fear.
The organisers thought I was a coffee expert! But also, the organisers thought I was a coffee expert!!
I drink a lot of chemex, so I know how it’s supposed to taste. The problem was, at that moment I had never actually made a chemex myself, and I had no idea how to get it to taste that way. So I smiled sweetly, agreed graciously, and then hot-footed it round to Peoples Constable St to enlist the help of a real expert.
I commandeered Steve, who spent an hour patiently talking me through the art to a perfect chemex. After brewing and drinking multiple jugs of coffee, my nerves were sufficiently soothed – in a shaky, over-caffeinated kind of way.
And here it is! Chemex 101, courtesy of Steve, my new best friend.
Open up the filter and lay it in the coffeemaker, so that the double layer is on the same side as the spout. Pour hot water through the filter until it’s completely saturated. This ensures that the coffee won’t be tainted with any papery flavours, and has the added benefit of warming the jug before you start (tip this out again).
A chemex demands a coarser grind than a plunger, similar to the texture of coarse salt.
The golden rule for a chemex is one part coffee to fifteen parts water. For a small (3 cup) chemex, that’s 24g coffee to 400 ml water. (For a large 6 cup chemex, use 45g coffee:675 ml water). Give the jug a gentle shake to settle out the grinds.
Pour a small amount (about 80-100 mLs) of hot (not boiling) water over the coffee grinds and give them a stir, to completely saturate the coffee. Once that has bloomed for thirty seconds or so, pour more water in until the water level is about two inches from the top of the filter. Stir again gently.
The trick to a good chemex is to pour the water in a tight outward spiral. Called “riding the bloom,” this creates turbulence and agitation, which helps extract the good flavours out of the coffee.
Steve cautions me to avoid hitting the paper filter directly. “Keep it close to the edge without actually touching the paper,” he says. “Otherwise it will filter straight through into the jug without touching the coffee.”
4. Top up:
As the coffee streams down into the jug, the ‘coffee bed’ will start to settle. Keep topping the water up to the initial line (two inches from the top) until you have used all the water. Once you’ve finished pouring, give the coffee three smooth circular stirs and let the water finish extracting. If you’ve done a good job, the coffee grinds left in the filter should form a shallow dome. When the extraction slows to a drip, remove the filter and serve. This should take about 4 minutes all up (for the 3 cup chemex).
The flavour profile of chemex coffee changes and sweetens as it cools. So it’s definitely the kind of coffee to sit down and linger over.
Which is exactly what I do – once I have sufficiently convinced the fair trade community of my newfound expertise, that is.
THANK YOU STEVE.
(You can pick up everything you need to make a great chemex here)