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A Little Chemex Coffee Chemistry

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One of the highlights of our personal life has been having time with our friends and family visit our home on the weekend. We have been so fortunate to have a really varied friend network whom have all sorts of fascinating interests and loving, generous personalities. Last weekend was no different when our friends from “West River” came for a visit. We had several fun activities planned, one involving football, one sushi and one coffee!

Let me back up and say B. spends part of each week as a Barista at a coffee house. This is not like a Starbucks type of coffee house but an independent boutique type of coffee shop. They roast all their own beans using Australian methods (not sure how that differs from American or other methods, but I digress) and use a variety of fascinating contraptions to brew an amazing cup of coffee.

B. (whom you can read more about here and here) brought her Chemex, Brazilian beans, grinder and scale. This all starts out like a chemistry lab experiment. Calculators to convert ounces to grams, thermometers to check water temperature, notes to check, fragrant beans to enjoy.

I guess I’m not sure how B. came up with the amount of beans to grind, but after consulting her journal she began pouring and measuring them into the cover of the grinder. After finding the correct amount, she began to whir them around in the grinder (which, by the way, has an adjustable setting for grind size- who knew!). The fragrance by this time was heavenly.


You can find this coffee here. I plan to order mine this week!


The next step was getting the proper water temperature for the brewing procedure. If I remember correctly, we were shooting for around 170-180 degrees. The appropriate kitchen item for this is:


And what we used was this:


Because I don’t have anything that resembles the aforementioned kitchen gadget, we just heated up some water in a saucepan on the stove. When the temperature was right we poured it into my tea pot.

At this point B. wet the filter to keep any filter fragments from getting into the coffee. Then, in went the ground coffee, and finally the 170 degree water. Ideally, you pour in a circular motion which is also why you need the fancy tea kettle from Williams-Sonoma shown in the photo above!


We watched as the water sat in the filter full of grounds as they began to bloom and open up. All the while, the chemex was on the scale so we could pour the correct amount of water to beans ratio. I think there were some timing issues going on here as well. Like 4 minutes was the perfect steeping time. I could be wrong on that, this was all very overwhelming for the novice such as myself, it was morning and I hadn’t had any coffee in my system yet!!



You can see the poor Keurig in the background playing second fiddle to this fascinating coffee system!

The end result was really fantastic. The coffee had so much flavor. As there were four of us and the Chemex brewed a smaller amount, we then made second brew using our French Press. We used the same beans but ground them differently (they had to be more coarse). We heated the water to 180 degrees and if my memory serves me, used 2.0 grams of beans (2.1 gr. for our coffee the next morning). While the coffee was slightly different, we loved it just as much.

I think my take away from this process is to be encouraged to try new things, be open to the non-franchise type of experiences. Coffee done this way certainly will take longer, likely be more expensive but will be more interesting, give you an entirely different taste experience and it will take you places (like Essence of Coffee) that are locally owned. Brit also explained how your beans will look if they have been roasted well. After learning about the roasting process, I have to admit, I’ve bought many pounds of mass produced beans that fall far short of Essence standards. So while we’ll still use our Keurig on a daily basis, we’ll have a better understanding and a new appreciation for what coffee can really be! And, when time allows, we’ll be using the French press and the Brazilian Essence beans for a truly special experience. Thank you Brit!!