The classically designed Chemex Three Cup Classic Glass Coffeemaker has been around since 1941, providing coffee connoisseurs with a manual coffee maker attractive enough to display on the kitchen counter. It has the same variable controls as other manual models, and owners say it's easy to use and produces great tasting coffee. However, its glass construction makes it fragile. If you want a faster manual brew tailored to your tastes in a more durable package, the Aerobie AeroPress (*Est. $25) makes a single-cup of coffee in less than a minute.
Low-tech, high performance manual coffee maker. Users say the coffee produced by the Chemex is impeccable. However, there's no heating mechanism, so brewed coffee tends to cool down quickly. You can purchase an optional wire guard and lid to warm it on the stovetop. Be aware that the additional heat will increase the acidity of your coffee. Most Amazon.com owners say the best solution is to pour coffee into an insulated mug to maintain its heat longer.
"The appeal is simple. It's for purists," says Oliver Strand in a review for The New York Times. "You're in control: the water temperature, the flow, the pacing are up to you," Strand says. Some users complain that the proprietary Chemex filters create a paper- or cardboard-like taste in the coffee, a problem remedied by rinsing the filter thoroughly with hot water before using it. After comparing Chemex's oxidized white filters to the company's natural, unbleached filter squares, Strand determines that rinsing the filters with about 8 ounces of water is ideal for removing any unwanted tastes while still maintaining the integrity of the coffee.
Popular Mechanics puts eight single-serve coffee makers to the test in a 2010 review. The Chemex is praised for being easier to use and clean than its manual one-cup coffee maker counterparts: The Aerobie AeroPress and Mypressi Twist. As with all manual models, its advantage over pod coffee brewers is the more precise control users have over strength and flavor. "With a simple design that features no moving parts, the Chemex was the lowest-tech and nearly lowest-cost coffeemaker we reviewed," says author Jeremy Repanich.
Simple to use but filters are hard to find in stores. Reviewers say the Chemex Three Cup Classic Glass Coffeemaker couldn't be easier to use. Available in three additional sizes (six-, eight- and 10-cup), the Chemex requires no pods, capsules or discs. Instead, you place a conical filter in the heat-resistant flask, add ground coffee and lightly pour hot water over the grounds before slowly adding more water. "Once you invest the six minutes it takes to learn how to use a Chemex, you'll run circles around that plug-in machine you have cluttering up your counter," Strand says.
One caveat is that you must use the proprietary Chemex filters, which are designed for longer saturation. Third-party and standard drip filters will not work, according to the manufacturer. But, unlike pod coffee makers, the Chemex allows users to adjust brew strength to personal taste, depending on grind and coffee amount. However, some reviewers say it takes practice to calibrate optimum brewing temperature and measurements. Still, others complain that the brewing process is tedious.
It can be challenging to clean the Chemex, primarily because the slim neck makes it impossible to reach inside the reservoir. One Amazon.com reviewer provides a simple solution, "The best thing I've found: a baby bottle cleaner. It's narrow enough to get into the reservoir and the angle can be adjusted to scrape the walls, too."
Attractive classic design, but glass is fragile. The Chemex Three Cup Classic Glass Coffeemaker resembles a science lab beaker more than a coffee maker, but reviewers say it's attractive enough to leave sitting on the counter. Users posting to Amazon.com call it "charming," and one says, "The wood cuff with rawhide tie screams simplicity and elegance and it's a wonderful, minimalist sight on any kitchen counter."
Because it's made of glass, an accidental drop can easily cause this coffee maker's demise. We read a few reports that the glass is thin and sensitive to sudden temperature changes; the wood and leather portion around the neck will also gradually deteriorate over time.
Review Credibility: Excellent In their comparison of eight single-serve coffee makers, editors describe the Chemex as a "favorite of coffee connoisseurs" and say it delivers a stronger-tasting cup than a standard coffee maker. They also love the fact that users can adjust brew strength to suit their taste.
Review: Single-Serve Coffeemaker Showdown: 8 Brewers Put to the Test, Jeremy Repanich, April 1, 2010
2. The New York Times
Review Credibility: Very Good While comparing two types of ground coffee, writer Oliver Strand provides information on his efforts to determine whether the natural or oxidized Chemex filters provide a better taste. After several tests, he concludes that the oxidized filter is superior, but he concedes that both filters make "beautiful" coffee.
Review: Ristrettro -- Chemex, Oliver Strand, April 22, 2010
Review Credibility: Good About 65 owners contribute to an overall rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. Owners say there's a learning curve to using the Chemex, but once the procedure is down, the taste is worth the time required to learn to use this device. A few mention trouble cleaning the water reservoir, but one reviewer suggests using a baby-bottle brush.
Review: Chemex Coffee Maker 8 Cup Classic, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012
Review Credibility: Good An avid fan of the Chemex coffee maker, SlashFood.com writer Erin Meister gushes about its sleek, hourglass curves and says that Chemex's gradual pour-over method makes "fantastic" coffee that's best enjoyed during idle Saturday mornings.
Review: Chemex Drip Coffee with the CoffeeMeister, Erin Meister, June 2009