Buying Guides

Chemex Review: Is This Iconic Brewer Worth a Second Look?

Does this legendary coffeemaker live up to years of hype? Learn more in our detailed Chemex review!

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Until mere decades ago, coffee was viewed simply as a caffeine delivery system. And then rapid innovation happened, changing the culture entirely. We learned to produce, brew, and appreciate higher-quality coffee beans, made with pretty things like the Chemex.

Ah, the Chemex. Preferred coffeemaker of the stars, from James Bond to Joey Tribbiani. Since its debut on the silver screen in 1963, this handsome brewer has become a staple for any shot that suggests: “We brew coffee in style!”.

But does style equal substance for this blockbuster of a brewer? Or has it been overtaken by the gadgets of today? Read on for a coffee critic’s review of the Chemex coffeemaker!

Chemex Review

Key Takeaways

  • Revered for its elegance and simplicity, the Chemex functions as both a brewer and server, offering convenience for entertaining, but cumbersome for smaller spaces or individual use.
  • A gooseneck kettle and a high-quality burr grinder will give you a brewing advantage with the Chemex, as will the thicker proprietary filters.
  • Despite its practical limitations and competition from more modern pour-over brewers, the Chemex remains a standout choice for design-conscious coffee enthusiasts.

Things To Consider Before Buying a Chemex


The Chemex coffeemaker is a manual pour-over coffee dripper and a serving vessel rolled into one. It makes great brewed coffee, but as always, consider the following before you choose:

For You or a Crew?

Big brews are easy with a Chemex! Its one-piece design simplifies brewing and service for a crowd. For a plus-sized batch, the 13-cup model makes up to 65 ounces (or 1.9L) of piping-hot java, poured straight out of the brewer and into their mugs.

You can certainly brew one cup on it, though that’s like bringing out the fine china for a solo TV dinner.

Filtration Situation

Chemex filters are proprietary, but they’re not all the same. There are a couple of shape variations, and you can get them pre-folded, or do it yourself. Since they’re larger and thicker than regular filters, they cost quite a bit more too.

Chemex Filter Comparo
From L to R: Chemex (thickest), Kalita 102, and an unfolded Kalita Wave filter.

In a pinch, you can use a conical paper filter similar to the ones used by the Hario V60. Or even a Kalita Wave filter folded four ways (after undoing the small pleats, of course). Of course, you’ll have to change up your brew recipe to compensate.

Chemex Nonstandard Filter
An unfolded Kalita Wave filter works for the Chemex in a pinch.

Countertop Space

Being an all-in-one brewer has its benefits, but saving space isn’t one of them. The smallest 3-cup size towers over most standalone brewers and mugs, measuring more than 8 inches tall! Even a box of 100 folded filters takes up more space than the average pour-over dripper.

Chemex and Filter Box

Prep enough space on your countertop and storage nooks if you decide to bring the Chemex home!

A Quick Look at the Chemex Coffeemaker

The Chemex Coffeemaker is instantly recognizable with its hourglass-like silhouette. It makes coffee, doubles as an elegant water pitcher, and looks classy doing both.

Two handle options, two glass finishes, and an assortment of sizes make up the range. The glass-handle Chemex is a sleek one-piece affair, while the Classic and Handblown series come with an elegant wooden collar fastened by leather straps.

Filtration is handled by proprietary Chemex Bonded paper stock, which comes in a few shapes and styles: Pre-folded Circles, Pre-folded Squares, Unfolded Circles, and Unfolded Half Moon.

The wide pouring area of the Chemex filter makes it a joy to use when brewing coffee. Remember to practice those pours to make the most out of this brewer!

Chemex Pourover Wide

Features and Benefits

The Chemex isn’t the first pour-over brewer, despite being about 80 years old. But it certainly is one of the most iconic! Its unique looks and brewing capability have stood the test of time, with some bits even inspiring today’s brewing hardware. Let’s talk about some of the good stuff.

Brew Control

This star needs a little coaxing to fully perform at its best. You need a good script (i.e. brew recipe), and a solid cast of supporting characters (grinder and pouring kettle).

Chemex filters are about 20-30% thicker than normal, which helps make a clean, grit-free cup. This also slows down the brew compared to other pour-overs, so it’s worth using a coffee grinder with uniform consistency in the medium to medium-coarse range.

Chemex Pourover Top

The final part of the brew is the actual performance itself. Next to a steady hand, a gooseneck kettle offers the best control of the brewing process. I think it’s a splurge purchase that’s totally worth it for great pour-overs time and time again.

Aesthetics and Build Quality

I must’ve mentioned at least ten times now that the Chemex is a looker. But don’t just take my word for it — the thing’s on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York!

But looks mean little… if it’s in little pieces, amirite? Thankfully, the Chemex uses borosilicate glass, which isn’t quite shatterproof but is heat-resistant and plenty tough. For extra durability, the Handblown series uses even thicker glass of better quality.

Well-engineered details complete the look, from the wooden collar on the Classic series to the Glass Handle model that’s a joy to hold.

Superior Spout

How many times have you made an oopsie while transferring coffee from server to cup? Say it with me: spouts should pour, not dribble!

With a Chemex, you won’t have to worry. The spout extends from below the lower half of the unit and ends in a beefy, almost squarish tip that’s effective AND neat when it comes to pouring out coffee. It might be a minor feature to others, but it’s one of my favorite things about the Chemex!

Chemex Spout
Look ma, no spills!

Sizes for Days

Brew for two or ten! In addition to the humongous 13-cup Chemex, there’s a small pint-sized model, as well as four other sizes in between. It can get confusing, but we’ll clear things up with a tidy chart later on.

Trinkets and Doodads

Spruce up your Chemex with accessories and matching cups! Or maybe a tree-saving upgrade in the form of a reusable filter, perhaps?

There’s a huge aftermarket selection of stuff to complement or customize this legendary coffeemaker, so you’re certainly spoiled for choice here!

Points for Improvement and Additional Notes

Before you take the Chemex home, you should know about the less-than-stellar bits too. Here they are:

Big Bulky Brewer

Beautiful and built well? Sold! Big and breakable? Not so much.

The all-in-one advantage of the Chemex is also its biggest weakness: it has a large footprint and is made of more than 90% glass. I suggest being very careful when handling, washing, and storing this thing!

Take it camping? Out of the question!

Technique Limitations

There are a few things that are tricky to do on a Chemex, compared to a pour-over dripper with a separate brew vessel. Here are some situations that need some finessing, or are downright impossible:

  • Quirky Iced Pour-overs: Rinsing the filter with hot water has to be done on a separate vessel because the bottom chamber has to be filled with ice before brewing. (We tried it ourselves!)
  • A Slow Brewer: Because you cannot detach the brewing chamber from the serving vessel, it’s not quite as easy to do quick, repeated brews on a single Chemex. Clean-up is significantly more complicated due to that kink in the hourglass shape.
  • No Pour-over Stands: A tall, single-body brewer cannot fit on a pour-over stand. Sorry, stands stans!

Filter and Model Confusion

Six sizes, two handle types, two glass types, and filters that work for some but not all? For a brewer with minimal variation in the looks department between models, this can be downright confusing. But not to worry, here’s a detailed list of Chemex models, sizes, and compatible filters:

Glass Handle    
Unfolded Half Moon          
Unfolded Half Moon (natural)          
Unfolded Circles  
Pre-folded Circles  
Pre-folded Squares  
Pre-folded Squares (natural)  

Alternatives and Wrap-up

Fancy the unique one-piece design? You might prefer the similarly-built Hario Wood Neck Drip Pot, which comes standard with a reusable cloth filter.

If you enjoy the pour-over profile, the Hario V60 is another great choice that won’t break the bank. Pick the plastic model for added portability points!

Where does that leave the Chemex? It’s been around the block for a while, and it does have its quirks. But it’s a stellar example of a brewer that perfectly marries both form and function. If you want one, then there’s no real alternative.

The Chemex continues to be relevant in today’s brewing culture, and we’re updating its rating to a near-flawless 4.7 out of 5.

Happy Caffeinating!

Chemex Review: Is This Iconic Brewer Worth a Second Look?
Chemex Review.

Discover if this brewer lives up to its iconic status with our in-depth Chemex review. Is it worth considering for your coffee routine?

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