The coffee connoisseur inside of you is screaming for help on the everlasting mind-boggling question, Chemex or Pour Over? But, is it okay to ask? I mean, you are a coffee connoisseur, remember? You’re supposed to have made these decisions already.
Luckily for you, I won’t tell anyone, instead, I’m going to help you make this decision because, at the end of the day, there’s just one perfect choice for you.
What is Pour Over Coffee?
Pour Over is both a method and a type of tool used for brewing coffee. It involves slowly and precisely pouring hot water over coffee grounds in a circular motion. The water then trickles down the funnel shape of the tool and is filtered through the paper and into a container below.
Coffee aficionados tend to appreciate this method because it allows for complete control over the brewing process. The process can be a bit tedious and the precision required takes some practice to master.
The results are definitely worth it, though. This brew is the perfect example of “slow and steady wins the race.” The longer brewing process allows for excellent flavor extraction and the paper filter creates a clean, crisp cup.
Pour Over Tools: All Shapes and Sizes
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of the differences here, let’s talk about the through-line. Chemex is simply a particular brand of pour over tool that happens to offer a rather unique shape.
The shape affects how much you can brew and your potential storage options. However, this choice does not actually affect what kind of coffee you are brewing.
So, we are mostly looking at what separates the Chemex from most other pour over brands. Just keep in mind that there is no singular “Pour Over” to compare to the Chemex.
Chemex: For Chemists Only?
To go ahead and answer your question, no you don’t have to be a chemist, despite the look of this tool. You just have to love light and smooth coffee. Simple as that.
The Chemex coffee maker was originally manufactured in Massachusetts in 1941, becoming the first manual style of a pour-over glass coffee maker. The funnel neck of the hourglass-shaped beaker allows for the thick paper filters to slide into position without any hassle.
Chemex also sells their own proprietary, thick paper filters for their brewing tools. These filters, like other paper filters, are intended to ensure a clean cup of brew. Unlike metal filters, they remove some coffee oils and more of the cafestol present, which is a molecule present in unfiltered coffee. The thicker paper exaggerates this effect, making for a very light bodied, clean cup with no grit.
Other Popular Pour Over Tools
Just so you have a better base of comparison, we’ve included a few of the popular options in the “standard” pour over style. Each of these tools can be placed on top of a cup or carafe and brew coffee in a similar manner to the Chemex. You can find our top picks here.
First there is the cone-shape, which is the most similar to the Chemex design. Two popular options in this category are the Hario V60, with spiral ribbing, and the Sanyo Sangyo, with flower petal ribbing. The overall shape is the same but the ribbing inside is different. The ribs guide the water to flow slightly differently, supposedly improving saturation and extraction.
On the other hand there is the rectangle or V-shaped pour over. These look like slightly opened books with rounded ends. The Melitta pour over is one of the most popular in this category, and it features straight, vertical ribs.
These three options happen to be ceramic, but there are also numerous metal options. However, the Chemex is one of precious few entirely glass options. Which brings us to the next point…
Chemex vs Other Pour Over Options
While, yes, these two methods are almost identical in the sense of how to make your freshly brewed cup of joe, but there are a few key differences in the overall taste, time and structure of the flasks.
- Made only out of glass, making it very sturdy, but less portable
- Thicker filters slow down the pace, taking about 5-6 minutes per brew
- Can infuse anywhere between 3-10 cups per batch
- Brewed coffee tastes cleaner and flavor profiles are more complex
- No ribbing to guide the water
- Can be made from plastic, glass, stainless steel, or ceramics/ portable
- Typically brew coffee in 3-5 minutes
- Make about 1-2 cups per brew, not great for large brews
- Tastes smooth and light
- Occasionally include ribbing or other “brew enhancing” designs
While there isn’t an option that exactly matches the design of the Chemex. There are a few that offer similar perks. The top three alternatives are the Bodum 11571-109 Pour Over Coffee Maker with Permanent Filter, Glass, 34 Ounce, 1 Liter, Cork Band, Yama Glass Pour Over Coffee Maker I Comes With Reusable Stainless Steel Cone Filter I Durable, Heat Resistant Borosilicate Glass Carafe I Handle Version, Large Capacity 30oz, and Coffee Gator Paperless Pour Over Coffee Dripper Brewer, 10.5oz, Green. Each of these feature the distinctive hourglass shape; however, they rely on permanent, reusable filters instead of the paper ones required for the Chemex.
The best choice for you
The decision you make regarding which pour over method and tool is best for you comes down to your coffee and brewing preferences. Don’t care much about portability beyond your kitchen? Like the idea of being able to brew for the whole crew? Pick the Chemex.
Or would you rather have a brewer you can take with you on the road? Prefer a perfect personal serving size of 1-2 cups? Enjoy a soft and light taste of the tongue at each gulp? Pick the Pour Over.
You love both and still can’t decide?
Easy, choose both, one for home, one for on the go. Problem solved. These tools are actually pretty affordable. So even if you’re feeling indecisive, you won’t break the bank.