How to Make Pour-Over Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker

The Chemex Coffeemaker is an iconic design; a beautiful narrow-waisted glass jug with polished wooden collar and simple leather tie. The sleek coffee apparatus is so timeless you could be forgiven for assuming the Chemex is a recent creation but it was invented in 1941 by German inventor Peter Schlumbohm.

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle - 9093 withtext

Schlumbohm’s Most Famous Invention

Conscripted into the army during World War II, Schlumbohm returned from fighting in France unwilling to take on the reigns of his father’s successful paint and chemical business, as was expected of him. Instead he signed away his rights to inherit in return for the family’s financial support to keep him in education for as long as he wished to study. Alongside chemistry, he studied psychology, keen to understand what had lead to “the mess of a war”, his experiences on the battlefield inciting him to call for the abolition of the military and a technocratic leadership for Germany.

After graduating in chemistry Schlumbohm became an inventor, specialising in vacuum and refrigeration, the former being a key component in the latter. After visiting the United States in the early 1930s to market some of his inventions he eventually moved there, filing thousands of patents during his lifetime for a variety of chemical, mechanical and engineering breakthroughs.

For Schlumbohm, the Chemex – which he originally patented in 1939 as a laboratory ‘filtering device’ – held far less promise than the refrigeration device he exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and which he believed would make his fortune. Looking for financial investment to take the refrigerator prototype into production, he raised capital by selling a minority interest in the filtering device, setting up The Chemex Corporation to produce and market it as a coffeemaker later that same year. It was the Chemex that became Schlumbohm’s most successful and enduring invention.

Within a couple of years, Schlumbohm had simplified the design , eliminating the spout and handle in favour of a simple pouring groove. The classic Chemex design was born.

Launching in the wartime years was a challenge, requiring approval from the War Production Board for allocation of materials and production, which was eventually undertaken by the Corning Glass Works. The lack of metals in the product meant no competition over supplies with armament producers and other core industries.

The Chemex tapped perfectly into the design sensibilities of the era, which valued functional objects with a simplicity of shape and construction; indeed it complimented perfectly the influential Bauhaus aesthetic, bringing together creative design with practicality of form and skill of manufacture. It was quickly lauded by the Museum of Modern Art, cementing its place as a design classic.

In subsequent years, Schlumbohm focused on building the public profile of the Chemex by way of trade shows, prominent advertising and strategically gifting products to those in a position of influence – artists, politicians, authors and film-makers.

Today the Chemex is much loved across the world and has experienced a renaissance in recent decades, as coffee lovers around the world rekindle their love-affair with pour-over filter coffee.

How To Make Pour-Over Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker

To use the Chemex you will need:

  • Chemex Coffeemaker (mine is the 10 cup size, which equates to approximately 1.4 litres)
  • Chemex filters *
  • A set of scales, accurate to within a gram or two
  • Whole beans coffee ^ + a coffee grinder with adjustable grind setting
  • Filtered water ~
  • A measuring jug or pouring kettle
  • A timer / stopwatch

* Chemex filters are much thicker than standard filters for regular coffee machines. The thicker paper traps sediment more effectively, and removes a higher volume of coffee oils, resulting in a unique taste when compared with coffee brewed using other methods. It also has an impact on how quickly the water drips through.

^ If using pre-ground coffee, look for coffee that has been ground fairly coarsely, usually labelled for use in cafetières and filter coffee machines. Espresso grind is much too fine.

~ Filtering water before using it to make your coffee (or tea, for that matter) removes unwanted substances that are present in most tap water supplies. This has a significant positive impact on the clarity and taste of your finished coffee.  You can either use a filter jug to clean your water before boiling or use a kettle with a Brita filter incorporated into the design to filter and boil in one step.

How Much Coffee To Use

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9071 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9072

The ideal ratio for Chemex coffeemakers is between 55 grams and 65 grams of coffee per litre of water.

Simply scale those ratios up or down depending on how much coffee you want to make. For 500 ml of water, use 27.5 to 32.5 grams of coffee, and so on.

The exact amount of coffee will vary according to the variety and roasting levels of the coffee you choose, the grind you’ve applied and your personal preferences in how you like your coffee. Heavy roasting not only intensifies the flavour of a coffee bean, it also makes it lighter in weight, so 50 grams in weight equals many more heavily roasted coffee beans than lightly roasted ones. Don’t be afraid to adjust each time you switch to a new coffee – the ratios are just a starting point.

How To Assess The Grind

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9079 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9088

Do a test run. Weigh and grind your coffee, noting down the grind setting used.

Make your coffee following the instructions below, timing the process from the moment you pour hot water onto the coffee to the moment it pretty much stops dripping through.

It should take around 3.5 minutes for the water to drip through.

If it takes significantly longer, the grind may be too fine – water takes longer to work its way through finer grounds as they naturally pack more tightly within the filter, and so extracts a lot more from the grinds as it passes through. You may find the resulting coffee too strong and bitter. Adjust your grinder to achieve a coarser grind and try again.

If your water makes its way through much faster than 3.5 minutes, the grind may be too coarse – the resulting coffee may taste weak and insipid. Adjust your grinder to achieve a finer grind and try again.

Keep in mind that the outcome will also be affected by the individual coffee – dark roasts result in stronger, more bitter brews than light roasts and the variety, origin, growing conditions and many other factors affect the taste.

The 3.5 minutes is a guide to make adjustments again, not a fixed rule.

How To Make Pour-Over Coffee

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9084 Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle-9076

Weigh and grind the coffee beans.

Place a Chemex filter paper into the funnel of the Chemex, with the triple folded side centred against the pouring groove.

Filter your water in a filter jug, or use a filtering kettle to boil sufficient water for the amount of coffee you want to make, plus a little extra.

Pour a little hot water into the filter to wet the paper. Pour this water out of the Chemex jug and discard.

Place your ground coffee into the dampened filter paper.

Measure 500 ml of boiled water and start pouring slowly and steadily into the Chemex, starting the timer as you start to pour. Rather than pouring only into the centre of the coffee, use circular movements to distribute the water across the surface area of the coffee. Pause during pouring if you need to, to keep the level of water a couple of centimetres below the lip of the Chemex.

Stop the timer once the coffee pretty much stops dripping through.

Gather the top edges of the coffee filter together, pick it up and quickly set it aside in a mug or on a plate. The paper and coffee grounds can be composted, if you have a compost bin.

Your coffee is now ready to pour and enjoy!

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle - 9066 withtext


Kavey Eats attended a Chemex coffee making class run by the DunneFrankowski Creative Coffee Consultancy at The Gentlemen Baristas coffee shop as part of Brita’s #BetterWithBrita campaign. Kavey Eats received a Chemex coffee-making kit, Brita filter jug and Morphy Richards Brita Water Filter Kettle from Brita.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
30 Comments to "How to Make Pour-Over Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker"

  1. Debi @ Life Currents

    We have one of these coffee makers, but it has made its way to the back of the cupboard. Thanks for the reminder that I need to pull it back out again. And, thanks for the tips on best use of it. Can’t wait to see it again!


    Oh, that’s good, definitely time to pull it back out. It’s so beautiful I think I’d have it on display even if I weren’t using it!

  2. Chris Tweed

    Excellent article. Interested to see you didn’t bloom the coffee. I’ve only had my Chemex for a few months and I’ve not tried a brew without blooming. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference or as much of a difference as I thought? I’ll have to try it out : one brew with a blooming and one without. When I next fancy a double dose of coffee 🙂


    We didn’t do it in the class, but I did come across it on the web. From what I could gather, blooming is a good way to check how fresh your coffee is but couldn’t see much on it affecting the taste of the finished brew.

  3. kaveyeats

    Hi Jean, yes I think a lot of the cone pour-overs are similar really, and those are great to make smaller volumes.

  4. kaveyeats

    It’s really beautiful, which makes it a pleasure to use. Of course, it’s much like any other pour-over method but it feels more calming because of the beauty of the Chemex.

  5. kaveyeats

    Thanks Joanne, I think they are making a comeback in recent years, as people are ever more interested in both good coffee and classic design.

  6. Camilla

    Fascinating story and I do love the design of this coffee maker even though I don’t drink coffee. I’m sure my hubby would love this!

  7. kellie@foodtoglow

    Ooh, I’ve been coveting a Chemex for ages. All of the groovy coffee shops use and sell them. It’s a lovely piece of form and function. I would ruin the cool factor by filling it with ruddy decaf though 😉


    Ha ha Kellie, if you prefer low caffeine that’s totally fair enough!!!

  8. Yvan

    Love the Chemex – it is our daily coffee device – simplicity itself to make a coffee, and simplicity to clean. Makes an awesomely clean flavoured cup of filter coffee too.

    One difference in how I* use it is that I put at least 300ml of hot water through the filter to rinse out papery flavour. (You just have to sniff and taste that water to know what this is, not hugely detectable in coffee but something I can do without.)

    Bonus is I then use the “papery” water to pre-warm my coffee mug 😉

    (Like the chap above I also “bloom” the coffee, fresher coffee definitely acts differently to older coffee… it rises. But I’ve always thought this process was more about ensuring the grounds are evenly dampened and don’t all just float to the top.)

    *To be fair, these days it is mostly Kat using it in the mornings to make me my coffee.


    Thanks Yvan, interesting that you pour a lot more hot water through the filter first. I don’t know that I have detected a papery flavour but my coffee palate is not that developed, so I probably wouldn’t detect that nuance. Maybe with more coffee drinking, I will notice it!

    Regarding blooming, reading up on it suggests it’s about assessing the freshness of the coffee rather than changing the final flavour, but it does make sense to me to ensure that the entirety of the coffee is wet and the water is filtering through all of it, rather than just through the centre, hence that advice to circle around as one pours the coffee. It’s how we were shown to do it but also when I read up more before writing the post.

  9. kaveyeats

    Thanks Sally, that guideline thanks to our teachers at the class, plus of course, my usual additional web research to double check and add extra info!

  10. leo

    Love my Chemex. I also use the water through the filter to pre-warm my mug. Chemex filters are little pricey and I am thinking of using the Melita Cone Filters when my supply runs out. Is there a big difference between them ?


    I’ve not tested them but when we run out I can look for them and give it a go!

  11. Kait

    I don’t have one of these, but I do have a french press. Maybe I’ll go out and see what I can find. I love the idea of it!!


    I do like cafetières but I hate having to clean them out. With the Chemex I like that one just lifts out the filter paper easily, with the coffee in it, and just need to rinse the glass jug out, then.

  12. kaveyeats

    It’s such an elegant thing, makes me smile each time I see it in the kitchen!

  13. kaveyeats

    Thank you Kate, glad you enjoyed. I wanted to know the history for myself, so I read up on it and then thought, if I found it interesting, maybe my readers would too.


Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *