Pour-over System: Chemex

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About two weeks ago, I purchased a Chemex pour-over system. A pour-over is a way of brewing coffee where the person pours hot water over and through the coffee grounds, then being filtered through a paper coffee filter. A Chemex differs from other pour-over systems in that it has higher clarity but lower body (due to its three-layered filter). This means that it has less sediment (if any) and keeps out any oils that might get through a metal filter.

The main pour-over systems I have seen used are these:

  1. Chemex
  2. Hario V60
  3. Kalita Wave

These three seem to vary in small ways. Some have more body, and some have more clarity. Chemex is the highest in clarity and lowest in body.

I also just received in the mail Onyx Coffee Lab’s Roaster Sampler Box, which consists of four four-ounce bags of various coffee beans (as opposed to just buying one 16-20 ounce bag). These are the coffees that Onyx decided to include in my shipment.

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  1. Columbia La Plata (Cup: Vanilla Bean, Lemon Zest, Plum, Floral, Pecan)
  2. Kenya Nyeri Barichu (Cup: Winey, Brulee Grapefruit, Rose Honey, Mouthwatering)
  3. Columbia Nilo Martinez (Cup: Floral Honey, Vanilla Yogurt, Honeydew, Soft)
  4. Columbia San Antonio (Cup: Dates, Brown Sugar, Nutty, Stone Fruit, Creamy)
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6 thoughts on “Pour-over System: Chemex

  1. I like your pour-over system. A few questions:

    * I’m still unclear about the meaning of “low body” and “clarity.”

    * How does the coffee stay hot in the glass container? Do you pour it in a carafe?

    * Do you grind your own coffee on a daily basis or have the coffeehouse grind it for you?

    * What is the main difference between French Press and pour-over? It seems that the former uses a metal filter while the latter uses a paper filter. The saturation (or steep) time appears different as well.

    * I know coffeemakers like to give their coffees elaborate descriptions, such as the ones featured above. Winemakers do the same thing. But can you really, really taste each one of those things? If I gave you a blind taste taste of the Columbia San Antonio, would you be able to pick up on the taste of dates, brown sugar, nuts, and stone fruit? That presupposes you have experience tasting such things in order to detect them in coffee.

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  2. If a coffee has high clarity, that means it has less sediment in the cup, and it might be considered less strong. If a coffee has body, that means it is stronger and typically has sediment in the cup. A french press would be high body, but low clarity. The opposite is the case for a Chemex (other pour over systems and brewing methods will be in between those two extremes).

    You pre-pour 200 degree water in the glass. And I usually only brew one cup, so I just immediately pour the coffee into a cup. I haven’t really found the need to brew a whole batch. So it stays hot very well.

    I don’t grind my own coffee as well, but I need to be able to. So, I will be getting a grinder soon so that my coffee grounds will actually be fresh, and so that I can adjust my grind size.

    Yes, you can actually taste those notes, but it takes time to be able to catch it. I have only begun to be able taste the cup notes. Since I’ve only had the San Antonio once, and it was about 4-6 months ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to identify it. But if you gave me a coffee I have had more than once in the past month, I would most likely be able to tell you what it was, especially if I tried 2-3 next to each other.

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  3. There are also oils that get through a metal filter (french press) that don’t get through a paper filter (paper filter). It all comes down to personal taste here. Some people like a fuller cup of coffee, and are willing to have sediment in their coffee. Others would rather have a cleaner cup of coffee.

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    • Those answers are clarifying. While I can appreciate that different methods give the coffee drinker different results, it can all get rather dizzying. Simple is better, I say.

      If you had no previous exposure to a coffee such as Columbia San Antonio, I’d be skeptical if you could detect with precision all the notes described. As I said before, you’d need familiarity with stone fruit to discern whether it’s in the coffee or not. Sure, one might be able to pick up on some fruity taste but to nail “stone fruit” would be a stretch unless one is the equivalent of a sommelier (wine expert) for coffee.

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      • And there are people who are trained in that. The first class you take in training at Onyx is on tasting and you don’t even taste coffee I don’t think. You taste a series of different types of plums to taste differences and subtleties.

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