Now that I understand coffee better I am team Chemex

Now that I understand coffee better I am team Chemex

Why write this post?

I have gone through an evolutionary process in my coffee consumption. First as someone Jamaican born, I’ve always had the British cultural norm of tea-drinking honed into my life.  “Cup of tea” was the mantra, not a “Cup of joe”, and to also borrow now the academic upbringing “Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis” — Times change, and we change with the times… right?  And in this post I intend to document my own journey not only from a tea drinker [alas there are some days that I still enjoy a cup of Earl Grey], but also to my first adopted method of French Press to now using a drip method of the Chemex.

Now lets face it, there is a ton of blog post out there about Coffee, and not too far off that mark doing comparisons between the steeping method employed in a French Press v/s the drip method employed in the Chemex. My approach here is not only for the coffee enthusiast who’s consumed with the beans, the roasting method, drip method and so on. My approach will certainly cover that, but what also got me hooked on the Chemex was the process and the detail and intricacies of what it takes to get it right.  Admittedly, some of the post I see out there identify the Chemex process as a negative, which I get, but I like that mental bridge between the time I hop out of bed to the time i sit in my office chair to begin my day.  I find it calming and is the relaxation I need before the madness of works take over.

Education is Key

Lets not understate this, you hear this all throughout your formative years and its just as important for something some may think as grabbing a cup of coffee.  With the magic of YouTube there are endless videos that you watch to become a “you-tube expert” but there are some quality ones out there as well.  In particular, I love this TedTalk coffee video here

and I was especially taken by this video on how to use a Chemex

The first video really takes its claim of “…everything” to task, it covers topics such as:

The altitude the coffee plant is grown in and the science behind oxygen deprivation and how plants deal with lactic acid and how that affects taste, they also go into they way the coffee bean is separated i.e. “wash” v/s “natural”… well you want watch it yourself 🙂 and in all fairness before I get to my own biases we need a video for the french press too

I chose the above videos after watching countless more because:

  • Im using this at home, and the equipment showcased is home friendly
  • I found that the ancillary equipment used scale, measuring spoon, etc were similar so it provided if not the same.. a similar comparison

Back to education, now even after you consume all this good knowledge, I encourage you to do as I did and also mix it up. Personally I now add some freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon to my grounds directly before i do my initial steep pour and mix.

Fabian Chemex with Nutmeg and CinnamonGooseNeckWithTherm

Key is to make this a journey and keep it fun.  As I grew my own rig for my morning brew, I have now ammassed the following:

  • 6-Cup Chemex
  • Chemex Square Filter
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Thermometer
  • Goose-Neck Kettle
  • Coffee Grinder
  • make shift Stirrer

All these items are available to you here.

My Own Thoughts and Biases

When I developed an appreciation for coffee was when I was visiting a friend and was offered a cup of “genuine” local Colombian coffee. I got it served with no sugar, no cream, just straight black.  While i did find that appetizing, I appreciated it better with a helping of milk and I have been drinking that every since.  My method of brewing at that time was the French Press as it was the simplest and easiest to use as my entry point into this new coffee brewing experience.  What I found lacking in that experience was:

  1. Chore of Cleaning the filter attached to the plunger
  2. The constant pouring out and cleaning of the grounds in the jar
  3. The instances where grounds will seep into the batch of coffee I am preparing [this is just my inexperience and rush to complete I am sure]

After a while i went the Starbucks way and was an Americano drinker. Shot of Expresso and Water, what can beat that right? Well, without taking away anything from Starbucks as I am quite sure there is a reason they have a successful business model.  I find that the roast is typically too dark and as a result I found myself adding more milk, adding cinnamon, adding nutmeg, adding vanilla to adjust the flavor which in the end is really cheating the coffee experience.

Notwithstanding that however, I now love having fresh nutmeg and cinnamon in my own coffee brew, but it is added sparingly.

Just as I was introduced to proper Colombian coffee from a friend, I was also introduced to the Chemex from another friend. This time, I was totally blown away with the process, I enjoyed the:

  • Folding of the filter and proper placement & if you don’t know, that means using the [Square Filter] & the side that has three (3) folds should face the spout of the Chemex
  • Rinsing of the Chemex filter and climatizing the Chemex jar by swirling the water from the filter rinse around in the bottom to ensure that the coffee just doesn’t hit a cold (or cool) receptacle but actually one that is at or around the temperature of the water that will be poured.
  • Pouring out & discarding that water while ensuring that there is still proper adhesion of the filter to the Chemex jar

The rest of the process of the first pour and mixing to coat the coffee grounds is similar to the immersion of pouring water over the grounds in the French Press.  The initial stir to allow for the Carbon Dioxide to release is also about the same as well. Now after that is done, the second pour is also something that requires some skill and know-how

  • Zig-Zag pour and then circular, while keeping the water on the grounds and not on the filter did take some getting used to

However just like anything else, with repetition and learning comes mastering. I now enjoy my morning routines, there are times I need to be up before the crack of dawn to beat the Washington D.C. I-495 traffic. For those days I make my Coffee in the Chemex right before bed and then refrigerate for the next morning. Ive also tried the coffee cold and its good, but just not my thing 🙂

I hope you enjoy this post, please leave me some comments if you found this of interest.

Thank you for your time & see you soon.

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