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Coffee Brewing?

Can anyone speak to the differences in Chemex vs French Press vs Clover vs Drip....I have a press that I love, and I am wondering if a Chemex is much better? Do I need one? Confused by all the home brew choices...Thanks

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  1. I really don't know anything about the Clover.

    Chemex is a manual pour over or drip type brewer. Really the same thing as your basic home drip machine except you have more control over the variables like water temp and speed of pour and extraction. It uses a paper or gold filter.

    French Press is allows you to steep all the coffee at once and then separate the grounds via the press. Uses mesh type filters. Allows for lots of control over water temp and extraction time. More oils are released into the final brew with the FP over drip using a paper filter. You should decant the coffee into a carafe after brewing so you don't get an over extraction from the coffee grounds that remain in the pot.

    You didn't mention vacuum but it is also a very unique way to brew. Use to be very popular before perculators dominated. In vacuum system there are two chambers with the water in the bottom chamber. As the water is heated the water rises into the upper chamber were the coffee grinds are. As the water cools a vacuum sucks the liquid back down to the bottom chamber through a filter. Flavors of vacuum brewing are very similar to French Press.

    7 Replies
    1. re: scubadoo97

      Golly, I remember those vacuum things from the '50s. I think my folks called it a Silex (or maybe Procter Silex??). Does anyone know if they are still on the market? As a kid, I would always rush to the kitchen to watch the water magically go up to the upper chamber, then go back down. Didn't understand Boyle's Law at that tender age! I would love to buy one.

      1. re: SonyBob

        sweet maria's carries several models.

        1. re: SonyBob

          Bodum makes a vacuum pot that works very well. We use one in the shop every day and it is going strong.

        2. re: scubadoo97

          The clover is actually a VERY expensive machine for places like Groundworks and La Mill, not home. I was really wondering if the Chemex was markedly different than regular drip. French Press seems to garner a lot of devotees, myself included. I forgot about the vacuum thing, I have never seen one! Thanks for the reply,,,,

          1. re: scubadoo97

            You didn't mention the Aerobie. Based on your reco on the last coffee thread, I got one. It works really great. Kind of a combination of a french press and a chemex - it is actually a filtered french press - given that you use pressure, it can also be considered a manual espresso machine.

            Many places on-line were out of it, but Zabar's had it and shipped it to us right away:

            One big difference (to the fp) is that you grind the coffee very fine. That, and forcing the water and air through it results in a bold flavor and some crema. You can drink it as is as espresso, or dilute it to your desired cafe american strength - since we have the Tiger airpot always full of near-boil water, it is very convenient for us.

            So now, we have a real melange of coffee/tea equipment on our kitchen shelf. The Keurig (with the my pod and magic holster) sits next to the hot pot, next to the burr grinder - and the aerobie aparatus sits in front, ready to use. After a few more weeks of the aerobie we'll probably move the Keurig down to the basement to sit along with the Bodum electric vacuum and the Filtron cold brew apparatus. Maybe we're just waiting for the Clover... next lottery ticket...

            1. re: applehome

              Yeah I didn't want to get too complex on the first post. Glad you like the Aeropress. I've been using mine a lot but have switched back to espresso. Don't want to get in a rut.

            2. re: scubadoo97

              I have a Cona vacuum coffee maker I bought years ago at a girlfriend's garage sale. I love it! But they've gotten rather pricey. You can see new ones here:

              Or get them a lot cheaper on eBay here:

              They do make really good coffee (assuming you start out with really good coffee grounds!), and they're fun for brew-at-the-table after dinner coffee. Pretty to look at, fun to watch, and it tastes really good.

            3. I used a Chemex for a couple of years, and it makes good coffee. Two problems: It's slow going if you're in a hurry to get away in the morning, and it cools off rapidly. So I now use a drip, and it tastes fine.

              1. I love my French press so much. I just dont think I can ever go back to any other method of making coffee.

                1. Personally I love both my Chemex and my french presses. In my opinion the coffee they produce taste drastically different from one another. I think the press's coffee is a bit more harsh...it can get bitter. Chemex makes a much cleaner tasting coffee. It isn't just that either, there are more complex differences that I can't explain...totally different tasting coffee though. As I said I love them both, but the Chemex is what I use on a daily basis, I happen to like it a bit better in the morning. Yes, it takes a little more time and attention, but I think making coffee is as fun as drinking it, so I don't see the big deal. I think I might suggest getting both a press and a manual drip and experience it all. You can get a much cheaper manual drip if you don't want to invest in a Chemex. They have plastic ones that sit atop a carafe or a cup, they work just great too. And just to clear something up I read up there...manual drip isn't like auto drip at all. Not at all. Have fun.

                  1. I guess you could say I'm a coffee freak. I think I know and have used about every coffee brewing method known to man! The only two methods I don't use are percolators and French press. My mother's brewing method was one of those old aluminum percolators with the glass cap on top that let you watch the coffee shoot up from the bottom of the pot and trickle through the basket for the umpteenth time. My mother never perked her coffee for less than five minutes, and it would melt the silver off a plated spoon! I cannot stand the thought of percolated coffee.

                    I didn't like the French press because the expensive model I had somehow allowed very fine particles of coffee beans to make it into the part your drink. Coffee with a toothpick is not my thing. But I also have to add in defense of French press coffee makers that they may not be designed for freshly burr ground coffee. I never grind my coffee beans until I'm ready to brew! I gave my French press away.

                    One of the very best methods for making coffee that I know of is simply steeping the freshly ground coffee the way you steep tea. Bring a kettle to the boil, grind your coffee beans (however much you need for the number of cups you want; I use about a Tbs of ground coffee per 8 ounce mug of coffee) and place them in a glass or ceramic pot, then pour boiling water over the grounds, give it a stir, and let the pot sit until the grounds settle to the bottom like tea leaves. It makes a really smooth, clear coffee. Even though I primarily use far more exotic (and expensive) brewing methods now, every once in a while I just have to have a cup of this real "old fashioned" coffee.

                    I also had a Chemex, but gave it away too. I don't know whether it's my taste buds or my imagination, but I've never met a non-permanent (gold) coffee filter I couldn't taste in the finished coffee. If I want to taste paper in my coffee, I prefer paper cups at a ball park, thank you. But Chemex caraffes are pretty! I used mine as a coffee server for a while before giving it away.

                    For years I used a Black and Decker thermal caraffe coffee maker. At first I didn't like it because I can always taste paper filters. Then I got a "gold" permanent basket filter for it, and it makes great coffee! It's the type where you fill the water reservoire, put ground coffee in the filter basket and push the button! Mine also works on a timer so I can have a freshly brewed pot waiting for me when I wake up in the morning. A nice feature when you have rushed mornings. The only "problem" I've ever had with it is that it will brew coffee all over the countertop if you don't have the caraffe pushed exactly into place. Well, every kitchen counter needs a good scrub-down every once in a while, right?

                    As already mentioned here, I also have a Cona vacuum coffee maker that makes really good coffee and is a fun "magic trick" for after dinner coffee. Very sleek, with a hanging coffee flask that sits over an alcohol burner and does the vacuum trick, as well as keeps the coffee hot. Practically everyone has seen a vacuum coffee maker in a diner, but this one is all glass, sleek, and gorgeous. And pricey. But what's life without a little luxury here and there?

                    And speaking of "luxury", my current coffee maker could be called that, or it can also be called a money saver. It's a Capresso super-automatic espresso machine. And if you drink a couple of cups of fancy capalattecino at Starbucks or similar places a week, it doesn't take long for the Capresso to pay for itself. The most work it involves is in making capuccino. I have to put a cup under the frother spout first before I move it over and push a button for the espresso. Such slavery! For coffee, the machine rinses itself, burr grinds the coffee, tamps it, moistens the grounds, then steams the espresso into one or two cups. And it makes plentiful frothy crema! It has controls to set everything from drinking temperature to strength of brew to size of cups, which means I can also use it to make a "regular" mug of coffee that doesn't knock your socks off with just a push of the button. And that's what I like most about it. When friends drop in, I serve them a GREAT cup of coffee at the push of a button.

                    Whether making coffee with the most basic (and cheapest) steep method or with a fancy expensive method, the REAL trick to all good coffee making is starting out with really good coffee. So for me, the most critical piece of coffee making equipment is always the coffee mill. And great coffee beans.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: Caroline1

                        Perhaps other Hounds can help me with the cite, but a recent comparison review of more sturdily constructed (read: less breakable) French press pots (I think in the Wall Street Journal) pointed out that some FP pots have filters which strain the grinds from the coffee more thoroughly than others. I recall that the Bodum tested in that piece filtered the coffee well, although a couple of others also did well. I haven't personally tested any significant number of FPs, but I've noticed that our more recently purchased Bodum Chambord filters my coffee better than a very old plastic FP that my wife had from her post-college days. I suppose the moral is that different designs of French Presses may in fact also produce different qualities of coffee.

                      2. I've tried a bunch, from the fancy electric things to battered tin percolator on the stove. My favorite for a long while now is the french press--I have a Nissan stainless-steel press that holds one liter. I use coarsely ground coffee (fair trade is best IMHO) and boiling water from my other favorite gadget, the electric kettle. I've heard pressing the plunger slowly helps to distribute or blend the coffee oils, but I don't know if that's true. I don't mind taking the extra 20 seconds to do it.

                        I also have a Bodum Vacu-Brew that makes great coffee and is a lot of fun to watch! For simplicity and speed, though, nothing beats the press. It's no more difficult or time-consuming than a Mr. Coffee, and tastes great. As for Chemex...I remember two things about my days using one. Cold coffee, and broken glass. 'Nuff said!

                        1. Since you're a fan of French Press, I think you'll be hard-pressed to find an alternative brewing method that gives the "big mouthfeel" that a pressed coffee does. The Chemex is a nice alternative that offers a very "clean" taste of the coffee and is one of my favorites (my preference is also press). Drip can be had in a variety of ways but there's always that paper element that comes into play. Clover is something I've had quite a bit of first-hand experience and found it to be less than compelling - especially when compared to other brewing methods and the outrageously exorbitant price of $11,000. If you want a brewing device to show off your member and brag to your friends, then the clover is for you.

                          The nice thing is that for under $40, you should be able to buy both a small Chemex (about $30) and a 2cup Melitta drip cone filter (about $5) and give them a try for yourself to compare.

                          Just remember to source some freshly roasted coffee and use that as a comparison.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: onocoffee

                            I have used just about everything mentioned, except espresso, and while I may get another Chemex for occaisional large batches, I have grown very fond of the Aeropress for small batches. Consistent high quality, low acid level, and easy clean up. The press is in storage now!

                            1. re: jayt90

                              I agree with jayt and scubadoo about the Aeropress. I posted above and on another thread about it. I bought it recently after I read about it here and feel that it's infinitely better than the french press for the same amount of work (less clean up), and as quick as the fp (as opposed to cone filter drip systems like the Mellita or Chemex).

                              French Press keeps coming up over and over again on this thread, but I would urge all you fp'ers and those considering a new 1-4 cup device to try the Aeropress. For $30, the Aeropress can't be broken, and offers all the control of a fp while using espresso ground coffee - with no grounds! Here's a quote from a review site, and a link:

                              "Our Impressions of Aeropress Prepared Coffee

                              Delicious. Very non-bitter and always got the flavor of the coffee we were using. We could also depending on the mix time and the amount of time we took pressing the coffee out of the Aeropress get various strengths of coffee. We really enjoyed having almost total control over the type of coffee we produced and it all felt very zen like when you would get in tune with the Aeropress."


                            2. re: onocoffee

                              Thanks for the scoop. I do have the Melitta cone filter which works well, but I like the French press better. It does feel more substantial in the mouth and less acidic. I also have an Italian style stovetop espresso maker, which I don't think I've come close to mastering. As for beans, I can walk to the arts district Groundwork for great beans.

                            3. Much wisdom is shared in this thread. Caroline1 is rather thorough even if I'm not sensitive to the taste of paper filters.
                              Personally, I haven't found an automatic machine that gives me correct steep time and water temperature. For that reason I prefer a tea kettle and my one cup, cup top filtropa filter holder (like Mellita or Chemex).
                              Recently I have been using the Vietnamese CaPhe maker. Also a one cup cup top maker. The grounds are captured between an upper and lower pierced metal- filter for lack of a better word. A few drops of boiling (!) water is used to wet the grounds. A short time later the pressure on the grounds is lessened and the water is placed in the funnel. A few minutes later the water seeps through the cake of grounds with the richest coffee I have had the pleasure to meet. This method is not for the impatient or caffeine averse.
                              I enjoy it at home when I have the time. If you ever have the chance to enjoy a cup in in a street front joint in Viet Nam you will find it even more enjoyable.