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May 2, 2013 09:52 AM

French press or Chemex?

I just cracked the carafe for my Bodum French press. Again. The carafe I go buy this afternoon to replace it would be I think the fourth in the last eighteen months (granted, I've moved more times than usual in that stretch, so perhaps I'm not just incurably clumsy). I've been thinking of making the switch to a Chemex anyway. Chowhounds, is this my moment? I like the coffee I make in my press, but have heard good things about the Chemex from a trusted food-industry friend. How would you characterize the differences in the coffee these methods produce?

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  1. I have both. I go through phases about using them. It seems to me that some styles of coffee are better with one or the other. Compared with a French press, the Chemex produces coffee with no sediment and a lighter body. It's an opportunity to experiment with pour-over brewing. I have heard arguments that say that the paper filters grab onto some of the oils in coffee and thereby affect the flavor.

    Along with the differences in coffee, there are differences in convenience. Brewing in a French press is less fussy. Brewing with a Chemex takes more attention. Cleaning a Chemex is quick and easy. There is a bit more work to cleaning a French press. Bottom line is it is apples and oranges. One is not better than the other - they are just different.

    Here is a thought. Is there a good coffee establishment near you that uses both methods? You could try a side-by-side brewing experiment with the same variety!

    1 Reply
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      This is *super* helpful; thanks for it!

      I was indeed drawn to the easy clean-up of the Chemex, but if it makes up for it with attention during the brewing process, I'm not sure that doesn't cancel out for me.

      I'm in Brooklyn so I can almost certainly track down a coffee shop that will indulge my taste-testing needs. None of my regular spots do drip/pour-over brews, but I know I've seen places that do...

    2. I would also consider the aeropress. Ugly, but effective.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Denrael

        I love my Aeropress. It's a French press that's been improved upon, so the coffee doesn't sit in the grounds, without the unevenness of a drip.

      2. Chemex is a pour over drip. Nothing more, nothing less

        1. Clever.

          French too messy, Chemex too involved.

            1. re: grampart

              Yeah! And the friend who's been talking hers up is a fancy food person in the employ of an even fancier food person, so I take her recommendation seriously. My parents used a Chemex when I was a kid, but I've used a press pot my whole coffee-making life. I just wonder...

              1. re: prolix

                I've never used a press pot or a Chemex in my life. I'm a Technivorm guy and, when I need to make just a cup, I'll use my $5 Melitta pour-over.