Even with the growth of coffee shops, many ardent coffee drinkers still prefer the satisfaction of making coffee at home. Two preferred options for brewing up that cup of “liquid heaven” are the French Press and Chemex. In considering the Chemex vs French Press, we can tell you upfront that each produces fabulous tasting, strong coffee. Both methods have been around for some time and have been tried, tested and approved by many coffee lovers.
That said, you may be wondering which is the better choice for preparing your daily “warmer upper’. We will look at both methods of coffee making in a side-by-side comparison, giving you all the information you need to select the one that’s right for you.
PreparationBoth the French Press and Chemex methods require you to use ground roasted coffee beans. To get the best result from either method you start by selecting high quality beans. Kicking Horse Whole Bean Coffee is a good choice, coming in a wide variety of strengths from light to dark roast. A little experimenting should help you find one (or more) that suits your palette. Both methods give better flavored end results if you use grounds of the correct fineness – medium coarse in either case, and with uniformity of grind throughout. This is best achieved with a burr grinder. You could choose a manual grinder such as the ceramic DuraCasa Manual Coffee Grinder which fits in perfectly with the very hands-on approach of both French Press and Chemex. Your grinder options also include electric ones like the Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill which features 18 grind settings and shuts off automatically after grinding the required amount of coffee.
Bottom Line – Preparation for both methods is practically identical.
Operation (Time and Effort)The Chemex Glass Coffee Maker averages about 3 – 4 minutes to produce a properly brewed cup. The time process is lengthened if you are making a larger volume of coffee, since it will naturally take longer to filter through. You first rinse the filter, then add the grounds and let them bloom in a little hot water. Next, you slowly and deliberately add more water to get the required volume and allow it to filter through.
Generally, using the French Press is faster and easier than using the Chemex, no matter how many cups you are brewing. You pour hot water in one dose over the ground beans and leave them to steep for 3 – 4 minutes. The takes a little longer if you add in the much recommended step of allowing the grounds to bloom in a little hot water before adding the full volume you require. After steeping, you stop the brewing process by depressing the plunger to filter the coffee from the grounds.
Bottom Line – The French Press is quicker and requires less effort.
With the French Press you get a flavorful, rich cup of coffee with great full-bodied appeal that your mouth will enjoy. Since a French Press utilizes a mesh filter to separate the grounds form the liquid, you should expect to find some particulate matter in the coffee and some ‘sludge” at the bottom of your cup. Some French Presses have special features to help reduce the chances of grounds getting into the extracted coffee. Take the SterlingPro Coffee & Espresso Maker, for example. It incorporates a second filter to ensure a less slurry finished product.The coffee you get from the Chemex will never have “sludge” in it, as this device uses Chemex-branded paper filters, 20-30% heavier than other types of paper filters. These ensure that the finished product is always clear and sediment free. Interestingly, the Chemex filters also filter out oils from the coffee, which helps prevent the coffee from tasting bitter but takes away from the taste and richness of the coffee.
Bottom Line – Both methods produce great tasting coffee. The French Press gives richer coffee but with possibly bothersome residue, while the Chemex gives you clear, residue free coffee but sacrifices some of the taste.
Counter AppealThe Chemex is made from high quality, heat resistant, non-porous borosilicate glass, designed in a one piece hourglass shape. Its handle is a cool-to-the-touch polished wood collar in its middle decorated with a leather tie. It is truly a fashionable piece of equipment and the original vessel has earned a place in the Museum of Modern Art.
French Presses are generally made of stainless steel or glass and many come in very eye-catching and appealing designs. Take the SterlingPro Coffee & Espresso Maker mentioned earlier. It’s carafe is made of the same heat resistant borosilicate glass as the Chemex and features a very stylish chrome framework.
Bottom Line – While the Chemex’s design is unique and has earned it recognition as a work of art, it is possible to find elegantly fashioned French Presses to suit any kitchen décor and theme.
The final thing to consider is clean up – a necessary part of making homemade coffee. Ideally, you want to keep it simple, so as not to detract from the satisfaction of creating your own special brew of “day starter”.
A French Press leaves you with a beaker of used grounds to scoop out and has delicate moving parts (the plunger and filter assembly) to clean between uses.
The Chemex leaves you with all the grounds collected in the filter, which you pluck out and chuck into the bin. All that’s left to do is rinse the container – a quick and easy procedure.
Bottom Line – The Chemex wins this one hands down.
After weighing performance in each of our categories, you should be able to determine which method is better for you. Is it the more flavorful and quicker French Press with its attendant sediments? Or is it the Chemex which requires more time and effort but gives you a clear brew, albeit with slightly reduced flavor?