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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chemex: the perfect cup of coffee and how I came to believe in it

By Chug Dorda

I'm almost certain that Nietzsche was not referring to coffee when he said, "Growth in wisdom may be exactly measured by decrease in bitterness." However, the quote perfectly sums up my journey to enlightenment as it pertains to the beloved morning beverage. For those who believe the intrinsic bitterness of their daily cup of joe can be muted only with sugar or half and half or both, I offer you a new frontier of possibility: the Chemex coffee making system.

While thumbing through a back issue of Brew Your Own magazine, I was interested to see that adding Chemex-brewed coffee to beer as a flavoring agent was quickly becoming a trend in the homebrew universe. Further research revealed the curious claim that this system produced a perfect cup of coffee time and time again. Suffice it to say, the hourglass-shaped, hand-blown apparatus intrigued me, and soon enough I had talked the boss into carrying Chemex at Sicliano's.

Skip ahead now to the moment I became a true believer. The skeptic inside me raged as I prepared to brew my first pot. It all seemed so simple. Who were they trying to fool? Yes, it is a beautiful appliance, and, yes, it heightens anticipation, but would it work any better than, say, a French press? The short answer is…yes, absolutely. Not only was the coffee clear and translucent, but the finished cup was nothing short of aromatic bliss. Bitterness is entirely eliminated thanks to their unique filter design and the use of lower water temperatures. True coffee flavor is showcased each time you brew with this system.

I realize, and fully admit, that it would not be the most efficient way to make coffee for mass consumption on a daily basis -- if you drink gallons of the stuff, then Chemex might not be right for you. However, you owe it to your inner-connoisseur to try at least one cup of this truly innovative brew; you just might rediscover something that you already know you love.

Local roasters Mad Cap Coffee and Rowsters New American Coffee both brew their coffee in Chemex or a system that closely mirrors it. Stop in at either place and see if you can taste the difference. For those that enjoy it enough to consider purchasing the system, we offer the Chemex pot ($31.99), filters ($7.59), and accessories at Siciliano’s.

Here's a quick video to show how the system works…

  1. If you prefer stronger coffee, simply add more grounds. According to the directions on the Chemex website, "there is never any bitterness in coffee brewed using the Chemex method".
  2. Ideal brewing temperature is about 200F (this again according to the Chemex website).

The Chug
Sicilano's staffer Doug "the Chug" Dorda lives on the west side of Grand Rapids, where, thanks to Chemex, the only bitter beverage is his homebrewed IPA.

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