Chemex vs Drip (Which Should You Choose?)

by Scott Deans | Last Updated: December 1, 2020

The Chemex is a coffee brewing vessel that has stolen the spotlight in recent years and it’s easy to see why. It’s a showstopping piece for sure, but is it actually a good method of brewing coffee?

What happened to the trusty filter coffee machines and are they still a viable option now the Chemex is all the rage?

To help answer these questions I’ve decided to carry out a direct comparison of these two brewing methods. We will look in-depth at the Chemex and then at the drip coffee machine and this will help us finally decide which one is the better brewing vessel.

To begin, let’s look at what actually is a Chemex?

Chemex vs Drip

What Is A Chemex?

The Chemex is a glass coffee brewing carafe that comes in a single piece. It’s hourglass in shape and the custom filter papers sit in the top, funnel-shaped portion. You add the ground coffee and pour your warm water over this straight from the kettle. The coffee is directed through to the bottom section. When the water has all run through, you remove the filter and serve the coffee via the spout in the funnel portion.

The Chemex is a very popular and attractive coffee maker and actually has a place in the New York museum of modern art (MOMA). It’s simple, striking to look at, and is just dripping with coffee shop vibes. It will fit in well in any kitchen or coffee station and comes in a variety of sizes for every need.

It also has several handle options from an attractive wooden sleeve to a smooth glass fixture as well as handblown options for a crystal clear brew.

CHEMEX Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker

CHEMEX Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker
  • Sleek and stylish
  • Made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • One of the most popular pour-over coffee makers worldwide

PRICE & REVIEWS

What Is Drip Coffee?

Drip coffee is a wide term that can be used to describe several different brewing vessels. Technically, a Chemex is a form of dripper similar to the Hario V60; they are manual pour-over drippers.

For this article, I’m going to stick to drip brew coffee machines, so automated brewing using fresh coffee and a filter paper. These machines heat up the water and circulate it through the ground coffee sitting in the filter, allowing the resultant brewed coffee to end up in a jug, mug, or cup.

Drip coffee machines can vary a lot in size and design from the single-cup ones to around 24 cups – perfect for a busy office. They take filter papers in a custom compartment and you add the ground coffee to these. The water goes in a water tank (usually at the back of the machine) and all you have to do is switch it on.

Some filter machines have timer functions so you can set them up the night before ready for fresh coffee in the morning as you wake up and hot plates so they keep the coffee warm for you.

Chemex Vs Drip Coffee Maker

To give you a good idea of which coffee brewing option is the best for you, I’m now going to compare these brewing methods directly. I’ve selected the key points you’ll be looking for when you set out to buy any coffee brewing equipment so you can see for yourself, which one is best for your home, office, or anywhere you may need a cup of java.

Jug Size

The volume of coffee you can extract from these two brew methods is very adaptable. For a drip coffee machine, these can range from small enough to brew a single cup of coffee to large enough to brew 24 cups worth! The versatility of these machines is hard to beat.

The Chemex is also quite an adaptable brewing process. It has a range of size options to choose between. You can get one suited to making 3 cups all the way to 13 cups.

The Chemex is suitable for most volumes of coffee needed but the drip machine wins out overall, due to the huge range of cup options they can come in.

Filters

In order for you to end up with a great cup of coffee, you need some method of separating the coffee grounds from the hot water.

The Chemex uses special custom-made Chemex filters which are specially designed to filter out bitter notes. They are thicker filters and they help manage the flow of water through the ground coffee. The ultra-fine filtering capabilities of these paper filters means you end up with a perfect flow rate and less sediment as well as fewer coffee oils and fats that can affect the taste.

Drip coffee machines vary in their filter methods. Some do take filter papers whereas others use a mesh filter. The mesh filters make life easy as they reusable and they help save costs The issue with them is you do need a very coarse grind otherwise you end up with a lot of sediment and a weaker cup of coffee overall.

Grind Size

The Chemex coffee maker requires you to use a medium-coarse grind to achieve the perfect cup. The thick filter can handle light, medium, and dark roasts so it’s really down to personal preference which roast you choose.

A drip machine is similar to a Chemex where you want to set the coffee grinder to a medium-coarse setting. This can vary between brands of coffee maker and if you’re using a mesh filter you want a coarser grind. Again, the type of coffee comes back to the coffee tastes you prefer.

Water Temperature

Brewing coffee requires the perfect temperature. If the water is boiling hot it will burn the ground coffee beans and if it’s too cold the coffee will be under-extracted. Both of these brewing methods, unsurprisingly, require the water to be a similar temperature. Somewhere around 200F or 93C is ideal to produce the best coffee.

A drip coffee maker has a built-in water heating element so this automatically heats the water to the necessary temperature. This makes the process simple and you don’t have to worry about getting the temperature just right. The downside is you can’t adjust it.

When you’re using the Chemex to make your pour-over coffee you have complete control over the temperature of the water. Using a kitchen thermometer or a jug with a temperature sensor will allow you to accurately measure this. An easier but less accurate method is letting the kettle boil then allowing it to sit for a minute. This gives you a fairly reliable temperature.

The Chemex is great for coffee lovers who enjoy tweaking the routine to get it just right. The drip machine is perfect for people who like to just add the ingredients and forget about it.

Method

Making filter coffee in your drip machine does not require barista knowledge. You can play around with the grind size, amount of coffee, and volume you brew. That’s about it. It’s very simple and straightforward and perfect for bleary-eyed mornings when you’re too sleepy to think straight.

The Chemex is a vessel for self-expression when it comes to brewed coffee. Start with the grind size. You can assess the adequacy of this by the brew time of the coffee. If it pours through too quickly you may want a finer grind. If the brewing time takes more than 4 minutes you may wish for a coarser setting. As mentioned above, you can play around with the temperature of the water, the pour method, blooming time, and volume of water until you get the perfect balance of acidity to sweetness.

Ease

Pour-over coffee makers are the winners where it comes to ease of use. They do all the hard work for you, all you need to do is add coffee and water. If an easy life is what you’re after then it’s hard to beat these machines. Some even have a timer function so they’ll turn themselves on in the morning without you having to get out of bed.

The Chemex requires some effort when you’re brewing coffee. Although you have some control over your brew, it is pretty straightforward to produce the perfect cup. It’s not temperamental like an espresso machine or finicky like the French press. Once you get the method down, you’re guaranteed a great cup of coffee every time. It’s not as easy as the dripper machine but definitely not a difficult way to brew coffee.

Taste

The Chemex is handcrafted to produce a clean cup of coffee. From the fine filters to the smooth hourglass carafe your coffee will be silky and free from debris. If brewed correctly, the Chemex produces a rich, bold cup of coffee that has low acidity and bitterness.

The main differences in taste with the drip machine coffee come from the filters used and the grind size. If the coffee is a bit off, despite you adjusting the water volume and grind then you’re unlikely to be able to adjust it any more. A lot of the taste comes down to the type of machine you use where some can produce a delicious, rich, and sweet cup whereas others seem to burn the coffee.

Some Top Drip Machine Picks

Top Of The Range: Technivorm Moccamaster 59616 KBG 10-Cup Coffee Maker

Technivorm Moccamaster 59616 KBG Coffee Brewer
  • Automatic shut-off after 100 minutes
  • Copper heating element, for a speedy warm up
  • A good quality machine you can rely on
  • Available in over 20 different colors
  • Brews some fantastic coffee

PRICE & REVIEWS

The Technivorm Moccamaster is the king when it comes to drip machines.

With a design that has been refined through the decades, this machine is tailored to produce the epitome of precision-engineered coffee with absolute ease.

Along with the clever showerhead that evenly saturates your coffee grounds, the Moccamaster is designed with a copper heating element. We are not aware of any other coffee maker with this feature; and let me tell you, it makes a serious difference.

Copper transfers heat super quickly; it is six times more thermally conductive than iron. This translates to getting the water up to the perfect temperature quickly. So when the hot water hits your coffee grounds, you get the absolute perfect coffee extraction.

Once it’s brewed, it’s then up to you whether you want your brewed Java held at either 175°F or 185°F. The choice is yours with the flick of a switch.

Make sure you opt for the KBG model. This one will automatically stop dripping once you remove the glass carafe. Perfect for when you just can’t wait any longer for your brew.

Best Budget Pick: Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker

Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker
  • Cheap and cheerful
  • Easy to use
  • Brew at the press of a button
  • A reliable machine
  • Makes a great coffee for the price

PRICE & REVIEWS

The Mr Coffee drip machine is an excellent cheap and cheerful option that you can rely on to provide that much needed caffeine.

With a simple flip switch on the front, it’s one button press away bubbling and gurgling a lovely hot jug of Java.

I’m impressed with how long the hot plate will stay on with this little dripper. It’ll keep your coffee cozy for two hours before it decides to automatically shut off.

When it first arrives, you will want to run four or five full loads of water through it. It will initially have a bit of a plastic taste to the brew from the factory. So best to wash it through some times first before you commit and coffee beans to it.

Final Thoughts

Filter coffee machines are simple, easy to use, and perfect for a busy morning. They are versatile in design and some come with extra features and settings to make them perfect for your home. They do lack the capacity for you to alter the fine details of the brewing process and some people find them to be a bit too automated.

The Chemex is beautiful and adaptable when it comes to appearance and taste. You can adjust the routine to get a perfect cup every time and when used correctly, they do make a delicious cup o joe. They require a little practice to get the coffee just right but are a good option for those of you who love taking your time to brew each cup of coffee.

In the end, it’s up to you which method you prefer. Just make sure, whichever one you choose, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not the best way to brew your morning java. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy your coffee in whichever manner suits you.

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Can you guess what keeps me up at night? You guessed it! Copious amounts of coffee beans. What? I brew them first.