The Chemex coffee maker has hardly changed since first introduced by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. It still has that familiar hourglass figure, that bentwood collar tied in place with a rawhide strap threaded through a wood bead. The Chemex you can buy today is essentially the same object that was added to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art almost 70 years ago.
It could get by on looks alone. The Chemex feels timeless and a little unfamiliar, as if it’s from a slightly more rational and groovier future not so far away.
Often, a pedigree like this speaks to form more than function – plenty of gorgeous, impractical things are found at MoMA. But the Chemex really works, a cult object within the world of coffee. I know a few professionals who will start the day by flipping on an espresso machine that costs about the same as a BMW 5-Series just off the lease and, while it warms up, make coffee for themselves on a Chemex that retails for less than $40.
The appeal is simple. It’s for purists.
You’re in control: the water temperature, the flow, the pacing are up to you. It means the extraction is up to you. It’s as straightforward as a drip cone (except for the filters; more on that below), only it’s more elegant and feels better in the hand. Once you invest the six minutes it takes to learn how to use a Chemex, you’ll run circles around that plug-in machine you have cluttering up your counter.
But first you have to choose which model you want. There are three, though they’re basically the same.
That is, the classic, glass handle and handblown all have similar forms and make coffee the same way. The difference is in the glass.