For the true coffee connoisseur or old-school brewing enthusiast, the Chemex coffee brewer is the ideal means by which to achieve the pour-over, full-bodied flavor that only the best coffee for Chemex can deliver.
Because the Chemex process involves the removal of coffee oils and the extraction of the desirable parts of beans, the type of coffee used in a Chemex is key to a satisfying brew.
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How to Choose the Best Coffee for Chemex
As a type of drip brew method, coffee from Chemex requires more careful attention to the brewing and pouring process (1).
Beans needed to be ground more coarsely than with other types of coffee brewers, and time and practice are necessary to achieve the proper pour rate.
However, the results --- genuinely flavorful coffee --- are well worth it. The heart of it all lies in understanding what types of coffee work best with Chemex.
1. Whole beans or pre-ground?
Coffee aficionados tend to take the side of whole beans in this debate. Whole beans stay fresher longer and give the coffee a more vibrant and profoundly flavorful taste.
The ability to control the style and strength of your coffee brew is one of the best arguments for using whole beans.
The drawback to this method is the necessary time and equipment needed for this level of coffee. Grinding your own beans takes time, practice, and, of course, a coffee grinder.
Pre-ground coffee is highly convenient if you want to brew-and-go first thing in the morning, if you don’t have the patience to use a grinder, or if you prefer store-bought commercial coffees.
No special grinders or additional equipment are needed with pre-ground coffee, and it is significantly cheaper than buying whole beans.
Despite the apparent conveniences of pre-ground coffee, this form has some downsides. Within fifteen minutes of being ground up, the coffee remnants lose 60% of their natural aromas.
Now imagine those grounds sitting on a supermarket shelf for the next three months --- there isn’t likely to be rich flavor there once it is used.
Another concern is that pre-ground coffee oils lose their aroma and taste when exposed to moisture.
Ground coffee results in another loss --- carbon dioxide --- which enhances the flavor of coffee and which is destroyed through the grinding process.
Finally, delicate coffee oils can be easily contaminated and cause pre-ground coffee to taste unpleasant.
2. What is the best grind size for Chemex?
The grind size for Chemex is significant due to the Chemex brewing process (2). Chemex requires the use of special filters which are up to 30% thicker than average coffee filters.
These heavier filters prevent the grounds, bean oils, and bitter flavor from seeping into your coffee cup.
For the Chemex to work its magic and brew a clear, clean coffee, the right grind size must be used.
Coffee industry professionals advise that Chemex brewers use a medium coarse grind (tending more toward coarse) to pour that perfect cup of coffee.
Beans ground to this level should be roughly the same consistency as sea salt or table salt.
If you use grinds that are medium or fine, it will take much longer for your coffee to brew because of the thick filters.
Related Post: What's the Best Coffee Grinder for Chemex?
3. Which is the best roast for Chemex?
Chemex works well with all levels coffee roasts. The best roast for Chemex depends of course on the coffee drinker’s taste and preference.
With Chemex, the different types of roasts produce and emphasize specific flavors and scents.
Here are the most common roasts used for Chemex and where they fall on the flavor spectrum:
- Light roast is one of the more popular picks for Chemex. The beans are a light brown color, are more flavorful than darker roasts, and retain the majority of caffeine from the beans. Light roasts are ideal for coffee enthusiasts who like a more floral and citrusy taste to their coffee. Flavors in light roasts can range from orange blossom and lavender to cherry and grapefruit.
- Medium roast beans are medium brown, have a less grainy taste than light roasts, and contains more aroma, balanced flavor, and acidity. Medium roasts offer a more traditional, full-flavored kind of taste, and while not as strong in caffeine as light roasts, medium roasts still have more than darker roasts.
- Medium-dark roast beans are a rich, dark brown with a slightly oily feel. The body of this type of coffee tends to be heavier than the light and medium roasts with a more bittersweet aftertaste and deeper flavor.
- Dark roast beans are deep brown, almost black, and have a clear oily sheen on them. There is less acidity in dark beans, and the beans’ flavors tend to be overpowered by the flavors in the roasting process. The most dominant flavors tend to be burnt, smoky, and bitter. The darker the roast, the less the caffeine, therefore dark roasts are more for taste than for a pick-me-up.
The roast choice is up to the coffee drinker, but many coffee experts believe that medium roasts are the top choice for use in a Chemex because of the amount of flavor that this level of roast provides.
4. Which region of beans is the best flavor for Chemex?
Because the Chemex brewing process brings out the richest flavors from the beans, the Chemex is a perfect tool to exercise your palette and try a wide range of coffees from around the world:
- Peruvian coffee, especially the dark roasts, has subtle flavors that are amplified in the Chemex brewing process. Expect to encounter flavors that range from chocolatey to nutty to citrusy, with plenty of full-bodied aftertastes.
- Ethiopian coffee is made with lighter-bodied beans that are both spicy and citrusy. The most dominant flavors in Ethiopian coffees are hazelnut, caramel, and bittersweet cocoa. This style of roast packs a caffeinated punch while avoiding bitter aftertastes.
- Indonesian coffee is characterized by a nutty base and tones of dried fruit. Its citrusy aftertaste and creamy body make a coffee that is invigorating and pleasant to drink.
- Colombian coffee produces a fruity taste that is well-balanced and light. The flavor and balance of this coffee are tempered with the hint of various berries.
The Best Coffee for Chemex Reviews of 2020
You’ve got your pour over coffee maker ready to use, but which coffee brand is best for the Chemex?
Here are some standout whole bean coffees that might be just what you need to kick-start your day:
1. Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Signature Blend Light Roast
Tiny Footprint’s light roast whole beans, made with 100% Arabica and organic coffee beans, score high points for taste and for being environmentally friendly.
This blend is noted for its sweet aroma and mild, slightly fruity flavor of lemon and orange with a hint of cocoa.
Tiny Footprints is a carbon negative company and uses partial proceeds to fund reforestation of Ecuador’s cloud forests.
With this company, you can have your light roast and do your part to save the environment at the same time.
Some issues with this blend are concerns about it being too sweet and weak-flavored for some coffee drinker’s palettes.
There are also concerns about packaging, as a few consumers have had purchases arrive with broken vacuum seals and coffee beans everywhere.
2. Kicking Horse Coffee, Three Sisters, Medium Roast
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Derived from coffee beans in Indonesia, and South and Central America, the organic beans in Kicking Horse Coffee are medium roasted in Canada.
This blend ticks off many of the boxes that coffee enthusiasts want to check: a smooth, mellow, lush flavor with little acidity and hints of chocolate.
It has a creamy enough taste that many drinkers have stated they don’t need to add any creamers to the mix.
Better yet, Kicking Horse is noted across the board as having more than enough caffeine to get you moving in the morning.
The biggest downside to Kicking Horse Coffee is its price. You get what you pay for, and higher quality and taste comes with a price.
Another concern involves the freshness of the coffee as some packages shipped were months old and contained burnt beans.
3. Cafe Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Gourmet Coffee - Medium-Dark Roast
Cafe Don Pablo’s Subtle Earth Organic is a five-pound bag of USDA certified gourmet and non-GMO whole beans from Honduras.
The brew produces a rich, hearty flavor that is chocolatey and velvety smooth.
With low acidity and hints of cocoa, honey, and caramel, Cafe Don Pablo’s medium-dark roast combines an enjoyable cup of coffee with economic benefits.
This coffee is reasonably priced for organic beans, and at five pounds, is an outright bargain for hardcore coffee drinkers.
The main drawback to Cafe Don Pablo’s organic medium-dark roast is that the flavor might not be strong enough for some coffee experts.
The five-pound bag might be too much coffee for the casual drinker.
4. Koffee Kult Dark Roast Coffee Beans
For dark roast coffee fans, Koffee Kult, with beans from Guatemala, Sumatra, and Columbia, might be the roast for you.
The coffee beans boast balanced acidity with a sweet aftertaste and hints of cinnamon and cocoa.
The smooth, full-bodied flavor has found a cult of fans with its dark chocolate, creamy taste, and aroma.
Despite it being a dark roast, Koffee Kult consumers note that it still has enough caffeine to put a spring in your step.
The Koffee Kult dark roast is not quite dark enough for some consumers who remark on its similarity to a medium roast and its bitter aftertaste.
Quality control is another concern as some orders have been a little too organic, with customers finding rocks in their coffee beans which have done damage to their grinders.
What is the Best Coffee for Chemex?
The best coffee for Chemex in both quality and cost is the Kicking Horse Coffee, Three Sisters.
It rises above the other whole beans regarding its consistency, quality, and delivery.