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Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
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Discussions > Coffee > Machines > Chemex -- "Bad"...  
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Unhookthestars
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Jul 2012
Posts: 25
Location: San Francisco, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Dec 16, 2012, 9:50pm
Subject: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Hello folks,

This is a technique issue that I've found quite dumbfounding.  Every online source I've consulted (and a few live baristas I've talked to -- not in as much length as I probably should) has said that the ideal total brewing time for this particular method is 3-4 minutes.  If you include bloom time within that time period, total time goes up to 4mins 30secs.  In only one roastery I'm familiar with -- Four Barrel, a quite reputable one  in San Francisco -- has the barista trainer recommended something slightly higher, i.e., 5 minutes of brew time (bloom included).  

I make coffee on Chemex every single day using a 1 part coffee/15 parts water ratio.  I typically brew 30g coffee in 450g water at 198F.  No matter how many times I've tried, I've only once or twice been able to finish brewing in 4:30, and never less.  I, of course, use the recommended medium grind but have experimented within this parameter.  I've also varied my pour speed to see how much difference, if any, this might make.  Now, according to my Four Barrel training manual, even with 40g coffee (600g water), brewing should take no longer than 5 minutes.    

In the past couple of days, I've been doing 32g coffee in 495g water, following my usual 1:15 ratio.  Well, yesterday, I went past the 6-minute mark before all the water dripped through the filter, and today I got all the way up to 7 minutes.  Egads!  The confounding part:  The coffee still tasted very good!  Well, at least to me.  It was a Kenyan coffee, if that makes any difference, and like most Kenyans, was described in the label as "sweet."  And it was!  In fact, 95% of the time or more, whether I brew for 5 minutes or 6:30 minutes, I'm quite satisfied with results.

How would you account for these "consistent" results stemming from "inconsistent" technique?  Is it just that my taste buds have gotten accustomed to the minute variations in the cups I've produced?  Is the 4-5-minute recommendation really just that -- a recommendation rather than a make-or-break minimum standard? Is it the quality of the beans I'm starting out with? The 198F temperature?  Or is this why the Chemex has been hailed since its invention as a practically idiot-proof brewing device?

Would love to hear your own thoughts and experiences!  Thanks in advance for your input.
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kimberlybosgat
Senior Member
kimberlybosgat
Joined: 29 Feb 2012
Posts: 19
Location: LA
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Dec 17, 2012, 3:10am
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Because You really like to taste the coffee that made by your own, you like it from the essence

 
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ricpac
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 1
Location: NYC
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Dec 17, 2012, 7:21am
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

im not exactly too sure but i know that most barista's i have spoken with have said that the chemex is more forgiving than a hario. it doesnt detail everything apparently.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Dec 17, 2012, 8:46am
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Taste the cup.  Not the technique.  Do you like it?  GREAT!

Next problem . . .

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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Unhookthestars
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Jul 2012
Posts: 25
Location: San Francisco, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Dec 17, 2012, 11:22am
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

kimberly, ricpac, and jason:  I like ALL your replies!  Ricpac, I've heard as much.  When I took a coffee class offering an overview of various brewing methods, the barista emphasized that the Hario was one of the most difficult techniques to master because it demanded a level of precision that the other methods didn't.  That's what drew me to the Chemex.  He didn't exactly say the Chemex was a piece of cake, but many other baristas I've talked to think it produces the most consistent quality cup with minimum fuss.  Jason, "Taste the cup. Not the technique.  Next problem!" should be on my refrigerator door. ;)  The only thing that really frustrates me is why I can never finish the job in 4 minutes.  Also, I've promised to be the coffee person at our family gathering this Christmas, so I'm going to be making a lot of coffee for a whole lot of people for the first time.  Just hoping my idea of what good coffee tastes like will translate.  Then again, you can't please everybody.  Kimberly, I know I enjoy the cups I drink in large part because *I* make them, so I see your point.  Hopefully, that their friend/son/sibling/uncle made their coffee will be enough for my family on Christmas Eve.  Thanks, all!
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Netphilosopher
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Joined: 14 Jan 2011
Posts: 1,602
Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Tue Dec 18, 2012, 9:50am
Subject: .
 

.
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johnnyb3
Senior Member


Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 187
Location: Anaheim, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus refurb
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos
Drip: Chemex
Posted Tue Dec 18, 2012, 1:30pm
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Netphilosopher Said:

You're getting some time back because the latter part of the pour is with cooler water.  This is really rinsing the grounds rather than doing much extraction toward the latter portion of the pour.

If it produces a good cup, go with it.

I bet that taste-wise, if you just stopped pouring so that the dripping finished at 4-5 minutes, and whatever water is left you just poured into the pot/cup, other than maybe slightly weaker you'd still have a great cup.

Posted December 18, 2012 link

I agree with all of the above but especially the last sentence. I suggest giving that a try -- I actually aim for 3:30 extraction time (post-bloom) and then just add the rest of the water directly -- and see what you think. It really seems to me the easiest way to avoid overextracting with a Chemex.
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Unhookthestars
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Jul 2012
Posts: 25
Location: San Francisco, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Dec 18, 2012, 8:50pm
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Netphilosopher:  You gave a similar reply to a question I had about Chemex brewing a couple of months ago; I had meant to try that strategy -- cutting off the drawdown at 4-5 minutes and then pouring the remainder of the water into the pot/cup -- but never got around to it!  Now I will definitely give it a try tomorrow morning.  The hitch is that I already stop pouring at 2:30-3:00 (including bloom) right now, and then wait for the water to fully drip.  Still, by the time all the water has made it into the pot, the total brew time has reached 5:30 to 6+ minutes.  Again, the coffee usually just tastes fine, so overextraction isn't so much the issue for me.  It's more, ahem, bruised pride and irrational annoyance at myself.  If a 5-minute maximum brew time doesn't seem to be a problem for most people, why the h--- can't *I* do it? ;)  At any rate, I always learn something new from your replies: I had no idea I'm probably just "rinsing" rather than "extracting" from the grounds in those last couple of minutes.  I wonder if starting with a higher temperature than my usual 198F (at bloom) will make a difference...

johnnyb3:  Thanks for your input.  Glad to hear you echoing Netphilosopher's suggested method.  As I said above, I'll give it a try in the morning.  Will post results after a couple of days of experimentation!

Thanks, both!



johnnyb3 Said:

I agree with all of the above but especially the last sentence. I suggest giving that a try -- I actually aim for 3:30 extraction time (post-bloom) and then just add the rest of the water directly -- and see what you think. It really seems to me the easiest way to avoid overextracting with a Chemex.

Posted December 18, 2012 link

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Silas
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jun 2012
Posts: 42
Location: Springfield, Louisiana
Expertise: Just starting

Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Cona C,  Hario Nouveau
Drip: Chemex
Posted Wed Jan 2, 2013, 8:10pm
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

I smile as I read about the concern of timing it "just right" for the perfect extraction.  When I started with a Chemex about a year ago....bought a handblown original, got the correct Chemex filters, bought a perfect narrow tip pour pot, and got my timer out, I was READY!!

  I would kind of obsess about the time factor....was it too long, or too short?   Well, perhaps the Chemex IS very forgiving, because, after a few months, I stopped looking at the timer.
I just boiled the amount of water to make the 4 cups....did a circular pour, slowly, over fresh roasted, just ground coffee and when I stopped pouring, I was not at all concerned about how much time it took.  And, it took varying amounts.

   But, strangely, and to my delight, it seemed to make LITTLE difference is taste! It was GREAT!   What DID make difference in taste usually, was the ORIGIN of the coffee, and its freshness.

So now, as I use my Chemex, I'm very relaxed and reassured that it will come out well.

I am SURE if I followed all of the specific details of the baristas, I would probably have better coffee.  But then, my "Zenful moment" of coffee making would be intruded upon!

 I suppose we all hit upon a technique that works for us.....and it will be different from others.  Not better, not worse.....just another way that works.
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diggi
Senior Member
diggi
Joined: 28 Nov 2011
Posts: 383
Location: Halifax, NS
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Spaz vivaldi S1 V2
Grinder: B Vario, OE LIDO
Drip: Chemex, Espro Press,...
Roaster: Poppery I
Posted Thu Jan 3, 2013, 3:46am
Subject: Re: Chemex -- "Bad" technique, but why does it still taste good?
 

Don't know why this wasn't mentioned yet, but did you try a coarser grind? That would speed up the process. Taste better, then make that your new routine/ taste worse, then back to the old method.
If you don't have a grinder, then this is a bit more tricky, but yet another reason to get one.
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