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Scottes
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Posts: 24
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Vario, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex, Aeropress, Press...
Posted Sat Dec 14, 2013, 7:23am
Subject: Need Help With Chemex
 

For many years I've been drinking Peet's or Seattle's Best or Starbucks, always with decent automatic drip makers. For the last 3 years I've been using a Capresso with a built-in grinder and thermal metal carafe. Last week I decided to take my coffee up a notch or two, and bought some new gear.

Bonavita Variable Goose-neck Kettle
Baratza Encore Grinder
Oxo Digital Scale
Bodum Press Pot
Aeropress
Chemex 6-cup, square bleached filters
Brita filter jug
George Howell's Terroir, Tarrazu, Costa Rica (Roasted Nov 20)

I did some research while waiting for all the new gear to arrive. I did a bunch of reading, and watched some videos on how to use the devices.

For now I am concentrating on the Chemex - I like the idea of a "clean" cup it's supposed to make, and I think that bouncing around will confuse the process of "perfecting" my cup. So I'd like to perfect one method before trying the others. I've also got a bit of OCD tendencies, so I enjoy getting all the weights and timings and technique perfect.


I pour some hot tap water into the Chemex and coffee cup and let them sit to heat. I am using 20 fluid ounces of Brita-filtered water (enough for 2 decent mugs of coffee), heated to 200F in the kettle. Once the kettle hits 200 I pour 33 grams of beans into the Encore, set it at 21 and grind. I dump the hot water out of the Chemex and put in a filter (no rinsing). The grounds get poured in and I start a timer. I pour in enough water to wet the grounds and wait 30 seconds for the bloom. I then pour about 1/3 of the remaining water in. Two more pours follow, 1/3 at a time, always sure to keep the grounds wet, spiraling in from the outside towards the center, making sure the grounds that cling to the side get back under water first. I stir a little after each pour, and attempt to scoop up the grounds from the bottom of the filter to mix them back in. By the time I start seeing grounds after the last pour, just over 6 minutes has passed. I pull the filter out, some coffee still dripping from the bottom, and dump this waste.

The result is a good cup of coffee, better than Starbucks through the Capresso, but not a wildly-improved to-die-for cup that I wish I could attain immediately. :-)

It is a bit strong though, somewhat bitter, and honestly kinda flat-tasting with nothing distinct about it. (This could easily be due to my lack of experience with tasting good coffee and developing the experience needed to detect the flavors.)


Given the strength and bitterness, it seems that the immersion time is too long, which means my grind is too fine. Am I right here? I'm thinking that I should go from the current 21 setting to 30 - but that seems very coarse given the various things I've read for the Chemex. But 6 minutes seems far too long, thus it seems that I need a large increase in grind size.

Should I just pull the filter out at 4 minutes, or 5 minutes, regardless of how much water remains? Am I wrong in waiting for (almost) all of the water to drip through?

Is my technique OK from what I've described? I certainly think I'm doing what all the videos have shown to do.

My water-to-coffee ratio is about 18:1 (590gm to 33gm) whereas much of what I've read makes me think that's weak. I generally find people saying to use 16:1 or even 15.6:1. So how am I ending up with something too strong and bitter?


Now, the coffee beans... I picked this bag up at the local Whole Foods, and the freshest I could fine was roasted 3.5 weeks ago. Shame on me, since I drive by George Howell's business on the way to work. I just need to find time to pick up some fresher stuff during their business hours.

I know that I should get fresh-roasted, but will it make THAT much of a difference to what I taste? Since I've always been drinking Peet's/Starbucks from the grocer's, I thought that some better, slightly-fresher coffee would be a lot better. Granted though, my taste buds are new at this, and I may just want to find some coffee that has more distinct tastes. Any recommendations here?


As a newbie, there's so many things going on here... But I really do want a great cup of coffee. Am I expecting too much?
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al_bongo
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Aug 2008
Posts: 455
Location: Scotland
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Starbucks Barista
Grinder: Solis 166/Iberital MC2
Vac Pot: Cona
Drip: Chemex/Melitta
Posted Sat Dec 14, 2013, 10:21am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

My quantities are almost exactly the same as yours and the method similar. Six minutes though is a disaster in the Chemex. I aim for the water to drain out at ideally 4 mins and would terminate the brew at 4m30s.

The only stir I do is after adding 60-70ml to bloom and thoroughly wet the coffee and a light swirl of just the water at the end of the pour (not digging up the grounds) to ensure no grounds left on the side.

Stirring the slurry does seem to slow the drain so stirring only after the initial wetting of the grinds you might find you get close to the 4 minute mark without coarsening the grind which would be your next step.

I like to rinse the filter and heat the Chemex by pouring 250m of boiling water through the filter and letting it sit while I weigh and grind the beasns. Warms the Chemex and lets the water cool slightly from boiling. The Chemex papers are thick and can impart a taste. I would always rinse.

I think you're on the right track, you're just over extracting with all the stirring and the length of time the brew is taking.
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Scottes
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Posts: 24
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Vario, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex, Aeropress, Press...
Posted Mon Dec 16, 2013, 8:57am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

Thanks for the info. I've ceased stirring, pull at 4:15, and tried several different grinds and amounts. I've also learned that my grinder setting means nothing since the calibrations could be different.

Any, for me and my grinder, I went slightly coarser to a 28 setting. 36 grams of this coffee, 20 oz of water, and 4:15 time seems to be pretty darn good.

Thanks for the help!
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johnnyb3
Senior Member


Joined: 29 Mar 2010
Posts: 189
Location: Anaheim, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus refurb
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos
Drip: Chemex
Posted Mon Dec 16, 2013, 9:19am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

Definitely on the right track. I'd recommend a couple of small tweaks. First, definitely rinse the filter as mentioned above. Second, heat some extra water and use that to rinse the filter, as hot tap water can supply some off tastes.

As to brew time, I have good luck shooting for a target time -- 4:15 including the bloom is about as long as I'd ever go, and you might even experiment with 30 seconds less -- discarding the filter, and adding the remaining water directly to bring it to the right brew strength.
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Scottes
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Posts: 24
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Vario, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex, Aeropress, Press...
Posted Mon Dec 16, 2013, 5:00pm
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

I forgot to mention that I am rinsing with hot water. ~140F tap water for the rinse, 200F filtered for the coffee. My tap water is very good so I don't mind rinsing with that. And my first cup is too hot to drink so the water is hot enough.


I still have the feeling that my coffee is a little "flat" - a little boring, lacking distinction, I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It is good coffee, but it's not exciting with flavors I can pick out.

Given what I've read about coffee-water ratios, I think it might just be weak. My ratio is currently 16.4:1. It's a medium roast, Costa Rican, so that might be why it seems strong enough. And its a blend which might explain why its a little boring. Lastly, I'm inexperienced, so I might be missing stuff.

But I'm willing to possibly waste some coffee for the greater good in the long run. So I'm thinking about going to 38 grams - 2 grams more. But won't this increase my dwell time? So should I grind a little coarser, too?

Or should I just try another coffee?
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MWJB
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Jun 2013
Posts: 192
Location: UK
Expertise: I like coffee

Grinder: Rocky, Lido, Porlex, Hario...
Drip: Not enough room to list...
Posted Tue Dec 17, 2013, 2:25pm
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

Your ratio looks ball park at 36g:20oz, play with your grind.

You will probably have to make adjustments when switching from coffee to coffee anyway, so changing the coffee is only going to change the problem in the short term.

Perhaps try finer, then try very coarse (make a few brews in a row)...so as to incite over & underextraction, then work back to a happy mid point (keeping everything else the same)?
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Scottes
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Posts: 24
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Vario, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex, Aeropress, Press...
Posted Wed Dec 18, 2013, 8:41am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

I've played with numerous things now - adjusting grind a few notches at a time, and adjusting coffee weight a few grams at a time. (3 of each, one at a time, across 8 attempts.)

I've researched and watched several videos on using a Chemex, and read many more text descriptions. I'm convinced that my technique is - dare I say - excellent. Especially when compared to come of the rubes who use scoops of coffee or don't wait for the bloom or who don't use a timer or who pour like a maniac.

I've tried 3 different coffees - all blends, none fresher than 2-3 weeks from roast.

And almost every cup of coffee I've made in the Chemex has been better than Starbucks from the Capresso. But none have excited me like I imagine a great cup of coffee could excite me.


I'm off to obtain some single-origin, distinctive, freshly-roasted coffee.

If that doesn't do it then I will be pretty sure that it's my taste buds that are failing me.
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MWJB
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Jun 2013
Posts: 192
Location: UK
Expertise: I like coffee

Grinder: Rocky, Lido, Porlex, Hario...
Drip: Not enough room to list...
Posted Wed Dec 18, 2013, 10:32am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

Scottes Said:

I've played with numerous things now - adjusting grind a few notches at a time, and adjusting coffee weight a few grams at a time. (3 of each, one at a time, across 8 attempts.)

I've researched and watched several videos on using a Chemex, and read many more text descriptions. I'm convinced that my technique is - dare I say - excellent. Especially when compared to come of the rubes who use scoops of coffee or don't wait for the bloom or who don't use a timer or who pour like a maniac.

I've tried 3 different coffees - all blends, none fresher than 2-3 weeks from roast.

And almost every cup of coffee I've made in the Chemex has been better than Starbucks from the Capresso. But none have excited me like I imagine a great cup of coffee could excite me.
.

Posted December 18, 2013 link

Don't keep changing every parameter, stick to the same brew ratio (36g:20oz looks good) and adjust grind. Brew ratio sets the strength of the final brew at an ideal extraction level - your grind & pour technique determine to what level the coffee extracts. If you go too heavy with the coffee dose it will be very concentrated at a good extraction level, acidic at a low extraction level.

Your 'brew ratio' is only pertinent if you let the entire amount of water added drain through, if there is still water above the grinds when you pull the filter, you are no longer brewing at the ratio you started with.

Your technique is only "excellent" if the taste in the cup is also excellent. There isn't just one coffee that will work with this, but you will have to adjust grind from time to time, maybe pour technique too if switching between big differences in roast level & age since roasting (a lighter roast may need a slower flow through the bed than a darker roast).

What did you detect, taste-wise, from deliberately under & overextracting the coffee?
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al_bongo
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Aug 2008
Posts: 455
Location: Scotland
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Starbucks Barista
Grinder: Solis 166/Iberital MC2
Vac Pot: Cona
Drip: Chemex/Melitta
Posted Wed Dec 18, 2013, 11:13am
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

Scottes Said:

And almost every cup of coffee I've made in the Chemex has been better than Starbucks from the Capresso. But none have excited me like I imagine a great cup of coffee could excite me.

Posted December 18, 2013 link

I wonder if your expectations are too high?. Less imagining what a great cup of coffee should do for you. Where and when have you had a great/good cup of coffee that you've particularly enjoyed? What was the coffee? How was it made?

If I'm being entirely honest I wouldn't say that I've had many, if any, coffee's that truly excite me (I'm probably not that kind of person). I have thoroughly enjoyed many coffees and been frustrated when some coffees/methods don't work out for me.

Mostly I just want to enjoy a good cup of coffee. I would recommend a coffee tasting. Most of the big roasters offer such experiences either free or for a fee in various major city locations.

Finally, I like the Chemex although I've been using the Kalita Wave almost exclusively for the last year in preference to the Chemex. If the Chemex has one flaw, for me it's the thickness of the papers which for me seem to emphasise the body of the coffee at the extent of some of the subtleties. How ever I don't think that's really your issue here.
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Scottes
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Posts: 24
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Grinder: Baratza Vario, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex, Aeropress, Press...
Posted Wed Dec 18, 2013, 3:09pm
Subject: Re: Need Help With Chemex
 

MWJB Said:

Don't keep changing every parameter, stick to the same brew ratio (36g:20oz looks good) and adjust grind.

Posted December 18, 2013 link

I didn't. As I said, I changed one thing at a time: "(3 of each, one at a time, across 8 attempts.)"

MWJB Said:

Your technique is only "excellent" if the taste in the cup is also excellent.

Posted December 18, 2013 link

That's not true if the coffee sucks to begin with.

MWJB Said:

What did you detect, taste-wise, from deliberately under & overextracting the coffee?

Posted December 18, 2013 link

I have to admit that I did not try intentionally to any extreme. I've had some runs that were both under and over, but still within the range of a decent cup.
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