After reading about these unique coffee makers here at CoffeeGeek, I thought I'd better get one. Many people suggested ebay, so my search began. I was able to get my first (of many!) for $10.50, and waited only a few days for it's arrival. Knowing that I would also require Chemex filters, I scoured retailers in Vancouver, coming up empty. Sweet Maria's ended up having the lowest prices online, and on Tom's recommendation, I purchased 5 boxes of the unbleached filters for $6/box of 100.
The Chemex Coffee Maker is truly a design of simplicity and practicality. Being a single unit, there is no separate filter apparatus to remove once the coffee is made - just the used filter paper and grounds. Then, you can sit back and enjoy some great coffee.
To begin with, boil your water, place the filter in the funnel component of the coffee maker, and add the fresh coarsely-ground coffee to the filter. After the water has reached a rolling boil, I remove it from the heat and wait about 20 - 30 seconds (just enough time to grind my coffee beans). Moisten the ground coffee with just enough water to get the grinds wet, and allow the coffee to bloom for 10 - 20 seconds. When you just can't wait anymore, start pouring in your water to about the 3/4 mark. As the level lowers, keep pouring in more water until you've reached the desired amount in the bottom part of the coffee maker. Remove the filter and grounds (for the compost, of course!) and enjoy. If you have made more coffee than can be served at once, I would suggest pouring the remaining coffee into a thermal carafe to keep it hot. I have noticed that the coffee does cool rather quickly if left for any length of time in the Chemex brewer. All that glass dissipates the heat fast.
I have experimented with the grind of my coffee, and using a Solis Maestro, have found that a coarse grind at or about the "Drip" icon on the grinder works best for me. It generally take me about 5 - 6 minutes to make my pot of coffee.
The Chemex filters work great, and as long as you follow the directions, you won't have any problems. Having been invented by a chemist, these filters require opening in a 3:1 ratio, just like in the bygone days of Organic Chemistry class. The "3" sides need to be placed against the spout of the coffee maker, ensuring that the filter isn't pushed into the channel that allows the air to escape as the coffee fills the lower compartment. These coffee makers all have a little bump or button on the lower half under the spout. I recently learned that this mark indicates the halfway point of usable volume, meaning you're almost there! Some have mentioned a "papery" taste to the unbleached filters. I have not noticed this in my coffee at all.
The Chemex Coffee Maker comes as either machine made, or hand blown. As you might guess, the hand blown units are roughly twice the price as the machine made, but aesthetically, the curves have much more grace and form - truly an hour-glass shape. The Chemex company still offers brand new units for sale, and they can be reached at www.chemexcoffeemaker.com. The machine made units sell for about $30 - $34, depending on size, with the hand blown German-made ones selling for $62 - $72. New wood collars and ties are also available from the manufacturer.
With regard to ebay, buyer beware! I have seen some pretty steep prices recently, and some really great deals. Don't let youself get caught in a bidding war. I wouldn't spend more than $20 on a used 10 cup model myself, and usually pay less than $12. For brand new sales, Sweet Maria's sells them cheaper than the Chemex company (plus, they are really nice people!).
For a great-looking unit that makes darn-good coffee, you cannot go wrong with a Chemex Coffee Maker. Your guests will never leave once you serve them coffee from one of these brewers.