Chemex Vs French Press: Pour Or Plunge Coffee Brewing?

When it comes to our coffee at home, getting a quality cup in the morning is important. That’s why we have a wide variety of different home brewing methods, each with their own merits.  

So, what should you use to make coffee at home? Two popular choices, a Chemex and French press, may seem similar at first glance, but they will give you a very different cup of joe. This guide will explore those differences and what’s right for you; to plunge or to pour?  

The Chemex – a fairly new addition to the coffee scene – was invented around 1941.

Made by American chemist Peter J Schlumbohm, he created this brewer for other intentions but discovered it could create a decent cup of coffee.  

Its initial design looks like an hourglass and uses a filter to brew the coffee. The brewing method is quite simple: 

coffee drip brew
  1. 1
    Place filter paper in a cone shape in the top.  
  2. 2
    Add your coffee grind to the paper. 
  3. 3
    Pour hot water over in circular motions to evenly distribute. 
  4. 4
    Wait 3-5 minutes, remove the filter and serve! 

The main difference here is that it uses a filter; a French press does not. You also don’t need to plunge anything, as the paper will hold the coffee grounds. It’s recommended you use a goose-neck style kettle to pour the water, as it's easier to evenly distribute into the coffee grind. The filter will also give you a cleaner brew, as the filter will take out any impurities in the ground.  

Chemex’s are known to make the brew less acidic and bitter. This is because the filter catches the oils and impurities of the grind. Their popularity has come from their softer coffee tastes and aroma. Their design makes it much easier to clean up as you only need to remove the filter from the top. Cleaning the inside from under the handle may be a little more challenging for others.  

A Chemex is perfect for those who like their coffee to be a little sweeter in the morning.  


Pros & Cons of Using a Chemex 

What We Like 
  • Cleaner brew 
  • Easier to remove the coffee grounds 
  • Less acidic flavor 
  • Much less bitter  
  • Brews for 2 people 
Things We Don’t 
  • Use of filters can be expensive 
  • Requires additional goose-neck kettle 
  • Harder to clean the inside 

French Press Coffee Brewing (Overview & Method) 

french press coffee

The French press has been a staple of coffee brewing since the 1930s. Invented by Italian designer Atilio Calimani, it was created for simplicity in the brewing method. It consists of a chamber or beaker, a wire mesh, and a plunger that is attached to the lid. To brew, the method is as follows: 

  1. 1
    Add coffee grounds to the beaker. 
  2. 2
    Pour hot water onto the grind.  
  3. 3
    Place the lid with the plunger up, and brew for 3 – 5 minutes.
  4. 4
    Push the plunger down slowly to separate the coffee and water. 
  5. 5
    Serve and enjoy! 

There is no filter on a French press; the wire mesh acts as a separator to the grounds to push it to the bottom. Because of the press’s simplicity, it can be used for lighter or darker roasts and even loose tea leaves if you so desire.

The beaker is messier to clean out than the Chemex. The grounds can get everywhere once you clean out because there’s no filter to catch them. The mesh may not catch all the grounds too, and small particles can slip through.  

Taste wise, you can expect a full-bodied, rich flavor in your coffee. The lack of filter means the oils remain in the grind, and you’re left with a bolder taste. This means it can also be slightly unhealthier than a Chemex, but the difference is minimal. If you like stronger tasting coffee, the French press is for you! 


Pros & Cons of Using a French Press 

What We Like 
  • No filters needed 
  • Bolder flavor 
  • Easier operation 
  • More versatile 
  • More cups of coffee from brew 
Things We Don’t 
  • Coffee grounds are harder to clean out 
  • More acidic 
  • Slightly unhealthier 

Comparison Between Chemex and French Press Coffee Makers 

Brewing 

A French press is easier to brew with. A Chemex will need preheating, followed by adding the filter correctly, pouring the grounds, and allowing the water to bloom the coffee. This process can take up to six minutes. With a French press, you only need to add coffee grind and water.  

Grind Size 

You’ll need a coarser grind for a French press; due to the lack of filter, a finer grind won't give you as bold of a flavor. A Chemex will need a medium grind to ensure that the water is able to be evenly distributed.  

french press

Ease of Use 

Chemex takes time to use properly. Folding the filter correctly can be difficult for a novice (though Chemex does make specialty filters that can be purchased), not including ensuring the grind is evenly brewed. A French press is much simpler; insert coffee grounds, pour water, wait, and plunge.  

Portability 

The Chemex is exclusively made from glass – this also makes it incredibly fragile. A French press, if glass, will come with a plastic casing. There are also stainless-steel options and multiple sizes—a much more portable brewer.  

Versatility 

With a Chemex, you’re only going to make coffee. With a French press, you can brew loose tea or even opt for a cold brew. Depending on your drinking habits, the press will offer more choices.  

Quality of Brew 

If you use the same coffee bean, you’ll get different results from both brewers. A Chemex will filter away any unwanted particles and also the oils for a stronger, distinct flavor. A French press doesn’t filter anything, but small particles can escape through the mesh.  

Cleanup  

While it’s easier to clear away the grind of a Chemex, the design makes it harder to scrub out the bottom half. You may have to rinse it multiple times before it’s properly clean. A French press is easier to scrub, but the grind sits at the bottom and requires scooping out.  

coffee maker

Price 

Chemex and French presses are evenly priced, but you’ll pay slightly more with a Chemex to replace the filters.  


Factors that Affect Chemex & French Press Brewing 

Chemex

  • Brew Ratio 
    If you have a higher water content, you’re going to find your coffee watery. On the other hand, too much grind will cause a very acidic and sour coffee. An ideal ratio is 45g of coffee to 750g of water. 
  • Grind  
    A finer grind will give you a slower extracted coffee because the grind will slow the water process. Whereas a coarser grind will provide you with an ideal, moderately brewed coffee. It’s really whether you want a more robust or lighter flavor.  
  • Water Temperature 
    Generally, an accepted range is 195oF – 200oF, but this can vary depending on your preference. Because of the Chemex's design, the water will cool faster, so it’s best to use a higher temperature. 
  • Contact Time 
    Pouring the water into the Chemex slowly will increase the time it takes to flow. If you pour the water faster, the grind will bloom faster. Ultimately, finding the balance between water flow and grind takes practice and patience.  

French Press

  • Grind Size  
    A very fine grind will give you extremely bitter coffee. A very coarse grind will be too watery. You’re looking at a grind that's somewhere in the middle for a rich, full-flavored coffee.  
  • Water Temperature  
    For a French press, you want the water to be hot but not boiling temperature. You’re looking at around 199oF to 201oF. You can also make a cold brew! Use room temperature water, and don’t plunge for 16 – 24 hours.  
  • Brew Time  
    A good brew from a French press is done for approximately 4 – 5 minutes. The longer it brews for, the stronger the flavor will be. This depends on your preferences in strength and richness.  
  • Coffee to Water Ratio  
    Use a 15:1 ratio for a French press. For 40g of grind, you’ll want to brew it in 600g of water. If you’re serving multiple people, generally add 12g for each person. This will also increase the water ratio.  

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the difference between an AeroPress and a French Press/Chemex? 

An AeroPress has a shorter brewing time, uses less grind, and serves less coffee. The flavor is mellow but with stronger undertones depending on grind size. 

How much coffee do you put in a Chemex? 

For an even balance, use 20g of coffee (about 3 tbsp) to 300g of water. This will give you roughly two cups of coffee.  

Why are Chemex filters so expensive? 

Chemex filters are a specialty item and a step above regular coffee filters. Trust us and go with the name-brand if you like your Chemex coffee.  


Conclusion

Both Chemex and French press brewing have their merits, and each will give you a different experience.

Chemex can be tough to master, but once done will create a unique and exciting coffee each time.

French presses are a staple of the coffee world, and you can expect excellence with each cup. Chemex or French press? The choice is yours!