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Chemex vs AeroPress

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By Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

To pour or to press, that is the question. Specifically, it’s the question we’re going to get to the bottom of in this Chemex vs AeroPress comparison.

If you’re looking for a great home coffee setup on a budget, you’ve probably come across both the Chemex and the AeroPress. They are two of the best value coffee makers you can buy in terms of the equipment cost to the quality of coffee produced.

When choosing between AeroPress vs Chemex, there are some significant differences to take into account. From the looks to the brewing method, to how good the resulting coffee tastes. So read on as we look at the similarities and differences, allowing you to pick the best budget coffee maker for you.

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Meet the Chemex

The Chemex coffee maker is like an hourglass with the top cut off. Not only does it look iconic, but coffee fanatics love it thanks to the crystal-clear, great tasting coffee it brews with relative ease.

The wide opening at the top takes special filters and the coffee is brewed through filtration – also referred to as drip coffee or a pour over. By having flat glass sides, all the water funnels through the coffee bed and into the carafe. This gives you a greater margin for error, making it a simpler coffee maker (particularly for beginners) than the Hario V60 or Kalita Wave drippers.

In 1941, the Chemex was invented by chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. He also created special Chemex coffee filters designed to make brewing the perfect coffee easy whilst maintaining a beautiful design.

Now, over 80 years later, the Chemex is a fan favorite amongst third-wave coffee brewers. This is down to the crystal-clear, delicious coffee and the stunning but simple looks.

Read Next: Best Coffee for Chemex

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How to Use a Chemex Coffee Brewer

If you’re just getting started with your Chemex manual coffee maker, follow this quick guide for making the best possible cup of joe:

  1. Place the cone-shaped paper coffee filter in the neck of the Chemex with the 3-layered side over the spout. Pour over some hot water, making sure to cover the filter. This will rinse out any residual paper flavor and also heats the coffee maker. Discard the water before moving on.
  2. Add your freshly ground coffee beans, about the texture of sea salt, using a 1:15 Chemex coffee to water ratio. Place your Chemex coffee maker on a digital scale and press “tare” to zero it.
  3. Bloom the coffee grounds using just enough water to wet them, and wait 30 seconds to let the gases escape.
  4. Pour around half of the water in a slow spiral pattern, ensuring you evenly coat the grounds. For the best results, a gooseneck kettle will give you maximum control.
  5. Once the water has mostly filtered through, pour the other half in the same, slow spiral pattern.
  6. Once all the water has filtered through, remove the filter and pour your freshly brewed coffee.
  7. If Chemex iced coffee is more your thing, leave the brewed coffee to cool and add ice (or whisky stones).

Equipment Needed:

Side view of 1zpresso J max manual coffee grinder
Coffee Grinder (1Zpresso J Max is our favorite)
Equator Coffees - Ehiopian Ardi coffee beans
Coffee Beans (we love Equator’s Ethiopia Ardi for Chemex)
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Say Hello to The AeroPress

AeroPress is the brainchild of Adam Adler, a retired engineering instructor from Stanford University. He started a company that made toys in the mid-1980s but in 2004 he decided to start studying the coffee brewing process to design a better coffee maker.

In 2005 the AeroPress debuted to critical acclaim. It is now sold in over 80 countries and has an annual tournament where fans use their favorite AeroPress recipe to compete for the world championship.

The AeroPress combines elements of different coffee methods for a hybrid of immersion, filter, and pressure brewing. The result is rich, flavorful coffee in seconds.

It is the ultimate portable, no-fuss, filter/drip coffee maker.

Water and ground coffee are combined in the chamber for 20-30 seconds before forcing them through a paper filter. This allows for rich flavor extraction with a short brew time and without the texture of other immersion brewers.

This is why many consider the AeroPress to be the perfect coffee maker.

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Quick Guide to AeroPress Brewing

With so many different recipes out there, it’s hard to even guess just how many different ways you can use the AeroPress coffee brewing system. It can be a fully involved or low-fuss coffee maker – just whatever you want it to be. And the basic method is pretty simple:

  1. Insert a round coffee filter into the base and attach it to the AeroPress chamber. Place over your mug and pour through some hot water to remove any residual flavor from the filter and to pre-heat your coffee cup. 
  2. Add medium-fine ground coffee and water, then stir for 20-30 seconds. A good starting AeroPress ratio is 1:15. This means that for 1 cup of coffee, you need 12 grams of ground coffee (2.5 tbsp) and 180 ml of hot water (6 fl oz).
  3. Gently push down on the plunger to press your coffee through the filter into your mug. It really is that simple!

Read next: Our top coffee bean picks for the AeroPress

Equipment Needed:

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Chemex vs AeroPress Battle

As two of the most popular coffee makers out there, it’s impossible to decide between Chemex vs AeroPress on coffee quality alone.

As they both use filters, you need to keep a supply of these for either brewer but you’ll also get sediment-free coffee. Here, we’ve broken down the key differences so you can pick the right coffee brewing system for you:

Chemex vs AeroPress comparison chart

Brewing Time

Both the AeroPress and Chemex coffee brewing methods require you to heat the water separately and to freshly grind coffee. So here we are comparing just the brewing time between you and good coffee, not including those extra (identical) steps.

Using the basic brewing method, the AeroPress needs around 30 seconds of brew time. Whereas, Chemex is a more involved process requiring around 4 minutes.

So, the Aeropress is the clear winner here with just 30 seconds before you’re pressing that wonderful coffee into your mug. The smaller time is thanks to the pressure extraction. By introducing pressure (you plunging the coffee), the total extraction time can be cut from 3-4 minutes down to less than 1 minute.

On the other hand, the Chemex coffee maker is a lot slower. Four minutes to brew your coffee is a much more serious time investment. It makes it one of the slowest brewing methods out there, along with French press coffee, and the even slower cold brew.

If time is a factor in your coffee brewing decision, then AeroPress is the one to choose.

Want to see how the AeroPress stacks up in a head-to-head battle with the French press? Check out this guide below:

Looks

If you’re going purely on looks, the iconic Chemex coffee maker is the clear winner.

The beautiful glass jar with leather or cork collar looks great sitting out on your counter or on a shelf. It feels like alchemy as you’re gently pouring the water over your grounds in a beautifully crafted piece of chemistry glassware.

Whilst no longer a budget-friendly coffee maker, the handblown Chemex series is especially beautiful. It wouldn’t look out of place as an ornament but with the added bonus of being a coffee maker.

By contrast, the AeroPress is very utilitarian. The plastic construction of a chamber, plunger, and cap for the filter isn’t going to wow your friends whilst sat out on the countertop. In fact, it’s very unlikely you’ll leave it sat out as it looks like a bong or, ahem, a penis pump (or so I’ve heard…)

OK, this might be a bit harsh on AeroPress – there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But Chemex is one of the most beautiful coffee makers around. So, there’s really no shame in losing to that.

Portability

Both the AeroPress and Chemex are *technically* portable.

But, just like (almost) all portable coffee makers, you need to grind your own coffee beans (or use inferior pre-ground coffee) and heat the water separately. Plus, they both require you to pack their corresponding coffee filters. 

If you want to take your Chemex traveling with you it’s definitely possible. The only issue is that it’s made of glass. While it may not be brittle, it’s still glass and you’ll need to be careful. So, I wouldn’t feel comfortable chucking it in my backpack for a weekend camping.

However, the AeroPress is perfect for coffee brewing on the go. It’s compact, lightweight, and basically indestructible. So, unless you roll a bus over it, the AeroPress can join you on any adventure. 

For even greater portability but with the same great quality and ease, you could opt for the AeroPress Go. This dinky little coffee maker is even lighter than the original and even more portable as it fits directly into its versatile coffee cup/travel case. 

So, pick one of the AeroPress coffee makers if portability is important to you.

Coffee Quality

When it comes to coffee quality, comparing AeroPress vs Chemex is a little more ambiguous. Both are high-quality coffee makers that brew superb cups of coffee. But, the AeroPress can make a few different styles of coffee, whereas the Chemex only does one.

The Chemex brews a bright and aromatic cup of coffee that’s crystal clear. This is thanks to the special filters which show off the unique flavors of your beans. While it won’t bring out the same level of nuanced flavor as the Hario V60 dripper, it is still a brilliant way to try new types of coffee beans.

AeroPress coffee is known for being powerful and clean tasting. It delivers all the depth of flavor of immersion brewing with the bright mouthfeel of filtered. As there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes out it doesn’t matter what great coffee looks like for you, there is almost certainly a way to brew it.

So, there’s no clear winner here. It all comes down to whether AeroPress or Chemex brews the style of coffee you prefer.

Ease of Use

Pour over is arguably the most difficult brewing method to master. So, whilst the Chemex might be the easiest to use compared to other pour over coffee makers on the market, it still needs a bit of practice to get right.

The AeroPress, on the other hand, is as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

It’s more likely you’ll struggle with being overwhelmed by options as opposed to finding it too difficult to master. The basic recipe for making AeroPress coffee is incredibly simple. Then, you can choose to complicate things from there, or not.

So, this is a decision between one brewing method that takes practice, or a choice between multiple brewing methods that come easily.

Chemex vs AeroPress images side-by-side

Cleaning

The Chemex is easy to clean: you simply dispose of the coffee grounds and filter (many are compostable) and then rinse out your carafe.

The only issues come over time, as coffee starts to build up in the lower chamber which stains the glass. To combat this, you can try using denture cleaning tablets to remove the staining from your Chemex coffee brewer, but it’s not easy. You also may not care about this, we don’t particularly, but it does ruin the aesthetic somewhat.

Cleaning your AeroPress involves a similarly small number of steps: Simply remove the filter and coffee ground puck then rinse. All done.

The simplicity of the AeroPress design allows you to deep clean it if you want. You can easily remove coffee residue that builds up or even throw it in the dishwasher to keep it looking in top condition.

Both are basic coffee makers so cleaning either is a simple process. But the AeroPress just clinches the win here.

Price

For just the coffee brewers, both the Chemex and AeroPress are incredibly affordable.

When you consider the quality of coffee, the Chemex is a very cheap coffee brewer. Yes, you have to pay for filters but for great coffee, it’s very reasonable. You can also pay a little more for a beautiful handblown version if you like, but we think the regular Chemex is pretty enough and offers great value for money.

That said, you do need special cone shape coffee filters for the Chemex which are more expensive per filter. Although they’re still really cheap so it’s not something to get too hung up on.

The AeroPress is also incredibly affordable. When you first buy your new coffee maker, it includes a whole heap of filters for less than $40 altogether. So, for the price of like 8 coffees from a big chain, you can get one of the best coffee brewing devices to use forevermore.

AeroPress filters are also very cheap and easy to get hold of, so the ongoing costs are very small. For us, this is what tips the win for the AeroPress over Chemex here.

Size

In the Classic series, Chemex is available in a variety of sizes from 3 cups (15 oz) up to 10 cups (50 oz). Or, you can get a massive 13 cups in the handblown range. This range in size means you can make amazing coffee for everyone, not just yourself.

Having such an incredible range of options is actually fairly unique to Chemex and is a huge selling point. Obviously, you don’t need to make 40 oz of coffee in your 8-cup classic coffee maker if you just need 20. You can use our Chemex ratio calculator to work out exactly how much coffee and water you need for the amount you want to drink.

At the other end of the spectrum, the AeroPress coffee maker comes in just one size and really only makes coffee for one. Which is fine – a lot of people only need to make coffee for one. But if you need to make coffee for a few people then it’s really time-consuming. Measuring, grinding, brewing, rinse repeat for 3 or 4 cups is a 20-minute job.

This gives Chemex a clear advantage for large groups and flexible brewing.

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The Winner

For the best possible coffee brewing experience, you need the brewer that suits you. The one that fits your skill or desired effort level, time input, and flavor of the brewed coffee.

When it comes to Chemex vs AeroPress, they’re both incredible coffee makers but aimed at different coffee drinkers. 

If you’re looking to enjoy pour over coffee, or need to brew for a few people at once, then the Chemex is for you.

For everyone else, the AeroPress offers faster, easier, cheaper, and more portable brewing. Plus it’s more flexible so you can get your coffee exactly how you like it.

Both are great choices though and cheap enough that you could justify getting both. That’s our solution so we can drink either AeroPress or Chemex coffee depending on our mood.

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Matt Woodburn-Simmonds

Matt's coffee obsession started in 2006 when working as a Barista. A tendency to turn up to work hungover kickstarted his coffee journey which quickly turned into a love affair. As he moved on to work as a Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, the obsession continued to grow. Now, his passion is helping others to enjoy better coffee at home.

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