French press on the left side vs chemex on the right side

French press Vs Chemex: 7 Major Differences You Need to Know

Henry
Henry Muller
Barista

Hey there, coffee pals! It’s time we bring two of the most popular coffee brewing methods to face the battleground - French Press, which is an immersion brewing method, and Chemex, which makes coffee through percolation. 

We are well aware one can’t go wrong with either of these methods as both these methods make great coffee. But depending on your preferences, one side of the scale will certainly weigh higher for you.

Here, we are going to brew some insightful points of comparison between these caught-on coffee makers.

French Press: Overview

What is the French press?

A classic in the world of coffee makers, the French Press is a brewing apparatus that consists of a carafe and a plunger that fits aptly inside the carafe. 

To use a French press, coarsely ground coffee is placed in the container, hot water is added, and the mixture is allowed to steep for a few minutes. Then, the plunger is pressed down, separating the brewed coffee from the ground.

You will not be disappointed if you expect a rich and full-bodied cup of coffee. Besides delivering flavorful coffee, the French Press is easy to use and thus, a popular choice amongst regular coffee drinkers.

If you are planning to try your hand at it, do check out this cool French Press coffee recipe. ‍

What is a French press coffee maker good for?

The French Press is particularly well-suited for coffee lovers who enjoy a rich, robust taste that retains the natural oils and flavors of the coffee beans.

One of the advantages of the French press is that it allows for greater control over the brewing process. Coffee grounds can be adjusted to the desired coarseness to achieve the desired level of strength and flavor.

The amount of water and steeping time can also be adjusted to suit individual tastes. Another benefit of the French press is its simplicity and ease of use.

Unlike other coffee makers, there are no paper filters to worry about, and the entire brewing process can be completed in one container.

If you’re not getting your desired cup of coffee with the French press, check for these common French press brewing mistakes.

When is the French press not adaptable to use?

Let’s discuss a few scenarios where the French Press doesn’t score very well. If you need to make a large quantity of coffee quickly, a French press might not be the best option as it usually makes only a few cups at a time.

Additionally, if you prefer a very clear and clean cup of coffee, the French press might not be your best bet. While the metal or nylon mesh filter helps to keep most of the coffee grounds out of your cup, some sediment may still make it through, giving your coffee a slightly gritty texture.

Finally, if you're on the go and need to take your coffee with you, a French press might not be the most convenient option. They are typically made of glass or stainless steel, making them a bit bulky and difficult to transport.

Pros and cons of the French press

Pros

  • The French Press is super easy to use. You just need some hot water, coffee grounds, and a few minutes to spare.
  • It's an affordable coffee maker compared to other options out there.
  • French Press coffee has a full-bodied, rich taste that many people love. If you're a fan of a strong cup of coffee, the French Press might be right up your alley.
  • It's easy to clean. There are no complicated parts or filters to worry about.
  • It's pretty versatile. You can use it to make coffee, tea, or even cold brew.

Cons

  • The French Press can be a bit messy. You'll need to deal with coffee grounds and sometimes sediment in your cup.
  • It doesn't produce a lot of coffee at once. If you're brewing for a group, you might have to make multiple batches.
  • It can be difficult to control the temperature of the water. The best temperature for brewing coffee is around 200°F, and it can be tough to get the water to that temperature without a thermometer.

Chemex: Overview

What is a Chemex coffee brewer?

The Chemex was introduced in the world of coffee in 1941 by Chemistry Ph.D. Dr. Peter J. Schlumbohm created the device inspired by laboratory equipment.

It has gotten a lot of love from the coffee community over the decades and continues to be a favorite for many. Why? Because it is so easy to work with!

Try this simple Chemex coffee recipe and you’ll know.

The Chemex works by placing a special bonded paper filter in the funnel, adding medium-coarse ground coffee, and pouring water in a circular motion over the grounds. You can dispose of the grounds and the paper after you've made your drink.

What is a Chemex coffee brewer good for?

The Chemex coffee brewer is a great choice for people who appreciate high-quality coffee and want a manual brewing method that gives them more control over the brewing process. Here are some reasons why Chemex is a good option - ‍

  1. Produces high-quality coffee: Chemex uses a pour-over brewing method that results in a clean, smooth, and well-balanced cup of coffee with a rich and full flavor.
  2. Stylish design: The Chemex's elegant hourglass shape and polished wood collar make it a stylish addition to any kitchen or coffee bar.
  3. Easy to clean: The Chemex is easy to clean, with no complicated parts to take apart or clean separately.
  4. Durable: The Chemex is made of high-quality borosilicate glass, which is resistant to thermal shock and will last for years with proper care.
  5. More control over the brewing process: The Chemex allows you to control the water temperature, brewing time, and coffee-to-water ratio, which can lead to a more customized and personalized cup of coffee.

When is the Chemex not adaptable to use?

Though the Chemex coffee brewer sits royally on many coffee counters and makes excellent coffee, there are some conditions where it may not be the most suitable brewing method.

Here are a few scenarios where Chemex may not be the best choice:

  1. Large quantities: The Chemex is designed to make smaller batches of coffee, typically up to 6 cups. If you need to make a large quantity of coffee, Chemex may not be the most efficient choice.
  2. Fast-paced environments: If you are in a fast-paced environment, such as a busy coffee shop, the Chemex may not be the best choice due to its slower brewing time. It requires a slower pour and more attention to detail, which can be challenging in a busy setting.
  3. Preference for stronger coffee: The Chemex is known for producing a clean, bright cup of coffee, which some people may find too weak or lacking in body. If you prefer a stronger, fuller-bodied cup of coffee, the Chemex may not be the best choice.

Pros and cons of Chemex

Pros

  • High-quality coffee: The Chemex brewing method produces a clean, smooth, and well-balanced cup of coffee with a rich and full flavor.
  • Stylish design: The Chemex's elegant hourglass shape and polished wood collar make it a stylish addition to any kitchen or coffee bar.
  • Large capacity: The Chemex can brew up to 10 cups of coffee at once, making it an excellent choice for entertaining or brewing coffee for a group.
  • Easy to clean: The Chemex is easy to clean, with no complicated parts to take apart or clean separately.

Cons

  • Slow brewing: The Chemex is a slow brewing method, and it can take several minutes to brew a single cup of coffee. This can be inconvenient if you're in a hurry.
  • Requires a special filter: Chemex requires a specific type of filter, which can be more expensive than regular paper filters.
  • Fragile: The Chemex is made of glass, which makes it more fragile than other coffee makers. You'll need to handle it with care to avoid breaking it.
  • Requires practice: The Chemex requires some skill and practice to master, so it may take some time to get the hang of it and make consistently good coffee.
  • Not Portable: As it is made of glass, it is not travel-friendly.

French press vs Chemex: Quick comparison

The main difference between a French press and a Chemex is that a French Press uses a full-immersion brewing method where coarsely ground coffee steeps in hot water, and a metal or mesh plunger is used to separate the grounds.

On the other hand, the Chemex is a pour-over method that involves gradually pouring hot water over a paper filter containing coffee grounds, resulting in a drip-style brewing process.

French press coffee maker is known to produce rich and full-bodied coffee with robust oils and sediment, creating a bold and deeply flavorful cup. Whereas the Chemex is known to produce a cleaner and crisper cup of coffee with a lighter and more nuanced taste profile.

Also, where a French press uses a metal or mesh filter, which allows more oils and fine particles to pass through which provides an intense flavor to coffee, a Chemex uses a thick paper filter that effectively removes most oils and sediment, resulting in a clear, sediment-free brew.

Let's discuss the other differences.

1) Ease of brewing

French press coffee makers are generally easier to use since they don't require as much attention to detail as the Chemex. Simply add coffee grounds to the press, pour in hot water, let it steep, and press the plunger down.

In contrast, the Chemex requires a bit more precision and attention to detail during the brewing process, such as controlling the pouring rate and ensuring the water temperature remains consistent.

2) Cost

French press coffee makers are typically less expensive than Chemex coffee makers. A good-quality French press can be found for as low as $20 (₹1650), while a Chemex typically costs around $40-$50.

3) Coffee quality

Both French press and Chemex coffee makers can produce high-quality coffee, but they produce different types of coffee. 

French press coffee is usually more full-bodied and has a thicker mouthfeel due to the coffee oils and sediment that are present in the final cup. In contrast, Chemex coffee is typically lighter and cleaner, with a more delicate flavor profile.

4) Time to brew

Both French press and Chemex coffee typically take around 4-5 minutes to brew.

5) Portability

French press coffee makers are generally more portable than Chemex coffee makers since they are smaller and more compact. French press coffee can be made anywhere with access to hot water, while the Chemex requires a dedicated space on a flat surface.

6) Difference in flavors

As mentioned earlier, French press coffee is typically more full-bodied and has a thicker mouthfeel, while Chemex coffee is lighter and cleaner. The difference in the brewing process and filtration method can significantly impact the final flavor profile of the coffee.

7) Easy cleaning

Both French press and Chemex coffee makers are relatively easy to clean, but the French press may be slightly more difficult due to the presence of coffee oils and sediment. The Chemex requires a bit more attention to cleaning the filter and carafe, but it is generally straightforward.

What should you choose between the French press and Chemex?

Both French press and Chemex coffee makers have their advantages and disadvantages. French press is generally easier to use, less expensive, and more portable, while the Chemex produces a cleaner and more delicate cup of coffee but requires more attention to detail during the brewing process. 

So, if you wish your coffee to have a fuller body and a thick mouthfeel at a pocket-friendly exchange, then French Press is the coffee maker for you. And if you fancy a light and delicate coffee with easier maintenance for the equipment, then you would want to go ahead with the Chemex.

Our final verdict

If you ask us, both French Press and Chemex coffee makers offer unique brewing methods that result in high-quality coffee with different taste profiles. The French Press produces bold and full-bodied coffee, while the Chemex offers a clean and bright taste.

Both coffee makers are easy to use but have different cleaning requirements, and while both can be durable if well-cared for, they are prone to breakage. 

Lastly, the French Press is more portable due to its compact size and lack of need for a separate filter, whereas the Chemex is bulkier and requires paper filters.

Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on personal preference, brewing style, and individual needs. 

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Henry Muller

Team TAB
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I am a barista by profession hailing from NC. My journey began in my late teens when I started working as a barista in a local coffee shop. My passion for coffee quickly became evident as I immersed myself in the art of espresso extraction, latte art ...

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