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Chemex vs French Press: Which is Right for You?

Chemex vs French press

The Chemex and French press coffee makers both produce exceptional coffee — but their methods, flavors, and mouthfeel are very different. So which should you choose?

We’re taking a close look at both brewing methods, including factors like cost, coffee quality, and ease of cleaning, to help you decide. You can’t go wrong with either method, but one probably suits you better than the other. Scroll down to find out which!

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Chemex Overview:

coffee scale with Chemex brewing

The Chemex is a simple, beautiful pour-over coffee maker. This hourglass-shaped glass brewer was invented back in 1941 and has remained about the same ever since.

To use a Chemex, you need to commit to buying the company’s branded paper filters, which are double-bonded and significantly thicker and stronger than regular paper filters. They’re not wildly expensive, but the cost will add up over time, and they do produce a little more waste.

How do you brew a Chemex? Place a filter in the top of the brewer and add medium-coarse coffee grounds. Then pour hot water over the grounds as you would for any pour-over brewer. When all of the water has gone through the grounds, you remove the filter and serve your coffee.

Want to buy a Chemex? Check the latest price on Amazon, or read our in-depth review!

Pros
  • Exceptionally clean, clear coffee
  • Beautiful design
  • High-quality borosilicate glass with wood handle
  • Sturdy
  • Dishwasher- and stovetop-safe
  • Several sizes and styles available
Cons
  • Fairly expensive
  • Can be a little hard to clean
  • Only sold by one company

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French Press Overview:

French Press
Image Credit: yari2000, Shutterstock

The French press is a simple steeped brewing method that uses a metal filter, a plunger, and a plastic, metal, or glass container. To brew French press coffee, you pour coarsely-ground beans into the brewer and add boiling water. Then you place the metal filter on top and leave the brewer to steep for 10 minutes. When your coffee is fully steeped, you push the plunger down, filtering the grounds out.

Want to buy a French press? We recommend the KONA, available on Amazon.

Pros
  • No paper filters
  • The added flavor of natural oils
  • More versatile
  • Choice of materials and styles
Cons
  • Annoying to clean
  • Missing health benefits of paper filters
  • May have sediment

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Coffee Quality

French press pouring coffee

One of the most important questions to ask yourself is how you prefer your coffee. Do you like rich, full-bodied coffee with lots of mouthfeel? You’ll probably prefer the French press, which uses a steeping method to fully extract flavor from your beans. Without a paper filter, the French press also leaves in all of coffee’s natural oils, which adds flavor — but may reduce the health benefits of drinking coffee.

If you prefer clean, clear coffee without any sediment or oil, you’ll want to consider the Chemex, which uses thick paper filters. Chemex coffee is aromatic and flavorful but doesn’t have those natural oils. A recent study showed that filtered coffee could lower cholesterol and make you healthier overall!


Convenience

Glass handle Chemex brewing paper filter

Both of these brewing methods are relatively fast, though the French press, which is a steeping method, will take a little more time.

In terms of cleaning, the Chemex filter lifts out of the top, leaving a full carafe of coffee. This coffee ground disposal is significantly easier than the French press, which requires you to scoop or rinse out the coffee grounds. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, cleaning a French press is especially tricky. You don’t want to clog up your pipes with coffee grounds!

Keep mind that the Chemex is a single piece of glass that’s shaped like an hourglass, so to fully scrub out the bottom, you’ll need a bottle brush.


Cost

best coffee for French press

Though you can buy more expensive French presses, there are plenty of inexpensive models available from a wide range of companies. You can also buy portable French presses or models that combine French press technology with travel mugs. This means the French press is a more versatile option.

On the other hand, the Chemex comes from a single company, and it’s not especially cheap. You can choose a basic model or upgrade to the hand-blown glass series, but nothing will be dirt cheap.

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Chemex vs French Press: Which Should You Choose?

So which of these tasty brewing methods should you pick? You may prefer the French press if you like full-bodied, steeped coffee, or you don’t want to use paper filters. The French press is also a more versatile brewing method, with models available from many companies at a range of prices.

You might like the Chemex better if you like clear, sediment-free coffee or want to maximize the health benefits of your morning cup. Plus, the cleanup is easier and the brewer is beautiful.

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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