As the first sip of warm coffee courses through your body in the morning, and your senses come to life, it’s easy to see why a good cup of coffee is an important part of many morning rituals.
While percolators and pod-based machines can produce a quick cup, there is something about the slow deliberate process of making coffee with a French Press or a Chemex that brings immense pleasure to a seemingly mundane task.
While there are many coffee makers to choose from, using a French Press or a Chemex will give you a fantastic brew. Let’s take a look at a French Press vs a Chemex to help you decide which one is perfect for you.
French Press vs Chemex
In comparing the two coffee makers it’s easy to get lost in the different methods, but most people are most curious about which produces the best cup of coffee.
Both make delicious coffee, but there are some things to consider when deciding if the French Press vs Chemex is right for you.
The French Press produces a robust coffee, comparable to what you would find in an upscale coffee house. This is no surprise since the method has been around since the 1800s and has had plenty of time to be perfected.
The French Press relies on immersion brewing where the grounds are in direct contact with the water for the whole brewing process. This style produces a bold and oily coffee as the natural oils of the beans aren’t filtered out.
The Chemex is a coffee maker that uses an infusion brewing method, most similar to drip coffee. The Chemex brewer itself has only been around since the 1940s, though the pour-over method has been around since the early 1900s.
Coffee produced using a Chemex is balanced, rich, and flavorful.
How Are They Made?
Making coffee in a French Press is relatively quick and very easy. Coarsely ground coffee beans are placed at the bottom of a glass beaker and hot water is added.
The grounds and water are stirred together and the top of the French Press, a lid with a plunger, is placed on top to keep the heat in.
Once the mixture has brewed for 4 minutes, the plunger is pushed down, which forces the grounds to the bottom of the beaker. What remains is an oily, gritty, but strong coffee.
The Chemex is a form of pour-over coffee. Water is heated in a gooseneck kettle. In the meantime, a paper filter is added to the top portion of the Chemex.
The filter needs to be opened so that there are three layers on the spout side of the brewer and one layer on the other. Water is then poured over the filter, a step referred to as “rinsing.” Doing this ensures a cleaner tasting brew.
Ground coffee is added to the filter and the remaining water is poured over the grounds. The water will mix with the grounds and eventually drip through the opening in the middle of the Chemex producing an aromatic coffee.
What Are They Made of?
The French Press is made up of two distinct parts, a glass beaker, and a specialty top. The top has a mesh filter and a metal rod with a plunger handle going through it.
French Press brewers also typically come with a handle that surrounds the beaker and allows the user to pour directly from it without having to touch the hot glass.
The Chemex is one singular piece, inspired by a funnel you would find in a laboratory. The top is a cone shape that allows air to escape in such a way as to force the coffee down through the opening into the chamber below.
Traditionally the Chemex has a wooden collar between the upper and lower portion to allow the user to pick it up and again pour coffee directly from the brewer without fear of touching the glass.
How Are They Similar?
While the French Press and Chemex produce two distinct tasting beverages, they have many similarities. Both allow the user optimal control over the brew’s strength, acidity, and temperature. Both also produce a very flavorful coffee.
Each of these brewers utilizes a glass base, and while both are ideal for making an individual serving of coffee, both also come in a range of sizes allowing you to serve a crowd.
The optimal coarseness for the coffee for each maker is a coarse grind, and the coffee produced by both has more caffeine than a brew made by a traditional percolator.
Price, Caffeine Level, Brew Time, Taste Comparison
While they have similarities there are differences between the French Press and the Chemex makers. While price will vary depending on the size of the maker, the Chemex is generally more expensive starting at around $45.00 compared to the French Press which starts at around $20.00.
The French Press will produce a bolder oilier brew, with a higher caffeine level but the brew times between the two are both around 4 minutes.
You may hear Chemex and pour over referred to together, that is because a Chemex brewer uses the pour over method to create coffee.
Chemex is a specific brand of pour-over coffee maker, whereas French Press is a style of coffee maker and can be made by many different manufacturers.
- Cost: $20-$40
- Caffeine: 107.5 mg per 8 oz
- Brew Time: 4 minutes
- Components: Glass beaker, mesh strainer, plunger top
- Brew Taste: Bold, rich, oily, gritty
- Cost: $45-$60
- Caffeine: 80 mg per oz
- Brew Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds
- Components: Single glass vessel
- Brew Tase: Balanced, flavor forward, smooth
How To Drink French Press vs Chemex Coffee
Coffee made with a French Press is enjoyed with milk (or milk alternative) and a sweetener just as you would enjoy coffee made by any method.
However, while we think of the French Press for brewing hot coffee, it is also an excellent way to make cold brew at home.
To make cold brew simply immerse your coffee grounds in cold (filtered) water in the beaker, place the top on with the plunger up and place it on your counter for 12-24 hours. When ready, push the plunger down and you will have a delicious cold brew coffee ready to enjoy.
If you are feeling particularly daring, you can use your French Press to create a cold brew infused Campari, and use it to create a French Press Negroni. Here’s how to make this bold and unique cocktail:
French Press Negroni
First, place 1-2 oz of Campari in your French Press and stir in a tablespoon of coffee grounds. Place the lid on and let the mixture sit anywhere from 1-24 hours. The longer it sits, the stronger the coffee flavor will be.
Once the mixture has sat to your preferred time, push the plunger down and build your cocktail. In a mixing glass, pour the following over ice:
- 1 oz infused Campari
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Vermouth
- Stir and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Enjoy!
The Chemex makes a cup of coffee that can be enjoyed however you prefer, milk and sugar, or even black.
If you are looking to try something a little different you can experiment by adding extracts to your coffee grinds before pouring the water over. Vanilla or almond extract added to the basket can create a whole new flavor profile.
If you want a coffee with a kick, consider using coffee brewed with your Chemex to make a sweet twist on an Irish Coffee.
To make this fun and warming cocktail, add the following to a double-walled glass mug:
Chemex Irish Coffee
- 4 oz Chemex Brewed coffee
- 1.5 oz Irish Whiskey
- 1 oz Coffee Brandy
- 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
- Top with whipped cream to taste
Alternatives to the French Press and Chemex
The French Press remains ever popular but there are a few alternatives. As it uses the immersion brewing method, some alternatives rely on the same method.
If you like cold brew coffee, one alternative to consider is an OXO Coldbrew Concentrate Maker. Similar to French Press, grounds are immersed in water. They are then left to sit overnight, the brewer produces a concentrate that you can then add hot or cold water to (depending on your preference) to make your coffee.
Another alternative would be a traditional espresso maker. While not an immersion method, an espresso maker will also produce a bold, strong cup of coffee, similar in flavor profile to the French Press.
Espresso makers use pressure and steam to produce a thick and bold coffee.
There are alternatives to the Chemex as well. The Bodum Pour Over Coffee Maker looks similar in style to a Chemex, but it utilizes a permanent filter. This makes for easier clean-up while still making a flavorful brew.
Another alternative is a Moka Pot. These makers are relatively inexpensive and are made on the stovetop. Similar to Chemex’s brew, the coffee is balanced and consistent.
Since it also relies on water being brought to temperature it takes a similar amount of time to brew, though it can take slightly longer.
French Press vs Chemex – FAQs
Which came first?
Although the French Press brewing method was developed in the 1800s, the actual French Press brewer was pattened in the 1920s.
The Chemex similarly relied on a brewing method, pour over, that had been developed earlier (in the early 1900s), but the actual brewer was pattened in the 1940s.
Which is stronger?
The French Press produces a bolder cup of coffee that has more caffeine than coffee made with a Chemex. The coffee produced in the French Press is grittier and has a thicker, oily mouth feel.
Chemex coffee has a more balanced flavor, and while it is stronger than coffee made with a percolator it is not as robust as French Press. The coffee has a more mellow mouth feel and you have a lot of control over the final flavor.
Which is the most popular?
Both methods have remained strong in popularity since their invention. The French Press has been around longer and therefore is more recognized around the globe.
However, the Chemex has gained a foothold in the United States and has grown quite popular as well.
Coffee aficionados routinely use both methods with great success.