When you’re ready to move up from your regular coffee maker, you have a few good options:
Two of these options include the French Press and the Chemex, both of which offer different methods of brewing to achieve the results you desire.
Both of these are largely popular brewing methods and have been around for quite some time. In praise of the simple but brilliant design of the Chemex, it does have a home within the Museum of Modern Art.
Meanwhile, the French Press has been impressing users since the 19th century.
These methods are vastly different, with one offering a bold but unrefined flavor and the other a more crisp but far more clinical style of brewing.
It’s going to be up to you which is more suited to your personal needs and tastes. Read on to learn more about the method that will be ideal for you.
How Will My Coffee Be Different?
Taking a look at the French Press first, you’ll find that this is the ideal tool to use if you’re looking for rich, hearty flavor.
At it’s most basic premise, the French press is ideal for those who care more about the flavor of the coffee than a high level of filtration.
When drinking coffee made with a really good French Press, you can expect rich flavor that resembles the type of coffee you’ve chosen. It’s going to be bolder, which may also mean more bitter due to the pure nature of the method itself.
Because there is only a metal filter in the French Press, there is a strong possibility of ending up with coffee grounds in the bottom of your cup.
On the other hand, if you aren’t a fan of any amount of sediment in your coffee then the Chemex may be more suited to your style.
While you may not get the same level of flavor in a coffee brewed in the Chemex method, you will absolutely get a crisp, clean cup free from sediment.
This is created through the use of disposable filters that are much more thick than what you might use in a standard coffee maker. They do tend to be more expensive, but keep your coffee perfectly clear.
The Chemex-made coffee may have a lighter flavor, which is great when you want something that isn’t going to be overloaded with coffee taste. It’s something that will be easier to sip, but won’t have the same level of flavor strength as what the French Press can create.
Using these filters can also ensure that the coffee produced is less bitter, as less acid makes it into your cup. So if you’re looking for smoother, lighter flavor then a Chemex may be worth looking into!
What About Filtration?
There’s a large difference in the filtration between the French Press and Chemex. You might say this is where these two methods differ the most.
The Chemex offers much more intense filtration as it uses filters that are somewhere in the realm of 20 or 30% thicker than those you might use in a standard coffee maker.
What that means is that there is very little chance any sediment or oils will make it into your cup of coffee, so if that appeals to you then the Chemex is well worth a look.
Opposite to that, the French Press has pretty minimal filtration, meaning the majority of the coffee grounds will be kept out of your cup but you will be likely to have some of that sediment sitting in the bottom.
It’s this difference in filtration that also creates such a vast variety in the resulting taste of the coffee. It’s going to be up to you to weigh out whether you prefer intense flavor or a clean cup.
Which One Requires More Work?
You may also be wondering just how involved you’ll have to be as your coffee is made. Most coffee fans are most familiar with the drip style coffee makers we have at home.
These typically only require you to add the filter and grounds, then push a button. The French Press and Chemex however require a little bit more effort.
The French Press is thought to be the less involved of the two, as long as you get the timing right. The steps essentially include adding the grounds and allowing them to bloom into the water, stirring from time to time and then using the plunger to press most of the grounds down before pouring.
The Chemex method is a little more involved. It also requires a specially-designed kettle that works well with the Chemex container.
At their most basic, the steps are as follows:
- Heat up your water to the ideal temperature in the kettle, and insert the filter into the top of the dripper. Once the water is heated, pour a very small amount through the filter into the dripper.
- Then, grind your coffee and place it into the filter, followed by around 45 seconds of pouring more water over top of the grounds and allowing the resulting coffee to drip into the container.
This is going to require a timer and close attention, as it is a very specific process.
Overall, both of these methods can take around 4-5 minutes depending on the amount of coffee you need to make so neither is going to force you to focus on making coffee for too long.
You’ll just need to expect it to take a little more time than a more automatic coffee maker.
How Much Coffee Can Each One Make?
This is going to be important if you’ll need to make a single cup or enough for a crowd. While in both cases you can also make less than the container holds, it may help to know what sizes are offered for each option.
The French Press does offer a larger range of sizes, allowing you to get any size from 8oz to around 36oz. That way, if you want something small that you can easily take on the go then a small 8oz French Press will be fantastic.
See our favorite small french press coffee makers here and our favorite large french press coffee makers here.
Otherwise, you can make plenty to share with the larger sizes. You may also see a pricing difference in the sizes that can help to guide your decision.
The Chemex doesn’t have as great of a variety in sizes, but you can get sizes that make anywhere from 3 to 8 full cups. Due to that, it may lend itself more easily to making larger amounts but won’t be as easily to take on the go.
Which Is More Difficult To Clean?
You can expect the Chemex and French Press to require a little more work when it comes to cleaning as well.
The French Press can be easier to reach into, but it can be difficult to get all the grounds out of the container. That might mean you need to take it apart fully to ensure all the used grounds can be washed away from each piece.
The Chemex container will be more difficult to reach into, but it has the benefit of the disposable filter. These make it easy to simply toss out the grounds, but you will have to figure out how to clean the inside of the dripper.
Deciding which will have the best balance of results and ease of cleaning might be tough, but it will be easier for those who have a large preference for a certain taste.
What About The Cost?
Initially, you may find that the Chemex pieces are more expensive. This will depend on whether you also want to use a special metal filter that can work for some designs.
Otherwise, the Chemex and French Press can start off at about the same cost. However, you will have to purchase the disposable filters for the Chemex. Because they are thicker than standard filters, they can also be a bit more expensive.
On the other hand, the French Press uses no disposable filters so you’re more likely to only need to pay the initial cost of the French Press itself.
Another thing to keep in mind is the kind of coffee you buy, as coffees that work better for each method may be more costly than the standard options. This is fully going to be based on your personal preferences.
Both of these styles of coffee are considered equal at Gathering Ground. Each is able to result in excellent tasting coffee, though the methods are very different.
It’s up to you whether you have a preference for a clean, smooth cup of coffee or something more bold and rustic. To help you in your search for the ideal method, here are the Chemex and French Press coffee makers we offer.