In a world of fully-automated coffee machines that come with preset beverages, there are many who prefer to brew their morning pick-me-up manually, experimenting until they get the perfect drink for their taste.
This explains why simple machines like Aeropress or Chemex are still on the market and quite popular. These are unsophisticated coffee makers that appeal to those who don’t believe in the one taste-fits-all of the single-cup coffee makers where you put a pod in and get one standard coffee.
If you use an Aeropress or a Chemex you can adjust coffee grounds quantity, water temperature, and brewing time until you get the brew that is right for you.
Coffee makers like Aeropress or Chemex have a few advantages over the state of the art modern espresso machines – they’re small, easy to use, and quite affordable. Plus, they’re good for traveling. You can take them with you when you go camping and have a great coffee in just a few minutes.
For all their similarities, Aeropress and Chemex are very different coffee makers, so let’s have a look at their main features to help you decide which is better for you.
Chemex has been around for many decades. It was invented in 1941 and it has not been surpassed in elegance and simplicity by any modern LCD-display machine. Its elegant hourglass design has an old-fashioned charm which is probably one of the reasons Chemex is a staple in many kitchens today. People in the industry have declared the old Chemex a “visual show-stopper”.
There are two models on the market today – one made of borosilicate glass with a handle and the other without a handle, but with an impressive wood and leather detailing, which only emphasizes its elegant hourglass design.
This is a more modern device, created in 2005 and it can be described as a big plastic syringe that produces coffee in a few minutes.
While it doesn’t look as good as a Chemex, the Aeropress has many fans because it’s a no-fuss coffee maker, good for people who want coffee in a hurry.
As they are both manual brewing contraptions, you will have to heat your water first. While you wait for the water to heat up, there’s plenty of time for you to get the device ready.
A great tip that works for both coffee makers is to rinse the filter with hot water to get rid of the paper flavor and make it stick better
Brewing tip: Learning how to pour the water over takes some time, but you’ll get the knack of it. The idea is to pour water evenly, rotating the flow over all the grounds. If you concentrate the flow of water on one spot you risk getting a weaker brew as the coffee will be under-extracted.
Brewing tip: Don’t press the plunger too hard and make sure it is well-positioned over the cup to avoid making a mess on the kitchen counter.
What is great about Chemex is that it uses a thick paper filter, which doesn’t allow the grounds to seep through, so you get a very clean taste and quite flavorful brew due to the slow extraction process. Chemex is the perfect coffee maker for the most aromatic blends, as its brewing methods gently reveal the most delicate citrus or floral notes.
On the other hand, Aeropress uses a pressure-based extraction method, which makes the resulting brew more similar to espresso, although not as rich and smooth. It’s best to use coarser grounds with this device, as fine grounds might make their way through the filter, making your coffee a bit murky.
Some coffee lovers say Aeropress makes better coffee as it uses an immersion method, the grounds are completely steeped in the water and you can wait for more than one minute before pushing the plunger, which allows you to make that coffee as intense as you want.
One thing you need to pay attention to when using either of these contraptions is the water temperature. When you heat the water let it get to the boiling point, then take the pot away from the heat source and allow it to cool down for one minute before using it. Boiling water scorches the grounds, making the brew bitter.
Aeropress is a single-serving coffee maker. Stretching things a bit you can produce 12 oz of brew, which might be slightly weak as you put in more water than the recommended 9 oz. In a pinch, you can get two smaller cups of coffee out of that, but that’s about it.
Chemex devices, on the other hand, come in various sizes, from 3 to 10 cups of coffee, so this is clearly the model you should buy if you have a large family or if you like to entertain a lot.
If you read the instructions manuals, both Aeropress and Chemex are guaranteed to give you a good coffee in 3-4 minutes, and this includes the time needed to put the device together. Most Aeropress users are happy to get a quick coffee, although, as we were saying, some prefer to steep the grounds for a more intense brew.
On the other hand, those who prefer the Chemex are very particular about their brew and won’t compromise taste for the sake of saving a couple of minutes. A true coffee enthusiast will be proud to show you his gentle pour-over technique and explain just how important it is to take your time and let the coffee drip slowly for the perfect extraction.
First, you add just a bit of water to let the grounds bloom, allow it to drip, then pour the rest of the water in slow circular movements. The whole process takes at least 4 minutes, but some take as long as 7 minutes!
Many would find that waiting so long for coffee is outrageous, but if you taste the brew, you will probably understand some things are worth waiting for!
So, basically, Aeropress is for beginners and Chemex better suited to pros.
Both are very basic coffee makers, so cleaning is not much of a problem with either of them.
Obviously, the Aeropress is easier to clean as it’s just a plastic syringe that only needs a bit of rinsing once you throw the filter away.
With the Chemex, you might have to work a bit harder to clean the lower part of the hourglass. You can, of course, order a special hand-held brush, long enough to reach all the way down into the glass carafe for perfect cleaning.
The answer is Aeropress, which is made of plastic, whereas Chemex is made of glass, a special borosilicate heat-resistant glass, but still breakable.
You can put either of them in your luggage when you travel as they are small enough, but you will have to be extra careful with your Chemex.
An Aeropress is perfect for outdoor experiences and it usually comes with a special travel pouch. If you’re a fan of hiking trips this is the perfect coffee maker. Wherever you find yourself, you will only have to heat some water, pour it in the Aeropress, add some grounds and you can enjoy a great cup of coffee in front of your campfire.
This is quite a novelty. The old-fashioned Chemex is moving on with the times and the company launched an automated model, called Ottomatic 2.0, which comes with a water tank, where it is heated before it starts dripping from what basically looks like a shower nozzle.
As the machine does everything on its own, it saves you some time, but the big drawback is all the art of making coffee developed by true Chemex fans is quite lost. At least, they kept the trademark hourglass design. All is not lost. Naturally, the Ottomatic is in a completely different price range.
Both Aeropress and Chemex are easy-to-use, no-frills coffee makers. They are both very affordable, so if for some reason you’re not happy with the product, at least you won’t regret spending a lot of money.
However, if you don’t know what to choose between an Aeropress and a Chemex just consider your needs.
If you’re a single person who doesn’t want to waste time in the morning, just go for the Aeropress. You can get a good brew and a strong caffeine kick in a couple of minutes. And clean the device in less than a minute. That’s highly efficient! Oh, don’t forget it’s sturdy enough to take on a hiking trip. Your friends will love you for it.
Still, if you are a bit of a maniac and insist on making the perfect brew every time and you don’t mind spending a few minutes extra to get it then you’re clearly a Chemex sort of person.
And just among ourselves, the Aeropress brew is often described as espresso-like, but we all know it’s not actually espresso. With a Chemex instead, you can prepare a delicious black coffee that is true to its name and just doesn’t pretend to be something else.
Bottom line – if you’re not a hiking fanatic, stick with the Chemex – at least you know what you’re drinking. And it will look great on the kitchen counter!