Chemex vs French Press

In the world of coffee there are plenty of different ways to brew a satisfying cup of Joe. I am going to compare two of the most popular tools used in coffee making – the Chemex and the French Press. Both brew styles can work well for different types of people. A lot of it depends on how you want your coffee to taste.

I have worked as a certified barista for over five years and I know all there is to know about coffee and the methods used to make coffee. I am a proud owner of a Chemex and a French Press. 

I have found that both methods work well for completely different reasons. In this review, I will use factual information to explain which style works best for certain situations. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which method works best because your coffee needs are unique to only you!

The French Press

PROS:

  • Easy to clean the inside
  • Produces a bold, flavorful cup of coffee
  • Friendly to the environment
  • Versatile

CONS:

  • Last sip may contain coffee sediment
  • Cleaning the grounds can be tricky

The French Press, also known as the plunger pot, was invented sometime in the mid 1800’s (illycaffè 2020). The French Press will leave you with a full bodied and heavy brew. I tend to use my French Press whenever I am feeling groggy –  it helps to put the pep back in my step.

The French Press does not require any type of filter. The French Press is my favorite environmentally-friendly brew method. It can also be used to make a soothing cup of loose-leaf tea. I have found that using the Press is my favorite way to brew tea. The cup of tea it produces is always full of flavor.

When using this brew method, it is best to have course grounds as opposed to fine grounds. From personal experience the finer grounds escape through the built-in steel mesh filter, leaving your cup full of coffee sediments. 

Cleaning the inside of the Press is extremely easy thanks to its wide, cylindrical shape. Your hand and a sponge will fit inside comfortably and with a good scrubbing the built-up oils will disappear. I believe that the deep clean helps to make every cup produced by the Press taste fresh.

Depending on what manufacturer you choose the French Press can be extremely budget friendly. You do not have to break the bank to acquire a durable, reliable Press.

The Products

The Chemex

PROS:

  • Clean, sediment free brew
  • Easy to clean up the grounds
  • Low acidity
  • Not extremely bitter

CONS:

  • Requires certain filters
  • Can be on the pricey side

The Chemex was created in 1941 by a chemist named Dr. Peter Schlumbohm (Chemex 2020). The Chemex produces a clean and flavorful cup that closely compares to the taste of your average drip coffee. I love using my Chemex for a quick afternoon pick me-up.

The Chemex produces a clean brew, without any type of coffee sediment. That is why it is generally compared to a drip coffee you would purchase at a coffee shop or make in a regular coffee maker.

The coffee produced lacks bitterness and acidity making it an easy, smooth sip. This happens because of the Chemex filter, it catches the heavy oils and sediment. That is why I tend to use this method as a quick pick-me-up.

Getting rid of the coffee grounds is an easy task when using the Chemex. The filter catches everything and all you have to do is toss it in the trash. 

The Chemex is extremely affordable for the quality because they are durable and built to last.

The Shared Features

Brew Time

The time it takes to brew with both mechanisms is quicker than brewing in your average coffee maker.

The Chemex requires about thirty seconds of prep before actually being able to brew the coffee. The filter has to be watered down so that it sticks to the sides of the pot keeping it from folding over and ruining the brew. 

The rest of the brew should take about four minutes. This puts the total brew time anywhere from four minutes to four minutes and thirty seconds (Awaken Café 2019).

The French Press does not require a filter – therefore, you can get started right away. It only takes four minutes to brew. (Blue Bottle Coffee 2020).

The French Press wins for quickest brew time by a mere thirty seconds.

The Filtration

Both methods use a certain type of filtration system.

The Chemex uses a specific paper filter, it is not environmentally conscious, however it does produce a clean cup of coffee. Getting rid of the leftover grounds is also very simple because the filter catches them.

The French Press uses a steel, mesh filter. The Press will produce a cup that is stronger but will leave coffee sediments. This leaves you with a gritty last sip, which to me is not desirable. Getting rid of the leftover grounds tends to be time consuming as they are not collected in a paper filter.

The Chemex wins for best filtration.

Your Involvement

Both the Chemex and the French Press require your involvement. That is the best part of these methods. They are both carefully crafted to perfection by you; you become the barista.

The Chemex requires you to pour hot water over the filter filled with grounds. I like to go through circular motions, making sure I saturate every ground, even the edges of the filter.

The French Press does not require as much involvement besides leaving the grounds to steep and then taking the “plunge”.

I would consider this to be a tie. One requires less of your involvement while the other requires a bit more attention. Either way you are wearing the barista shoes for both methods. Being able to craft your own brew is a very enlightening experience.

The Stand Out Features

The French Press

  • Wide, cylinder shape – This feature makes it easy to get a satisfying clean on the inside of the Press. I know that I do not want a cup of coffee with leftover oils in it. In my experience the French Press coffee always tastes the freshest.
  • The taste – This is not really a feature but it is a huge factor in considering what type of method you should be using. The French Press produces a bold and strong cup of coffee. It is the type of coffee that will bring your energy level from zero to one hundred.
  • Versatility – Forget having to buy a steeper for your loose-leaf tea – you can just steep it in your Press. I personally think that the tea the Press produces tastes better than what a regular steeper produces.

The Chemex

  • The paper filter – Yes, the Press has a filter too but the Chemex filter does more than just filter out the coffee grounds. The paper filter also filters out some acidity and bitterness.
  • The taste – Again, this is not a specific feature but it is an important factor. The Chemex produces a brew that is clean and flavorful. I think it is the perfect afternoon pick me up.
  • The coffee grounds – The grounds used for the Chemex do not have to be as coarse as the ones you would use for a Press. The grounds you use for your coffee maker will work great.

Should You Purchase a Chemex or French Press?

Truthfully, both methods work great and are affordable, however, you may benefit from one more than the other.

You should purchase a French Press if:

  • You want to be budget friendly- You can find a reputable French Press that will not break the bank. A Press is built to last and it does not matter how much you pay for it. All you are required to do is properly take care of it.
  • You want the satisfaction of a deep cleaned product- The body of the French Press is a wide cylinder. Your hand can easily fit in to scrub every inch. The mesh and steel filter can be taken apart easily, giving you the ability to clean each part. 
  • You are looking for an environmentally friendly product- The French Press is a waste free product. The filter is made from mesh and steel. 
  • You are looking for a full bodied, energy packed cup of coffee- The Press produces coffee that will bring your energy level from zero to one hundred really quickly. It works well as a morning cup of coffee.

Did you check off all the points on this list? If so, it would be in your best interest to purchase a French Press!

You should purchase a Chemex if:

  • You like a quick clean-up- The coffee grounds are all collected by a specialty filter. The filter ensures little to no mess while using the Chemex.
  • You like to drink coffee casually and throughout the day- The Chemex produces a flavorful cup of coffee. It works well for an afternoon pick me up.
  • You don’t like bitter coffee- The filter used for the Chemex minimizes the bitterness and acidity in the brew that is produced.
  • You like to be hands-on while crafting your brew- The Chemex requires your full attention from the beginning of the brew to the end.

If these key points caught your attention, then a Chemex is the way to go!

Maybe you are just like me and identify strongly with points from both lists. If so, definitely invest in the Chemex and the French Press! You will make use out of both and I can promise you that.

Looking for more coffee makers? Take a look at all our coffee maker reviews here.