Chemex vs Kalita Wave

Your wallet can take a huge hit if you go out and buy a coffee every day. Why not take matters into your own hands and make an amazing cup of Joe at home? There are plenty of methods and products that you can use to make a coffee shop style cup. As an experienced barista for over 5 years I have tried all the methods and I am a proud owner of many different coffee making products. 

I am going to compare two coffee making products I use often, the Chemex and the Kalita Wave. I will explain what product works best for a given situation. These are both incredible products that work well, however one may fit your personal needs more than the other.

The Chemex

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CONS:

The Chemex was created in 1941 by a chemist named Dr. Peter Schlumbohm (Chemex 2020). It produces a clean and flavorful cup that is said to taste like a coffee you would purchase at a coffee shop. 

I can attest to the fact that it certainly does have that fresh, clean taste. Whenever I use the chemex I always feel like I am sitting down at the coffee shop across the street drinking a fresh, flavorful brew. The best part is I do not have to get out of my pajamas and I can just have it in my kitchen!

It produces a clean brew. This means there should be no leftover, gritty sediments in your cup when you take that last sip. This 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 quite a smooth sip. The specific filter that is used for the Chemex catches oils and sediment that would make a cup of coffee taste bitter. That is why I tend to use this method as a pickup in the afternoon. The brew produced is not heavy and you can sip with ease.

One of my favorite things about it is the easy clean up. All you have to do is lift the filter from it and toss the filter in the trash. I love this because getting rid of spent grounds can be such a pain. 

Possibly one of the greatest things about it is how affordable it is. You do not have to break the bank to have a quality product that produces a great cup of coffee.

The Chemex takes a specific filter and you can not find them everywhere. I would not recommend taking the Chemex with you when you go camping as it is not very portable.

Kalita Wave

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CONS:

The Kalita Wave comes from a Japanese company that has been making coffee equipment since the 1950’s (Perfect Daily Grind 2020). It produces a clean cup of coffee with no sediment. The Kalita produces a fresh and full bodied cup. I love the Kalita brew because it is a perfectly balanced morning cup. 

You can get the product in stainless steel, ceramic or glass. It is extremely easy to clean, all you need is a microfiber cloth (this ensures no scratches) and some water.

It is sought after for its even brew. The brew bed is flat ensuring a brew that is evenly flavored and a balanced extraction of coffee. 

It is used in many coffee making competitions and in top coffee shops around the world. When using your Kalita you want your coffee grounds to be on the finer side. I would recommend asking for a pour-over grind if you are purchasing for a coffee shop.

The Wave is very lightweight and can be used easily while camping or any type of traveling. I love using it because of how hands on you get to be while crafting your brew. It is suggested that you make a slow spiral pour while brewing.

While I certainly enjoy the hands-on approach while using the Kalita Wave, others may not. If you want that evenly flavored brew you are going to have to put in some work (the slow spiral pour). It also requires a specific type of filter that can usually only be found in a specialty store or online.

Comparable Features

The Filters

Both the Chemex and The Kalita Wave require specific types of filters that are not compatible with each other or any other coffee making mechanism. Both filters work extraordinarily well getting rid of acidity, bitterness and coffee sediments. While we know that both required filters work well, what about the accessibility of them? 

The Chemex does have a specific filter, however you can find those specific filters at most grocery stores and coffee shops. Getting filters for the Kalita Wave can be tough as they can only be found online or in specialty stores/coffee shops.

The winner of the best filter goes to The Chemex. Both filters work great however the filters for the Chemex are much more accessible.

Portability

This feature is especially important for those who travel a lot or for those who like to camp. Is your coffee mechanism going to be portable and easy to whip out and use?

The Chemex is a bulkier, glass item that can not be taken apart. The filter or “the beak” is connected to the decanter, which increases its size and decreases the ease of portability. The Kalita can be taken apart from a decanter and it is a very lightweight item. The Kalita is also available in stainless steel, glass or ceramic material. I would lean towards purchasing the stainless steel Kalita Wave for travel purposes.

The winner for portability is the Kalita Wave. In my opinion the Kalita Wave is a travel essential, especially if you are looking to save money instead of buying a pricey cup of coffee every day while traveling. 

The Cleanup

Cleaning up the grounds is an easy task for both of the products. All of the grounds are collected in the filters and then you can simply pick up the filter and dispose it. But what about cleaning out the actual product itself? The opening of the Chemex is a smaller so it is a bit difficult to get your hand in there to scrub around. The Kalita Wave is detachable from it decanter making it a bit easier to clean. Like I have described earlier all it needs is a microfiber cloth and some warm water.

The winner for easiest overall clean is the Kalita Wave.

The Ease of Use

Both mechanisms require a personal touch and your attention. That is the joy of making a perfect cup of coffee in the comfort of your home. I would recommended using gooseneck kettle to pour the water. By using this type of kettle you will have a controlled and accurate pour. The Chemex requires your effort while pouring, you need to be careful to not pour all of the water in at once. The Kalita Wave recommends you make slow, spiral pours to ensure a balanced brew.

The winner for ease of use is the Chemex. It requires some attention but not as much involvement as the Kalita Wave requires. 

Brew Time

Brew time is important especially if you are in a morning rush. While both take a bit of dedication and attention the brew times are quick. It generally takes the Chemex about 4 minutes (Crema Coffee 2020). The brew time for the Kalita barely beats the Chemex by about 10 seconds. The brew time is usually anywhere from 3 minutes and 30 seconds to 3 minutes and 50 seconds (Crema Coffee 2020). In this close race the Kalita Wave takes home the win.

Aesthetics

It is important to have something that does not stick out like a sore thumb in your kitchen. This is especially important if the coffee making product is visible all the time. Both are easy on the eyes but the Chemex has a fancier look to it in my opinion. Its is a beautiful glass structure with a wooden “collar” for gripping.

The Stand Out Features

The Chemex

  • The taste. It is not a feature but it is an important factor. You will be able to enjoy a flavorful, clean cup of coffee. The filter for it is designed to strip the grounds from some of the bitter, harsh oils.
  • The size. The attached decanter is big and you are able to make more than just one cup of coffee while using it.
  • The convenience. Again, not technically a feature but you do not have to buy a decanter to go under the “beak or filter area because its already attached.
  • The aesthetics. It is made from glass and it will not look out of place in your kitchen. 
  • Affordability. It is extremely affordable and you can find the filters almost anywhere. 

The Kalita Wave

  • The taste. It produces a brew that is balanced and evenly flavored.
  • The flat bed with three extraction holes as opposed to one. This helps eliminate the build-up of water in the actual coffee bed itself.
  • The dripper has little to no contact with the filter. This is the main reason for the balanced cup that is produced. The water is able to be evenly dispersed.
  • It comes in stainless steel, glass or ceramic. It is nice to have choices, especially because things that are made out of glass tend to break. I would recommend purchasing the stainless steel version.
  • The portability. This is really the perfect camping or traveling side kick. This is especially true if you purchase the stainless steel version.

Should You Purchase a Chemex or a Kalita Wave? 

Both products are incredibly useful and they both produce an amazing cup of coffee. As an experienced barista I completely support both products. Either way you will be saving your wallet by purchasing one or the other. You do not have to spend the extra money going to a cafè every day. 

However, one might stand out to you more than the other, it is completely up to you and your coffee needs.

You should purchase a Chemex if:

  • You do not like to deal with the mess of spent grounds.
  • If you are looking for a cup of coffee that is not high in acidity or bitterness.
  • You want something that compliments your kitchen aesthetics. 
  • If you like a good afternoon pick me up.
  • If you want the same tasting cup you had at the coffee shop down the street.
  • If you like to be somewhat hands on while making your coffee.
  • If you are looking to save money and need something durable that will last.

If you strongly identified with these points I would suggest purchasing a Chemex!

You should purchase a Kalita Wave if:

  • You do not like the mess of spent grounds.
  • You like the taste of a balanced, flavorful brew.
  • You like to travel and/or camp often.
  • You like the option of choosing what material would work best for you (glass, stainless steel or ceramic).
  • You like a clean cup of coffee without leftover sediments.
  • You like to be very hands on while crafting your brew.
  • You like a quick brew time.

Did you check off all of these key points? If so, hurry up and purchase a Kalita Wave!

If you felt that you connected with both of the lists, I would recommend purchasing both! There is nothing wrong with having many different coffee making products. If you are a coffee connoisseur like me it is especially important to try many different coffee making methods. I make use out of both mechanisms and I can tell you there are many differences between the two.

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