It can be tricky finding the best coffee brewing method when there are so many popular options out there. In your search, you’ve probably come across the French press and Chemex methods.
To help you choose the right one, we’ve broken down the differences in flavors, ease of use, and equipment.
We’ll start with the French press and then continue our post on the French press vs. Chemex.
The French press has gained approval for its ability to produce an outstanding cup of coffee with a heavier taste. The press is a manual brewing device and you can think of it as a cylindrical teapot with a plunging mechanism.
It’s portable, smaller than a Mr. Coffee maker, and doesn’t require filters.
In terms of preparation, the French press does require more work than just the simple press of a button (but less work than the Chemex). It will require some experimentation to produce a cup that works for your tastes.
There are more variables with the French press such as water temperature, grind size, and steeping time. You can look up different recipes and combinations of these factors on sites like Brew Methods.
The process involves steeping coffee that is placed at the bottom of the press and then pushing down on the plunger to separate the grounds from the water.
Because the coffee and water mingle for a long time, the French press is an immersion method of coffee making.
This also means that the natural oils from the coffee beans will end up in your cup because there is not a paper filter to catch them.
Instead, the French press has a stainless steel mesh filter that allows those oils to pass through.
Some people won’t like the messier clean up, but this method is worth a try if the heavier coffee flavor and consistency appeals to you!
Best French Press: Bodum Brazil
The Bodum Brazil is a durable and reliable French press that has tons of great reviews. If you’re after a portable, affordable French press, give it a look at Amazon.
You can think of the Chemex as a manual Mr. Coffee maker. It’s a conical pour over similar to the Hario v60. This method is a little tougher to learn, but rewarding and produces a cleaner cup than the French press.
Like a French press, a Chemex also won’t take up valuable counter space and is portable, but it’s slightly more fragile than a French press. The Chemex comes in either a 3 or 6 cup size.
You’ll also see that it comes in an all glass version or one with a wooden collar and leather tie.
The design of the Chemex has been so acclaimed that it’s in the Museum of Modern Art. (Maybe this appeals to you. Maybe the sleek design matches your aesthetic. Maybe you spend all day on Pinterest and want something trendy to complete your kitchen.)
The preparation and process differences between the French press and Chemex differ quite a bit. The most important difference is that the Chemex uses incredibly thick filters.
There’s not a plunging mechanism to get used to, but you’ll have to master your pour to make a cup you’ll love. For the best results, you’ll want to buy whole bean and grind at home.
A scale and gooseneck kettle will also be important companion tools if you want to take your Chemex brewing skills to the next level.
The 3-cup Chemex is ideal for smaller cups of coffee, so if you’re just brewing for yourself, this is a great option. You can also purchase an all-glass version with a handle here.
The 6-cup Chemex is best for larger batches of coffee. If you’re brewing for 2 people or more, this is your best bet. You can also purchase an all-glass version with a handle here.
French Press vs. Chemex: Which Is Right For You?
There’s not a clear winner since both devices are great in their own ways. Both are good on-the-go methods, and won’t take up a lot of space.
The key differences are how the devices operate and the flavors they produce.
If you’d like a more dense and heavy coffee and don’t mind the plunging mechanism and clean up, the French press is worth a try.
If you prefer a lighter taste and clean up that involves a quick toss of a filter, then the Chemex is right for you.