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Chemex Six Cup Coffee Maker (with handle)

Spoiler: I love this thing. It's produced some of the best coffee I've had in a LONG, long time - in just a month of use. It's also presented some challenges, but none too big.

The Chemex system is more than just a brewer - it's as much about the filters as it is the pot. However, what I'm finding is that the Chemex brewer is actually about more than just the Chemex system. This isn't a review about filters, but suffice it to say that with the Chemex filters, you'll get the cleanest cup of coffee you've ever had. That doesn't mean weak - you can brew some strong coffee with them. However, sediment is stopped dead in its tracks. You'll notice tremendous brightness and clarity of flavor, while still maintaining the milk-chocolate body from the right beans. However, drop in the Coava KONE stainless filter, and you get a cleaner version of a French-Press-like cup. Some folks even use the thinner paper filters designed for Hario drippers to get something else still. Just know that, with this pot, you're not locked-in by filter choice. You can really pick which path you want to go.

The pot itself is nice looking overall, but it's a machine-made glass pitcher. You'll see seems and imperfections in the glass, and not really the charming, hand-made kind. There aren't many, and they aren't large - but at $35 or so, it's a tad disappointing. It's also somewhat thin glass - not troublingly so, but enough to make you want to be careful with it. The hand-blown Chemex brewers are said to be thicker and nicer, but way pricier. I prefer the handled design for ease of use. There's a molded dimple in the lower portion to indicate half-volume (15-16oz), and the bottom of the handle is 30-32oz. I like this - keeps the look clean by avoiding more obvious volume markers.

In terms of use, this is your basic, über-trendy, pour-over setup. You control the variables. What I've found to work best with the stock paper filters is off-boiling water, a good pre-rinse of the filter (which also warms things up), a quick low volume bloom, followed by a low, slow, and spiraling pour action. Watch the bottom for drip speed and volume. Keep the grounds wet to maintain temperature, but don't drown them or pour too much at the edges - water can "channel" down the side of the grounds. Grind size and pour style will influence brew speed, as well as filter choice. That flexibility here is part of the beauty, but also part of the challenge. If you're willing to experiment, you can really dial in your coffee to taste. Once your brew reaches the desired volume, just lift out the filter. Even if it's still dripping, the Chemex filters won't bust on you. Still, do it over a sink or something.

A couple of drawbacks of this system - Heat loss is a real concern. Use a trivet if you have hard/cold counters, and spring for the little glass lid to help trap in some of the heat. If you must, you can put the pot on a low-temp burner, but I don't recommend that (I'd rather drink it tasty and luke-warm than warm and "cooked"). You could always brew one cup at a time, or transfer to a thermos or carafe. Also, depending on filter choice, cleanup is worth some thought. "Dirtier" methods (thin filters, metal filters) require a long/slender brush to really scrub the lower chamber. Chemex sells one that looks a bit like a toilet brush but really does the trick . If you're using the Chemex paper filters, you could almost get away with just a rinse - it's that clean a cup.

Overall, this should really make your short list if you're a coffee-tinkerer. It's a really flexible, manual, involved brew process that can be very rewarding.
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