Aeropress vs Chemex – What’s The Difference?
Brewing by hand is one of the best things to originate from the third wave of coffee.
Here, we take a look at the Aeropress vs Chemex. Keep reading to learn about the differences between these two popular manual brewers.
The Aerobie, or what we now know as the Aeropress, has been available since 2005. Created by Alan Adler to reduce bitterness, it is now one of the most popular ways to make coffee without a machine.
- Great for body and acidity
- Super portable
- Easy to clean
- Not great for making larger brews
Aeropress brewing is different from your usual drip and immersion brews because it adds pressure during extraction. This means locking amazing flavor in a portable brewer and for a very wallet friendly price point.
It requires movement and attention while you make your morning cup of coffee, and it’s challenging to be consistent with if you’re not noting down your brews.
Invented by Peter Shclumbohm in 1941, it’s one of the few inventions that looks as good as it performs.
An essential for any lover of manual brewing. A simple but effective way to brew incredible coffee right at home.
- Great for enjoying bright brews
- Makes up to 6 cups
- Easy to clean
- Works only with Chemex filters
The Chemex is made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass. It’s a specially designed shape that makes it easy to hold while being aesthetically pleasing. Aside from this, Chemex brewers come with a specific type of paper filter intended to brew with.
A cup from the Chemex will favor acidity over the body, all while making multiple cups of bright coffee per batch. Its also simple to clean because of the disposable paper filter and looks great on any table or shelf.
Since it’s made of glass, you need to handle it with care. And while it can make multiple cups per brew, it’s not the most efficient method for brewing single cups of coffee at a time.
Aeropress VS Chemex
Now that I’ve given a teaser on these 2 classics in handmade coffee let’s directly compare them in different brewing areas. As you go through each topic, see which description suits your personal preferences more, and pursue your preferred method accordingly.
Compatibility beats curiosity, especially at the start of your coffee journey. Without getting too philosophical – As with anything, the more you enjoy something initially, the more you’ll be enticed to pursue it deeply.
Aeropress: Starts with a bit of immersion in hot water. Usually with a 1:12 – 1:15 ground coffee grounds to water ratio.
Once your target immersion time is reached, you push your sealed plunger down the chamber, applying force. You push the hot water through the coffee beans and force coffee out. The resulting brew is “less bitter” because you brew faster with the Aerobie coffee press precisely because of the added pressure.
Chemex: This is more of a simple drip method. You use water, coffee grounds, heat, and gravity to extract flavors from the beans and into your cup of coffee.
WINNER: Aeropress. The Aeropress takes round 1 for me here because while it requires more work, just the variety of flavors you can extract using this method is well worth it for the cost. Did I mention that you can buy an extension that allows you to make espresso using your press?
Aeropress: With added pressure comes less waiting time. The Aeropress will give you a cup of coffee in 2-3 minutes, on average, almost literally half of other hand brewing methods.
Chemex: Since it’s closer to your usual drip method, you’re in between 3-6 minutes per batch. You need to give your water enough time to extract those amazing coffee flavors from your beans.
WINNER: Aeropress. I decide what to get when it comes to coffee making equipment by imagining which one I can stand to do daily. Those extra 2-3 minutes I can save with the Aeropress will add up, mostly since I only brew for myself at home.
Ease of Brewing
Aeropress: You will need to do your usual water prep and grinding. It comes with a small paper filter, so ideally, you need to factor in the filter’s pre-wetting.
Once all of that is done, you go through immersion and, of course, pushing down the Aeropress to extract coffee well. It’s more than the usual movement for sure.
Chemex: The Chemex requires the same attention as most pour-over coffee makers. Once you prepare your coffee beans and water, all you need to do is pour. With the right technique, yes, but it’s still just pouring. Comparing a French Press vs Chemex in this aspect would be fairer to me.
Winner: Chemex. Since we’re talking about “ease” here, Chemex definitely wins this round. If you know how to pour water, you’re halfway to maximizing your Chemex!
Aeropress: While the Aeropress kit comes with a bit less than 10 parts, it also comes with a tote bag. None of its parts are larger than a medium-sized water jug. It is made of hard plastic, so it’s also rated highly in terms of ease of storage in a bag.
Chemex: The Chemex is made of glass. To bring it around, you will need padding. And a way to minimize movement and external pressure in transit.
WINNER: Aeropress. This coffee brewing piece of equipment perfectly suits people who like to be able to make good coffee wherever they go. If you want a good hand brew on top of a mountain, you’re better off comparing the Aeropress vs French Press.
Ease of Cleaning
Aeropress: The Aeropress is advertised to be self-cleaning. How so? As you introduce pressure into the sealed chamber to effectively extract coffee flavors fast, you also push out all of the coffee grounds and almost all of the oils with each brew.
All you need to do is throw away the used grounds with the small round paper filter, and give your press a good rinse with warm water.
Chemex: With the Chemex, once you want to cut brewing time, all you need to do is to lift the used paper filter and discard it. After that, you just need to pour and enjoy. When you’re done, rinse with warm water, and you’re ready for the next batch.
WINNER: Aeropress. I’ve used both in a cafe set up, and while the Chemex is “easier,” it’s also quite fragile compared to the Aeropress. The press is still simple to clean, AND you can afford to relax as you do so without any fear of nicking it with the faucet. Or a metal milk pitcher.
Coffee Grind Required
Aeropress: Medium. Depending on your arm strength and desired flavor profile, you can also go medium-fine. The chamber’s combined pressure with hot water will create resistance when you brew, but that’s also precisely how it was designed.
The paper filter at the bottom is the final “gate” that your coffee has to pass through before ending up in your cup. That’s also why I find an Aerobie coffee press cup of coffee more able to provide a means to perceive more fine flavors.
Chemex: Medium-Coarse. This is the general guideline by default because batches from the Chemex are bigger than your 1-2 cup pour-over. Or French Press. Or Aeropress.
As I said earlier, if you brew for one cup of coffee in the Chemex, you will definitely have to adjust to a finer grind just to slow the water down. This is only one way to slow down extraction as it goes through your paper filter.
Winner: All of us. With 2 totally different coffee grind sizes, you will get different coffee spectrum flavors from the same bean. This stark difference is one of the reasons for choosing a suitable brewer is so essential! If you make a mismatch from the brewer stage, you will have a more challenging time making a coffee that you yourself will enjoy.
Aeropress: The fine grind size is one reason that this method is special. It fits well with the shorter extraction. One more reason that this press is impressive is the small paper filter.
Personally, I find It filters out just the right amount of oils for me but still allows some to seep into your actual coffee serving. The combination of pronounced flavors and thicker body deliver the particular characteristics of Aerobie coffee.
Although, while there is body with acidity here, If you want a brew with the most body, you might prefer French Press vs Aeropress.
Chemex: The Chemex is known to make lighter coffee cups with a focus on acidity. The medium-coarse grind setting now explains this and the filter paper you will use with this coffee brewer. The coarser grind will make your cup more straightforward but also more consistent.
WINNER: Aeropress. I like my coffee complex. I prefer pleasant-surprises over consistency. I like the movement in the morning to force my body to wake up. All these things play a part in helping me taste my cup of joe better in the morning.
The Final Verdict
Let’s look at the total scores of these 2 hand brewing devices out of the 7 aspects of making coffee that we touched on:
As you can see, from my personal preferences, the Aeropress wins over the Chemex. I can’t bring a Chemex outdoors, my sink is full of other brewing equipment, and I love a complex, medium-bodied cup of joe. At any time of the day. My light roasted Ethiopian coffees are strictly for special occasions.
I hope you learned something new about these 2 amazing brewers. And I hope my breakdown of each category has guided you on how to choose which one is better for you and your brewing purposes.
Always try out new things, and no matter the quality of the extraction you get, just keep brewing!
Barista and coffee writer
Miguel Papa is a coffee fanatic with a passion for brewing. During the weekdays, you can find him experimenting with different drinks while he works as a barista. Otherwise, he’s likely writing here for Sip Coffee or enjoying the outdoors.