When you think about it, it’s kinda weird to compare the Chemex and the AeroPress.
It’s hard to find two manual brewing devices that are more unlike.
One is big and fragile, made of glass and wood.
The other is small and made of plastic.
But since you’re here, I might as well break down these two devices in a bit more detail.
Read on, if you want to find out, which one you should get.
the practical stuff
Let’s start out by talking about some basic facts about each brewer. Read carefully, because some of them might be deal breakers to you.
The Chemex is made of glass. This means that it’s fragile. The paper filter is a proprietary one, so that means that it will most likely not be available in your local supermarket. The filters are also kind of big and expensive. They are more expensive than Hario and Kalita filters, and many people already feel that those are kind of expensive.
Also, since the Chemex is a pour over coffee maker, you’ll get the best results, if you’re using a a gooseneck kettle. So you should add that to your budget as well.
Pour over coffee brewing does take some time if you want to pull it off perfectly, and unfortunately, the Chemex is a bit slower than the other pour over devices on the market. Realistally, you’ll probably spend 5-8 minutes every time you make coffee with this device.
The AeroPress is in many ways the polar opposite of the Chemex. Many AeroPress recipes only take 1-2 minutes to pull off, and cleaning should only take 15 seconds.
The AeroPress is also really practical, since you can drop it on the floor or put it in a bag without worrying about anything breaking.
The AeroPress filter are quite affordable. You get 300 in a package. However, to get the best results, you should use two filters every time you brew or buy the more expensive Aesir filters produced by a different brand. So don’t let cost be the deciding factor here.
- Great for travel
- Fast & Efficient
- Suitable for 1-2 cups
- Extremely durable
- Fun. Lots of ways to brew.
- Difficult to master
- Rubber seal can get oliy/disgusting without proper care
- Great for brewing larger batches
- Exquisite flavors
- 2 in 1: Brewing device and carafe in a single device
- Expensive, proprietary filter
Percolation vs immersion
The Chemex employs an infusion/percolation method, similar to drip coffee makers and manual pour overs.
Percolation means that hot water is continuously poured through a bed of coffee grounds sitting on top of a filter. In the case of the Chemex, it is their proprietary paper filter. This requires constant attention during the pour, as even saturation of the grounds is necessary for a tasty brew.
A novice home barista might cause water to run continuously down one section of the brewing bed in what is called “channeling” which will create an uneven cup of coffee.
Infusions are more effective at extracting coffee compounds since the continuous stream of pure water can extract at maximum capacity. Grind size and uniformity is important with pour over.
The AeroPress uses a mixture of immersion brewing and pressurized brewing. In that sense, it’s a very unusual brewer. Immersion means that the coffee grounds and water are steeping together. This is similar to what the French press does. However, extraction-wise the AeroPress is different because you can press out most liquid from the coffee grounds. In that sense, it’s a more efficient way of brewing compared to traditional steeping methods.
Winner: I usually prefer infusion/percolation over immersion. However, the AeroPress is so versatile and uniqye that I will have to give it the victory in this round.
The AeroPress only comes in one size, optimized for a single cup of coffee at a time. This can be a significant disadvantage if you anticipate having to brew for groups regularly.
If you think you’re going to brew bigger batches with the AeroPress, then be sure to check out my secret technique that will allow you to brew two cups at once!
The Chemex has a much more straightforward design and it’s manufactured in a variety of sizes. The brewing technique does not change much with higher volumes, so it is relatively easy to scale up and brew for more people
Winner: KO for The Chemex!
The massive upside of the AeroPress is that there are so many ways to brew it. As an immersion method, you can let it steep how long you want. You also have the option of brewing it inverted or regular and use either a paper or metal filter. As such, it’s hard to talk about any ‘AeroPress’ flavor per se. Be sure to read my big post on the Aeropress if you want to learn about all these lesser-known brewing tricks and tweaks.
The Chemex employs an excellent paper filter as well as the infusion method of brewing and produces one of the cleanest cups of coffee out there. The thick paper filter makes sure that particulates stay out of your coffee. This allows for the appreciation of fruitiness or acidity that is present in more complex coffees.
There is only that much you can do with a Chemex. But that is both a strong side as well as a weakness because the standard is pretty damn high.
Winner: This one is a draw!
Portability & Sturdiness
The AeroPress is almost indestructible. The main body is constructed from polypropylene and can be dropped with little fear of shattering. Its tubular shape also makes packing it away in a backpack or a suitcase much easier than with a Chemex. It can easily slide into the side of a backpack when traveling. The newest generations of the brewer, the Aeropress Go, in fact, is created with travel in mind
The main body of the Chemex is made of glass, and so is relatively fragile, especially when compared to the Aeropress. Its beautiful shape is classic and looks stunning on a kitchen counter, but is not ideal for packing away for travel.
Furthermore, dropping it on the floor will almost certainly shatter it completely. The Chemex is not a brewing device meant for travel!
Winner: The Aeropress takes the one without breaking a sweat!
The final verdict
My vote goes for the AeroPress, overall.
The AeroPress is excellent for people who are brewing for only one person. The most prominent disadvantage of the AeroPress is that it just comes in one size and can only brew up to 12 oz of coffee at a time.
This drawback is entirely irrelevant if you are only brewing one or two cups at a time.
The flavor profiles of coffee brewed with an AeroPress are much more variable than those of the Chemex. These additional possibilities allow for much more experimentation with parameters such as water temperature, coffee to water ratio, and immersion time.
It is also perfect for those who travel often and would like high-quality coffee to take with them.
Who should go for the Chemex?
The Chemex is a classic brewing method that produces a delicate cup of coffee, deserving of its subtle and classic design. It’s a conversation starter, and it’s perfect for big batches shared with friends or family.
If you’re looking for a brewing device suitable for this kind of “zen, slow life” style of brewing, then the Chemex is ideal. However, as a daily driver I’d prefer the V60 or AeroPress.