When comparing the French press and a Chemex, one of the only similarities between the two is the fact they both brew coffee. While their differences are substantial, their impact on the coffee world is just as much so.
Invented in the early 1900’s, the French press takes advantage of a full immersion style of brewing; meaning the coffee grounds and water are steeped together, as opposed to the water just passing through a bed of grounds.
French press pros and cons
The French press is usually touted as one of the best ways to drink coffee, mainly because the steel filter that is plunged through the steeping grounds allows just about all of the natural oils to pass through as well, giving the resulting coffee a ton of flavor.
One of the advantages of a French press is it’s almost set in stone brewing method; add your desired ratio of water and coarsely ground coffee, steep for 4 minutes, and then plunge.
The easy brewing process makes it pretty simple for just about anyone to make great tasting coffee. Another advantage is how easy it is to clean, with most presses being dishwasher safe. French presses are also quite versatile, with the user being able to not only make hot coffee, but cold brew, as well as hot or iced tea.
A disadvantage of the French press is one of the things that makes the coffee so good; the amount of oil in the brewed coffee. While steel mesh filter allows the bulk of natural oils and fats in coffee beans to go into the cup and contribute to the overall flavor profile, for individuals who have high cholesterol, they are not as good.
Chemex pros and cons
The Chemex, being invented in the mid 1900’s, a very different from a French press, and mostly resembles a pour-over style brewer. This durable glass brewer uses large proprietary pointed paper filters, and like the French press, is more than capable of brewing fantastic coffee. A difference though, is that the quality of coffee brewed relies heavily on the user.
Once the Chemex has been preheated, the filter rinsed, and the coffee grounds placed inside, the user must use a gooseneck style kettle to slowly and carefully pour the hot water over the bed of grounds. There are a ton of different ways this can be done, with some users pouring all the water in one continuous pour, or adding it in stages to help add complexity to the flavor.
While this does give the user a lot of freedom when it comes to the overall flavor of their coffee, it adds complexity to the overall brewing process, making it difficult for people unfamiliar with the brewing method to struggle in making great coffee.
Another disadvantage is having to buy the special paper filters, and while they aren’t really expensive, you can’t just go to your local supermarket or dollar store and buy some.
Overall, both have their pros and cons. A French press is very easy to use, can brew coffee rather consistently, and there is no need to go out and buy paper filters.
The Chemex is more expensive to get into, as a gooseneck kettle and the papers are needed as well, but the resulting coffee has hardly any oils in it, and still tastes fantastic.