Chemex vs. French Press: Two Manual Brewers Compared

Coffee made in an automatic drip machine is often bitter and tastes flat. Why not try some manual coffee makers instead? Both the Chemex pour-over and French press plunger will get you a delectable cup of coffee at home without all the hassle.

But which one is right for you? Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of the Chemex vs. French press.

What is Chemex?

Chemex is one of the most popular pour-over coffee makers for home brewing enthusiasts. It’s an hourglass-shaped carafe that looks like a piece of laboratory equipment. First, you add thick paper filters, a mesh filter, and then a medium-coarse grind. Finally, pour hot water over the ground coffee to brew a perfect delicate cup. You can even use Chemex for filtering your cold-brew coffee.

What is a French Press?

Like a Chemex brew, a French press coffeemaker is a low-tech option that involves coffee grounds and near-boiling water. It is usually a glass container with a plunger top. However, unlike Chemex, you immerse the coarse grounds in hot water for 4 minutes, then extract the coffee with the attached plunger. The result is full-bodied, quality coffee.

Chemex vs. French Press coffee: which is the best for you?

Considering new coffee brewing techniques might be intimidating. After all, you’re talking about a multistep brewing process that happens before you have had your morning cup of caffeine. However, even though the Chemex and French press brewing methods may seem new and trendy, they are both tested methods that have been around for more than 100 years.

Each brewing method takes time to fine-tune. While it may seem tricky when you begin, the steps become a ritual that results in a high-quality cup of coffee every time you brew.

There are many options with both manual brewing methods: glass or stainless steel; metal or paper filter; small or large capacity. So how do you know whether Chemex vs. French press is right for you? First, consider the features, such as ease of use, brewing methods, cost, cleanup, and, most importantly, taste. Here is a quick rundown.

chemex vs french press

Ease of use

With a bit of practice, you’ll find each brewing method simple for brewing coffee. They involve finding the right grind size, mastering the coffee-to-water ratio, heating water to a precise temperature, and following the process.

One of the similarities between these brewing methods is that they both use a grind size coarser than standard packaged ground coffee. If you don’t want to grind the coffee, you might be better off with an AeroPress.


Mastering Chemex won’t be challenging if you are familiar with other pour-over coffee equipment, such as Hario V60 or Kalita Wave. Just like with those methods, for best results, you need to find your preferred coffee-to-water ratio and time the water pouring.

To brew coffee with Chemex, place your Chemex filter in the brewer and add medium-coarse coffee grounds. When the water temperature reaches about 200 °F (94 °C), wet the grounds with a hearty splash of water. For best results, wait one minute for the grounds to “bloom,” releasing the delicious flavor. Then slowly pour the hot water over the grounds, wetting the darkest places until you reach your desired amount. Some people find this process meditative. Find your rhythm. The result is a coffee low in acidity and a smooth mouthfeel.

French Press

The coarse ground coffee steeps in hot water for about 4 minutes to extract robustness with the French Press brewing method. After adding your fresh ground beans to the French press, gently add about 200 °F (94 °C) of water.

Set a timer for 1 minute, and allow the brew to steep undisturbed. Then, gently tap the grounds floating near the top with a spoon a few times.

After another 3 minutes, the result is dark and rich coffee. Finally, when the timer beeps, it’s time to plunge. Press firmly on the plunger to extract the final sediment, then enjoy a good cup.

You can keep your coffee warm by pouring the remaining cups into an insulated carafe. This helps prevent bitterness from developing when coffee steeps for too long.


With practice, neither Chemex nor the French press brewing process is complicated. However, the French press wins for its ease of use as it does not require much hands-on time. Therefore, it makes an excellent gift for your mom and dad or any coffee lover who prefers a straightforward coffee brewing method.

pouring coffee from french press

Brewing time

If you are a person who likes to set a drip coffeemaker’s timer to start when you step into the shower, these methods may not be for you. However, when you value flavor over convenience, the extra time spent is worth it, and it also is a morning mindfulness practice.

From the moment you open your sealed beans to when you pour your first cup, both preparations take 6-10 minutes. Hands-on time varies by method, starting at about 3 minutes for French press and 5 minutes for Chemex. Either way, you will probably need to grind coffee beans yourself, as French press and Chemex perform best with coffee grounds coarser than standard packaged coffee.

The next step for both methods is heating hot water to about 200 °F (94 °C). The preferred method is with a gooseneck electric kettle. The gooseneck allows for better control for pouring for both Chemex and French Press.

In addition, these kettles often have a built-in temperature gauge, which makes it easy to know when the water reaches its optimal temperature. Too cold, the coffee will not extract properly; too hot, and it will scorch.


The pour-over method may be for you if you prefer lighter and brighter coffee. Place your medium-coarse ground coffee beans into a paper or metal filter in the Chemex.

When the water reaches about 200 °F (94 °C), wet the grounds with a hearty splash of water. Pour water, then let a minute pass to allow the coffee to “bloom,” releasing the delicious flavor. Then slowly add the remaining water over the grounds in a circular motion for extraction, wetting the darkest places until you reach your desired amount. A gooseneck kettle will offer more control with the pour.

Some people find this process meditative. Find your rhythm. If you have coffee remaining in the Chemex, you may want to pour it into an insulated carafe to keep warm so the last sip tastes as good as the first.

French Press

The coarse ground coffee steeps in hot water for about 4 minutes to extract robust coffee with the French press method. After adding your fresh ground beans to the French press, gently add about 200 °F (94 °C) of water. For best extraction, do not boil water.

Allow the brew to steep undisturbed for about 1 minute, then gently tap the grounds floating near the top with a spoon a few times. After another 3 minutes, the result is a rich, dark coffee flavor. When the timer beeps, it’s time to plunge your French press. Press firmly on the plunger to extract the final flavor, then enjoy your perfect cup.

You can keep your coffee warm by pouring the remaining cups into an insulated carafe. It will also help prevent bitterness from developing when the coffee steeps for too long.


Brewing Chemex and French press take around the same time. Still, Chemex requires more active time as you need to be involved in the brewing process by pouring water over your coffee. French press, therefore, might save you some time as you can steep your coffee while cooking your breakfast.

french press and cup


When selecting a manual brewer, you’ll want to consider how much coffee you want to brew at a time. Comparing Chemex vs. French press, both come in various sizes to suit any coffee enthusiast. However, it’s good to note that you may not want a large coffee maker even if you drink a lot of coffee.

While the first cup is perfection, the coffee can get cold too quickly in the carafe or get bitter sitting in the French press. Both are valid complaints. We all prefer hot coffee, so there are two simple solutions: brewing in smaller batches or purchasing an insulated carafe.


The Chemex coffee makers range in size from 3 cups to 10 cups. Remember that a Chemex cup makes 5 ounces (150 milliliters). So an 8-cup Chemex produces 40 ounces (1180 milliliters) of coffee. When choosing, decide how many people will be drinking coffee and when. Even though you may have multiple coffee drinkers, if they have their cups at different times, there is no need to get a large-capacity carafe.

French Press

French press coffee makers are available in various sizes, from 3 to 12 cups. You can even find a single-cup French press for travel, so consider how much coffee you drink at a time. Large insulated French press carafes can keep the coffee warmer longer. Still, your coffee will have contact with sediment longer, too, so it will get stronger.


Both Chemex and French press come in a range of sizes. So when pondering over Chemex vs. French press dilemma, assess other factors and decide on the type of brewer you prefer first, and then choose the size that works best for you.

small chemex


Try Chemex and French press in a coffee shop and evaluate which coffee maker pleases your palate. Then, when you know what flavor profile you prefer: clean coffee with subtle fruity notes or full-bodied and thick, you can decide which coffee maker is best for your home.


The Chemex will brew a cleaner cup of coffee than the French press because the water passes through the grounds rather than steep. The coffee oils get trapped in the paper filter, producing a brighter-tasting coffee cup. Lighter roasted coffee needs more coaxing to release its flavor, so the slow pour releases the flavors without the residue.

French Press

Even though the coffee made using the French press will not be as concentrated as that brewed with Moka Pot, you will still achieve a rich, full-bodied flavor. Coffee brewed using this method is more robust when hot, especially as you near the bottom of the cup, where the dregs remain. Some call it a “dirty cup” because the sediments are not filtered. More coffee oils will make the taste linger on the tongue longer, creating a stronger after-taste, which some people describe as acidic. Conventional wisdom holds that darker roasts are better suited to the French press because they extract flavor more easily.

You may think that using fewer beans will result in less bitter coffee. However, the opposite is true. The French press requires more grounds for less bitterness. The same is true for time: the longer the brewing time, the more bitter the coffee tastes.


Chemex will help make a tea-like cup of coffee for those who prefer a lighter brew. On the other hand, the French press will produce coffee with a strong body, natural oils, and a memorable mouthfeel. So having this information, you can determine which brewing method sounds more appealing to you.

You may find that you enjoy coffee made with the French press and Chemex, depending on the time of the day or your mood. The good thing is that these coffee makers are relatively inexpensive so that you can buy them both.

chemex coffee in a glass


Aside from taste, the worst part of auto-drip coffeemakers is cleaning them. While the cleanup may be quick, decalcifying the machine is a monthly hassle you drop by switching to manual coffee makers such as Chemex or French press. Both of these devices are dishwasher safe. Just be sure to remove any wood or cork accessories. You can also clean both with warm soapy water and a good rinse.


Though Chemex is easy to clean, you’ll want a brush rather than a sponge to fit through its hourglass neck. Paper filters capture micro-particle sediments and coffee oils, so the cleanup is quick and easy once the coffee is brewed. If you have a compost pile, stoss the Chemex coffee grounds with the paper filter into your heap to compost them.

French Press

The French press carafe can also be cleaned with warm soapy water. To clear the plunger, press the plunger as though you are making coffee, then rinse. This should remove the sediment and natural oils.


Chemex is relatively easier to clean than the French press. Usually, it is enough to rinse it with soapy water, and the job is done. Also, using a paper filter speeds up the cleaning process because you can easily discard it without coffee grounds getting into the crevices of your coffee maker. Therefore, in this respect, Chemex wins the cleaning competition.

removing chemex filter


All this effort to get a better cup of coffee comes at a price. It may seem like a big expense to buy a gooseneck kettle, burr grinder, and a quality coffee maker to brew coffee.

However, when you add it up, you’ll see that it costs less than the daily habit of buying coffee from a coffee shop in the long run.


Official Chemex coffeemaker costs around $40 for a 6-cup glass carafe and less expensive knockoff brands start at around $20. However, there are other costs to consider with the Chemex method.

The pour-over brewing process requires either a mesh or a paper filter. Chemex paper filters have a different shape and are larger than other paper filters, so you can’t easily substitute them with a generic equivalent. A box of 100 Chemex filters costs about $25. They capture micro-particles and natural coffee oils, producing the cleaner brew Chemex is known for.

Metal mesh filters are cost-effective and result in no waste. When maintained properly, they will last years. However, even the best metal filters will allow some oils to pass from the coffee grounds to the cup, creating a slightly less bright taste.

French Press

A typical French press costs around $25, but the range extends from $10 to $100.

The good news for this brewing method is that there is no need to buy filters on an ongoing basis because the mesh screen on the plunger is the filter. This mesh filter may wear out and need to be replaced periodically, but this will definitely not be a routine part of your coffee-making experience.


French press coffee maker wins in terms of cost. While both coffee brewers are similarly priced, the ongoing expense of paper filters adds to the overall cost of using Chemex.

There is a learning curve with both the French press and Chemex. These coffee brewing methods ultimately result in coffee taste superior to what you would get from a drip machine. Finding the right grind and coffee-to-water ratio requires a bit of trial and error, so be patient with yourself and take notes.

Regardless of where you land on the French press vs. Chemex coffeemaker comparison, starting the day with a delicious cup of coffee is worth the extra effort. If you love coffee and are willing to experiment, you’ll appreciate the taste of the home-brewed coffee and enjoy the process, too.

Looking for more coffee brewing options? Check out my AeroPress vs. Moka pot comparison to make a better decision!

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