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Senior Member

Joined: 25 Jan 2009
Posts: 18
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Mar 17, 2013, 7:29pm
Subject: Chemex grind size

Just curious how anyone else measures the grind size of the coffee they use for the Chemex.  Chemex recommends the grinds be about the size of sea salt but that's rather objective and hard to judge.  My last batch was using 14 setting on my Virtuoso although I'm not sure that's helpful either because the perfect grind seems to also depend on the age of the beans and even vary from batch to batch of beans.

I'm wondering if you can tell by the way the grinds look when the brewing is complete?  I always pour in slow circles starting from the outside and moving in.  Sometimes when it is finished brewing all the grounds will be at the bottom of the filter, but other times they will be on both the sides and the bottom.  My thought it maybe that is due to different grind size since I try and keep my pour technique consistent.  

Anyone else play with this and have any thoughts?
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Senior Member

Joined: 14 Jan 2011
Posts: 1,602
Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Mar 18, 2013, 5:16am
Subject: .

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Senior Member

Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Posts: 589
Location: Chicago IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill Vetrano DB
Grinder: HG One, OE Lido 2, Baratza...
Drip: Chemex/V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Mar 18, 2013, 7:05am
Subject: Re: Chemex grind size

It honestly depends on the amount that is brewed. When I put about 10-20 oz of water in there is needs to be a lot finer than when I use the full size (I have the 8 cup). Then Again, I like a stronger cup of joe.

Hario Mini: 9 clicks
Vario: 5g
Gaggia MDF: 13

typically what is used. I know sometimes this helps as many people are familiar with these grinders. I find it hard to describe based on what the grind looks like. Definitely inbetween espresso and coarse sea salt though.
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Senior Member

Joined: 25 Jan 2009
Posts: 18
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Mar 24, 2013, 1:16pm
Subject: Re: Chemex grind size

Netphilosopher Said:

My thrift store Chemex (what someone thought was a flower vase) is fussy.  It definitely does NOT like fines.

I do something around a LIDO 2.25, or close to a Ditting 7-9 (something near to a finer-side French Press grind) and stretch the pourover to about 4:00, with a cold bloom infusion (same mass of cold water mixed with the grounds first to create a paste and release some of the initial bloom).  Timing is started from the first pouring of the HOT water (i.e. does not include the cold bloom time).  The couple times I checked, the average grind size is around 1mm based on a sieve set.

If I remember correctly, a friend's Baratza, I think it was a Virtuoso, worked well on many longer pourovers (longer than 3:00 pourover time) on around 25 or so.  The grounds appeared quite coarse with some fines in them.

Once you are done with the bloom, if you're feeding/delivering the brew water at the same rate it is percolating through the grounds, then they shouldn't "crawl" up the sides.  See Geo. Howell's "how to" on pourovers (the class of brewing that the Chemex is).  If you're delivering the brew water faster than it percolates, then the opportunity to crawl up the sides is there.  Not saying which is right or not - just why it does what it does.

Some folks look at the after brewing grounds and make a judgement call on the quality based on the appearance.  In Rao's book, he does say that underextraction can happen if you see grounds like you're describing, but I find the explanation of why somewhat lacking.  What I've found is that the grounds crawl up the sides if they are oversaturated and the brew water is immersing all of the grounds in the filter - creating a mini immersion brew inside the pourover cycle.  Same result - mildly underextracted (by the numbers) but perfectly acceptable for many in taste.

To me it's just an indication that there's a possibility the brew water is being delivered a bit quickly for the percolation rate.

Sorry for the extended reply, but it occurred to me you might be asking about the grounds appearance and relation to grind size - it is related, but only because the grind size changes the percolation rate, and if you keep your delivery rate the same then some will percolate well (leaving a nice flat grounds or slightly mounded grounds at the end), or percolate poorly (allowing the depth of the slurry to rise and deposit grounds higher onto the filter - which may participate less if you are avoiding pouring down the sides).

Try delivering the water at the percolation rate - just keep the grounds saturated.  You'll find that the pour rate will start to vary - that's the clue on where to go with your grounds to get the right combo.  

Hope that helps somewhat.


Posted March 18, 2013 link

Very interesting.  I ended up drinking iced coffee all week because I had some made up and didn't want it to go bad.  This morning though I made more coffee and tried the cold bloom infusion method.  I'd never heard of using cold water before so thought I'd try it.  I'm not sure if I really noticed much difference in taste, but it did seem harder to get the water not to run through.  Although it's entirely possible that it's because I was pouring out of a water bottle as opposed to my kettle and spout I use for hot water.

But I changed the grinder to a 20 setting (on my Virtuoso) and it still took 5-6 minutes when keeping the water level consistent and not letting it run up the sides.  Seems a bit long but I don't know how to make it go any faster because I think my grounds are already borderline too coarse already.  And btw, I'm using 38g of coffee to 20oz of water.  But maybe it's an issue with the grinder.  I took some pics today to check and I'll post them in a separate thread but I'll include them here too.  The grind size just doesn't seem consistent as I would expect.  One pic is right after grinding and the other is after brewing.  Ok, actually pics to follow.  First I have to figure out how to reduce the file size of a pic on my iPad so I can post it.
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