Making a great cup of coffee is one thing. But making the everyday, early morning, mindless and groggy cup is another matter. Or is it?
Background: About 18 months ago I completely overhauled and upgraded my coffee making. I bought a Solis Maestro and have been roasting my own coffee from Sweet Marias (what a website!). My research seemed to suggest that the two preferred coffee brewing techniques were press pot and vacuum pot. I use the press pot from time to time, but do not prefer the sediment, which for me distracts from the coffee. But the vacuum pot is too labor intensive for daily not-quite-awake use, which is 90% of my coffee making. So I tried an automatic vacuum pot -- the eSiphon from coffeesiphons.com (not listed at this site, for some reason). I loved it at first, but since I'm not reviewing the eSiphon, I'll just say I ran into design problems. What to do for mindless morning coffee? I took a chance on Chemex, and I could not be more pleased. It is better than I had hoped, and I'm now realizing more shortcomings in the eSiphon than I had been aware of. I'm in much more control. I use less grounds. The coffee is rich, clean, and easy to make.
Use: I measure my water before putting it into the kettle. Grind beans while it comes to a boil and put the filter and grounds into the neck of the Chemex. Nothing could be simpler. Let the water cool a bit, pour just enough to cover the grounds and watch the lovely bloom of fresh roasted coffee. Then I pour once or twice near the rim, depending on how much I'm making, and pour what I don't drink right away into a thermos. The grounds come out neatly in the filter, which can be grabbed by two corners sticking up. A thorough rinse (and the occasional soap and brush), and I'm done. Taking the grip off for cleaning would be a pain, so I leave it on and it's no problem.
The Chemex maker itself is very simple, and so far as I can tell, the secret is in the filter, which is sturdier than melita and conical when placed in the Chemex. The thickness and the shape seem to keep the water in the grounds for the right amount of time, depending on the coarseness of your grind. I grind a half notch below the drip grind on my Maestro. There's no reason that you couldn't use the filters with another cone and get the same results, although I don't think I've seen one in a true cone shape. You could then brew directly into the thermos. I use the unbleached filters from Sweet Marias and have notice no paper taste at all.
The maker is pyrex glass. Not as thick as a pyrex cup measure, but thick enough not to worry you with its fragility. A very elegant design. You grab it by the neck which has two wooden pieces, shaped for the neck, held on by a leather cord and wooden ball. This looks very nice, but I do find myself daily retightening the cord. An annoyance, though minor. The wooden grip gets very warm, but never too hot to touch. I also find it a little small to grab comfortably and pour with one hand. I'm sure they could come up with an alternative design for the grip that would stay put, be cooler, and easier to hold.
In sum: Perhaps there are some automatic drip makers that get the water hot enough and keep it in the grounds long enough, if you want to pay that much and are prepared to replace it as the heating element ages. Automatic drips are machines and machines age and degrade. Not so with the Chemex. For those who don't prefer press pot coffee, I do not know of another brewing system that is as good and convenient as the Chemex. Once you get your method down, it's utterly simple and reliable. You are master. And you can spend your attention on the beans, the roast, and, oh yeah, the coffee!