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May 4, 2010

Conclusions on Chemex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Henry @ 3:33 am

For Immediate Release:

Exhaustive tests conducted by the elite scientific division of Henry Laboratory, New York, have determined conclusively that coffee made in the vaunted Chemex glass beaker is less flavorful than coffee made in the cheapest electric drip coffee maker.

After a frustrating week of pouring water in circular motion, calibrating measurements of temperature and quantity, and altogether bedeviling himself in the wee hours of the morning when patience is thinnest, Mr. Henry accepted defeat and resignedly placed his new Chemex beaker and its patented thick paper filters back in the cupboard.

This discovery flies in the face of reportage published in The New York Times. Have years of take-out “regular” coffee dulled their senses? Could New York Times articles be less than fully reliable sources of information? The Henry Laboratory Chemex report bears weighty repercussions.

But don’t smash your elegant Chemex. At A Thirsty Spirit Mr. Henry found a clever use for it as a filter for cold-brewed coffee extract, quite handy for making summer drinks, coffee desserts or coffee ice cream. Indeed, because its paper filter is so thick, cold-filtering may be the best use for a Chemex.

To Mr. Henry’s demanding nose the Chemex filters out too many oils and volatile aromas, the very essences he seeks in coffee – essences that magically purge morning depression, headache, and other children of the night.


  1. Everything with a paper filter will just result in…filtered coffee, which by definition has a quality ceiling on it. I believe it was Nero Wolfe who nailed it, stating unequivocally that the vacuum coffee maker is the only coffee maker worth using:

    A French press is handy, too, but having had both, I still mourn my long-busted vacuum coffee maker. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s worth it and oh, so pretty!

    Comment by raincoaster — May 4, 2010 @ 5:59 am

  2. Mr. Henry, You have made great sacrifices in the name of science and should be nominated for the Nobel prize.

    Comment by klee — May 4, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  3. The proposal has merit, yes. But should it be in chemistry, in peace, or in some other field?

    Comment by Mr. Henry — May 4, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  4. Why are we just now reviewing decades-old methods of making coffee?

    Comment by greg — May 5, 2010 @ 10:56 am

  5. @raincoaster, it looks similar in principle to a macchineta:

    I first used one on honeymoon in Italy and fell in love with it, but made the mistake of buying a larger one to take home. It doesn’t seem to work right – the coffee boils off before the water finishes perking up.

    Or is there a taste issue with the glass vs. metal?

    Comment by TeleriB — May 5, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  6. Yes, TeleriB, there is a taste issue between glass and metal. Although the stovetop macchineta makes reasonably good coffee, inevitably the heat overcooks the brew leaving a slightly burned taste exacerbated by the metallic aroma.

    And as for “just now reviewing decades-old methods of making coffee,” first, greg, Mr. Henry has been in the food blog dodge for only four years. Second, since a beverage made from the roasted, pulverized coffee bean was first drunk in Yemen a thousand years ago, there have been many different ways to render it. Why do you think an older method might be inferior?

    Comment by Mr. Henry — May 5, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  7. And to you, inspired raincoaster, Mr. Henry must confess that despite his breadth of experience, he never tried making coffee in Nero Wolfe’s glass vacuum. For him the future still holds many adventures.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — May 5, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  8. Go get yourself an espresso machine. Far superior. Plus, if you ever have the problem of coffee irritating the bladder (not uncommon) the espresso coffee seems to extract fewer of the irritant molecules from the coffee bean.

    Comment by Bronwyn — May 5, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  9. I think the quality of the water is huge factor. I noticed it the first time I used water from our Britta instead of tap water to make coffee.

    Comment by Phyllis — May 5, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  10. We have a Keurig coffee machine and we love it.

    My grandmother had a vacuum coffee maker but never used it–my mother has it and displays it in its virgin condition.

    Comment by Rhonda — May 5, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  11. You will only pry my French Press from my cold dead hands. I mix Sumantran and French Roast, grind it finely, and pour the boiling water over the freshly ground bean. As the flavor and oils are released, I can slowly breath in the aroma of a truly robust coffee and start to waken from whatever stupor I was in. I add a touch of chocolate and a bit of raw sugar or honey and start my day or finish a meal or just contemplate the miracle of coffee…..Sorry, I am having a moment…

    Comment by Jennie — May 5, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

  12. I love my macchinette (we’ve always called them “moka” coffeemakers, in my family), I’ve a few in different sizes because sometimes you have to make more coffee. But I like a french press just a little more. Good water and good beans make everything better.

    Coffee’s just so good, isn’t it?

    Comment by chachaheels — May 6, 2010 @ 2:14 am

  13. Finding the perfect coffee maker is as elusive as finding the perfect handbag! I like my French Press but the Mr. Coffee seems to work well too – especially if someone else makes it for me (anything tastes better when someone else makes it).

    Comment by localgirl1964 — May 6, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  14. I have to go with the cold brew method. I use a Coffee Snob – oh, so pretty!!! It does take quite some time, and a lot of coffee grounds, but I love the flavor.

    Too bad the vacuum method doesn’t work. That’s a very pretty carafe.

    Comment by Synnamin — May 7, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  15. ah, I misspoke… not a vacuum filter. But it is still a pretty carafe!

    Comment by Synnamin — May 7, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

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