How to Brew the Perfect Chemex Iced Coffee: Expert Tips

Joshua Allerton
February 21, 2024

I've always been a huge fan of iced coffee, especially during those warm summer months. There's nothing quite like a refreshing, chilled coffee to kickstart your day. That's why I'm excited to share my go-to method for making the perfect Chemex iced coffee at home. It's quick, easy, and absolutely delicious.

Making your own iced coffee with a Chemex isn't just about saving a trip to the coffee shop; it's about crafting a beverage that's tailored to your taste. Whether you're after a strong, bold flavour or something lighter and more refreshing, this method gives you the control you need. Let's dive into how you can make this delightful drink from the comfort of your home.

History of Chemex Iced Coffee

The Chemex, with its elegant glass body and wood collar, has been a mainstay in the world of coffee ever since its invention in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. Known for its purity and simplicity in brewing method, the Chemex quickly became not just a tool for making a superior cup of coffee but also a symbol of refined taste. It's fascinating to note how this iconic brewer has paved the way for coffee enthusiasts to experiment and innovate, leading to the delightful creation of Chemex iced coffee.

The transition from hot to iced coffee using the Chemex method wasn't just a seasonal shift but a natural progression in the coffee culture, especially with the rising popularity of cold brews and iced coffees in coffee shops around the globe. What sets Chemex iced coffee apart is its ability to maintain the nuanced flavors of the coffee beans while offering a refreshing and cooling beverage, making it an obvious choice for coffee lovers during the warmer months.

Crafting iced coffee with a Chemex is a testament to the versatility of this brewing method. While initially designed for hot coffee, its unique filter and brewing process are perfect for creating a clean, rich, and intricate iced coffee. This adaptation speaks volumes about the innovative spirit of the coffee community and their desire to continuously explore and enjoy coffee in all its forms.

As we delve into making our own Chemex iced coffee at home, it's important to remember that we're not just following a recipe; we're part of a rich history that celebrates innovation, simplicity, and the pure joy of coffee.

Benefits of Making Iced Coffee at Home

When I think about the advantages of making iced coffee at home, especially using a Chemex, several benefits immediately spring to mind. For starters, cost-effectiveness is a huge plus. Buying iced coffee from cafes on a daily basis can quickly add up, but brewing at home is a fraction of the price.

Another significant advantage is customisation. I can tweak my iced coffee to suit my exact taste preferences, playing around with different coffee beans, brew strengths, and types of milk or sweeteners. There's a joy in creating a cup that's perfectly tailored to my palate.

Then there's the aspect of convenience. I don't need to leave the comfort of my home to enjoy a high-quality iced coffee. Whether it's the first thing in the morning or a mid-afternoon treat, it's all at my fingertips.

Lastly, making iced coffee at home allows me to be part of a sustainable practice. The Chemex, made from non-toxic materials, combined with reusable filters, significantly reduces waste compared to disposable cups and single-use plastics from coffee shops.

So, how do you make the perfect Chemex iced coffee at home? It's easier than you might think. Here's a simple recipe that I've found to work wonderfully:

  • Ingredients:
  • 40g coffee beans
  • 600ml water (plus additional for pre-wetting the filter)
  • Ice cubes
  • Steps:
  1. Grind the coffee beans to a medium-coarse consistency.
  2. Place a Chemex filter in the device and pre-wet it with hot water to get rid of any paper taste, then discard the water.
  3. Add the ground coffee to the filter.
  4. Pour 100ml of hot water (around 96°C) over the grounds evenly, allowing them to bloom for 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly add the remaining 500ml of water in a circular motion.
  6. Once the brew finishes dripping, remove the filter and grounds.
  7. Fill a glass with ice cubes and pour the freshly brewed coffee over.
  8. Customize with milk or sweeteners if desired and enjoy immediately.

Choosing the Right Coffee Beans

When I'm on the hunt for the perfect beans for my Chemex iced coffee, I always keep a few key factors in mind. Origin, roast, and freshness play pivotal roles in the quality of your final brew.

Consider the Origin

Coffee beans from different regions offer unique flavour profiles:

  • African beans often have floral and fruity notes, perfect for a light, refreshing iced coffee.
  • Latin American beans tend to offer a balanced mix of acidity and sweetness, giving a well-rounded flavour.
  • Asian beans are typically earthier and can add a robust depth to your drink.

Experimenting with beans from various origins can be a fun and delicious way to discover what suits your palate best.

Pick the Right Roast

While I love a good dark roast, for iced coffee, I generally opt for a medium to light roast. These roasts retain more of the bean's natural characteristics and subtle flavours, which can be an excellent match for the cold brewing method used in a Chemex. Dark roasts sometimes overpower the delicate balances of an iced coffee, masking the nuanced flavours.

Freshness is Key

Arguably, the most critical aspect is the freshness of your beans. Always check the roast date, and aim to use beans within a month of that date. You'll want to grind the beans yourself, right before brewing. This ensures the fullest, richest flavour possible, as grinding releases many of the beans' oils and aromas.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

  1. Select your beans based on origin and roast preference.
  2. Ensure they’re as fresh as possible.
  3. Grind the amount you need just before brewing.

By selecting the right coffee beans for your Chemex iced coffee, you’re setting yourself up for a deliciously rewarding experience. Remember, the quality of your beans will directly influence the taste of your coffee, so don't hesitate to invest in good-quality, fresh beans.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Chemex Iced Coffee

Crafting the perfect Chemex iced coffee isn't just about the prep; it's an art form that balances the rich flavours of your selected coffee beans with the crisp, refreshing twist of ice. I've honed this method to ensure each step is easy to follow and guarantees a delightful cup every time. So, let's dive right into the brewing process.

What You'll Need

Before we start, make sure you've got:

  • A Chemex brewer
  • Chemex filter
  • Fresh coffee beans (ground)
  • Ice
  • Scale
  • Hot water (just off the boil)
  • Grinder (if grinding your own beans)
  1. Grind the Coffee: Aim for a medium-coarse grind. If you're grinding your beans, do it just before brewing to maintain freshness and flavour.
  2. Prepare the Filter and Chemex: Place the Chemex filter in the top of your Chemex, ensuring the three-layered side faces the spout. This prevents the filter from sticking to the spout, ensuring a smooth pour. Rinse the filter with hot water to get rid of any paper taste and warm up the Chemex. Pour the rinse water out.
  3. Add Ice: Fill about a third of the Chemex with ice. This is crucial as the hot coffee will brew directly onto the ice, cooling it instantly and locking in flavour.
  4. Add Ground Coffee: Add your ground coffee to the filter. A good ratio to start with is 60g of coffee to 1 litre of water. You'll adjust this to taste in subsequent brews.
  5. Brew: Pour hot water slowly over the grounds, starting in the centre and spiraling out. Avoid pouring directly on the filter. Aim to pour half your total water first, let it drip through, then continue pouring. The entire brew process should take about 3.5 to 4.5 minutes.
  6. Enjoy: Once brewing is complete, remove the filter and give the Chemex a gentle swirl to ensure the coffee and melted ice mix well. Pour the coffee into a glass filled with additional ice if needed and savour the nuanced, refreshing flavours of your handmade Chemex iced coffee.

Tips for Enhancing the Flavour

When it comes to making Chemex iced coffee, the flavour's where it's at. I've picked up a few tricks over the years that really make a difference.

First off, choosing high-quality beans is non-negotiable. You want beans that not only boast a rich profile but also complement the cooling effect of the ice. I'm partial to a light roast for its vibrant and nuanced flavours, which stand up beautifully against the chill.

Water temperature is another critical factor. Too hot, and you risk over-extraction; too cool, and your coffee will taste underwhelming. I've found that aiming for between 195°F and 205°F strikes the perfect balance, extracting just enough flavour without turning bitter.

Now let's talk about the grind. The grind size can make or break your coffee. For the Chemex, I recommend a medium-coarse grind. It's the sweet spot that allows water to flow through at the right pace, ensuring a balanced flavour.

Don't skimp on the ice. This might sound counterintuitive, but using a generous amount of ice ensures rapid cooling, which locks in the coffee’s dynamic flavours. Here's how I do it:

  • Fill the Chemex up to a third with ice cubes before brewing.
  • Use chemically neutral ice (think: filtered water frozen into cubes) to avoid any unwanted taste.

Lastly, the pour matters a lot more than you might think. A slow, circular pour not only guarantees even saturation but also encourages a fuller extraction. It’s almost meditative, and I swear it makes the coffee taste better.

Incorporate these tips into your next Chemex iced coffee brew and notice the difference immediately. It's about elevating the ordinary to extraordinary, one cup at a time.

Conclusion

Mastering the art of Chemex iced coffee is an enriching journey that rewards you with a refreshingly nuanced cup every time. By focusing on the quality of beans, the precision of water temperature, and the finesse of your pouring technique, you're setting the stage for an exceptional coffee experience. Remember, the devil's in the details—right down to the grind size and the ice you use. Embrace these tips and you'll soon notice a remarkable difference in your brew. It's about enhancing those subtle flavours and achieving the perfect balance that makes Chemex iced coffee truly stand out. So go ahead, experiment, and let your taste buds revel in the complexity and richness of your next iced coffee masterpiece.

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