By Carl Hanson

Ditch your swanky coffeemaker. This no-tech, pour-over brewing method makes the best coffee.

Chemex in Action
Chemex in Action | Photo by MaFernandaTj, via Wikimedia Commons

How to make coffee without a coffee maker. Using a Chemex carafe and kettle is just about the easiest way to make coffee. Which makes it all the more remarkable that this simple combo also brews the best cup!

Here's How To Make Pour Over Coffee with a Chemex

Put the kettle on. You'll need one of these. Its narrow spout directs the boiling water precisely where you want it to go. That may sound fussy, but I've tried using wide-mouthed tea kettles...with disastrous results. Splatter and splash and such.


Hand-grind the beans. I don't bother measuring my beans with a kitchen scale. Instead, I count 60 revolutions of the hand crank, then 60 more, then 60 more. Then I crank it 12 more turns just for luck, ending up with about a half cup of grounds. It's enough coffee for two large mugs. Results will vary depending on the size of your grounds and the type of roast, so experiment until you hit upon what you like. I like my coffee coal-mine dark, very rich, and strong enough to melt a stirring spoon.

Adding Coffee Grinds to Chemex
Adding the Grinds | Photo by Coffee Circle, via Wikimedia Commons

Chemex Coffee Lover's Confession: I'm in love with my manual burr coffee mill. It's cheap, never jams (unlike my electric burr grinder), and cleaning is minimal (again, unlike the electric grinder). Also, the physical act of grinding the beans by hand is almost a zen-like experience, as the rhythmic turning of the crank gently delivers me from a half-asleep to a near-fully wakened state (strong coffee will finish the job).


Put the paper filter in the Chemex (or other carafe) and rinse it with hot water. Rinsing helps the filter adhere to the glass (people also say it helps wash away the paper taste). Then dump the rinsing water into the sink. (I've forgotten this dumping-out step, and the results are exactly what you're imagining: gross, watery, undrinkable coffee...followed by tears.) Pour the coffee grounds into the bottom of the filter cone. And when the water comes to a boil, wet the grounds, pouring the water over the grounds in a circular motion.

Once you've thoroughly wet the grounds, let them soak for about 30 seconds. Then pour in more water, again moving in a circular motion from the center out. I fill the water to about a half-inch below the rim. When the liquid drains, I refill once more with water. And that's it! It makes enough coffee to fill two large mugs.

Pouring Water Over the Grinds

How to Make Pour-Over Coffee

Break-Up Letter to My High-Tech Coffee Maker:

Yes, high-tech coffee maker, you were cool; I'll give you that. You kept time. You sat on the counter, sleek in stainless steel, looking sharp and sophisticated. You were gentle waking me in the mornings, with your pre-programmed grind. And you made a great cup. For the first 6 weeks, anyway. Then came the big gum-up, and increasingly weak efforts. It's like you stopped caring. Suddenly, you required constant attention, hours of probing into the crannies, also the nooks, with my wee brush, cleaning cleaning cleaning. I'm sorry, swanky coffee maker, it's not you. It's me. It's me not being that into you anymore. So long, old friend, goodbye.

Related: In the battle between pour-over coffee vs French press coffee, there really is no contest. But if you must go with the press, you'll want to check out Essential Tips for Brewing the Best French Press Coffee.

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