What's The Difference Between A Chemex & A Pour Over

by Jenna Kellso August 23, 2019 3 min read

What's The Difference Between A Chemex & A Pour Over

Here at Sagebrush Coffee, we have never been shy about our love for the Chemex Coffee Brewer. That’s why we were so thrilled to introduce our expanded line of Chemex products-what better way to encourage others to try this excellent brewing method than by offering as many Chemex purchasing options as possible?

With a renewed focus on Chemex Coffee brewers, we have been fielding some interesting questions from Sagebrush Customers. We love to help our customers make the best possible cup of coffee, (starting with the beans, of course!), and answering questions is a great way to educate our fellow coffee lovers. Our owner, Matt Kellso, recently received this question:

What is the difference between the Chemex and a Pour-over system for brewing coffee?

Great question! The simple answer is that there isn’t much difference at all. A Chemex brewing system is a type of Pour-over coffee. The similarities are easy to spot: Both traditional Pour-overs and Chemex use a paper filter, each has a funnel-shaped top designed to house the filter and the coffee grounds, and are either placed upon or designed with a larger basin to hold the coffee once it is brewed. Once the coffee is placed in the filter, near-boiling water is used to wet the grounds, then once the coffee has ‘bloomed,’ the rest of the water is carefully poured through the grounds.

Both Pour-over and Chemex are simple to use brewing methods that produce excellent cups of coffee. However, Chemex and Pour-overs are not exactly the same, and these differences, no matter how nuanced, are worth noting.

The main difference between a Pour-over and a Chemex can be found in their filters. Pour-over filters are much like the thin, circular filters used in all automatic drip coffee makers, except they have pointed, not flat, bottoms. The pointed end of the filter draws the coffee directly into the cup below the Pour-over brewer. These filters will keep all coffee sediment, and most of the coffee oils out of the coffee, producing a delicious and very smooth cup of coffee.

The Chemex filter, on the other hand, is in a class all its own. The Chemex filters are proprietary (can only be distributed and sold by the Chemex company) and are unlike any other filter you’ve seen before. They are thick, almost fabric-like, and consist of a large square folded into quarters. One edge of the filter is pulled aside to create a cone, then is set into the top portion of the Chemex, and the coffee grounds are placed inside the filter. The thickness of the filter makes all the difference in the final cup of coffee. The double-bonded material removes virtually all of the oil out of the brewing coffee, therefore removing any trace of bitterness from your morning brew. The flavor of the Chemex coffee is bright, crisp, citrus-forward, and truly distinct in flavor. You will know when you are drinking a cup of Chemex coffee!

The grind should be noted as a difference as well. A pour-over will use a fine grind, almost like table salt, which will produce a more bold flavor. The tighter grind off-sets the thinner filter, so the extraction rate is perfect. However, the Chemex uses a more coarse grind, like sugar in the raw or what you would for a french press. This complements the thicker filter of the Chemex and helps produce the bright cup described above.

Lastly, the difference in cost of these 2 methods is undoubtedly worth noting- the Chemex starts at a higher price point than the Pourover, and the Chemex filters are approximately twice as expensive as the pour-over filters. It can also be mentioned that the compact, ceramic pour-over systems are more portable than the fragile Chemex, and is an excellent choice for travel or coffee outside the home.

Both the Chemex and the pour-over make delicious, smooth cups of coffee. The bright, clean profile of Chemex coffee is special and unique but can be celebrated without detracting from traditional pour-over methods. If you are a fan of pour-over coffee, perhaps elevating your home brewing game with a Chemex brewer is the next logical step as you continue to explore Sagebrush Coffee. If you’ve never tried pour-over coffee, we highly recommend you do so! May we recommend you start here…

Jenna Kellso
Jenna Kellso



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Coffee Grinds Explained

We currently offer 4 different coffee grind levels.  Listed below with descriptions.

Whole Bean: Unground coffee for a home grinder.

Coarse: Think sugar in the raw, maybe more coarse, recommended for Chemex Brewer, French Press, Cold Brew

Medium: Slightly coarser than table salt, recommended for Metal Kone filters, Flat bottom brewers including Kalitta, Cloth filters

Fine:  Slightly finer than table salt, recommended for V60 pour overs, Cone filter coffee pots, Moka Pot, Aeropress.

Extra Fine: Like powdered sugar, recommended for Espresso.

If at all possible, we recommend grinding at home. We prefer Baratza coffee grinders and offer several of their models for sale. Click here to shop for one of their brewers.