Thinking of coffee trends in waves is generally attributed to Trish Rothgreb of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters. Way back in 2002, Rothgreb wrote an article
Why are Chemex filters so expensive? Question Answered!
I love making coffee with a Chemex. It is a great piece of gear and the coffee you get from it is just delicious. But have have one beef with Chemex: their proprietary bonded paper filters are really expensive. Especially if you compare them to the regular paper filters you would use in a drip coffee maker.
I wondered, why is that?
Why are Chemex bonded paper filters so expensive? Chemex paper filters are more expensive than regular paper filters because they are made with lab-grade filter paper. This paper is more expensive than regular filter paper. Also, because of the way the Chemex filter is folded, it uses more filter paper than a standard, glued paper filter.
Depending on where you buy them and the quantity you buy, you can expect to pay between 8 and 10 cents (US dollar) or more per proprietary Chemex paper filter. For regular paper filters, I usually pay 3 to 4 cents or less. That’s a big difference in my book!
A couple of cents difference might not seem like a lot, but if you have brew one Chemex a day, it adds up to roughly 30 to 35 USD you spend on paper filters alone. You could buy two 12 ounce bags of really good ORGANIC specialty coffee beans from a well-respected Portland coffee roaster for that!
What's so special about Chemex paper filters?
Chemex paper filters are different from ordinary paper filters. Ordinary paper filters are those filters you know from drip coffee makers (e.g., a Mr. Coffee). They are single sheets of thin filter paper folded once and then glued together at the bottom edge and one of the sides.
Bonded paper filters used for a Chemex coffee maker are made from much thicker, lab-grade, filter paper and they are not glued. Just folded. The filter paper in a Chemex coffee filter is about 20% to 30% heavier (i.e., thicker) than regular paper coffee filters. This ensures that all undesirable elements are filtered out of the coffee. The Chemex filters remove all oils and fats that contribute to bitter flavors in your coffee. This results in a very clean and smooth cup of coffee.
The Chemex is inspired by the equipment used in laboratories. And so is the way Chemex filters are folded. Combined with the thickness of the lab-grade filter paper, the folding ensures an optimal infusion and optimal filtration.
So, Chemex coffee filters are special, or at least different. They are optimized for use with the Chemex coffee maker and help make the ultimate cup of coffee.
My experience with Chemex paper filters
I love making coffee with a Chemex coffee maker. But have had some issues with the pricing of Chemex bonded paper filters in the past. Back in 2018, Chemex’s filter folding machine broke down, which really impacted the availability of the filters. As you can guess, when a product is in demand and is hardly available, prices go up fast. I was paying double what I would usually pay for Chemex filters.
In 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chemex filters were in extremely high demand. Not because everyone bought a Chemex to make great coffee while working from home, but for a different reason. As it turns out, the lab-grade filter paper used in Chemex coffee filters is also used in the lining for face masks. Some people tried to put cut-up Chemex filters in their face masks, but the real impact came from the manufacturers of the filter paper used by Chemex. These companies saw the demand for their products increase due to the sudden demand for face masks. The filter paper was suddenly in high demand, and Chemex wasn’t able to buy as much of it as they needed. This drove prices sky-high.
During these periods, I tried using regular (Melitta-style) paper filters to make my daily cup of Chemex coffee. It worked alright, but it resulted in a very different cup of coffee. The coffee was less clean-tasting, and it was obvious that the Chemex paper filter has many benefits. A small thing that has a significant impact.
What are alternatives to Chemex paper filters?
There are some alternatives to using proprietary Chemex coffee filters. These are reusable options like a Coffee Sock or metal filters designed to fit a Chemex coffee maker.
For more information on the reusability of Chemex coffee filters and the alternatives, please consider checking out this article on the topic.
So, are Chemex paper filters worth it?
There is no denying that Chemex bonded paper filters are expensive. At least they are more expensive than regular paper filters. But, if you want your Chemex coffee to taste as it is meant to taste, there is no real alternative.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a cheaper alternative. When in a pinch, a regular paper filter does the trick. And maybe you like what you taste. The proof is in the pudding.
P.s.: if you want some good tips on how to get the best out of your Chemex, consider checking out our article on how to make amazing Chemex coffee.
P.p.s: When you are looking into buying a Chemex coffee maker our article on what size Chemex to buy might be helpful.
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