Can You Use a Chemex For Cold Brew Coffee?

I drink coffee all year long, cold weather, or hot summer days. I want a warm cup of coffee to start my day with. But on warmer days, my second cup of coffee will likely be a nice cold brew coffee. On really hot summer days, I CRAVE cold brew! 

And I own a Chemex coffee maker. 

Are those two are a match made in heaven for cold coffee drinks? Yes they are!

Can you use a Chemex to make cold brew coffee? Yes, no problem. Put ground coffee and water in a jar and put it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, put a filter in your Chemex and pour the cold brew from the jar onto the filter. Let it run through and pour this cold brew concentrate in a cup. Dilute it with water and ice. 

The Chemex functions as the strainer and receiver vessel from which you pour your cold brew (concentrate). Most recipes call for a fine-mesh sieve to strain out coffee ground after the cold brew has steeped (for a whopping 12 hours at least!). But using a Chemex has the advantage that it is able to strain out the finest of coffee particles, which results in a really clean, crisp cup of ice-cold coffee. 

It tastes incredible!

In the rest of this article, we’ll dive into how to make cold brew coffee with your Chemex. 

Read on to find out more.

Cold brew coffee made with a Chemex Coffee Maker

How to make cold brew with a Chemex (details)

s said, you can make cold brew coffee with a Chemex. The Chemex will be used to separate the ground coffee from the water. In a more traditional cold brew coffee recipe, you’ll be told to use a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a regular thin paper filter to strain out the ground coffee. 

The actual brewing of the cold brew coffee (which takes at least 12 hours) takes place in another vessel.

I prefer using my Chemex for brewing cold brew coffee. The thick paper filter filters out all fine coffee particles and impurities, which results in a fantastically clean cup of cold brew coffee. And it is great for making cold brew for quests. Pouring ice cold coffee from a Chemex on a hot summer day looks very stylish and is an excellent way to impress your friends 😊.

The recipe is as follows:

Chemex cold brew coffee recipe

What you’ll need:

  • 170 grams or about 6 ounces of whole bean coffee;
  • A 32-ounce container with a lid. A 32-ounce mason jar is perfect for this;
  • About 900 milliliters, 32 ounces, or 3 ¾ cups of cold water;
  • A fridge, but you could also let it sit at room temperature;
  • A Chemex coffee maker with a bonded paper filter.

Step #1: Prepare the cold brew mixture and let it steep

  • Start with 170 grams or just under 6 ounces, or if you don’t have a scale: a quarter cup, of good quality whole bean coffee. We use whole beans coffee not only because it makes your cold brew taste better, but also because you’ll need to grind it coarser than pre-ground coffee. 
  • Use a burr grinder to grind the coffee to a consistency that is a bit coarser than you would usually use for a French Press. It should look like really coarse sea salt.
  • Put the ground coffee in a lidded vessel that can take at least 32 ounces or just under 1 liter of liquid. A 32-ounce mason jar is perfect. Add 900 milliliters or 3 ¾ cups of cold water (the total volume should be just under a liter or 32 ounces). Screw on the lid and give it a shake. Everything needs to be well combined. 
  • Put it in the fridge overnight or anywhere between 12 and 18 hours. I find anywhere between 12 and 18 hours in the refrigerator is the optimal brew time for cold brew. Whether you should keep the brew time closer to 12 or closer to 18 hours depends on your personal preference and the variety of coffee beans you use. Keep in mind that the longer you let the mixture steep, the stronger your cold brew coffee will become.

Personally, I like a relatively mild cold brew on those hot days. I only let the cold brew mixture sit for 18 hours when I feel the variety of beans I use needs it to extract properly.

You could let the mixture sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours. In my opinion, this doesn’t help the flavor. I get consistently better results when I keep the brew time under 18 hours. 

You can also make cold brew coffee without a fridge

If you’re like me, in the middle of summer your fridge is stuffed with things to keep you cool. PLento of soda, a couple of beers, maybe a bottle of wine, some juice, fruit, veggies, anything perishable. There is not always room for that 32-ounce jar of steeping cold brew.

No problem.

You could also keep it at room temperature. But you need to shorten the brew time drastically. Especially when you house gets really hot. 

Keep the brew time anywhere between 8 and 12 hours to avoid over-extraction. The extraction of the flavor compound in the ground coffee is faster at room temperature, and so is the extraction of off-flavors. Brew at room temperature for over 12 hours, and you risk ending up with an overly bitter or even woody tasting cold brew.

After the steeping period, you have what’s called cold brew concentrate. Before you can drink it, it needs to be strained and diluted.

Step #2: strain the mixture

So, the next step is to separate the ground coffee from the cold brew. This is where your run to the mill cold brew coffee becomes Chemex cold brew coffee. 

This is what you need to do:

  • Put a regular Chemex filter in your Chemex. Stir the cold brew mixture, so you have the ground coffee in suspension. Then, slowly pour the mixture onto the filter. Any ground coffee that is left behind when all the liquid has been poured can stay in the jar. 
  • Let the liquid drain into the Chemex. If you feel the isn’t running through at some point, stir carefully with a chopstick. 

Step #3: dilute the cold brew concentrate and enjoy or store

So now you have a bunch of cold brew concentrate. I don’t recommend drinking it as is. The concentrate is highly caffeinated. It needs to be diluted. By how much? 

That’s up to you. 

I recommend starting with a 50/50 mixture of cold brew concentrate and cold water. After you have tasted it, adjust the ratio until you find the perfect Chemex cold brew.

But wait, you can do more with this concentrate. Instead of adding straight-up water, you can make an extra cold, cold brew coffee. Just fill a glass with ice (about half will do) and add the liquids in a 75/25 cold brew concentrate to water ratio. The ice will melt and dilute the cold brew further.

Or drink the cold brew concentrate with a bit of (almond milk). This results in a lovely and creamy drink. Just be sure to add less milk than you would add water. Milk dilutes the taste far more than water. 

I recommend starting with a 70/30 milk to water ratio.

How long can you store cold brew concentrate?

Cold brew concentrate can be stored in the fridge for quite a while. There will be hardly any difference in taste within the first week. But after that the flavor starts to degreade. Don’t use it after two weeks. It will have gone bad.

Be sure to store only undiluted cold brew concentrate for that long. Diluted cold brew concentrate (the cold brew coffee) is best consumed within a day or so. It becomes pretty undrinkalble after 2 to 3 days.

What are the advantages of making cold brew with a Chemex?

But why use a Chemex? Why not use a strainer with cheesecloth as you see in many popular recipes? Or a ‘normal’ pour-over cone with a ‘regular’ paper filter. Well, for the same reason, you love your Chemex when you make hot coffee.

The Chemex bonded paper filter is thicker than all other paper filters used for making coffee. This is why the Chemex filter strains out any inconsistencies and the finest of coffee bean particles. What you end up with is an extremely crisp and smooth cup of coffee. 

The Chemex filter does the same for cold brew coffee concentrate. They filter out all impurities and make this already smooth cold brew coffee.

Chemex for the win!

Happy caffeinating!

Monsieur Coffee

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