Pour over brewing has gained tremendous popularity in the past few years, going from a small cult following in the early third wave coffee scene, to now being available at nearly every major coffee shop, even Starbucks. I’ve been a religious pour over brewer for nearly 10 years, and I’ve alternated primarily between the Hario V60 and the Chemex daily. Each brewer has the capability to make a clean, sweet, smooth cup of coffee, but the unique nuances of each method make them suitable for different palates and coffee.
The Hario V60 is named for the 60 degree angle of the cone-shaped brewer, and was popularized circa 2004 at the beginning of the third wave coffee boom. Manufactured in Japan, the brewer is available in three different sizes and in glass or ceramic. The unique feature that differentiates this brewer from other ceramic pour overs (such as a Melitta or Bee House is the fact that rather than having a number of small holes in the bottom, the V60 has a single large home that does not restrict the flow of the water at all. This means that the extraction time is dictated by the coffee’s grind size, allowing the brewer to have total control over the extraction. Additionally, the V60 filter is very thin, again not restricting flow and allowing more of the coffee’s oil to pass through. This provides a more full-bodied cup than expected from a filter drip coffee maker.
The total control of the extraction process does mean that the V60 is a bit more finnicky than some of the other pour over brewers, especially the Chemex. Some of my best cups of coffee come from the V60, but also some of my worst. If the grind size is too fine, the V60 can get clogged and result in a severely over extracted cup of coffee. I tend to avoid the use of a V60 at 5AM when I normally leave for work, and will typically use it in the afternoon when I’m a bit more careful.
Due to the thin filter, the coffee from the V60 is bright yet full bodied. It’s a great balance between the mouthfeel of a French Press and the cleanness of a Chemex.
Although its popularity has recently grown, the Chemex has been around since World War II. Invented in 1942 by the Chemex corporation after inspiration from laboratory equipment, and mentioned in James Bond novels n the 1950’s, the Chemex has some serious history.
The Chemex, similar to the V60, has a large hole at the bottom of the filter, however unlike the V60, the rate of coffee extraction is limited by the thick filter. The thick filter also captures much more of the coffee’s oil, resulting in a very clean tea-like cup. The coffee does a great job a highlighting the brighter tones of a Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee, however does not provide as much body or mouthfeel of a V60. The great benefit of the Chemex is that it is very forgiving to varying grind sizes and pouring methods, which is why it’s my go-to for early morning cups.
I own both, because different coffees taste better in each method. For Central & South American coffees I tend to gravitate towards the V60, and for African coffees I normally will use the Chemex, although this is by no means a hard and fast rule.
In a future post, we’ll also discuss the other options for pour overs, including the Kalita Wave and Kone brewers. Happy Brewing!