I never believed I had much in common with James Bond. He is a suave, worldwide Secret Intelligence Service agent with a passion for firearms and automobiles and a taste for shaken martinis. I am a somewhat awkward journalist in my thirties who cannot drive and would never touch a martini with a lot of air in it. However, the man and I share an undeniable bond (pardon the pun) due to our love of breakfast foods, including coffee from a Chemex coffee maker.
“Bond’s favourite meal of the day was breakfast,” author Ian Fleming wrote in his 1956 novel “From Russia With Love.” “It was always the same when he was stationed in London. It consisted of two large cups of black, sugar-free coffee from De Bry on New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex. Additionally, he consumed one egg that had been boiled for three and a half minutes; personally, one egg is insufficient, and I usually choose two.
My Chemex is one of the most cherished items in my home. Like my Baratza Encore grinder, I use my Chemex at least once per day. After an exhausting 6 a.m. workout, I stumble into my kitchen, place my Hario kettle on the stove, and begin brewing my husband and I a cup of coffee in my Chemex. (Check Consumer Reports’ ratings for electric kettles.)
When I was working as a barista in San Francisco 12 years ago, I purchased my first Chemex. I desired a manual pour-over coffee maker that could produce multiple cups of coffee simultaneously. It helped that the Chemex is so beautiful that, when filled with flowers, it makes a lovely vase. (However, this will necessitate alternative methods of caffeine procurement the following morning.)
Since then, I’ve been using my Chemex nearly every day. Consumer Reports recognises it as the best manual coffee maker. Our evaluators deem it ideal for coffee drinkers who “enjoy an aromatic, well-balanced brew with sweet, fruity undertones.” (Check Consumer Reports for coffeemaker ratings.)
In the late 1950s, Chemex was an early exhibitor at the Chicago Housewares Show.
Amy Keating, a registered dietitian at Consumer Reports, is another Chemex fan club member. “I love the simplicity and design of my Chemex, as well as the clean and light-bodied coffee I get from the specially designed filters,” she says. In fact, it is so beautiful that it is featured in the Museum of Modern Art.
Though the Chemex may appear to be a newfangled hipster product (as another coworker referred to it when I told her I was writing this article), it is actually quite old, and one of its earliest iterations is in the MOMA collection. Peter Schlumbohm, its creator, was a German chemist and inventor who immigrated to the United States in 1935. Schlumbohm was an avid coffee drinker and admirer of the Bauhaus School, a design movement from the early 20th century that emphasised minimalism, form following function, and technological innovation. He incorporated these principles into the Chemex, for which he was granted a patent in 1941.
Because of its use in laboratory flasks, Schlumbohm was familiar with borosilicate glass, which is a sturdy, heat-resistant glass used in the Chemex. He added a wooden collar with a leather tie for comfortable holding, a groove for pouring, and a glass button for simple measuring. Today, the Chemex appears and functions nearly identically to its original design. It is an easy-to-use pour-over coffee maker that won’t break easily and has a minimalistic elegance, so you never have to hide it when you have guests.
Frank Yang, associate director of consumer insights and research at Consumer Reports, particularly appreciates the Chemex’s simple and economical design. “What I like most about the Chemex is the elegance and simplicity of the glass design, as well as the convenience of having everything in one,” he says. Pour-over coffee can be enjoyed in a single sitting with friends without the need for additional items.
My daily morning routine includes the Baratza grinder shown below. In tests conducted by CR, it performed well at producing coarse and fine grounds, and it was simple to clean.