Ah, the classic debate of the best pour over method – Chemex or V60 – I’d say lets add another contender into the mix – the Kalita Wave. This is the guide to choosing your ideal brewer. If you want to step up your coffee game at the comfort of your home and you have no idea where to start, then let me be the one to make it easy for you.
Why use a pour over to begin with?
If you are reading this, then you have already seen different pour overs in action and thought to yourself that this is too complicated to brew with. I’m not going to lie, it does look like a lot of effort. But, it doesn’t have to be. You are looking at 10-15 minutes at best in the morning. With hard work comes the fruits of labor, and with focus comes much-better tasting coffee.
The only hard work you will be doing is pouring water in concentric circles over a bed of coffee. That doesn’t seem too bad, does it? There’s another plus to brewing coffee the old-school manual way – you slow down and be present. Incorporate it in your morning routine and you will achieve a degree of zen, I guarantee you that.
Pour over is a brewing method that uses a filter paper or cloth, hot water is poured over ground coffee, and out comes this delicious, aromatic, delectable brew that casts an abracadabra all over your tastebuds.
There are new pour over brewers being introduced every other week. There are hundreds out there and while it may seem tempting, the goal is not to buy them all, but to use one versatile brewer that you find yourself always coming back to. I want to focus on three rock-solid, tried-and-tested brewers that every cafe or barista will swear by – the Chemex, V60 and Kalita.
Chemex is the oldest of the trio and is also the most elegant looking. It’s a beautifully crafted hour glass shaped carafe that also functions as a brewer, pair that up with light brown wood and leather, and it functions like a showpiece on any piece of furniture. I have paired my Chemex with a Chemex glass mug which I think is a very alluring combination.
Chemex uses it’s own proprietary filter papers, which are thicker than the two brewers discussed here, clearing out much of the coffee oil and bitter elements during the brewing process. The body of the resulting brew is much lighter when compared to the V60. How does the brew taste like? Light body, tea like, flavorful depicting clarity.
“If you’re bringing people around you and want to introduce them to specialty coffee, I’ll probably start them off with a Chemex as opposed to a V60 or an Aeropress. So they can begin to just understand the different flavors. The body on a Chemex is almost tea like, bringing out distinctive notes like flowers, hibiscus, berries etc.”
“I love hosting and when there’s a large group and I am unable to focus, my ideal choice is the 6 cup chemex! The thicker filter allows more room for error, serves more people in one serving and looks the part – very specialty coffee like.”
Bottom line, buy the Chemex if:
- you want an all-in-one brewer which functions as a carafe and a pour over.
- you want to brew a large batch, the bigger sibling can brew up to eight cups at a time.
- you want a light, bright, tea-like mouth-feel in your brew
- you love the way it looks, it’s art in itself wether you brew on it or not.
- your bad pouring technique still produces excellent coffee
The V60 pour over is the most popular out of the three. It was designed by Hario, a Japanese company that focused primarily on producing glass and ceramic equipment for laboratories in its inception. Many don’t know what “V60” actually stands for – the “V” because it is V or conical shaped, and “60” is the sloping angle of the cone, and now you know.
There are spiral ribs on the inside, which is absent on the Chemex, this promotes ideal flow of water and optimal extraction of coffee. There are different sizes available: 01 which makes coffee for one person, 02 can brew up to three, and 03 can brew up to 750 ml. How many people do you think can drink in the latter size?
This dripper is available in different materials – plastic, glass, ceramic and metal. Copper is the one to get, it’s got an antique vibe to it, and also has the price tag to match. Temperature plays a big factor in the material of the brewer, you want the heat to retain as much as possible as it can affect your brewing process.
Don’t stress too much on this because you can achieve temperature stability by preheating the filter paper, this will also warm up the brewer creating a more stable environment for brewing. V60 is the right option if you enjoy clarity, acidity, sweetness, fruity notes, and other distinct nuances specific to an origin.
“The shape, design and materials used to create the V60 has been utilised to help offer optimum extraction. It comes in ceramic, plastic, glass and metal styles, offering a solution for any budget or purpose, making the V60 an ideal choice for brewing coffee for both pros and beginners.”
“V60 is a gravity pour over, in the sense it allows gravity to draw water through a bed of coffee, giving optimum balanced flavors. It is easy to play around with different recipes and ratios. The resulting brew is aromatic compared to other methods and the mouthfeel is enjoyable. I highly recommend it.”
Bottom line, buy the V60 if:
- you want to make only for yourself – size 02 can brew for up to four.
- you want the option of portability – the plastic one is not only light, but it is also practically unbreakable and great for heat retention
- you want complete control over your brewing process
- you want clarity and repeatability with every brew
- you are a purist and love experimenting with different techniques
Here’s another term I’m going to throw at you: ‘flat-bottom brewer’, that’s what the Kalita is compared to the conical – V60 and Chemex. The wavy contours and the three small holes at the base are the main design features of this brewer. Even the filter paper is wavy in contrast to the V60’s straight-sided paper.
Why are these differences important, you ask? The resulting brew takes more time to prepare, but the drink is more richer, and has a pronounced mouthfeel. The flat-bottom is great for even extraction, for those looking for a clean, balanced cup of coffee.
The advantage of a flat bottom brewer is the large surface area which effectively allows the grounds to be saturated and the extraction takes place more evenly, hence you have a balanced and rounded finish.
Like the other pourover methods, this too comes in different materials, the stainless steel being the most popular, giving it a very utilitarian look, I’m not trying to give it a negative connotation, but it’s usefulness is beautiful in its own way, even if you manage to drop it a few times.
Aleksa Novicic, Product Sales Specialist MEIA at Gruppo Cimbali SpA and Brand Ambassador to Slayer Espresso, shares his opinion on the Kalita:
“The reason why I love the Kalita is because of the flat bottom. The flat bottom can give you much better and even extraction, less channeling, richer and more complex taste in the cup, while the V60 or Chemex will give you more sharpness and clarity in the cup. Kalita is also more forgiving to mistakes especially when you’re brewing coffee in the morning.”
“I use the Kalita Wave if I want a full bodied coffee experience in addition to delicate tasting notes, and because of its flat bottom brew bed and multiple holes, it creates space for even extraction. I also find better stability in temperature since the filter makes less contact with the brewer.”
Bottom line, buy the Kalita if:
- you want a consistent, balanced cup of coffee
- you want a great pour-over experience for first-time users
- you want a brewer that’s easy to use
If you are still undecided, below is a summary to give you clarity on what was discussed in great detail and to help you make your final decision:
Emphasis must be made on the fact that brewing on any of the above brewers alone will not result in excellent coffee alone. There are other factors that are important to consider such as the water, freshly ground coffee and the brewing technique.
I’m curious, did you find this guide useful? If so, which feature resonated the most with you? Leave a comment below.