Coffee Battle: Kalita vs Chemex

Written by:
Claire Iverson

As one might expect, different methods of making coffee produce very different cups. For instance, full immersion methods such as cold brew or the French Press yield bold, intense flavors. But if you like your coffee crisp and light, we recommend employing a pour-over method like the Kalita or Chemex. But in the great Kalita vs Chemex battle, which is better?

Of course, there are many factors at play in the question, and each method has its fans. But we lined up the Kalita and Chemex side-by-side to determine — once and for all — whether the Kalita or the Chemex is the better method for brewing pour over coffee.

What Is Kalita?

Kalita Versus Chemex

Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters

The Kalita Company began manufacturing general coffee equipment such as filter papers in Tokyo, Japan, in the 1950s. The company is best known for the Kalita Wave Series — a premium version of the plastic drippers you can find at any market — which typically yields a single cup of coffee.

When people talk about the “Kalita” as a pour-over method, they’re most likely talking about a cup of coffee made with tools from the Kalita Wave Series.

Thanks to the Kalita Wave’s flat bottom, three extraction holes, and limited contact with the wavy filter paper (creased twenty times), water flows evenly through the grounds and into the cup or ‘wave zone.’

The result? A balanced and mellow cup of coffee.

What Is Chemex?

Kalita Versus Chemex Coffee

Photo by Andreas Palmer

Determined to “Brew the perfect cup [of coffee], but also have the vessel be a thing of beauty,” Dr. Peter Schlumbohm developed the Chemex Coffee Maker in 1941.

The Chemex looks like a piece of art, with its hourglass shape and glass surface, and wood and leather embellishments.

Family-owned, manufactured in the US, and included in world-famous museums’ permanent collections, the Chemex is a part of American history.

Just like the Kalita, the Chemex uses specially-bonded paper filters.

The Ultimate Showdown: Kalita vs Chemex

Kalita Versus Chemex Coffee

Photo by Najib Khalil

Which coffee maker will you choose? The brilliantly-designed yet simple Kalita? Or the iconic, elegant Chemex?

Affordability

Depending on where you shop, what material you want, and the size of the vessel you purchase, the price of a Kalita ranges between $20 and $30, while the price of a Chemex ranges between $30 and $50.

And while Chemex makes slightly more coffee per batch, it’s not $30 worth of coffee.

A Chemex filter-pack includes 100 paper filters and costs $9.50. A Kalita filter-pack includes 100 paper filters and costs approximately $6.

So when it comes to affordability, Kalita wins!

Ease of Use

For the Kalita, grind beans with a burr grinder into medium-to-large-sized grounds, boil water, pour water over the grounds, and enjoy. To clean, throw away the grounds and paper and rinse the dripper.

The Chemex operates the same. Grind beans, boil water, pour water over the grounds, and enjoy. Clean it in the same way as the Kalita. Every so often, make sure to wipe lingering coffee oils from the inside glass.

Both the Kalita and Chemex are easy to use and clean. A tie!

Machine Durability

Chemex coffee makers are made of Borosilicate glass. In comparison to other common glass types, Borosilicate glass better resists thermal shock and wear.

Kalita Coffee Makers are made of stainless steel, porcelain, and heat-resistant glass.

Both the Kalita and Chemex are durable. A tie!

Coffee Quality

When it comes to brewing coffee at home, many things can go awry. For example, if you grind your beans too finely, the coffee could turn bitter. But if the grounds are too big, you can’t extract flavor from them.

The coffee maker you chose also influences coffee quality. A poorly designed coffee maker can burn the beans, obstruct outflow, leak, retain odors, or release heat.

Kalita impeccably designed both their drippers and filters. The filter and dripper — both sides and bottom — seldom touch, and the dripper has a flat base and three holes for extraction.

The dripper/filter design allows water to stream through the grounds steadily and consistently produce a quality cup of coffee.

The Chemex’s design is slightly flawed. Its funnel-like shape causes water to pool and channel in the coffee grounds, and drip through only one hole. If you don’t pour slowly, incrementally, and in a circular motion, your coffee will most likely be unbalanced and acidic.

For this reason, the Kalita holds a slight advantage over the Chemex. So when it comes to Coffee Quality, Kalita wins!

Device Footprint

The six-cup, classic Chemex is eight and a half inches tall and has a diameter of just over five inches. It’s about the size of a large mason jag.

Kalita drippers are the same size of standard coffee drippers; about four inches tall and four inches wide. The Kalita is similar in size to a large orange.

The Kalita has a slightly smaller footprint than the Chemex.

Aesthetics

The Chemex looks like a piece of modern art with its streamlined shape, translucent surface, and smart embellishments.

It would look great in any modern house, farmhouse, or yoga studio.

In comparison, the Kalita Wave is quite plain. It has no wooden or leather embellishments. It’s just a small funnel made of glass, porcelain, or metal.

The Chemex wins aesthetics by a landslide.

The Verdict: The Kalita Beats The Chemex

Kalita Versus Chemex Coffee

Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters

Taking points for affordability and coffee quality, I recommend the Kalita Wave. Compared to the Chemex, it also takes up slightly less room on your countertop, costs less, and consistently provides delicious coffee.

That being said, if you’re looking for a new kitchen statement piece, you can’t go wrong with the Chemex.

Whichever pour-over method you chose, make sure to slightly wet the filter before adding the grounds — you want to get rid of that paper flavor!

Buy Now: Kalita, $29
Buy Now: Chemex, $46

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