Pour-Over Coffee Makers: Chemex Versus Kalita
WRITTEN BY: Equator Coffees
At our Equator cafes, we have the luxury of pulling shots through top-of-the-line Italian espresso machines, and a range of pour-over devices for you to choose from. But we realize not everyone has a full coffee bar in their kitchen. The coffee makers we use at home most frequently employ the pour-over method, a simple technique that can produce excellent results with a little bit of practice.
What’s the best home pour-over coffee maker?
It all comes down to personal opinion, and if you don’t know what they say about opinions, go ask your grandpa—we’ll let him fill you in.
What we can tell you definitively are which ones are our favorites, the ones the Equator crew turns to morning in and morning out to get their day going: the Chemex and the Kalita Wave 185. Both get the job done and produce great results, but a few key differences will help you decide which one is right for you.
Chemex Coffee Maker
Let’s start with the Chemex, unchanged from the original 1941 design by Peter Schlumbohm (age before beauty, right!?). Inspired by the durable, non-porous glass and shape of an Erlenmeyer flask, the Chemex is a coffee maker found in the cabinet of any self-respecting coffee freak as well as in use at cafes around the world—it’s iconic look has even landed it more than a few bit parts in movies and TV over the years.
The non-porous glass prevents the development of cracks or fissures over time which can form in other kinds of glass and plastic due to the heat-cool cycles of brewing coffee. It has a specially designed filter that’s thicker than typical coffee filters, which results in a clean, pure, flavorful cup of coffee free of bitterness or sediment.
The most common size is the Six Cup Classic Chemex, a great option for making coffee for more than one person at a time. But if it’s just you, one of the handy features of the heat-proof borosilicate glass is the ability to heat up any leftover coffee on the range when you’re ready for a second cup.
Check out our Chemex brew guide for a detailed look at how to brew in a Chemex coffee maker.
Kalita Wave 185
Kalita’s been in the business of making quality coffee brewing equipment since 1958. Based in Japan, the land of precision and technique, their gear is often simple on its face but filled with considered details to enhance their function.
The Kalita Wave 185 is their most popular model, prized for both its ease of use and the versatility to experiment to find your perfect brew. It’s flat bottom and wave-design sides reduce surface contact with the filter, which works with the three evenly spaced drip holes to regulate water flow and extraction time.
It makes a single cup of coffee, making it a great option for early morning single servings or when it’s time to recharge in the afternoons.
Take a look at our Kalita brew guide to learn how to brew with the Kalita Wave.
How do they compare?
Both are exceedingly simple to use, making them perfect for brewing coffee at home. They both produce excellent results when paired with the proper coffee. And with a little practice, they can both produce the same pour-over results you love at your local cafe.
The filters are the biggest difference. Chemex coffee makers use a thicker filter that removes all sediment and oils for an exceptionally pure cup. The thinner filters typical of a Kalita Wave also remove any sediment, but they let a little bit more of the oils through, which gives the coffee a little more body and a super smooth flavor and feel.
The Chemex filters are specially designed, and aren’t always easy to find on grocery store shelves, though most cafes with a retail shelf will have them available. The Kalita, on the other hand, accepts the same basket-style filters that are available anywhere you shop.
The second major difference between the two is the recommended grind setting. A finer grind that’s close to the consistency of table salt produces the best results in a Kalita with its thinner filter. But the thicker filter of the Chemex results in a slower extraction, making a grind similar to kosher salt more suited to use in the Chemex.
The last key difference is in the materials. The Chemex is made from a durable borosilicate glass which is shatter-resistant, but not straight up shatter-proof. Which makes it awesome for home use, but not for any kind of travel. The Wave, on the other hand, is lightweight, low-profile and made out of an all-but-bulletproof stainless steel that can handle hitting the road with you—we especially dig bringing it camping and enjoying a cup out of it after poking up the remnants of last night’s campfire.
Cheat Sheet: The Pros of Each
Still not sure which method is suitable for you? Check out the cheat sheet below for the quick hits on what distinguishes one from the other.
- Made only out of non-porous borosilicate glass, which makes it sturdy, but less portable
- Thick filter that slows down the pace of brew, so expect 5-6 minutes per batch
- Can brew anywhere between 3 - 10 cups of coffee per batch
- Brewed coffee tastes cleaner, and flavor profiles are more complex
- No ribbing to help guide the water, so even and mindful pouring is key
- Made from stainless steel, exceptionally durable and portable
- Typically brews coffee in 3-5 minutes
- It makes 2 cups of coffee per brew, not ideal for larger brewing
- Can expect a smooth and light flavor profile, with no sediments in coffee but some oils
Still not sure? Here’s our recommendation: try both! You can find them in the Equator store, and others too. For many of us at Equator the Chemex is perfect for at-home brewing and entertaining a group of friends or family. The Kalita is our go-to for when we are on the go—or have an exceptional coffee that we don’t want to share!