Blind pourover taste test: Chemex vs. KitchenAid

in Brewing Coffee, Coffee Gear

kitchenaidandchemex“Ladies and gentlemen…we…are…live!!”

No, I didn’t have Bruce Buffer in my kitchen, but there was a legitimate bout between two coffee heavyweights.

Earlier this month, the CoffeeCon show for coffee enthusiasts hit Los Angeles.

Read: CoffeeCon Los Angeles 2014 – planning
Read: Official CoffeeCon website

I was a part of the media team that met for lunch to hear a presentation from KitchenAid representatives on their newest coffee brewer.  The KitchenAid Pourover Coffee Brewer is meant to accommodate the growing demand for pourover coffee but in a less manual, more automated way.  They presented some data showing increased interest in the pourover brewing method.

Read: What is Pourover Coffee?

Preparation

It’s important here to set criteria.  At no point did KitchenAid claim that their machine would make a better pourover coffee than my Chemex.  What they did claim is that they had taken a step towards automating pourover.  If they could make a comparable coffee with many less steps, it could net out a win for them in my opinion.

I boil my water for the Chemex on the stove, and you may have a faster way to heat water than I do.  It takes me about ten minutes to boil the water I need, and the brewing cycle with the Chemex takes four minutes.  So, a total of 14 minutes from yawn to brewed coffee.  In terms of how manual the four minutes of brewing is, this is completely subjective.  You may enjoy the manual part of the Chemex process, as I do, because it allows you to handcraft your coffee.  However, I have had guests over and wished for a more automatic way to make a great coffee for so many people.  When it’s just me, I don’t mind the manual part of using the Chemex at all.

The KitchenAid brewer took me four minutes to set up, between grinding the coffee, measuring the water I would need, and rinsing the paper filter of any particles that might be attached to it.  Just over five minutes later, my single cup of coffee was brewed.  So, a total time of 9 minutes and 15 seconds.

pourovertastetestlabThe Switcheroo

As the coffee was brewing, I attached a Post-It note to the bottom of each mug.  On one note, I wrote a “C” for Chemex, and on the other, a “K” for KitchenAid.  After the coffee was done brewing, I poured the correct coffee into the correct mug.  From there, I did a “shell game” with the mugs and moved them around until I couldn’t remember which was which.  With that done, the tasting began.  I recorded aroma and flavor notes by the mug, before checking to see which was which.

Aroma and Flavor

For my coffee, I chose an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, roasted by Counter Culture, one of the exhibitors at CoffeeCon.  I wanted a freshly roasted coffee for the most flavor, expecting these two brewing methods would produce slightly different tasting coffee.  I went with a Yirgacheffe because it has a very distinct flavor, with floral tones in the aroma, and citrus in the flavor.  I would look for the citrus in both coffees since Counter Culture emphasized this characteristic in its roasting notes on the coffee bag.

The coffee brewed by KitchenAid had a great floral aroma right out of the gate.  Surprisingly, the Chemex seemed to have a much more muted aroma.  However, the flavor was not consistent, in that the coffee brewed by KitchenAid had noticeably weaker flavor.  The coffee brewed by Chemex was much brighter in flavor, and the aroma did develop as the coffee cooled.  The flavor also seemed to develop as the coffee cooled, revealing more than the coffee brewed by KitchenAid.

As a final note, the coffee brewed by Chemex held its heat longer, which was a definite advantage.  The KitchenAid brewer has a surprisingly long brewing time, which may be the cause.

In Conclusion

We go to the judges’ scorecards for a decision.  I award this to the Chemex.  It’s manual, but I don’t mind that.  The aroma was muted at first but developed well before I was done the coffee.  It was more flavorful, and held its heat longer.  When I’m only making coffee for myself, or myself and one guest, I will continue using the Chemex.

The KitchenAid brewer made a decent cup of coffee, and will certainly be my preference when making coffee for a large number of guests.

Also worth pointing out, I had to improvise a filter for the Chemex because I’ve run out.  The Chemex uses a unique paper filter that you won’t find for any other purpose.  The KitchenAid uses the standard #4 size filter.  I always have those on hand, so that is certainly a point in KitchenAid‘s favor.

3 Comments

  1. I too was at coffee con and tried the kitchen aid coffee. I wonder if based on the brew time, did you change the grind size? A much longer brew time could cause more solubles to be released as the coffee breaks down, perhaps undesirable?

    Comment by Phillip — November 29, 2014 @ 1:02 am

  2. Does the Kitchen Aid use plastic that the water flows through? I’m trying to avoid plastic, especially with heated water flowing through. Thanks,

    Comment by Karen M — July 29, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

  3. Yes Karen, there are plastic parts to this coffee maker.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — July 31, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

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