Mr. Chemex: The Eccentric Inventor Who Reimagined the Perfect Cup of Coffee

The Chemex Coffeemaker is trendy, but it's not new. Dr. Peter Schlumbohm developed it more than 70 years ago! Schlumbohm patented more than 300 devices during his lifetime, making appliances that were simple, functional, and beautiful.

Schlumbohm developed his products by stripping appliances down to their essentials and making them work better. In the vein of modern inventors like James Dyson, Schlumbohm didn’t overload his creations with a jumble of new features—he reshaped the industries he entered through the sheer force of innovative elegance. Maybe that’s why the Chemex still feels so fresh; in a world of overly complex and smirking technology, the Chemex remains a quiet anomaly.

Read more about Schlumbohm and his philosophy of design at Collectors Weekly.


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When I was a coffee drinker, Chemex was my choice for brewing. I would grind the beans in a hand grinder (a Sumatran bean french roasted), boil the water, pour and let the grinds blossom before I finished putting in the water. It takes a bit longer for sure but, best coffee I ever had. I enjoyed every aspect of the coffee experience and would linger over it, the way a kid watches cookies back in an oven. Sweet anticipation. MM MM MM
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My parents were using a Chemex back in the 1960s and 1970s. Never paid much attention to it as I was growing up until one day I stopped and thought...it's so simple that no one would ever think of it. The only hassle about its use was that you had to keep pouring water onto the grounds -- it has no pump to keep the water moving. But it still is a pretty awesome way to make coffee.
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It is a beautiful design but I still prefer my french press. There is something magical about the ritual of boiling the water in a kettle on the stove, freshly grinding the beans myself then pouring the water over them and forcing myself to wait the prerequisite 5 minutes before plunging the filter. Sure it takes a bit longer and is more involved than using a machine and yes the grounds do slip in to the coffee occasionally but for me it's the total experience that makes it so good.
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