Chemex: A Brief History

A quick history of the Chemex and its inventor.

Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, inventor of the Chemex

The Chemex is unique among coffee makers. While a lot of the devices we see nowadays are somewhat modern – with a few exceptions, like the French press and the moka pot – the Chemex is actually an 80 year old invention.

Invented by an illustrious German citizen, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, the developer of our favorite coffee maker was not only a successful inventor with over 300 patents filed by the time he invented this coffee maker, but also a chemist— which might explain why the Chemex looks like something out of a chemistry laboratory.

It was 1941, and filtered coffee wasn’t yet a thing. Or, to be more specific, pour-over coffee wasn’t yet a thing. For its time, the Chemex was a very ground-breaking type of coffee maker, even though it wouldn’t really take the world spotlight until much later.

In his time, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm was highly celebrated for his inventions. It was said by an admirer that he was “a synthesis of logic and madness”, which is probably the definition of a mad scientist. The Chemex was a hit among art-lovers and was exhibited in the MoMA before it made its way into the mainstream.

Chemex exploded in popularity during the new millennium. People wanted more ways to make good coffee at home, which resulted in an inflow of different new coffee makers, including home espresso machines. But when faced with high prices, options like Chemex are more attractive.

Another big point is that the Chemex boasts a beautiful design. This is because Chemex has stayed true to its original design using glass, wood and leather. Over the past few decades manufacturers have transitioned to materials like plastic, stainless steel or ceramic. These materials are cheap, resistant and convenient but are not quite as easy on the eye as a beautiful glass design can be.

The design of the Chemex, surprisingly unchanged for almost a century, still delights us to this day. It has actually inspired many new inventions that are made of the same material, even though glass is still nowhere as convenient for manufacturers as other materials.

Nowadays, the Chemex is one of the most popular coffee makers in the world. With the Hario V60 being the only true rival using a similar brewing method and achieving similar results, there isn’t a lot of competition in this area.

So, the next time you enjoy your Chemex coffee, take a second to appreciate all the history of the Chemex.

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