Review: Able Brewing Heat Lid for Chemex

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IMG_4174Disclaimer: I bought the Able Brewing Heat Lid myself at full price. There is no shortage of stuff you can buy if you’re into coffee, from mugs and cups of all shapes and sizes to elaborate brewing apparatuses that look like they belong in the chemistry lab. Coffee companies understand the addiction many of us have to finding the perfect cup and buying whatever it takes that might get the job done making them enablers of the worst kind!

I recently picked up an AeroPress (review sometime soon) and in the process was re-introduced to a company called Able Brewing. Able Brewing sources all their products in the USA and mostly makes accessories for the AeroPress (several of which I bought and will be reviewing in the coming months, too) and Chemex. Able is probably most famous for its Kone, a metal replacement for Chemex’s paper filters.

I’ve been using a Chemex for a couple years and one “complaint” I’ve always had is that coffee doesn’t stay warm in it for long. Part of it’s my fault, since I use the large 6-8 cup one to brew a single large cup (about 450g), giving a small amount of liquid a lot of surface area to release heat. But, of course, it’s also in the nature of the Chemex design: it’s a single wall of glass, which conducts heat pretty efficiently, with an open “chimney” top for even more heat to jump out. And that’s fine, it’s a coffee brewer, not a thermal flask, after all.

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One way of keeping some heat in your Chemex coffee is to use a lid. Sometimes I just slap a small plate over the top, but that’s not very cool (although I have no one to impress except my wife, who already thinks I’m weird, and two dogs, who probably hate my guts). Chemex makes its own glass lid that sits down on the neck of their brewers, but I can only imagine that it’s a pain in the butt to use and not a little bit dangerous if you’re in the mood to forget to hold it in when you pour and a glass plug is flying all over the kitchen, etc. How horrible would it be to break one of their sweet $16 mugs (which I do not have. Chemex, are you reading this??) with a glass lid mishap???

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Enter the Able Brewing Heat Lid.

This $10 accessory (which I picked up on Amazon Prime) is a little flexible plug made in the USA of “food safe elastomer.” If you’re familiar with silicone kitchen products then you’ll know what the Heat Lid feels like. It comes in black or white, and I chose white because it contrasts nicely with the glass and wood of the Chemex. It has a nice matte finish and no seams. It looks nicely made and unless one of your dumb dogs uses it for a chew toy, it should last you forever.

I have to admit that after my Amazon frenzy I had immediate buyer’s remorse. “This isn’t going to do anything, dummy” is what my internal dialogue repeated over and over to me. Jerk! Over the next few days I convinced myself that the thing wouldn’t work, so I decided to run some tests and see how much it can really do. I have a degree in chemistry, so I know my experiments have n=1 and I know that I should test in different conditions with better controls and do them over and over again to average the results and etc etc etc but in the immortal words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!”

If you want to try to win a Nobel Prize with your Able Brewing Heat Lid research, go for it. Make sure you write the results down in a composition book, too, or it really doesn’t count.

I used my trusty digital thermometer with a heat probe on it, like you’d use when grilling or barbecuing. That’s probably less than ideal for fluid temperature measurement, but it’s what I had on hand. In my first round of experiments, my mind wasn’t really working well and I couldn’t figure out how to get the probe far enough into the Chemex, so I ended up having to fill water up to about 2-3mm below the lower edge of the wooden collar. All this science made me smarter, so Round 2 of testing was a little more realistic.

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I knew right away that having that HUGE volume of water in the Chemex (my 450g cup usually comes just to the bottom of the nipple on side of the bottom of the Chemex, so this was like 10x the amount of liquid I ever have in mine) would skew the results because it would retain a lot more heat than a much smaller, more realistic volume. But anyway, in Round 1 of testing I started with water filled to the lower edge of the wood collar that began at 161°F. The Chemex sat directly on my laminate countertop throughout the test. I set a timer for ten minutes and came back and read the temp. Simple.

With the lid on, the temperature after ten minutes was 156°F, and without the lid it was 153°F. So, with the lid, the Chemex lost 5° and without the lid it lost 8°. It definitely worked, but a 3° difference is hardly something to write home about, right?

In Round 2, I used around 600g of water (that’s as far down as I could get the thermometer probe when the Heat Lid was in place), so a much more realistic test. I started with 192°F water and put the Heat Lid in place. After ten minutes, the temperature was 177°, for a loss of 15°F over ten minutes of time. The water started at 194° when I tested without the lid and after ten minutes it was down to 162°, a total loss of 32°F.

So, in these tests the naked Chemex lost twice as much heat as the lidded one. Not a bad result! The next question that remains is, does it really matter? The lidded Chemex was 15° warmer than the naked one. How noticeable is that? I suppose that could be answered with further tests down the road. The bottom line is that the Heat Lid works as advertised. It can be left in place when the coffee is poured because the spout remains unobstructed, but like the Chemex glass lid you do need to hold it in place. The nice thing is that if you forget it’s a superlight piece of soft elastomer that bounces out. Worst case scenario is that it might splash some of your coffee out of your cup.

I was happy to find that the Heat Lid has a noticeable effect on the temp your coffee will remain at in the Chemex. Of course, if you want to keep your coffee hotter for a longer time, you have to use the correct tools for the job, namely an insulated bottle like the Klean Kanteen (I LOVE mine) or a thermal carafe. The Chemex is a brewer and immediate serving vessel, not a longer term storage solution. The Heat Lid is a cool little accessory for the coffee nerd who has everything and for $10 it does as good of a job as anything else available on the market with style and safety. What more can you ask for?