Chemex Square vs. Circle Filters: What’s The Difference?

chemex square vs circle filters

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The Chemex is one of my favorite manual coffee brewers, and although it can be rather challenging to use, once mastered, it rewards you with a robust, clean cup of coffee that’s to die for.

As a coffee enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my Chemex brewing process. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with different filters for my Chemex coffee maker.

Two popular variations are square and circle filters. I have tested both styles over the past few days. So stick around if you want to know if one is better than the other or if they affect the taste of your coffee.

Because In this article, I’ll explore the differences between these two filter shapes and share my personal experience with each.

What’s So Special About Chemex Filters?

Chemex coffee makers are known for their unique design and ability to produce a clean, flavorful cup of coffee. However, the type of filter you use can significantly impact the taste and quality of your coffee.

Chemex filters are specially designed paper filters that fit into the top of a Chemex coffee maker. They are thicker than standard coffee filters and have a unique shape designed to optimize the brewing process.

The filters are made from high-quality paper that is bonded without the use of any glues or chemicals, ensuring that no unwanted flavors are transferred to the coffee.

There are two versions readily available, round and square. Keep reading to discover the differences between Chemex filter variations and if there’s a difference in taste.

Chemex Square or Circle Filters?

When it comes to choosing filters for your Chemex, you have the option of circle and square-cut versions. The square filter is the original, classic design, while the circle filter is a newer addition.

There really is only one main difference between the two Chemex filters: their shape. The type of paper is the same, and both filters are available in either brown or bleached paper variations.

Square Chemex filter
Square Chemex Filter

Both versions weigh approximately 4.5 grams and are actually among the heaviest and thickest coffee paper filters you’ll come across for pour-over brewing.

The brown filters are compostable, but like all brown filters, I find that they slightly change the flavor profile of the coffee. So a good pre-rinse with water is definitely recommended before you brew.

Both Chemex filter versions come either pre-folded or flat. From my experience, unfolded tends to be the cheaper option but will require a bit more effort to fold and set up with each brew.

Not a big deal but definitely something to keep in mind if you’re often running late and short on time.

Personally, I find that the classic square ones do have a slight advantage over the circle filters when it comes to removing them. The points, or as I like to call them, the “wings” that stick out of the Chemex rim, make it easier to remove when wet and full of coffee grounds.

Round Chemex Filter
Round Chemex Filter

Also, it’s worth noting that the round filters are slightly more expensive in my region. I’m only talking about a few dollars difference, but the price could differ depending on the retail store and your location.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your brewing preferences and the style that best suits your budget.

Do The Different Shape Chemex Filters Affect The Taste?

The short answer is no. Different shape Chemex filters won’t adversely affect the taste of your final brew. However, the type of paper used to produce the filter absolutely will.

All paper coffee filters suffer from a papery taste, hence why it’s recommended to rinse your filters with hot water before each use.

But Chemex paper filters suffer more, and it’s probably due to the thickness.

When I compare both filters side by side, I find that the bleached filters have hardly any “paper taste” and just need a quick pre-rinse, and they’re good to go.

Whereas the unbleached brown type tends to come with a lingering “cardboard aftertaste” that I have never been able to rinse away. Plus, they are just slightly slower to drain.

It’s worth noting that most white filters are oxygenated, not treated with bleach, although the old name still sticks.

I suggest buying white filters for your Chemex brewer; they produce a better-tasting cup and are more convenient.

If you want to change the flavor of your Chemex coffee, try a different grind. A good starting point is a medium-coarse grind, somewhere between table salt to sea salt size.

Can You Use Other Filters With Chemex?

While Chemex advocates prefer using a proprietary bonded paper filter to achieve the best results, can other filter types can be used with this brewing system for varying taste profiles? The answer is yes – with some considerations.

Alternative filters, such as reusable stainless steel or cloth filters, are compatible with the Chemex coffee maker.

These filters often provide the advantage of being cost-effective and more environmentally friendly than single-use paper filters while also imparting a different flavor profile to the brewed coffee.

Metal filters generally allow more coffee oils and fine sediment to pass through, resulting in a richer, heavier-bodied cup, which might be preferable for some coffee enthusiasts.

On the other hand, cloth filters are known to produce a smooth, balanced brew that lies in between the taste spectrum of paper and metal filters.

However, it is important to remember that straying from the recommended Chemex paper filters can alter the signature characteristics that the brewer is loved for.

Experimenting with different filter types might be a fun adventure for those seeking to change up their brew.

But, for anyone who appreciates the classic Chemex flavor, sticking with the genuine Chemex paper filters remains the unbeatable choice.

A square brown Chemex filter and a round white filter on a wooden table

Final Thoughts On Which Chemex Filter To Use?

So which Chemex filter should you use? There is no right or wrong answer, and how you make coffee depends on your own personal preferences and what you find delicious.

If you want my thoughts, I prefer square edge filters when I use a Chemex. I typically choose the white filter variant, although I do sometimes struggle to find those where I live and have to settle for the cardboard-tasting brown filters.

I will say this. When it comes to the Chemex, the type of filter you use is the “brewer.” The glass Chemex carafe is only a vessel to pour your coffee from and has little to do with how the resulting cup tastes.

A Chemex brew made with a metal reusable Able Kone filter, a folded paper towel, or a generic paper filter will always be a Chemex brew, and they will all be different.

However, if you really want that incredibly clean manual drip cup that the Chemex is renowned for, then you have to use the original bonded paper filters when brewing coffee.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Nothing is set in stone in the world of coffee, and rules are meant to be broken.

Whether you end up with a pre-folded Chemex circle filter or fold your own square ones, have fun with your pour-over coffee and discover the best filter for your perfect cup.


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