CoffeeCon will make history with the first-ever Chemex Pop-up Museum on Saturday June 4, at Industry City in Brooklyn. It happens to be the Chemex coffeemaker’s 75th anniversary. The Chemex happens to be the 3rd Wave Coffee Movement’s darling coffee maker and it’s a New York creation, invented here 75 years ago by a German immigrant designer Peter Schlumbohm. Convinced that a simple paper filter drip maker would make the purest, best coffee. Influenced by Bauhaus design principles, Schlumbohm brought his invention to market in 1941. World War II’s glass shortage kept the Chemex in short supply and the first batch sold out in record time. Legend tells that President Roosevelt made a special allowance so the Chemex could resume production during the war.
The Chemex Pop-up Museum at CoffeeCon will feature historic samples from the early production run. Some of these samples have the Chemex logo stamped on them. Early filters and assorted accessories will also be on display, as well as drawings and samples of Schlumbohm’s other inventions. Schlumbohm designed all sorts of devices; everything from a cigarette holder to an early streamlined automobile.
The core of the collection will be the coffee makers, which evolved through the years while always keeping the same Chemex laboratory beaker shape. There were Chemex all-glass kettles, tops, glass cup sets, matching cream and sugar servers and even a glass warmer, an early attempt to keep the Chemex coffee hot without overheating the delicate flavor note for which it was known.
The products and designs will regale visitors with Chemex lore. The Chemex was a cult favorite brewing method from its inception, with fans as diverse as New York music critic and modern composer Virgil Thompson, Audrey Hepburn’s film romance classic Sabrina and James Bond in From Russia with Love. More recently, it’s become an icon of coffee’s “Third Wave” movement among Millennials.
Chemex’s Eliza Grassy says, “We have a vast collection of Dr Schlumbohm’s ideas, plans and phycial inventions, including his various Chemexes throughout our product’s history. CoffeeCon’s Kevin Sinnott was visiting one day and recently phoned me and asked if we could display them at his CoffeeCon consumer event. We’re very proud to bring this body of work to a greater audience.”
I came up with the idea after visiting Chemex’s Massachusetts headquarters several years ago. As owner Liz Grassy graciously gave me a tour of their relic collection, it occurred to me that the treasures hadn’t been seen by anyone outside the owning family for years. All it would take is the right time. I can’t think of a better one than their 75th Anniversary.
Admission to the Chemex Pop-up Museum is free with a CoffeeCon general admission. CoffeeCon NY takes place one day only on Saturday June 4, from 9 am until 4 pm.