The way to Thrift Store for Classic Chemex Espresso Makers


Oleg Romanko /

Shopping from thrift stores, flea markets, and property sales can be overwhelming. Given the sheer volume of things, how do you know where to start? How do you spot gemstones in the middle of all the junk?

As a professional reseller who has been combing thrift stores for over 30 years, I can help. When you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, catch bigger bargains, or walk away with boastful finds to trade for cash, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale money, anything in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualifies as a BOLO (“be in search of”) item. If you find it, buy it!

Recommended find: Chemex coffee machines

At home, coffee machines run faster than half the time. Seriously, I bought two one-cup brewers in the last month. Each took about two weeks before the pumping mechanism failed, rendering the entire machine unusable.

I’m tempted to make a hate speech about planned obsolescence, but I haven’t had coffee yet. Instead, let’s talk about a solution – the Chemex coffee maker, a sleek, efficient pouring device with no moving parts.

Chemex was invented by chemist Peter Schlumbohm and first came on the market in the 1940s. Made of heat-resistant glass, the brewers look like an hourglass with a sharpened tip.

The cone-shaped top of the carafe works with a special paper filter to remove sediments, oils and fats from the coffee. No bitterness and no reason – the perfect cup every time.

But smart design doesn’t end there. The narrow neck of the carafe fits perfectly in the hand and protects it from the hot surface with a wooden band, the so-called “collar”. The collar is fastened with a leather cord that is knotted with a wooden bead. (Don’t you just love mid-century design?)

A subtle groove in the glass serves as a spout. Simply remove the used filter and ground coffee as a compostable package and then pour the coffee.

Why buy

Aside from making a great cup of coffee, Chemex coffee machines just look cool. In comparison, my now defunct single-cup brewers look like rash piles of plastic.

The New York Museum of Modern Art and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum agree on the artistic value of Chemex – both prestigious institutions have permanent exhibits including a Chemex.

When used and cared for correctly, a Chemex will deliver scorching perfection for generations. An excerpt from an old company brochure says it best:

“The Chemex coffee machine is a perfect glassblowing masterpiece that very few glassblowers can achieve. Treated correctly and with respect, it will last a lifetime. “

If you are interested in reselling Chemex pieces for a profit, the market is entirely caffeinated. An oversized Chemex from the 1950s was recently sold on eBay for $ 330. A vintage 8-cup mockup recently sold on Etsy for $ 199 in pristine condition.

Those prices are even more impressive when you consider that old Chemex brewers are only a dollar or two in many thrift stores.

Especially in areas without a strong coffee culture, the employees of second-hand shops don’t know what to think of a Chemex jug. Is it a strange vase? A laboratory device? A fancy spittoon? But hey, their confusion means hot deals for you and me.

Look what

The Chemex brand is usually printed on the bottom of the carafe, although I’ve seen molded markings near the spout on pieces from the 1940s. The logo is simple – just “CHEMEX” in capital letters with a patent number.

In the resale market, Chemex’s prices vary based on condition, age, and other characteristics. When buying for resale, pay special attention to:

  • Size: With a few exceptions, there are Chemex brewers in one, three, six, eight and 10 cup sizes. Larger sizes (eight cups and more) sell best.
  • Place of manufacture: Pieces labeled “Made in West Germany” were made before 1990 and are usually sold at higher prices.
  • Unique markings: Early Chemex brewers were made from Pyrex, and some have a green stamp on the carafe that says “CHEMEX® US PATENT 2,411,340 MADE IN USA FROM PYREX® BRAND GLASS”. Carafes with the green stamp achieve higher resale prices.
  • Collar material: Some later Chemex models have a plastic collar, but collectors prefer the original wood and leather collar design.

Professional type: If you find a Chemex with strong coffee stains, don’t despair. Remove the wooden collar and fill the carafe equally with warm water and distilled white wine vinegar. Leave on for 2-3 hours, then scrub with a bottle brush.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation when you click on links in our stories.

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