Have you ever wished for an inexpensive, easy, and fast way to make a great cup of coffee? Well, there is a cult following out there that swears the AeroPress coffee maker is all that, and more.
So, just what is the AeroPress? You may have already seen one in a product catalog or online and not even realized it. It is a relatively small device that sits on top of a large glass or mug. The product is basically a plastic cylinder that is filled with grounds and water, and with a press on the inserted plunger, voila! You have a cup of coffee in about sixty seconds.
Once a little hard to find, the AeroPress is gaining popularity and can found at places like Amazon, coffee houses, and online coffee sites. With a little shopping, you should be able to find one for under thirty dollars that includes three hundred and fifty paper filters.
In essence, the AeroPress technique is somewhere between a drip coffee maker and an espresso machine. Like a conventional drip maker, water passes through a bed of grounds held in place by a paper filter. Like an espresso machine, pressure is created by the plunger that forces your coffee through the filter, into the cup. But the Aeropress uses less force than that used for pulling a true espresso shot.
According to the FAQ section of the AeroPress website, the pressure generated is somewhere between one to three bars, or about twenty to fifty pounds per square inch. In contrast, espresso machines use around seven to ten bars, or up to one hundred and forty-five pounds per square inch of pressure. So, while some say the AeroPress makes espresso, that is not technically correct.
What are the Pros & Cons of the AeroPress?
With all the well-known methods for making coffee, you may ask why even consider a new one like the Aeropress. Well, there are some advantage to this process, like:
If you are a coffee lover, a list of pros like that above deserves a closer look. So, let’s dive in and explore how to brew coffee with an AeroPress in detail, as well as learn a little more about the device.
As with all things in life, nothing is perfect, including the AeroPress. So, we must mention some of the things considered disadvantages for the device.
For the most part this device brews one or two cups at a time. You can use three scoops and with practice may be able to get more, but the reality is if you have a crowd to make coffee for, this is not the method to use.
Hard to Store
If you look at the device, it has a paddle, funnel, filters, cylinder, plunger and scoop. This makes keeping everything together, and handy, an issue. There are storage racks sold to keep everything organized. But that is an added expense and often the rack costs more than the AeroPress.
You Need to Heat Water
While this might seem obvious, you do need to heat water and the means additional equipment and time. Many like the control of heating the water separately, which allows for getting to that perfect brew temperature. But that is separate and extra work.
Also, many choose to use a boil kettle, but be aware that is another piece of equipment you may need to buy. Also, one of the other advantages people mention for the AeroPress is you can take it camping or in a RV. But again, you will need a way to make the hot water (e.g. tea kettle and fire, coffee pot and camp stove, microwave, etc.)
Those looking to minimize the waste generated may not like the bleached paper filters that are thrown away at the end of each brew session. Also, you need to replenish, and pay for, bleached filters over time. Some do not like the paper filters and opt for the metal filters instead.
Basic Brewing Method with the AeroPress
A general overview of the basic brewing process would go something like:
- Heat water
- Grind beans
- Assemble and Wet filter
- Add coffee
- Pour in hot water
- Taste and dilute
The above list of steps is far more daunting than it is to actually brew with the AeroPress. Once you use it a couple of times, it will take you one to two minutes to make coffee once the water is hot. Getting your water hot will take the most time.
If you have not heard it before (and most coffee lovers have), food or drink made with few ingredients rely heavily on the quality of each component. Coffee is just water and coffee beans. That’s it. So, yes, the quality of the water and coffee beans are important. But so is the brewing process. The Aeropress is easy to use, but when making a drink with just two ingredients, the small details matter.
Let’s start with the water. Yes, you should use clean water that does not taste like the local public pool. But most people already know that, and there is another water detail that needs to be discussed – temperature.
It will take longer for the water to heat up than any other step, so, most start their water first then let it cool to the right temperature. But what is the right temperature?
One of the great coffee brewing myths is that coffee is brewed with boiling water. Well, let’s just bust that myth here and now (do we owe any money to a well-known television show for saying that?). Boiling water does extract more from the bean, and it is how many “chains” get away with using less coffee when they brew. But what is extracted at higher temperatures is bitter and acidic, plus it hides the true nature of the bean.
When brewing coffee with the AeroPress, it is not surprising to find that most users find the water temperature is important to get right. Some even say to use water as low as one hundred and seventy-five degrees, including the inventor of the device, Alan Adler. That is quite a bit cooler than boiling (i.e. two hundred and twelve degrees). Some even get as detailed as:
- 175˚F for dark roast beans
- 185˚F for medium or light roasts.
You may need to experiment to find the temperature that works for you and your beans. But it will be below two hundred and twelve degrees.
Grind Your Beans
Your beans should be ground somewhere between a drip and espresso grind. A finer grind will take longer to press and takes a little practice and patience when brewing larger batches with multiple scoops (the measuring scoop is included with the AeroPress). But the use of an espresso grind also makes a stronger coffee concentrate, which some users desire.
Further, some like to use the included funnel to help add grounds to the cylinder. But if you are careful, you can just add the grounds directly using the included scoop.
Also, after adding the ground beans into the cylinder, shake it. Level out the grounds so that they do not remain in a mound which water can bypass as it is poured into the AeroPress.
To avoid splashing, carefully pour in water to the one and a half to two mark (as defined on the side of the AeroPress) per scoop of grounds. You will need to experiment to find the best ratio for your palate. Also, it is easiest to look inside the cylinder to see your water level.
Mix with the included paddle to completely blend the coffee grinds and water (the included paddle is designed to avoid scrapping or tearing the filter). Some will wait, or steep, to enhance the extraction. But do not pause too long, or you will risk extraction of acid and bitterness from the beans, and a fair amount of liquid will drip through the filter, which is not what want to do.
Insert the plunger and slowly press it down. Interestingly, the inventor of the device uses his forearm laid on the end of the plunger. Do not force the plunger and you should stop when you feel the beans compacted into a disk at the bottom of the cylinder.
One more thing to note, you do need to press hard enough that many coffee cups can be a problem. Their base may be too small to be stable and the china may not be strong enough to accommodate the pressing without breaking. Many users employ a heavy glass or tumbler, and some even use a metal pitcher under the AeroPress.
This part is simple. The resulting coffee is strong, almost espresso. Some prefer to dilute the extract with water to make a more “American” style of coffee. Once you achieve the desired strength, then drink and enjoy!
Unscrew the cap and press on the plunger to “pop” the compressed disk of grounds out of the cylinder. Rinse all the parts with clean water and you are ready to brew again.
Modifications to the Basic Brewing Method
As with most things that make coffee, this device and its procedure have been tweaked by users in search of the perfect cup. A brief review of the most popular AeroPress life hacks is presented below.
You read that right, there are some who feel the best way to brew great coffee with the Aeropress is to turn everything on its head. Well, at least turn the cylinder upside down.
To brew, the basic brewing procedure is modified by placing the plunger into the top of the cylinder first. The cylinder with plunger is then flipped and the coffee and water are added, mixed, and steeped. Next, the filter and cap are screwed into place. The cylinder is then carefully flipped over onto a mug, glass, or pitcher and you press as usual.
Why bother with this method? Well, you can steep the coffee in the water without any leaking through the filter like it does when the Aeropress is used upright. Many like the enhanced character and stronger coffee that results from a minute of steeping (but do not steep for too long or your coffee can become bitter).
There are metal filters for sale specifically designed for the AeroPress. There are even sets for under ten dollars that provide varying screens sizes. The metal filters eliminate the need to repeatedly use and throw out bleached paper filters, so they are considered more ecofriendly.
For some users, the different screen sizes also impact flavor. Coarse screens provide a sweet, smooth brew while finer filters produce low acidity and full body. And because you can get fine screen sizes, some feel they do a superior job in eliminating grit in the cup.
Stop the Press Short
Pressing the plunger on the AeroPress is foolproof, right? Well, not if you listen to avid users of the device. Many feel you need to stop short of compacting the grounds into a disk at the bottom of the cylinder. A hiss begins to sound as you get near the end of the press, just before you compact the grounds. Some users like to stop before making the hissing sound and leave some liquid in the cylinder. They believe it makes a smoother, less bitter, and less acidic coffee.
If all the above information has made you eager to know even more about the AeroPress, you may be interested to know there is an annual competition to see who can make the best cup of joe. This event is called The World AeroPress Championship (W.A.C.) and is a serious event. On the AeroPress website, they noted that the 2016 event included over sixty thousand spectators and over three thousand contestants from sixty countries. This truly a worldwide event with regional, national, and “world” rounds.
What is most interesting about the competition, the winning formulas are published for all to use. This competition has introduced concepts like blooming (i.e. lightly wetting the grounds just before brewing like expensive espresso machines). Scanning these winning formulas does give one a number of ideas on what is possible when using the simple device. So, for those looking for those ultimate tweaks to your AeroPress coffee making skills, the winning W.A.C. recipes are worth a read.