WRITTEN BY: ZOE DUMAS
Mention the AeroPress in polite coffee conversation, and you’re sure to hear a flood of opinions on this little brewer. Beloved by some and hated by others, the AeroPress is an inexpensive brewing device designed to quickly make a delicious single cup of coffee with ease. If you’re looking for a simple yet highly versatile way to experiment with your coffee brewing skills, the AeroPress is a worthy investment. And, at only $40, it’s a pretty inexpensive one, too.
So, what, exactly, is the AeroPress? In short, it’s inventor Alan Adler’s answer to the question: how do I make my coffee less bitter? His answer: reduce brew time! To do this, Adler wanted to mimic the pressure of an espresso machine in a much simpler package. The AeroPress works similarly to an espresso machine in a much simpler package. The AeroPress works similarly to an espresso machine, utilizing pressure to force water through ground coffee to create a small, concentrated serving.
That said, a serving of AeroPress coffee is not the same as a shot of espresso due simply to the difference in pressure between the two brewing methods. To produce a true espresso shot it takes at least nine bars of pressure; in contrast, the AeroPress brews with about one. Thus, what we get is more of an “espresso-style” drip. None of this is to say that one or the other is better. Instead, it’s a matter of the type of coffee you’re looking to make.
The AeroPress offers avenues of experimentation far beyond that of espresso, and that’s why it’s popular enough to warrant an international competition every year. What started in 2008 as four friends judging each other’s AeroPress recipes has transformed into a massive event with over 3,000 competitors per season. More than anything, what this says is that there’s no single way to brew with the AeroPress, and it may take some experimentation to find your ideal cup. But when you do, you may reach caffeinated nirvana.
Regardless of your skill level with coffee, the AeroPress is a quick and easy way to brew at home. That said, recipes abound that may make this little brewer seem more convoluted than it really is. In any given AeroPress recipe, you’ll find that there are several variables to consider: grind sizes, water temperatures, dosing ratios, and more. These vary in complexity and can be as simple as the question “Is it better to stir or swirl to agitate?”. AeroPress recipes can appear overwhelming at first, so it’s best for newcomers to start with the basics.
Adler’s original recipe isn’t everyone’s favorite, but it gives you an idea of what variables you’ll play with in your own experiments.
- Setup: With the plunger, filter, and filter cap in place, add one rounded scoop of ground coffee to the brewing chamber.
- Grind Setting: AeroPress recommends using a grind size between drip and espresso. Lightly shake the AeroPress to get the coffee bed level.
- Water Temperature: With water brewed at 175°F (80°C), pour up to the “1” on the outside of the chamber. Gently stir this using the included agitator paddle for about 10 seconds.
- Brewing: Finally, insert the plunger and press down. Keep this pressure relatively light: the structure of the brewer is made to achieve the proper pressure and pressing harder will cause more insoluble material to get past the filter paper.
In his video breaking down the AeroPress, coffee educator James Hoffman determines the overall effectiveness of the various methods AeroPress fanatics are known for. Some produce notable differences in the final brew, while others make little to no difference at all. While Hoffman does provide a complete recipe (check it out here), he encourages experimentation depending on the coffee you’re using, and I couldn’t agree more.
The AeroPress isn’t without its negatives. For starters, not every coffee works well in this brewer, so it’s difficult to say it’s the only brew device you’ll ever need. The AeroPress excels with mostly medium-roast coffees, so keep in mind your typical roast preference before you buy. Another thing to consider is clarity: often, AeroPress coffee isn’t as clean in the cup as a typical pour over.
If you’re looking for the best and only way to brew coffee, you’re better off trying a brew method other than the AeroPress; however, if you want the freedom to experiment with your brew in a unique and inexpensive way, you really can’t go wrong here.
Despite the AeroPress’s massive success in recent years, Adler isn’t a coffee professional: he’s an engineer. The AeroPress is Adler’s inventive answer to the problem of bitter coffee, and I like to think that inventor’s spirit can be seen in just how versatile and interesting the AeroPress has proven to be. It’s not the best way to make coffee, but it is an incredible way to learn about coffee brewing and the way even the minutest variables can drastically change the final cup.