Review: Aeropress Coffee Maker

Left to right, Aeropress gear, my cheap grinder and electric kettle.

 

I’ve gone thru a bunch of coffee making methods. I’ve killed 2 espresso makers and tossed out 3 more drip coffee makers. I got disgusted with spending a ton of money on equipment and went with a simple cold brew maker, coupled with a French press for times when demand exceeded supply.

Then, while I was checking out yet another espresso maker I saw the Aeropress. I got one from Amazon a few weeks ago. It resembles a large syringe and is made of mostly BPA free plastic, with a rubber plunger. I’ve been using it exclusively for our morning coffee since then. I love this thing. It marries the speed advantage of French press with the smoothness of cold brew. It produces a rich cup with less bitterness and acidity. If coffee gives you stomach problems, this may bring coffee back into your life.

Good coffee involves several variables.

  • Bean quality and roast
  • Grind
  • Water quality
  • Temperature
  • Contact time
  • Pressure

Good quality beans and filtered water is a must. A grinder makes a world of difference. The Aeropress allows control over the temperature, brew time, and to some small extent the pressure with an accessory. See the update at the bottom.

My process for morning coffee:

  1. I use the electric kettle to heat water to 175 F. Hotter water will give greater extraction and is better for medium and lighters roasted bean, to prevent a washed-out weak taste.
  2. I use the inverted method. Flip the Aeropress so the screen is up and remove the screen. Make sure the plunger is inserted straight, at least 3/4 inch into the tube. This position prevents the coffee from leaking thru the filter while it steeps. The instructions recommend doing it the other way, but I found this easier
  3. It seems to work best for me with medium fine freshly ground coffee, not an espresso grind. That seems to clog the filter and makes using the press a test of strength. Add the coffee to the press, one measure of the provided scoop per cup.
  4. Add water, I use 2 scoops of coffee and fill the press nearly to the top. Stir for 10 to 20 seconds using the included stirrer.
  5. Add a paper filter and replace the screen. Many recipes recommend rinsing the filter with hot water to avoid the paper flavoring the coffee, I can’t tell the difference. I let it sit for 60 more seconds of brew time.
  6. Place it filter side down on a cup and press the plunger slowly down, taking about 30 seconds to fully press it. The goal is about 1:30 of brew time, including the time to press it.

I’m going to compare to the French Press I’ve used for a long while.

The result is flavorful without the bitter kick and fine grit generated by our Bodum French press. It’s a smooth cup of very strong espresso like coffee. I mix it with hot water to make an Americano. You can add hot milk to make a latte. Or use a dark roast and milk and make a Cuban coffee. Or make it with less water, following the scale on the side of the press, to make something like an espresso. To be clear, it’s not an espresso maker. It doesn’t generate sufficient pressure. You get no crema (the tan foam a good espresso maker generates) to speak of. But it’s close in flavor.

You can use a coarser grind and more brew time. Using more water during the brewing process does enhance the bitterness a bit if you prefer that. There are dozens of video recipes on YouTube that change all of the variables. Experiment with them, you can definitely find something that suits you. I started with a scale and timer the first few times. After some time you can leave the training wheels behind and rely on your personal taste and experience.

It’s far easier to clean than a French Press. Hold it over the trash can, remove the screen and eject the spent puck of coffee. Give it a quick rinse and store it with the plunger fully pressed to the bottom. It’s is top rack dishwasher safe. Filters can be rinsed and reused if you’re the frugal type. Or you can get a permanent filter on Amazon.

If you like good coffee, spend the money for a decent conical burr grinder. The one in the picture (Cuisinart DBM-8) doesn’t qualify. It was cheap, actually free, as it was purchased at Kohl’s using Kohl’s cash generated by other purchases. It can be had for around $40 on Amazon. It’s a disc grinder and better than weeks old coffee at the grocery store but doesn’t really do a good consistent grind. Baratza and Capresso make entry-level grinders suitable for use with the Aeropress. Or you can go with a good quality hand grinder and go camping with it. In my opinion, it doesn’t require a high-end grinder suitable for a true espresso maker. Any grinder is better than pre-ground stale coffee.

Pros:

  • A really good cup of coffee
  • Much faster than cold brew
  • It’s quick
  • It’s relatively cheap
  • Easy to clean
  • Very portable
  • The brewing process is very flexible and fully under your control
  • The small paper filters are inexpensive
  • It’s top rack dishwasher safe

Cons:

  • It uses more coffee per cup than other methods
  • It requires filters
  • Since it’s almost all plastic, I think it should be cheaper than ~$30
  • It’s hard to make coffee for more than 2
  • It’s not an espresso maker despite the description by some Amazon sellers

Update: There is an attachment that’s supposed to make espresso. The Fellow Prismo is available from aeropress.com or Amazon for ~$25. It adds a pressure valve to the screen to make a more espresso-like brew. It also eliminates the need for the flip method, so it’s more stable. I haven’t tried it. I just noticed it on Aeropress website.

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