The AeroPress is a hand operated plunger system for brewing coffee. The gizmo allows you to rapidly brew up barrister-quality coffee at home with the minimum amount of fuss. Coffee savants have snapped up well over a million units since the product hit the market in 2005. The popularity of the machine stems from its ease of use and the fact it lets you to endlessly tinker with the brewing process as you bid to find the perfect cup.
We recently reviewed the Aerobie AeroPress, but this article will look at how the AeroPress works and what its benefits and drawbacks are when compared to other methods. It will also share ways of using yours to get stunning results.
What is it?
The cylindrical coffee maker was designed by Stanford University engineering instructor, Alan Adler, who also invented the worlds furthest-flying Frisbee. The AeroPress is designed to make a single serving of espresso-strength coffee.
The lower chamber features a paper coffee filter which is placed on top of a plastic grill. The grill end sits on top of a mug. Freshly ground coffee is placed in the chamber and Hot water is added. A plunger featuring a thermoplastic elastomer seal is placed into the chamber. When the plunger is pushed to the base towards the plastic grill a cushion of air forces the water through the ground coffee and out into the mug below. You can read our in-depth review of the product here.
Why is it so good?
- the machine allows you to make one cup of coffee at a time, so if you are the only java junkie in your household it will help you reduce waste coffee.
- It is also a doddle to clean. After each use, you are left with a hardened puck of coffee grounds which can be squeezed into the bin. The plastic syringe just needs a quick rinse after that and bingo – all done.
Ease of use aside, on the face of it the machine seems like a French press… but it actually has two main advantages over the typical cafetière when brewing coffee.
The press produces 5 bars of pressure inside the chamber as water is forced through the coffee. This is less than the 9 bars of pressure used to make espresso, but a larger force reduces the amount of time the water is in contract with the coffee grounds.
The pressure helps squeeze every bit of flavour possible from the coffee grounds, while reducing the amount of time the coffee is in contact with water. This means the final product is much less bitter and acidic thanks to the fact that less phosphoric and Chlorogenic acid are dissolved in from the bean, reducing the bitter and sour flavour profiles of your cup and leaving you with a sweeter and more rounded final project.
The paper filter disk that the aero press uses is much finer than the mesh filters used in the French press. This means much fewer coffee solids and oils finish in your cup. With much lower quantities of silty coffee bits in the final product, each brew not only has a noticeably less bitter flavour, it also has a much smoother and more pleasant mouth-feel.
Although there are a number of metallic replacement filters on the market at the moment, none of them are officially endorsed by Aeropress, as they will not produce the same results.
How to make the perfect Areopress
As we have seen, the aero press gives coffee lovers seeking a sweet and smooth coffee a big advantage – but how they go about achieving that is very much up to the individual. Different coffee grinds and beans can be used and different water temperatures can be experimented with as you go in search of the perfect cup. Here are a couple of rules to help you get started.
- Rinse the filter
Each filter is made with bleached paper which some people claim to be able to taste. Pass some boiling water through the filter before you begin – not only will this rinse out the filter, it will also warm the syringe before brewing takes place, allowing you to keep close control of your water temperature.
- Experiment upside down
Many AeroPress users prefer what is known as the 'inverted' brewing method. When using this technique, the machine is stood up on its plunger where coffee is added. Water is then added before the filter cap is screwed on above.
Once your desired brewing time has elapsed, you can turn the machine over a cup and press the plunger. Keeping the machine upside down allows you to brew up the coffee for longer without water dripping through the filter below. This lets you make stronger coffees with slightly more body than the traditional 'right way up' method.
Finer grinds preferred?
Given the short brewing times in play and the limited amount of water that is in contact with the coffee, most experts use very fine espresso-style coffee grounds with the AeroPress. They are probably on to something. Then again, if you are using an inverted method and long exposure time coarser grounds will work too.
- Temperature matters
Most recipes for AeroPress coffee actually state the temperature of the water that should be used to make the coffee. Use a thermometer to follow them faithfully. If you are just after a quick cup, remember that coffee should not be made with boiling water and go nuts.
- Don't force it
When lowering the plunger don't force it into the coffee grounds once all the water is out. This could cause some of the bitter and acidic oils and fine grounds to pass through the filter, which will tarnish the quality of the finished article.
The machine comes with a booklet containing instructions on how to brew coffee in a couple of different ways. However, due to the popularity of the machine – Barista's are already competing in annual championships to make the best AeroPress.
Here is the winning recipe form the 2017 edition of the competition. It uses the 'inverted' method we mentioned before. The winning entry that year was from UK barista Paulina Miczka.
- Put 35g of mid-course ground coffee in the AeroPress and add 150 g of water at 84 degrees Celsius. Add the water slowly taking about 15 seconds to pour it all in.
- Stir the coffee and the water for 20 seconds.
- Add a rinsed paper coffee filter to the end of the AeroPress and let it stand for another 30 seconds.
- Flip the AeroPress and press the filter slowly, you should take around 20 seconds to plunge it to the bottom.
- Add between 160 and 200 grams of water to the coffee concentrate.
There are plenty more recipes from other finalists on the competition's website. Who knows – if you master the art, perhaps your recipe will be listed there in years to come.