revisiting the AeroPress

The recent mention of the AeroPress movie got me thinking that I should give handmade coffee another whirl, as I’d been using only my espresso machine for the past several months.

The AeroPress is a manual coffee maker designed by a famous scientist, in which a plunger forces hot water through ground coffee beans, with the resulting coffee passing through a filter and directly into a cup.  The main difference from the more widely used French press is that the coffee exits the coffee maker immediately, rather than staying in the vessel with the grounds.

The internet has a million different creative methods to make a cup of coffee using the AeroPress, all of which boil down to either using the rig as per the instructions

put (wet) paper filter into plastic filter basket
screw basket onto bottom of plastic tube
add ground coffee
place device on top of cup
pour in hot water
stir, then allow to steep
plunge coffee directly into cup

or the inversion method

put plunger into tube and turn it upside down
add ground coffee
pour in hot water
stir, then allow to steep
put (wet) paper filter into plastic filter basket
screw basket onto tube
carefully flip the whole thing right side up
put on top of cup
plunge coffee directly into cup

There are a lot of add-ons to the technique, but almost all follow one of those two paths, both of which lead to pushing down on the plunger to send your coffee directly into the cup.

I don’t like stirring as I’ve found moving the water through the ground coffee sufficiently ends up moving the paper filter out of place.  So my variation, which I found on the internets*, is to start with the traditional method. After adding the coffee, I stick a second wet paper filter on the bottom of an old balsamic vinegar bottle that fits the tube well, then use the bottle as a tamper on the grounds, taking care when removing the bottle to leave this second paper filter on top of the ground coffee. The hand grinder is also the right size for the task, though it has a slightly smaller circumference so not quite as good as the bottle. This allows me to skip stirring and continue as usual.

*couldn’t find the article that inspired me but this guy uses the same method and the pics are helpful. Also glad to see he uses a KeepCup!  Though he incorrectly refers to using the AeroPress to make an espresso; not to go all coffee nerd, but not even Lou Ferrigno is strong enough to generate sufficient pressure on the plunger to produce crema and end up with an espresso

Compacting the coffee before the water and plunging seems to increase the strength and doesn’t require the time to steep the coffee in the water. If I’ve done it right the water remains clear in the tube until plunging. I take care when pouring in the water so as not to cause the top filter to slip out of place.

Cleanup is a snap and maybe the AeroPress’ best feature.  Unscrew the filter basket, push down all the way on the plunger to pop out a nice clean puck of coffee grounds, pull the plunger back out of the tube, rinse, done.

the AeroPress and cup are not Liliputian, that’s just the perspective making my meaty paw look immense

et voilà !

So making the coffee after a long break from the AeroPress was certainly easy enough. For old time’s sake and to stay with the Luddite approach I used my Porlex Mini hand grinder (ignore the price on that site, definitely not US$) instead of my Rancilio Rocky machine.  Cranking it out only took 2 minutes without requiring too much effort.

Perhaps I should have worded that last sentence differently.  Anyhoooooo……

The biggest difference was the taste. Much more ascetic and acidic than with my espresso machine,  and akin to the flavor profile from a pour over or a cold brew.  Very pronounced when black, still noticeable after adding steamed milk.  Can’t speak to how it tastes as the base for an Americano after adding hot water. In any case, not as much to my liking, more in line with the ‘clean’ taste that a lot of people are going for today.

I enjoy the geeky feeling of using the AeroPress and it’s a pretty cool contraption. I’ll definitely dust it off when I travel to places I don’t expect to find a halfway decent cup at a coffee shop.  I brought it with me to the beach last weekend and regretted not using it.  But I won’t be reaching for it if there are other options.  Highly recommended to those whose palate is more aligned to the clean cup profile.

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