Extraction. It’s an important word in the coffee world. Every time anyone makes a cup, they’re extracting coffees precious flavor in some way, shape or form. Add to that a countless number of coffee geeks and the modern development of new and ingenious ways of extracting coffee, and we kinda all end up wondering what the new coffee gadget might be that supposedly makes the best cup ever.
One such coffee extraction invention is the Aeropress, a simple plastic device that’s been around since 2005. It’s simple to use, lightweight, mobile, and it actually works! You don’t even need a plug in since all you need is ground coffee and hot water (think campfire!).
Now lets face it, the vast majority of you out there are not looking for the technical aspects of how to use the Aeropress, so lets leave that for another article and keep this to the basics of what comes in the box.
First, the Aeropress states on its box it’s a coffee and espresso maker. Well, yes it makes coffee…but it doesn’t really make true espresso. Realistically it’s more of a hybrid coffee maker, a combination of pourover, drip, french press, and espresso. When used according to its instructions, the water is poured over the grounds, allowing the coffee to slowly drip into the cup through a paper filter, a form of both drip and pour over extraction. When the plunger is added and manually pressed down, the water is pushed through the grounds under some water pressure, kinda like a french press and similar to espresso. At the end you end up with a great cup of coffee, but it’s certainly not espresso.
The device itself is easy to learn and use. Single use paper filters come in the box, which filter the coffee similar to a regular drip coffee filter. In general, place a paper filter into the filter cap and screw onto the bottom of the brewing chamber. Set the Aeropress over a pre-heated mug, add your favorite coffee (ground to a finer drip grind) to the chamber, pour over hot water, add the plunger and push down gently, essentially pushing the coffee through the grounds and paper filter into your cup. Of course you can adjust any aspect of the brewing process to suite your own taste from water quantity and temperature to the grind to how long you steep a particular coffee. All in all, this entire process only takes about a minute. Since the coffee only extracts for a small amount of time, it ends up tasting clean and fresh with low acidity and without any bitter flavors that can often come from over extraction when using other brewing methods.
Now that you realize how easy it is to use, there are a few non-technical tricks of the trade we recommend:
- Replace the paper filters with a reusable stainless filter insert. Not only is this a good environmental choice, but it will make a much better cup. Paper filters block the fine particulate and coffee oils that makes a good coffee turn great! This is the same reasons why french presses use a stainless filter or screen, and why many modern drip makers now come with a permanent stainless or gold filter instead of paper.
- Never use boiling water. If it boils, let it sit until it completely stops boiling before pouring over the grounds. Many times, users use too hot of water which can burn the coffee, and without realizing it end up blaming the coffee for a bad flavor when it was simply too hot of water all along. Aeropress recommends about 175 to 185 degrees, however from our tests we recommend a bit hotter in the 195 to 200 degree range. Use a digital thermometer for accurate readings.
- Use a good grinder! Don’t use a blade grinder since they create an incredibly inconsistent grind. Use a burr grinder, or at the very least pre-grind your coffee at the shop you bought your coffee from, and store it in an AirScape, which is designed to keep coffee fresh.
- Measure your coffee! This is by far considered one of the hardest parts of making coffee. A tablespoon…uh, does that mean level or heaping? Which one in my drawer is actually a tablespoon anyways? The Aeropress does come with a coffee scoop which helps so its easy to begin with that. However, if possible, we recommend weighing your coffee on a digital scale by the gram. It really does make a HUGE difference when your coffee is consistently the same. Start with 17 grams (or .6 of an ounce if your scale doesn’t do grams), and then adjust the flavor profile and strength by varying your water amounts as you see fit.
- Have fun with it! Coffee should hopefully be an experience for you, not just a way to wake up in the morning. You bought an Aeropress for a reason…because you appreciate a good cup and truly ENJOY drinking it. So experiment all you like! Change the grind a bit, try different water temperatures and steeping times, try adding a bit more water, or stirring it three times counter clockwise instead of 2 times clockwise. Whatever it may be, track your results as you go and over time you’ll find a unique combo that works best for you.
As a last comment, if you have yet to purchase an Aeropress, be sure to buy from a trusted source such as Liquid Planet. Like any popular product, unfortunately there has been some low quality ‘knock-off’s’ being sold for cheap prices online. Many people think they’re getting a good deal, and end up with a cheap copy that cracks and breaks under heat and pressure. While everyone wants a good price, the Aeropress is already inexpensive as it is, so don’t be tempted.
On the next Aeropress installment, we’ll get a bit more technical, and discuss different brewing techniques to make the Aeropress experience even better!