The fact that you have found your way to this article is probably a good indicator that you have already seen an Aeropress in action or at the least are curious about this strange contraption. Perhaps you have seen your run-of-the-mill hipster boasting one of these on Instagram, or a hiker brewing with one in the rugged outdoors. This utterly unique coffee brewer has rapidly become both a staple for many committed coffee lovers and an icon of the specialty coffee movement.
And so whether you are already in the know or know next to nothing, we want to introduce you to the world of Aeropress. Our goal is to help you understand the Aeropress and to figure out whether this coffee maker which we have come to love might be the next step on your coffee journey.
What is an Aeropress?
So what is an Aeropress and where did it come from? Well the Aeropress is basically a manual coffee maker (non-electric) that produces coffee that sits somewhere between Espresso and French Press. The Aeropress is made up of three main components; a plunger and seal, a brewing chamber, and a filter cap. When fitted together these components look and act like a giant syringe.
The coffee is extracted by a mixture of contact or ‘steeping’ time between the coffee grinds and water, and pressure. While there are about a billion variations, the basic coffee brewing method for the Aeropress is fairly simple. Coffee grinds are placed into the brewing chamber (whether normal way up or inverted, more on this later), hot water is added for a period of time, and then the plunger is gently pushed down forcing the water through the coffee grinds and paper filter into the cup or carafe.
This completely unique coffee maker was the brainchild of Stanford University Lecturer and Inventor Alan Adler. Adler has more than 40 patents to his name in fields as wide ranging as optics, electronics, aerodynamics, and of course coffee brewing. The Aeropress came into existence in 1994 as a result of Adler’s quest for a coffee maker that could brew strong coffee in a short period of time and that was aimed at single serves rather than large batches. Needless to say we believe Adler absolutely nailed his goal!
And, in fact, the Aeropress has become so popular in the world of speciality coffee that there is even an annual world Aeropress Competition!!
Why we Love the Aeropress
One of the things that I have come to most appreciate about the Aeropress is that it is remarkably easy to start getting good results. I purchased an Aeropress a while back but had hardly used it and so decided that this would be the summer of the Aeropress. It was the only coffee brewer I took on holiday with me and I tried to use it at least once or twice a day for the Christmas period. And what I loved was that literally from my first attempt I was able to make coffee that tasted good and that I enjoyed. And that is part of the genius of the Aeropress; that it is simply easy to use even for those who are completely new to it.
However, and this is another reason that the Aeropress is so great, while the Aeorpess is easy to use it is surprisingly hard to master. My experience was that while it was easy to make good coffee with it, it actually took a lot of hard work and careful experimentation to make great coffee with it. As well as being easy to use, this is a great device to play around with if coffee is your thing! The Aeropress is simply fun to use and can transition almost too easily from coffee maker to hobby.
This makes it a great coffee brewer for a wide range of people from those who are new to specialty coffee to professional baristas and those heavily invested in coffee.
Of course this is what really makes or breaks any coffee maker. If it doesn’t taste good then any other advantages or strengths are merely incidental. So does it taste good? And what might it be comparable to?
This is actually a surprisingly hard question to answer because of the sheer amount of ways it can be used. To give you a sense of its flexibility, the coffee expert James Hoffman produced a set of Aeropress dice which could produce a staggering 7,776 different Aeropress recipes all of which would taste at least slightly different. So it really does depend in particular on which recipe you choose to use.
So caveat aside, what does it taste like? Well when brewed with a short brew time (as I recommend) it is most similar in taste and texture to pour over coffee. Because it also uses a paper filter, it produces a very clean cup of coffee with no silt, few coffee oils, and a texture that is almost similar to tea. The resulting coffee is very light and bright and is particularly good at showcasing the different flavour profiles of single origin coffees. So I used a range of both Ethiopian and Columbian beans over summer and was able to produce some coffees that I found delicious and which were comparable to say a Kalita Wave.
However, if you use a recipe with a longer brew time the resulting coffee comes out more like French Press coffee which is a lot stronger, richer, and heavier. Particularly if you choose to use a metal rather than paper filter the coffee will be very similar to French Press with both some silt and more of the coffee oils.
So can it brew delicious coffee? Well it’s global popularity is probably a good clue to the answer to that question. Its flexibility means that however you like your coffee, chances are that the Aeropress can do it. So yes absolutely the Aeropress can and does produce superb coffee.
Another reason that I love the Aeropress is that you can literally take it almost anywhere. It is made of BPA free polypropylene which is basically strengthened plastic that is near unbreakable. This makes it a great coffee maker either to take travelling or camping. It is relatively light, can fold up small, and because it is plastic won’t crack and can deal with a fair amount of wear and tear. There is even a hand grinder, the Portlex Mini, which is designed to fit into the Aeropress so that you can grind on demand wherever you and your Aeropress happen to find yourselves.
This makes it a great coffee maker to own not just for home use but also business trips, camping trips, or just visiting those relatives who really don’t know how to brew proper coffee. It is also intentionally designed to be able to be used in places where you have minimal gear. The plunger doubles (surprisingly well) as a water pourer, and the brewing chamber has numbers along the side so that you can figure out how much water to add even if you don’t have scales on hand.
I took this on various road trips and camping trips and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to use with next to no additional gear. This is perhaps the go to coffee maker to take when you need coffee away from the comfort of home.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable moments of using an Aeropress is ironically the cleaning process. This seems utterly counter-intuitive even as I write it. But it’s true. Cleaning the Aeropress is literally so easy that it brings a strange satisfaction, especially if you are used to cleaning an espresso machine or even a French Press. Once you have finished brewing the coffee, you hold the Aeropress over a rubbish/compost bin, take off the filter cap, and then push down the plunger. The coffee and used filter paper is then ejected as a puck into the bin (which is somehow immensely satisfying!). You then simply leave the brewing chamber and plunger together, run the rubber seal under cold water and leave it out to dry.
This is my usual cleaning process and then maybe once a week or fortnight I would take the rubber seal off the plunger and wash each of the components in hot soapy water. And so the Aeropress is actually just really convenient in how easy it is to clean.
This leads to another thing that I have come to love about the Aeropress which is that it is quick. Now the exact length of time it takes will depend on a number of factors such as whether you grind your own beans (highly recommended!), what type of grinder you use (hand or automatic), and which recipe you choose to use. So for me I have found that my entire coffee brewing process takes around five minutes including grinding the beans in a hand grinder and cleaning up. If you use an automatic grinder or pre-ground beans then you could realistically be done in under 2-3 minutes! This makes it a great coffee maker for when you are short on time as well as when you have the time to play.
Finally, the Aeropress is simply cheap as chips. This is a huge advantage over say an espresso machine which can easily cost up to $500 for a decent entry level machine. The coffee maker comes with the Aeropress components, a scoop, a stirrer, a filter holder, and a number of paper filters. This is an affordable coffee maker even for those who are on a strict budget. This is also helped by the fact that, while they help, you really can get away with minimal extra coffee gear with the Aeropress. This is quite different from, for example, pour over which really requires a gooseneck kettle, coffee scales, and a burr grinder at a minimum.
The Aeropress is an affordable coffee option for almost anyone and acts as a great doorway into the world of specialty coffee.
What we Don’t Like About the Aeropress
So what don’t I like about the Aeropress? Well as hopefully the rest of the article has shown, not much. Overall I have come to deeply appreciate and enjoy the Aeropress. However, while I have next to no complaints, there are a few aspects of using it that some people might not love.
Some people may not love how much effort is required to brew coffee in an Aeropress. Unlike some coffee brewers such as Keurigs and French Presses [add link], the Aeropress really does require your complete attention throughout the brewing process. You can’t just push a button and go do some other things but instead need to be focused on the brewing process. This might be one negative for people who usually make their coffee on the run.
The other negative for some people is that the Aeropress really is designed to be played and experimented with. This means that while it can easily make relatively good coffee, if you want the best results you need to put in the effort. So for those looking primarily for ease and consistency, the Aeropress may not be the best option.
Another limitation of the Aeropress is that it really is a single serve coffee maker. It works a treat if you are making coffee just for yourself, but is rather annoying if you are trying to make coffee for multiple people. My experience is that it can make coffee for two at a stretch, but any more than two requires multiple batches which takes extra time and effort. So if you are looking for a coffee maker for larger groups of people then the Aeropress is probably not the way to go and you would likely be better off with something like a French Press.
The Verdict: Who is the Aeropress For?
So who should buy an Aeropress? Well based on my experience I would say that the Aeropress is for the coffee lover who enjoys playing around with coffee gear. If this sounds like you then chances are that, like me, you will come to love the Aeropress. It is fun to use, satisfying to experiment with, and can make some delicious coffee.
The other main type of person the Aeropress might appeal to is those who are looking for a coffee maker to take travelling or camping/hiking. This really is the go to coffee maker to take on the road with you. It is portable, sturdy, and can be used with minimal other gear.
So if you fit the bill for either of these categories or are simply looking to expand your coffee arsenal, then the Aeropress is likely for you.
How to Use the Aeropress
Because this is a review rather than a how to guide, I will not go in depth into how to use it. But a great and simple place to start is Chris Baca’s video:
Extra Attachments for the Aeropress
Another great feature of the Aeropress is that there are now a whole range of different extras that can be used with or alongside the Aeropress. The following are some of the most popular.
This is not really an addition so much as an alternative version of the Aeropress. The Aeropress Go was released in mid 2019 as a miniature version of the Aeropress that is designed specifically to be used for travel. The main differences between this and the original include a smaller brew chamber, a travel mug that connects to the Aeropress, and that all the parts now fit together slightly smaller. So if you are intending to use your Aeropress primarily for travel then the Aeropress Go is worth at least considering.
The Prismo is a pressurised valve that connects to the brewing chamber of the Aeropress instead of the plastic filter cap. It works similarly to a double walled or pressurised portafilter basket and basically increases pressure to create coffee that is more like espresso. It also comes with a metal filter that is actually really helpful for Aeropress if you like your coffee with more of the coffee oils. However, it is worth noting that while the Prismo does create stronger coffee it is still a long way from Espresso. Nonetheless, the Prismo can be a nice addition to change up the way you use your Aeropress.
Another great attachment is the puck puck cold brew adapter. This is an attachment you connect to the top of the brewing chamber which basically makes cold brew coffee for you. The way that it works is that you put your grinds in the brewing chamber and cold water in the puck puck, and then the adapter allows the cold water to slowly drip over the grinds creating cold brew in 2-3 hours. Again this is a great way to change things up and try something new.
Well, I hope that you have found this review useful in helping you decide if the Aeropress might be the right coffee maker for you. This iconic coffee maker is versatile, portable, fun to use, and best of all really can make some delicious coffee!