Are you a coffee enthusiast? Do you enjoy trying new ways to make your favorite morning beverage?
You may have heard of a new(ish) funny looking, mechanical press coffee maker that is getting rave reviews. The first time I saw it was a couple years ago in the kitchen at my office where an accomplished, smart, albeit clumsy colleague, showed me how it is used. I guess his awkward demonstration left me uninspired, and although it left an impression on me as being intriguing, I never looked into it further.
I love the experience of preparing coffee, the smell that pervades my apartment, the site of the beans, and opening the bag and sticking my nose in for a deep whiff of my favorite roast. I also enjoy trying different brewing and preparation methods, and have tried automatic drip coffee, making espresso from a “homeowner” Krups espresso maker, range top espresso with those little aluminum units that sit atop your burner, and France press coffee. I’ve enjoyed excellent, store bought, cold-brewed coffee, but still want to try and brew some myself, and I want to try brewing percolated coffee, and the newer method where you pour water gradually through ground beans sitting in a filter atop a container. My personal preference is for espresso and I believe it to be the ultimate coffee experience. I have had traditional Greek coffee made by a Greek immigrant, which is supposedly similar to Turkish coffee, although I cannot speak to that; having a traditional cup of Turkish coffee is definitely on my list. When out, I’ve had espresso from decent automatic machines, and more memorable cups from a good barista using a manual machine. I’ve also had espresso made using what I imagine to be the original mechanical press espresso maker that one would have used before electricity was available, a treat a rather worldly and well-to-do buddy of mine provided me using a beautiful and ornate, brass, counter top press.
I worked in a fine dining, Italian restaurant for several years and learned a bit about espresso and became a bit of a connoisseur (junkie would be more descriptive). I recall reading one article written by a NY Times food writer who claimed there were only two places on the entire island of Manhattan that one could find a great espresso and that was only if certain baristas were working. During the time I was working at the restaurant, I had my list of 3 places to get the best espresso in Baltimore, places that were “destination” establishments for me, as I would drive 20-plus minutes to get my fix. I have about four different bags of beans in my refrigerator and while I have one or two favorites, I’ve found that the different methods of preparing coffee seem to lend themselves to using different beans.
I’ve been exclusively using the Aero Press to make my coffee, for about 2 and 1/2 weeks and although I’m not yet an expert on this device, I feel comfortable I’ve gained enough experience to offer my opinion in this review. If you are the type of person that wants to get right to the bottom line, here it is; I highly recommend it. It makes a great cup of coffee that is very low in acidity. It is also very quick and easy to use. Cleanup is very easy and takes less than a minute. Two caveats are that, 1) I have not been able to make a good cup of espresso with it, which it is supposed to provide, and 2) the coffee is so low in acidity, that I have not found the perfect roast of bean or amount of beans to make an outstanding 16oz cup; I still get the best cup from my automatic drip maker using my favorite beans. If you’re a wine drinker you may appreciate this; the coffee the Aero Press makes is so low in acidity that it’s almost too smooth, like some fine wines can be. In the aforementioned restaurant, I had the opportunity to try many excellent wines that would have otherwise been well out of my price range. In fact, I was out and out spoiled when it came to wine. Once, I was sampling a Caymus Cabernet, Opus One, and Silver Oak Cabernet (sorry, cannot recall the vintages) and remember liking the Silver Oak the best despite it being the least expensive, because it had more “chutzpah.” I’m sure this analogy applies to scotch for some people. Sometimes a scotch or wine is just too smooth. In any event, I think the Aero Press is almost an acquired taste, but I don’t want to over emphasize this lack of acidity or take away from the unit as it clearly makes an excellent cup of joe and many will really enjoy the low acidity.
How to make a cup of coffee.When you unbox your Aero Press, you will have the items shown above. I use everything in the picture to make my coffee but the funnel on the right. The unit is made from BPA free plastic and is fairly straightforward however, you’ll want to save the instructions because there are a few tips on there worth having. Assuming you’re good at multi-tasking (like BB10), the first step to make a cup of java with the Aero Press, is to heat up your water. (I usually just fill my mug up with water, and pour it into a pan on my range). The second step is to grind your beans while your water is heating up (as I live alone, I have been making single serving portions of coffee, with two scoops of beans from the provided scoop).
Third, take the cap and insert one of the filters provided. Fourth, screw the cap into the bottom of the female part of the press and place that on top of your empty mug. Fifth, take your ground coffee beans and pour them into the top of the female part of the press that is sitting atop your mug. Sixth, pour in your hot water to the level of the #2 on the side of the female part off the press.
Seventh, grab the flat putty-knife looking thing and gently stir the coffee inside the press into a froth. Eighth, take the male part of the press, insert it into the female part, and press the water through the coffee and into your mug underneath.
Ninth, remove the entire press and pour the remaining portion of heated water into your mug. Tenth, take apart your press components, dispose of the used coffee and filter, and rinse everything off. Now, enjoy your coffee! This entire process from beginning to heat up your water, to enjoying your cup, including clean up, takes me less than 5 minutes.
Hints. Here are some helpful hints for preparing your coffee: 1) Do not boil your water. Figure out how long to keep your water on the burner. The Aero Press directions say the best coffee is made with 182 degree Fahrenheit water. For me, I’ve learned to watch how many bubbles are in the water before turning the heat off. 2) When pressing the coffee you have to exert a decent amount of force as the air in the press will push back creating resistance. Do NOT just take that as an invitation to push really hard. Finesse the press a little by pulling it back a little and then pressing down again and by turning it. You’ll quickly begin hearing the coffee dripping into your cup and eventually will hear the air pressure escaping from the bottom of the press and then the press will go in far more easily. 3) When pressing the coffee, grab the bottom half of the press and push up. Do NOT allow your mug to take the brunt of the force of the downward pressure off the press.
Other Considerations. 1) I have not as of yet, made the maximum amount of coffee the Aero Press can make, which would be done by filling the press to #4 with water, and using four scoops of coffee beans from the scoop provided. The process wouldn’t be any different but I suspect it would be harder to press the coffee. 2) The unit is advertised as making espresso, but I have been unsuccessful in making a good cup in several attempts. A good cup of espresso should have “crema” on top, which actually affects the flavor of the espresso just as I suppose, the froth on top of a Guinness beer affects the flavor of the Guinness. Any good barista would never serve an espresso that was void of crema. I have almost created a layer of crema on my espresso using the press, but have not been successful. Thus far, my many efforts at making espresso have yielded what would be described as strong coffee. Technically, the Aero Press makes espresso since the determining factor for espresso is that the water is forced through the ground beans.
3) The quality feel of the components of the press coupled with the way the press works, encourages me that the unit will last forever. 4) If you’re considering buying an Aero Press, pay attention to the contents of the box and the price. Sometimes there are deals on these units that come with reusable stainless steel, or gold filters, or travel bags to store everything together. Sometimes these units are packaged with those things and cost more.
Conclusion. The Aero Press makes a great cup of coffee in a few minutes with minimal clean up. The coffee is very low in acidity and the filters pick up all the grains of coffee so there is no gritty taste or grains at the bottom of your cup when you’re finished, as you might have with a France press. Clean up takes moments. I bought my Aero Press for $30 at my local mall, but they’re even cheaper on Amazon.