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There are some manual brewing devices that have been around for over a century like Melitta Benz’s revolutionary paper filter and pour-over brewer (circa 1908) and there are some that are classics like the iconic Chemex.
It is a rarity to find a manual brewer that is so original that not only does it warrant it’s own brewing method, it sparks creativity and innovation to sweep through the coffee community. The Aeropress is that brewer.
What is The Aeropress?
The Aeropress is an immersion brewing device that has gained an immense amount of popularity and support across the third wave coffee community. The brewer is a simple but ingenious design. It is made of hard plastic and consists of a cylindrical tube where coffee is brewed, a screened cap for holding the filtering medium and a plunger that pushes the slurry through the filter. It is kind of like a cookie press for coffee.
The Aeropress also features some genius design innovations with include a hexagonal shape at the base to prevent rolling, easy clean-up (it is nearly self-cleaning) and inexpensive filters. The brewer itself is quite affordable and durable.
Typical extras that are included with the Aeropress are a funnel, a plastic stirring paddle, a nylon storage bag, approximately 1,000,000 filters (implied hyperbole here, I think mine came with 700) and a plastic filter storage bin.
There are some great “after-market” accessories for the Aeropress as well. Here are some of the most promising from Able Brewing (I personally have not had the opportunity to put either of these through a BCM blog regimen for testing):
A Brief History of the Aeropress
The Aeropress was invented by Alan Adler an engineer and inventor. You may recognize that the Aeropress is made by Aerobie the same company that produces the Aerobie Flying Rings. Alan invented that too.
Alan was fed up with the options available for brewing a single cup of coffee and decided he could do it better. In 2005 the Aeropress was released and the response was astonishing. It has become somewhat of a world-wide phenomena that was unexpected and definitely unprecedented.
There are tons of cool posters for Aeropress competitions around the world. In short, people love the Aeropress.
Brewing for Beginners
I showed up ten years late to the Aeropress party, not getting one until January of this year. I must admit that I was slightly overwhelmed when it arrived as I had not really read much about it before-hand.
To a beginner the Aeropress can be frustrating and a little finicky. With so many methods, techniques and recipes, it is hard to know where to start. When I first got it, I could occasionally make a good cup of coffee but would, more often than not, make a cup of coffee I was unsatisfied with.
After playing around with it these last few months, reading other tutorials and trying some recipes, here is the information I think would be helpful for Aeropress beginners:
There are two ways to brew with the Aeropress. The “Standard Method” and “The Inverted Method.”
The Standard Aeropress Brewing Method: This method uses the Aeropress as designed. You place a filter into the filter cap and screw it on. Then you put the cylindrical tube with attached filter cap and filter onto a mug, brew your coffee and plunge into the mug. This is how the instructions that come with the Aeropress will tell you use it.
The Inverted Aeropress Brewing Method: As the name suggests, you are basically using the Aeropress backwards. The plunger is placed into the cylindrical tube and the filter cap is left off. The Aeropress is flipped over and then filled with water and coffee. When you are ready to plunge the coffee, you place the filter and filter cap on the Aeropress, flip it onto a mug and then plunge. This method gives a little more control of the brewing process with an increased possibility of created a mess.
I generally prefer the Standard Method. It is simple, less chance of making a mess and I’ve gotten good results.
Keep it Simple to Start
There are a lot of really involved and fancy recipes out there for the Aeropress. There is water information, how much agitation to give the grounds as well as plunge speed. These are all fine variables to examine down the road, but for the beginner I recommend keeping it simple.
I recommend trying the recipe that is included with the Aeropress. Why not? That is how Alan Aldler likes to brew the coffee. It makes a pretty decent faux espresso type sipper that can be diluted into an Americano type drink.
If you are looking for something a little less concentrated, start to branch out a bit. I like a 1:14 – 1:15 ratio to start out with. Here is the recipe I currently use, it is basic but gives good results and is a great springboard for creating your own recipe and method: (This is a slight variation on a recipe by Nick Hatch, I found on thwave.com)
- Start with 17 grams of coffee ground medium fine. I go somewhere below a Chemex grind but above what I would do for a V60.
- Use 17 grams of coffee to 250 grams of water dosage.
- Use the “Standard Brew Method.”
- Start a Timer.
- Put your ground coffee in the Aeropress and pour in about 50 grams of water (I water around 195 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Stir the slurry a few times.
- Add the remaining 200 grams of water (250 grams of water total).
- Put the plunger on the Aeropress and wait until your timer gets to 1:10.
- Plunge and enjoy. (Plunging should take around 15-20 seconds)
Tips and Tricks
If you are having trouble getting a good brew out of the Aeropress. There here a few things you can do:
- Try a different recipe- As I said earlier, there is an enormous amount of recipes out there to try. Don’t give up. Start with some of the recipes that have won competitions. Sprudge is a great resource for these types of recipes. Don’t be afraid to try things yourself as well.
- Don’t change too many variables at once- If you are tweaking things on your own to find the right brew, don’t change everything at once. Try to figure out what you don’t like about the coffee and make a change that will move it closer to what your are desiring. Too bitter? Try grinding a less course. Too strong? Try using less coffee.
- Ask for help- Many coffee shops have Aeropress as an option on their manual brew bar. Go try some and ask some questions. Find out what they do and what recipe they use and watch their technique.
Do you have a favorite Aeropress recipe you would like to share or have a comment about being a novice to the Aeropress? Share your comments and questions below.
You aren’t alone. I just got one this year too. I love the thing! I took it to the office though and save the Chemex for home when I want something slower.
I’ve had a bit of trouble getting a consistent cup with the Aeropress so grooving that you posted some additional tips to try, thanks!
Yeah it is a double edged sword. It can be inconsistent because it isn’t used as often as some of the other brewing methods and it isn’t used as much as other methods because it is inconsistent.
Once I started using it a little more, I was able to get better results.
Thanks for commiserating ;)
Nice intro guide, John! Is this the recipe you use?
Have you tried the World AeroPress Champion recipe yet by 2015’s winner? I gave it a try the other day and it came out quite nicely. They have a video and guide on the World AeroPress Championship site.
I actually got to see Alan Adler give a talk on the AeroPress a year ago. He shared how he likes to brew with it. I wrote up the recipe here if you’re curious:
Thanks for your comment and sharing your post. I’m glad we are on the same page with. “At least trying it the way Adler brews it.” I would have liked to be at that presentation, seems like he is an interesting guy.
I have tried some of the 2015 winner recipes. My recipe very closely resembles and is based of the second place Nick Hatch’s. It is simple and closest to how I am comfortable brewing. I’m always up for trying new recipes though.
What is your favorite?
I’ll have to try the 2nd and 3rd place versions, especially because they are the standard method, which I’m more prone to do.
I usually put about 18 grams of coffee (medium-fine grind) in and just pour water up to the 4 using the standard method. I also bloom the coffee for about 15 seconds.
I like to press with my arms crossed over the plunger so it’s basically my body weight doing the pressing. This is something Alan Adler showed us at the talk which I thought was interesting. He really emphasized not pushing too hard or too fast.
Keep your eye out for the next Coffee Con event. I think you’d really enjoy it, and I suspect he will be at the SF one again this year.
Well that’s weird. I popped on YouTube right after writing that comment and this was on my YT homepage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iidmqCWCxsg
It’s the entire talk Alan Adler gave at Coffee Con last year :)
They just had Coffee Con in Chicago last weekend. I wanted to go, but could not get away from work. It is the busy season.
When I first got my Aeropress, I really struggled with it, following the instructions on the packaging, which, in my opinion, makes a pretty mediocre cup of coffee. I was on the verge of throwing it out when I met the UK distributors at a show and watched them making coffee.
My first thoughts were “woah, that’s not how it says to do it on the box!”. Since then the Aeropress has gone from zero to my favoured method of making coffee at home (and in the office, and on the road). I go for the inverted method, generally following the recipe you posted, but with 15g rather than 17g of coffee (each to his/her own though; if you like the coffee you’re making, you’re doing it right in my opinion).
I’ve only ever made a really mess twice, but both times have involved scalded hands and hot coffee grinds everywhere!
Thanks for sharing your Aeropress recipe. I need to go back and try a few more inverted recipes. I will be sure to give your recipe a try. What sort of grind do you typically go for?
I brew a few cups of Aeropress coffee each day but like a few others, I found it hard when I first got an Aeropress as the basic instructions didn’t work out for me for whatever reason, I think my grind might have been a bit off.
I found using the Mister Barista app helps tons, the Aeropress is by far my favourite way of making coffee.
Thanks for suggesting the Mister Barista app. I personally have not used this app but I have heard that many people find it and other apps like it to be very helpful.