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The Bairro AltoAir (an item that made it onto my 2015 Coffee Gift Guide) is a stunning brewing device. It is made of stainless steel and boasts a unique and eye-catching geometric design. It is sleek, versatile and brews a great cup of coffee.
Since Christmas when my in-laws gifted me the AltoAir, I have logged a phenomenal amount of brews with it. (I am probably averaging over two brews a day). I have basically replaced my Hario V60 with the AltoAir.
After seven months of tinkering and brewing with the AltoAir, here are my thoughts.
What is the Bairro AltoAir?
According to the Bairro website, the AltoAir was conceptualize as a response to the way paper filters stick to the walls of most pour-over devices. The assumption is that sticking filters make it difficult to control flow rate and can yield an uneven extraction.
The AltoAir is designed so that hardly any material touches the filtering medium. The filter and coffee are essentially surrounded by air. They claim this design helps achieve a more even extraction and thus a more enjoyable cup of coffee.
It can easily be assembled or broken down as a simple matter of lining up the holes and rotating the base a few degrees (it takes 5 seconds tops). The AltoAir is made out of stainless steel and is dishwasher safe.
Does it work?
To be honest, I have not done the extensive and tedious testing necessary to completely answer the “Does it work?” question.
Does the AltoAir make a great cup of coffee? Yes! Does it make a cup of coffee that is vastly superior to the Hario V60? Not in my experience.
I have not noticed a huge difference between the test brews I have done*. They brew at relatively the same speed and there is little temperature difference in the finished brews. I also feel that any taste variance in the cup could just as easily be my inability to be consistent from pour-over to pour-over as it is to the unique design of the AltoAir (your milage may vary).
Regardless if there is a significant difference between the brewing of the AltoAir and the V60, I value the AltoAir for its versatility, aesthetics and unique design qualities. Both the V60 and AltoAir brew a great cup of coffee, it is all about what you are familiar with and comfortable using.
What Are the Drawbacks?
If you can’t tell, I’m a pretty big fan of the AltoAir. While I think the pros grossly outweigh the cons of this brewing device, if I were to put on my nitpicking and devil’s advocate hats, here is what I would want to mention:
- The way it is designed as a stand-alone pour-over brewer, the filter sticks down below the base. (The V60 actually does this a little too, but it is hard to notice because there is a ceramic ring around the underside.) If you brew directly into a mug you can not fill it all the way to the top without submerging the tip of the filter into your brewed coffee. This is not a big deal at all but something I noticed happening to me a few times when I first started brewing with the device (Maybe I fill my mugs too full). There are obviously several easy work arounds if this is a problem.
- While I like the fact that it is a very light-weight brewer, there are a few minor inconveniences that come with it being on the lighter side. It is easier to tip over. I have toppled it a time or two (when it was not full of water yet) but I am also kind of clumsy. It is also not the type of brewer you would just throw in a bag and go (it would get crushed) but it does come in a beautiful box that can be used for transportation (maybe even a bike trip).
- Compared to the more mainstream pour-over brewers, the AltoAir is a little more on the expensive side. Coupled with the fact that is comes from the United Kingdom (and shipping must be paid) an AltoAir will run you around 60 USD. I would classify the AltoAir as an enthusiast brewer and feel the price is fair. For comparison the Phoenix 70, which I would consider in the same category is 64 USD before shipping.
A Quick Alto Air Recipe
Since I do not have a coffee serving carafe, I mostly enjoy using the AltoAir to brew a larger batch into a Chemex with V60 filters. My standard recipe uses 30 grams of coffee, 500 mL of 205 degrees Fahrenheit water and a Hario V60 02 FIlter.
Bloom- Saturate the grounds (usually about 50 mL of water) and wait 45 seconds
Pour– Keeping the water level low, add the water in three equal pulses (150 mL each)
Enjoy– Total brew time should be between 3 and 4 minutes. Tinkering and adjusting are encouraged and expected. Enjoy!
Did I mention I like this brewer? While the AltoAir may not be for everyone. I am quite happy to have it in my brewing arsenal. Like I said earlier, I have been brewing with it multiple times a day.
Because of its price point, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for the beginning manual brewer. I see the AltoAir as a brewing device for the brewing enthusiast and those with a little extra pocket change to spend on coffee gear (upgrade your grinder first!). It is for the people who want to tweak and explore their coffee brewing experience.
If you check it out, let me know what you think.
*All of the comparison brews I have done between the AltoAir and the Hario V60 have been relatively small batch sizes so it is very possible that the advantages over flow control and extraction compound as the batch size grows larger. I can only drink so much coffee.