Monday, September 23, 2013

Gear Review: AEROBIE AeroPress

How many of you caffeinate before running? Be honest, I won't judge, because I certainly do. I've explained my schedule don't really think I'd be able to run triple digit weeks while still passing my classes without a little help from my roasted rocket fuel? I'm sure there are some people in this world who can pull that off, but I'm a mere mortal, albeit a mortal who likes to partake of some of the gods' Italian roasted ambrosia (and I didn't judge any of you for caffeinating before running, so none of you hardcore coffee geeks who claim that dark roasts destroy the delicate flavor of the beans can judge me!). Anyway, I've tried a few different brewing methods, but one stands above the others as far as coffee quality, ease of use, and value for the money: the AEROBIE AeroPress.

The AeroPress is described by Amazon as such:
  • Unique coffee/espresso maker uses total immersion and gentle pressure to produce coffee with extraordinarily rich flavor
  • Makes American style coffee or an espresso-style shot perfect for use in lattes or cappuccinos
  • Because of the lower temperature and short brew time, the acid level of the brew is much lower than conventional brewers
  • Micro-filtered coffee so pure and particle-free that it can be stored for days as a concentrate

Everything included with the AeroPress. Picture courtesy of Amazon.

You may recognize AEROBIE as the company that makes those flying circle-things that look like soft frisbees with a big hole in the middle. Apparently they make other flying toys too, according to their website. So what business does a toy company have producing a coffee maker (no less a plastic coffee maker that looks suspiciously pump...that might be advertised in spam email)?

The AeroPress is super small. I've brought this thing (along with my Hario Slim grinder) to races because it's that portable. It doesn't fit that much water in it, and it actually ends up making a ghetto-espresso. Obviously it's not a real espresso, and it doesn't have crema or anything like that, but it's strong and it's concentrated and you get the idea. If you'd like, you can then water it down to the strength you want, Americano-style (or ghetto-Americano-style). I'd assume you can also make a ghetto-latte, ghetto-cappuccino, ghetto-macchiato, ghetto-mocha, or whatever other espresso drinks you like (assuming you have something for steaming and foaming milk...I don't, and I haven't tried any of these, so don't yell at me if they turn out weird).

Locally roasted, freshly ground coffee before RnR Philly, courtesy of my Hario Slim (left) and AeroPress (right)

The AeroPress brews a very clean cup thanks to its paper filters. You can, however, buy a metal filter separately if you prefer (I'd assume you get more oils in there, but might get more sediment? I don't have one, so I'm not 100% sure). You can also rinse and reuse the paper filters a couple times if you feel bad wasting them but like the clean cup the paper filters give doesn't seem to impact the taste of the coffee.

Since I currently live in a dorm, the AeroPress is super convenient since it's a single-serving coffee maker. However, unlike a pour-over cone (before the AeroPress, I was using a Melitta), it's consistent, idiot-proof, and I don't have to stand there carefully pouring in the water while agitating the grounds. Rather, it's as simple as grind the beans while the water is boiling, dump the beans in the AeroPress, pour the water in the AeroPress, stir, go do something else while it brews, then press. It is more work than my mom's Keurig (which is also convenient, idiot-proof, and single-serving), but unlike the Keurig, you can use as many beans as you want (so the strength can be adjusted infinitely, not just in three predetermined Keurig sizes), you can use freshly ground coffee, and it retails for a quarter the price of the Keurig (and you don't have to use expensive and not-very-environmentally-friendly Keurig pods). I also think it makes a better tasting cup than any of the drip coffee makers that I've tried, and it's supposedly less acidic than drip if you have a sensitive stomach. Honestly, if you're on a budget and need an easy-to-use single-serving coffee maker, I think it's between the AeroPress and a French Press, depending on whether or not you prefer a clean cup.

Use as much (or as little) coffee as you like

The AeroPress is super simple to clean up. All of the coffee grounds are ejected in a mini coffee-ground-hockey-puck, and the chamber itself is pretty much self-cleaning. Pretty much all you have to do is clean the stirrer, the plunger, the lid, and the scoop (and the grinder when necessary, but you'd need to do that no matter how you brewed your coffee, so that really has nothing to do with the AeroPress). You can also press it directly over a coffee mug, so there's minimal cleanup there too. It fits fine over most mugs, and it fits into the funnel (the same one you use to get the coffee grounds into the AeroPress) if you want to press it into a travel mug.

The AeroPress comes with instructions on how to use it, but pretty much everywhere you look online seems to advocate the inverted method. I prefer this inverted method over the traditional method since you get total immersion (like you would with a French Press) and more of the flavorful oils than you would with the traditional method, but still get a clean cup with none of the gritty sediment associated with the French Press. Also, for some reason, the guy brewing the coffee in that video doesn't stir after pouring in the water...I'd recommend stirring after you pour in the water and then letting it sit, but otherwise following the video. Go with a relatively fine grind (slightly finer than you'd use for drip coffee). It takes a little more effort to press the AeroPress down than with a coarser grind, but the end result with worth it!

EDIT: @coffndrop just hit me up on Twitter to state that using the AeroPress the conventional way makes for a more even extraction (due to the grounds not getting disturbed). He puts it at 14-18g per press (same as drip coffee and probably the same as you'd use for inverted, but I don't have a scale and usually just eyeball what I've figured out I like via trial and error), 90-94°C (about 195-200°F, or just below boiling), and if you're doing it the conventional way, go with a coarser grind than you'd use for drip coffee (but not as coarse as French press). Thanks @coffndrop!

One thing that I'd assume concerns some people is putting hot water in a plastic coffee maker. The AeroPress is BPA-free, but if there are other concerns about putting hot water in plastic, I don't have an answer, unfortunately. Sorry. The other concern is for those of you who have a kitchen full of pretty kitchen tools and hesitate to put the weird plastic AeroPress on your counter. Put it in the cupboard. I know it's not as elegant as some of the pretty coffee makers, but it's cheap and it makes great coffee, and in my opinion, that's what matters.

The AEROBIE Aeropress retails for $29.99 and can be purchased on Amazon (usually for less than MSRP) as well as other retailers that carry coffee brewing products.

Full disclosure: Nothing to disclose, as this was a personal purchase. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of AEROBIE or anyone else.


  1. It may be good for preparing other coffee but disappointed that it cannot make Espresso and it cannot make french pressed coffee. It is regular filtered coffee, whether you hand pour it.

    Finn Felton

    Kopi Luwak

    1. Hi Finn. Yeah, you definitely need a French press or espresso machine to make real French pressed coffee and espresso, respectively. It is NOT meant to be a French press (it's meant to be cleaner, for example), and while it makes a concentrated, espresso-strength cup, it's not meant to be real espresso. It also costs much less than a dedicated espresso machine. I still think it makes a very good cup of coffee though.

    2. Actually espresso has been my favorite brand of coffee that's why emphasizing more on it.Appreciate this coffee maker for french coffee though.

      Finn Felton

      Kopi Luwak

    3. Ah, gotcha. Do you have an espresso machine? If you do, I'm totally jealous...I think I'd just make red eyes all the time!

  2. I'm an agnostic, when it comes to aeropress technique. (Though in general, like you, I think stirring is a good idea.) Even at the world championships (yes, the aeropress world championship is a thing that exists), no one has an identical approach. I do think it depends on what beans you're using, as certain protocols emphasize certain flavor profiles more clearly than others.

    Regardless, the aeropress is nifty, and totally worth the money. It's no Chemex, as far as aesthetics, and does look a little like... yeah... but it's supremely functional, if not beautiful.

    (And you have a Hario hand grinder too!? I adore mine. That really is a great travelling kit. Almost coffee geek territory, if it weren't for that darker roast...)

    1. I'll defer to you and the other true coffee aficionados on best techniques for bean types. All I know is that it makes a much better cup than all of the other methods I've used (whether it's because the other methods were more finicky or just plain bad).

      I do have a little Hario! It's a great little piece of equipment, and the time it takes to grind happens to be really similar to the time it takes me to boil water, so it's not like it even takes me more time to brew than it would with pre-ground. Maybe one of these days I'll give lighter roasts another chance (I may be biased against them since I started out drinking coffee from cheap drip machines and later the office and/or my mom's Keurig, and light roasts out of those machines has a strong tendency to taste like water).

      The only issue is that the Aeropress and Hario have ruined my school's coffee for me! I hadn't had it in several months because I was just bringing my own, but they recently changed the meal plan so a drink is included with your meal. And wow, either they changed the way they brew it or I got SPOILED. I had to treat it like gas station coffee and add sugar just to make it somewhat palatable.


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