There are two types of people in the world. Those who grab an instant coffee in the morning and chug it down looking for the caffeine hit to wake them up. Then there are those for whom coffee is about savoring a moment, letting the taste, the smells, and the sounds of brewing wash over them, while the rest of the world becomes unimportant.
At Good Fika, we are “coffee as an experience” people. As such, we will delve into the world of the Aeropress, one of the most cost-effective and simple ways to make a coffee to match your mood.
What is Aeropress?
The Aeropress may be an icon today, but it started life as an outsider that no one quite knew what to do with. It is a small two-tubed device, developed by Alan Adler, an engineer by training. He started out wanting to reduce the bitterness in his coffee and came up with the solution of reducing the brewing time. A closed chamber increased the pressure from the push, and Alan could brew his coffee faster. After refining the idea with a few prototypes, Alan and the Aeropress began popping up at trade shows.
The initial reception was skeptical. Many viewed the Aeropress as a gadget from a toymaker. What started to win people over was the taste and quality of the coffee that the brewing device produced.
It is also self-cleaning, portable, and inexpensive. However, the factor that may have taken it to the next level is its ability to experiment. Brew time, push time, coffee dose, water ratio, water temperature, or even inverting the press provide ways of highlighting different aspects of your brew.
One of the beauties of the Aeropress is that it is straightforward to use and only needs a small amount of equipment to get started. To begin with, you will need:
- A kettle for heating water
- An Aeropress which will come with a scoop, funnel, and stirrer
- Coffee beans
- A coffee grinder
- A timer
- A mug
How to use an Aeropress
The Aeropress coffee maker will open up a whole world of experimenting with coffee brewing for you. Before we get into flavor profiles, let us have a look at how to brew with the Aeropress.
- Bring water to a boil and allow to cool to 175-195 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grind coffee until fine (amount will depend on your recipe).
- Assemble the press with the filter inside the cap and put it on top of your mug.
- Wet the filter with some hot water.
- Place the funnel on top and add coffee to the chamber, then remove the funnel.
- Add the water required by your recipe.
- Give it an optional stir using the paddle stirrer.
- When ready, insert the plunger and plunge. You will hear a hiss.
- Heat the water and grind the coffee the same way as you would for the standard method.
- Place the filter inside the filter cap.
- Put the plunger inside the top of the chamber; move until the seal is 1cm below the chamber rim.
- Invert the press, so the plunger is on the bottom, the chamber above.
- Wet the filter and filter cap with hot water.
- Add the amount of freshly ground coffee stated in the recipe.
- Add the water according to the recipe.
- Have an optional stir.
- Join the filter cap to the press chamber.
- When ready, flip the AeroPress onto your mug and plunge. You will hear a hiss.
The Hiss sound at the end of a plunge is one of the signatures of the Aeropress. Stopping at the beginning or end of the plunge is one way to experiment with the outcome. Stopping as soon as you hear the hiss will produce a lighter coffee while pushing through right to the end will deliver a full-bodied flavor, similar to a French-press.
No two coffees are the same, so there is a wide variety of ways to brew different flavor profiles. You may prefer a sweeter taste, or prefer something more acidic, fruity, or go for a fuller body taste.
The taste of coffee ultimately comes down to extraction. Coffee beans dissolve in hot water. The hotter the water, the faster it dissolves. The taste of the coffee is determined by how much of the bean dissolves out of the part of the bean that is soluble.
The complicating factor is that not all the flavors are extracted simultaneously. There is an order. First fruity and acidic flavors are extracted, then sweetness, and finally, the bitter notes. So if your coffee tastes acidic, you have not extracted enough. If it’s bitter, you’ve gone too far. You’re looking for that sweet spot in the middle where all the flavors meld together to produce magic.
Grind Size is King
Grind size (the size you grind the coffee beans too) is the big gun when changing the amount of extraction. The finer the grind, the faster the dissolve time. The more coarse the grind, the slower the extraction time.
If your Aeropress brew is bitter, trying a coarser grind is the place to start. If it’s too sour, head in a finer direction.
Aeropress uses an immersion method to brew. This means the longer the brew goes, the more you extract. To extract less from the beans, you’ll need a quicker brew time. When adjusting brew time, grind size will also be a factor. A finer grind will need a speedier brew time to avoid over-extraction.
Another factor in brew time is plunge time. A trap for young players is to push the Aeropress down too quickly. This can lead to over-extraction of some parts and under extraction of others. A long smooth plunge of at least 30 seconds is the best for a smooth extraction.
Water temperature will be another factor in extraction. Compared to other methods, the Aeropress prefers a cooler temperature of around 175 degrees to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. The main thing to keep in mind here is, the hotter the water, the more you extract. Using cooler water will lead to less or slower extraction.
Water to Coffee Ratio
Once you’ve tried everything else, it is time to look at the water to coffee ratio. Different methods have specific water-to coffee ratios, so it should be the last thing you think about altering. Most Aeropress methods sit in the 14g - 18g of coffee per 250ml of water range. To increase the strength of the coffee, you can either increase the beans or decrease the amount of water. Go the other way to reduce intensity.
Filter choice is vital when it comes to using the Aeropress. The press comes with paper filters, but you can also purchase metal filters. Paper filters make a finer cup, while metal filters will allow more oils and grit through and produce a fuller-bodied final result. Using two paper filters will create a super clean cup similar to a pour-over.
To stir or not to stir, that is the question. Various Aeropress methods use some form of a stir. The greater the agitation or stirring, the more even and faster the extraction is.
The Aeropress is an affordable and easy way to enter the world of coffee brewing. Its size means you can only brew one or two cups at a time, so it is likely to mean it’s a personal journey rather than a group affair.
It does provide a way to experiment with different beans and taste profiles. As they are subjective, you can find your sweet spot with these. The results, especially early on, will vary. As with any life journey, coffee brewing with Aeropress will vary between soaring success and miserable failure. The joy in the Aeropress is the journey to finding the perfect blend for you.
If you end up brewing a cup of Aeropress coffee, come share it with us on the Good Fika app, a coffee journal and community for coffee lovers.