I am a coffee enthusiast. Preparing it. Drinking it. Talking about it. It’s a serious matter to me.
One of the most heated debates in the coffee world is how best to prepare it. Some are die-hard French Press people. Others swear by the Pour-over.
This piece is about the Aeropress, which is a newcomer with a passionate following.
Let’s talk first about what coffee preparation really is. At its core, making coffee comes down to three things:
That’s it. You expose coffee beans to water, for a certain amount of time, and you get the juices and oils from the beans in the water. These have various flavors and also happen to stimulate your heart. Bonus.
So the main knobs we can turn in this process are things like:
- better coffee (major difference)
- fresher coffee (old coffee is dull)
- pure water (impurities can ruin taste)
- correct water temperature (too hot scalds, too cold doesn’t extract)
- correct steep time (too long turns bitter, too short is watery)
So it’s a series of trade-offs.
Enter the Aeropress
What the Aeropress does is fascinating: it reduces steep time and water temperature, and adds pressure.
[ NOTE: Steep time varies from around 30-90 seconds vs. around 4 minutes for a French Press, and the water temperature is around 175 degrees vs. around 195. ]
Cooler water gets you a sweeter and smoother taste than hotter water. Starbucks, for example, uses water from the center of the sun, hence the burnt taste.
When you lower the water temperature you slow down the process of extraction. Then the Aeropress reduces extraction yet again by reducing the amount of time the coffee is exposed to the water.
But the pressure picks up all that slack by extracting much faster than without pressure.
So what you end up with is a perfectly balanced extraction that gets all the smooth and sweet in shorter time, instead of getting the bitterness of a longer and hotter steep.
How to make the ultimate cup of coffee with an Aeropress
When I want to know how to do something I go right to the best in the world. Here’s a methodology based on my meta-analysis of around 35 championship techniques from multiple competitions.
[ NOTE: This is my version based on analysis of what the championship techniques had in common, and adjusted for everyday use. ]
- Grind 20 grams of coffee at a slightly less than a medium coarseness
- Put the coffee into the Aeropress
- Heat 200 grams of water to 175 degrees fahrenheit
- Bloom the coffee by adding just enough water to fully saturate it
- Wait 30 seconds
- Add the rest of the water
- Wait another 30 seconds
- Wet the rubber part of the plunger
- Plunge extremely slowly—taking a full 30 seconds to reach the coffee level
- Adjust the total amount of water used (you can add more hot water afterwards as well) based on preference
I personally like my coffee stronger, so I tend not to add much water afterwards.
So that’s it.
I hope this has been helpful, and if you have any comments or recommendations on any aspect of this, do let me know.
- As mentioned above, the real differentiator for the Aeropress is the smoothness and sweetness (vs. Bitterness) it produces relative to other brewing methods.
- I’m experimenting with cold-blooming as well, where you do your initial bloom at around 90 degrees instead of the full 175. This supposedly gets an even smoother and sweeter extraction.
- Because people have asked, I enjoy light and medium roasts with hints of citrus and chocolate, but my most important qualities are smoothness and lack of an acidic aftertaste, which the Aeropress is known for.