Aerobie Aeropress Review
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2006 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aeropress Coffee Maker
Trust me when I say that I am not the person to reference when it comes to forecasting future trends in coffee-making equipment. Knowing what I want is very different from knowing what consumers desire and what the market can support. We can all dream of machines, but getting them onto the shelves is an entirely different matter. With that said, it would seem that there is a polarity being demonstrated in the market. With espresso becoming more popular with American consumers we see more equipment being sold intended to make that beverage easier to make well, but at a price that few can afford. Single group machines that can make excellent espresso with little effort are now available, but at a price point that would buy a decent used car... in some cases with cash to spare.
On the other end of the spectrum is the consumer who wants an excellent cup of coffee but who does not want to finance a machine nor invest in the counter space to deal with it (not to mention the time and effort it takes to get proficient at operating the device). There is a niche for a device that is simple to use, easy to clean, and makes a great cup of coffee as quickly as possible. As I was contemplating the above factors while looking at moka pots, coffee presses, and other such 'simple' means of making coffee I ran across the Aerobie website. Aerobie are the folks who became famous for the Aerobie Pro Ring - a throwing ring that holds the Guiness World Record for the object thrown the greatest distance by a human without assistance- a remarkable 1,333 feet (just over a quarter of a mile!).
On the Aerobie website is where I found the Aerobie AeroPress , a coffee making device, made in the U.S.A., that upon first glance fills the criteria for being simple, easy to use, and fast.
Pictured here are all the parts of the device, from the foreground, going clockwise:
If you take the basic functions of a French press and a vac pot, and combine that with the piston of a lever-operated espresso machine you start to get the idea of how the AeroPress operates. Place the the cylinder over your coffee cup. The bottom of the cylinder holds a round, paper filter disc. Coffee is placed into the cylinder and pre-heated water is added. Stir with the included stirring tool, insert the piston, and press to expel the filtered coffee directly into the cup. Their advertising states that the entire process takes about one minute, with twenty seconds dedicated to press time.
In use it is just as fast and easy as the literature describes. Measure the amount of coffee and water desired. The manual describes this quite well, giving some recommendations of ratios to suit your tastes for styles of coffee. Heat the water and grind the coffee, again, both well described. Interesting, they recommend using water heated to 165 to 175 degrees F. (75-80C). This is a bit cooler than recommendations generally state for many other brewing devices or methods including press pots. The instructions specifically state not to use boiling water but it does state that the plunger can be used to heat the water in a microwave oven. The caveat against using boiling water for taste because the polycarbonate material is chosen to withstand the high temperature of boiling water. WIth water and codffee ready, here's the basic procedure:
The high-quality polycarbonate material washes clean with little effort, and a quick wipe of all the parts with a soapy rag and a rinse in clean water is all that is needed.
As a test point I used the same grind I have been using for espresso with Silvia recently, and a grind that worked well with the Krups as well. Although the packaging and instructions frequently mention using the Aeropress to make espresso, it would be difficult to imagine this being the case. While it is quite capable of making a nice cup of smooth, rich, and delicious coffee, to say that it can make espresso, at least as most of the espresso-making world know the beverage, is stretching the facts.
On the other side of that, the coffee was as described in the instructions and literature. It was smooth and well balanced, lacking in bitterness, and the cup was completely free from sediment of any amount pointing to the efficiency of their filter material. Even examining the coffee in bright sunlight after it had sat for a while I could not detect any fines in the cup at all. For something more like "espresso" you could increase the amount of coffee or decrease the amount of water. While not espresso, what you do get from the Aeropress is a rich cup of coffee with as much body as you like.
Using the "espresso" made with the Aeropress, make a full four-measure pressing and you can easily get four "American" coffees with a single pressing with the addition of some additional hot water to each cup.
I made two pressings during this test session. The first with one measure of coffee, and the second with two. I used a K wire thermocouple to test the water temperature and indeed, the pressing I made with water at about 170 degrees made a slightly smoother cup than the pressing I made at 185 degrees.
Depending on how you pack, it would be great on backpacking trips, and a wonderful addition to the kit in a motor home or travel trailer. Around the house it is a fine addition to, or even a replacement for the French Press or pour over coffee maker. The 4.25" wide base of the Chamber might make it a bit wide for backpacking, but the cup of coffee in the morning would make it worth it, and there are few other coffee makers that take up less space.
I can't think of much of any way the device could be improved. If I was in a brain-storming session I might suggest:
At just under $30 it could very well be the best value in a small coffeemaker you are likely to find. If you like the full body of press pot coffee but hate the sediment, or love the taste of vac pot coffee but are tired of the clean up, or are just looking for a good cup of coffee that doesn't take all morning to make, get an Aerobie AeroPress. You won't be sorry.