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Fumbling with the Aeropress

Sometimes it’s easy to make good coffee.  Other times it’s not quite so easy.  And so far for me, making good coffee with an Aeropress coffee brewer has eluded me.  Even more, I seem to find myself ever more confused every time I use an Aeropress.

Aeropress coffee brewer and parts

Over the last couple of weeks, thanks to the inspiration of my friend Jimmy Smith, I’ve pulled out the Aeropress I’ve owned for several years but rarely used.  It’s so rarely used because I can’t seem to quite figure it out.  Either I’m overcomplicating things, or making good coffee on this plastic contraption is more difficult than it seems.   Below is a video of how an Aeropress (also labeled an “espresso maker” but don’t try that at home) is supposed to work:

Aeropress brewer

What is an Aeropress?

If you’ve never seen an Aeropress, it’s not like any other coffee brewer.  In its simplest form, it looks like a thick, oversized plastic syringe.  The Aeropress primarily consists of two segments:  the brewer and the plunger.  The brewer piece is a thick plastic cylinder that fits into the palm of your hand.  On one end is a plastic filter-like basket and measuring marks are spread along the entire length of the brewer cylinder. The plunger piece is designed to fit snugly into the brewer piece, and it has a rubber stopper at the end that creates a tight seal when the plunger is placed inside the brewer.

The basic premise behind an Aeropress brewer, as I understand it, is a combination of the immersion coffee method (like a French press) combined with a pressure cooker.  Basically, you a place a paper (or metal) filter into the filter basket, you put coffee grounds into the brewer piece, and then you pour a little just-under-boiling water into the brewer piece.  After a short, initial bloom phase during which the coffee releases gases, you fill the brewer piece with water, agitate  the brewing coffee mixture (with an included plastic agitator), allow it to sit for a minute or so, and then using the plunger piece, you squeeze brewed coffee under pressure through the filter directly into your coffee cup.  It’s seemingly very simple and slightly strange all at the same time.

So what’s the problem with the Aeropress?

When I first bought my Aeropress, I really struggled with it for two reasons.  First, out of the box, every time I brewed coffee with it, the coffee I brewed consistently had a plastic flavor.  Over time, after five or six brews and a few runs through the dishwasher, the plastic flavor slowly began to dissipate.

The second reason I struggled to become a fan of the Aeropress early on was the resulting brew that came out every time I pressed the Aeropress plunger.  Brewing with an Aeropress creates a concentrated coffee mixture, and when you read up on the Aeropress, most tutorials suggest that you water down the concentrate with a little under-boiling water to your preferred taste intensity.  No matter how I diluted the concentrate, it never tasted quite right, and I eventually got frustrated trying to figure out the right dilution proportions to get the right flavor.

So my Aeropress has sat on a shelf for about three years.  And now finally I’ve pulled it out and started playing with it again.  Stay tuned as I post over the next few days about my more recent experiences with the Aeropress.  I’ll try to give specific parameters on what I’m testing to try to give some idea of what you can expect from an Aeropress.

Do you have an Aeropress brewer?  Have you figured out a consistent method of brewing coffee with an Aeropress?  Share your recipes and methods in the comments to help me in my journey to a better Aeropress experience.