Thursday, July 10, 2014

Brewing Methods - AeroPress

The AeroPress is currently my favorite method of brewing. That does not mean that the AeroPress is without flaws, but we will go over my list of Pros and Cons later in this entry.

The AeroPress is an inexpensive option for brewing coffee, costing under $30 from most sources. A quick Google search will find a unit near you, or one that can be shipped quickly.

Its operation is simple, and similar in many ways to a press-pot, but crossed with a giant syringe and using a filter. There are dozens of variations and schools of thought on how to use it, but a fantastic cup can be produced using the simple inverted technique: Place the plunger in the body just a bit, add coffee in the other end, add hot water, stir, wait, add filter, and plunge. The resulting coffee can be diluted much like an Americano. On top of that simplicity, the AeroPress cleans easily. All you need to do is take the filter cap off the front, and push the coffee puck and filter into a trash can, toilet, of compost bin. One wipe with a paper towel or rise in the sink and you are ready to go.

You may wonder how much coffee, water, and stir time are required, and that is one of the things I enjoy most about the AeroPress. I have never produced a bad cup of coffee with an AeroPress, but I am constantly tinkering with my technique to produce better and better cups. Coffee brewing is the convergence of coffee grind size, water heat, agitation, and residence time (or the time water is in contact with the coffee), and the AeroPress allows you to change any one factor while keeping the other factors constant. As a trained chemist, that fits perfectly inside of the scientific method.

Besides low cost and balanced flexibility/control, the AeroPress travels extremely well. It is easy to pack and nearly unbreakable, so it is perfect for hotel rooms, camping trips, or vacations at my in-laws who drink Folgers (I am not making that sad fact up…). All that you need is a source of hot water, and in a pinch the AeroPress can be placed directly in the microwave to heat the water. The plunger can hold a stack of paper filters tall enough to last you a month away from home, or you can take a metal, reusable filter and never come home again!

Of course, nothing is without its flaws. The AeroPress can produce a concentrated shot of coffee, but is pretty much limited at making up to 30-ish ounces of coffee at its max. That means that if you are making coffee for a dinner party or a Viking hoard, the AeroPress will have to go through several cycles, or you need an alternate brewing method.

Another criticism is that the paper filter, although only a fraction of the size of a pour-over paper filter, absorbs some of the coffee oils that give your cup body. There are several metal filters on the market, including the “Disk” by Able Brewing which I use. The metal filter does allow an oil slick to come through like with a press-pot, but that is not without a cost of its own; the cup tastes a bit muddier and is visibly cloudier. Again, this fits in with the tinkering, and allows me to customize my cup to what I feel like drinking at any given moment.