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How AeroPress Fans Are Hacking Their Way to a Better Cup of Coffee (npr.org)
123 points by sudoscience on Apr 15, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 122 comments

I use my AeroPress twice a day, every day and love it. But the article is mistaken in calling it espresso. It's not even close, although someone has rigged one to produce espresso[1].

And don't let the article fool you, there are really only three important factors: water temperature, grind size, and steep time. Varying these can get different characteristics from a particular roast, and it's fun to experiment! What I found most surprising was how differently the same roast can taste from an AeroPress vs. an expensive espresso maker. If I don't like it from one, there's still a good chance it will be delicious from the other. Very strange!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIfZ84qtBOc

I agree, it's absolutely not espresso. They recommend watering down the output of the AeroPress but it's nowhere near strong enough for that, as espresso is.

I thought it was weird when I first heard it referred to as espresso, but the official name is "Aerobie® AeroPress® Coffee & Espresso Maker" and there doesn't seem to be any consensus on what _espresso_ actually is. The only common trait is that pressure is used to force water through ground coffee -- the Aeropress does qualify under that definition.

Come on over and visit us at /r/coffee, and we'll set you straight :) There actually is a consensus that "real" espresso has to be brewed with around 9 bar of pressure, and that is the standard used by SCAA ( see http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/tchen3/espdifine.html ). At this pressure, the consistency and mouth feel of espresso is fundamentally different (it's "syrupy") than that brewed at lower pressure. To achieve this pressure, you need to use an electrical or lever pump. Machines that only get 1-3 bar of pressure like the aeropress or a mocha pot produce something that just tastes more like strong coffee.

Wait, are you saying that the old manual lever-based espresso machines, didn't make espersso? Wikipedia has this to say: "There are two types of lever machines; manual piston and spring piston design. With the manual piston, the operator directly pushes the water through the grounds. In the spring piston design, the operator works to tension a spring, which then delivers the pressure for the espresso (usually 8 to 10 bar; 116 to 145 psi)."

(I'm not disputing the claim that the Aeropress, for all its niceties, doesn't allow for 9 bars of pressure when used as intended)

[ed: That lever contraption is awesome. Searching for appropriate metal filters that could help with generating 130 psi, I fell into the rabbithole of


and found among other things:


Also, by the makers of the video posted by gp: http://www.spressa.us/ ...]

Absolutely agree on the three important factors. But I'd say the fourth is bean quality. Makes all the difference.

You don't think pressure matters when plunging? I've speculated that a faster plunge might extract more solutes from the coffee grinds due to greater liquid penetration into the coffee grounds from higher pressure.

It's hard to get that much pressure variation with an aeropress. The plunger is around 5 cm x 5 cm, so the full body weight of a male human (say 90 kg) only gives you 3.5 bar. That's if you're standing on your aeropress. A real espresso machine puts out 9 bar.

From practical testing, I'd say it makes a difference, but it's second-order compared to grind size, temperature, steep time.

That's why I qualified it with "a particular roast." But I probably should have added another factor: amount of grounds. I've found the manufacturer's recommendation of two scoops to be ridiculously strong, but maybe that's because I typically use a strong roast and don't water it down.

I'd argue that agitation time, press time and brew technique (inverted vs regular) are also worth considering, albeit not as important as the three you mention (plus bean choice). In particular, I find inverted brew vs regular brew using an Aeropress makes a huge difference.

Had no idea the inventor was 76 years old. Good to see someone not buying into the notion that anyone over 30 is a has-been.

The world is run by people over 30 and us over 30s know it. That we don't challenge the conventional wisdom that wonder kids are disrupting everything is just a demonstration of our secure confidence.

I tend to read that wisdom as referring to things like mathematical theory being mostly advanced by people under 30. People's brains seem to hold onto some extra bit of IQ between 20 and 30, that can be used to do some "wondrous" things. Of course, most big things that need doing don't need a supergenius; they need 10-20 years of steady hard work, so by the time you accomplish those you are indeed 30+ (or, god forbid, 40+.)

"god forbid"… it happens sooner than you think, kid.

That was sarcasm. I'm no kid myself :)

A lot of us buy into that notion actually. Most people over 30, in fact.

Adler is a prolific inventor, his other most famous invention is the Aerobie flying disc (circa 1980 or so).

I was using the AeroPress Inverted Method for about two years with varying degrees of success, however, I finally soured on the clunkiness, mess-making potential, lack of easy containment/storage, and lack of body to the coffee it produced so I sold out and got a Nespresso VertuoLine. It's such a refreshing experience to just push a button and have espresso (actual espresso) or coffee. The only downside was the lack of bean choice, however, a clever YouTuber put me on to a method of reusing the pods with your own grind. So when I get tired of the Nespresso flavors, I brew my own (although this is pretty rare since the Nespresso varieties are pretty damn rich and tasty).

I still keep the AeroPress around though — who knows why — affectation maybe.

You can solve the body issue with a metal rather than paper filter, FYI. Definitely worth a try.

This is the usually recommended one: http://departmentofcoffee.com/product/able-disk/

Agreed on the clunkiness & mess making. I did AeroPress for about a month and I am a 100% must have 1 cup of coffee as soon as I wake up type person. Something about the AP just seemed too much for not enough return.

I ended up going back to my manual drip cone; I feel like you can't get any more stripped down than that.

My go to for all this stuff is Sweet Maria's: https://www.sweetmarias.com/brewinstr/brewing.inst.drip.php

Hm. I'll have to acquire and open one of those capsules. I was under the impression that the toxic mess was some kind of freezedried, nasty paste (I certainly haven't tasted a nespresso that tastes like "real" espresso (nor anywhere near what I can get from my aeropress). But if one considers to re-fill the capsules (which would imply you'd need to vacuum seal them in order to keep the fresh-grind taste, or make them just before/soon before having a coffee...) -- sounds like more work than just getting a proper espresso machine.

On the off-chance that you're not trolling... which Nespresso flavours have you found to be "rich and tasty" (by which I take it you mean comparable to freshly-ground beans from a specialist, along the line that a barrista would use)?

I have a real automatic coffee machine and a professional level manual one at work, and I find Nespresso pretty good. I can't remember the name but my favourite flavour is in a pale gold capsule.

It's not as good as my machines do, but way better than your comment implies.

They're all really good.

Aeropress is made out of polypropylene plastic which has been found to leech quats and oleamide. I have become more and more alarmed at how often coffee is prepared or delivered via plastics that are prone to leach, specially at the higher temperatures of coffee. From plastic drip coffee machines to the lids on coffee cups sold at cafes. Even glass french presses normally have a plastic in the lid. This is one reason why I currently prefer the pour over method.

Have you tried the Moka Pot? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_pot It's very popular in Italy.

I have a very fine stainless steel mesh strainer for my aeropress (replacing the little paper discs). Using it, I'm able to let the coffee steep for 45+ seconds, gaining the benefit of the inverted method without needing to mess around with inversion.

That said, I still prefer well-executed pourover (once I got the hang of my pourover method) to aeropress coffee but I think that's more of a personal preference thing. Nowadays I travel with the aeropress (and a nice travel grinder that fits inside) and do pourover at home.

Can I ask what grinder you're using that fits inside the aeropress? The ones I've seen are always these terribly boxy little devices.

I use a Porlex Mini for that. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0044ZA066/r)

Awesome, thanks!

I have found my AeroPress coffee to be lacking body. I returned to pour-overs and French presses.

Having read this, I feel I must again tinker with the Aeropress.

Likely case of "Doing it wrong."

I wasn't a big fan until I read about the inverted method [0]. You might give that a try if you haven't already.

[0] http://stumptowncoffee.com/brew-guides/aeropress/

Everyone talks a lot about the inverted method, but I feel like you get the same controlled steep time by easing the plunger in a little and then pulling back out a little to create negative pressure inside tube.

I tried both, and for the coffee I use regularly (which isn't as good as it could be, it's not high grade, and it's not fresh ground - it's also less than half the price of "proper" beans) -- I can't really tell the difference.

For really good coffee I haven't tested back-to-back, but I generally find that letting it steep "right way up" is fine. Also letting the coffee steep in a pre-heated cup/kettle/teapot is fine. Maybe this makes a difference if one makes "pretend-espresso" rather than a full cup of "Americano" (actually more like Lungo -- but still not, as the pressure is lower than the initial pressure for a lungo).

I like my aeropress, but it's no espresso machine. It's different from a French press and a pour-over -- but I'm not prepared to claim that it's the best coffee.

This x 1000. To my mind, espousing the inverted method betrays a scant grasp of vacuums and basic physics.

Allowing a drop or two of coffee to escape early to the cup massively outweighs the risks of using very hot water to give something a very high centre of gravity.

Practical point: I've had an Aeropress for years, using it at least once a week, often daily, always inverted.

I've never knocked it over. It's much more stable inverted than you might think.

And ditto from my perspective. But it still bugs me when I have my kids running around that the exception that proves the rule will arise, and it's more robust to have the AP directed into the mug at brew time than inverted, so I just rely on the vacuum to work the magic.*

But for me, the key point is that there's no appreciable difference in the coffee either way.

*Although you might legitimately point out that the whole caboodle is taller as a result doing it the old fashioned way, which increases the chances of it being knocked over.

I have been using aeropress for 2 months 3 times a day.

After second cup I switched to inverted and haven't switched back.

Just so many different brews with the same coffee with inverted with steep time, amount of water, coarse, find grinds.

I have only had the plunger slip out once. Trick is u dont need to flip fast. I like to meet cup with press while flipping... Coffee barely drips and if it does into cup

I do not pre moisten filter. Usually there are a few drops from rinsing cap.

I do like the paddle unless you put too much water in.

The scoop can be awkward but I put the whole thing in the aeropress and turn to put the grinds in.

Finer grinds are better IMO. Otherwise increase steep time or add more coffee.

I take my coffee seriously and I'm willing to spend some time (and money) making it. Even for me, that looks a bit more involved than I'd like.

The inverted method essentially involves waiting for 45-90 seconds and then pressing. It's not going to leak or anything when you flip it unless you go absolutely wild. It's no harder than making a non-inverted aeropress or a pourover.

Or if you accidentally put the plunger in the wrong side and don't notice before you fill it up. I did that once :)

> It's not going to leak or anything when you flip it unless you go absolutely wild.

Motion seconded. I used to think inverted seemed complicated as well, but once you've done it, it's pretty darn straightforward.

The nicest thing about the inverted method is the consistency of results, because nothing's leaking out during steeping.

Still, I hesitate to recommend it to some people, not because it's difficult, but because I know they might use boiling hot water straight from the kettle and risk injury. Under the right conditions, it can separate when screwing on the filter cap, due to the steam pressure.

Knocking over the cylinder while steeping is also a hazard. I've done it once or twice while working too fast around the counter and it's....messy.

the inverted method is basically all the benefits of a french press and none of the mess.

Eh, I spent a few months carefully experimenting with Aeropress methods, and while I got good results, I never got anything that I liked as much as what I get from my French press, which I also find less fiddly (e.g. with the French press, I find that small variations in both time and temperature have less of a negative impact). I still use the Aeropress every once in a while when I'm feeling bored (I always use the inverted method), but I'm never thrilled with the results.

Edit: I forgot to mention, I totally get that some people like the fiddlyness, the experimental aspect, etc. I completely respect that, and am that way about a lot of things myself (some far sillier than coffee). Coffee just doesn't happen to be one of them, so that aspect of the Aeropress is not a plus for me.

I also returned to french press. I'm still not crazy about the sediment at the bottom of the cup, and the cleanup is slightly messier. But the AeroPress just doesn't produce enough coffee, and brewing with it is a bit fiddly (though the cleanup is a snap).

I bought my aeropress and a hario pour over at the same time having never previously used either. I much prefer the coffee that comes out of the pour over for the same reason; it definitely makes a more tasteful coffee.

Even if the AeroPress was to lack body, the coffee produced is still better than a drip.

pour-over usually doesn't mean drip (though it describes it)

I've tried a great many ways of brewing coffee including several Aeropress setups - I can honestly say that Aeropress is no better than your standard French press - it's not even close to espresso or even a handpresso or similar device.

However, it is much easier to clean than a French press, doesn't require a particular grind size, and you can use either a paper or metal filter if you are worried about cafestol or like oilier coffee.

A french press can be cleaned simply by rinsing it out, with the occasional more thorough cleaning. Also, you can vary the grind size considerably. It's only superfine grinds that will clog the filter.

I have an aeropress, but I rarely use it. Maybe I'm just a clutz, but I always have to wipe the counter down after using an aeropress (especially with the inverted method), while a french press is pretty much mess-free. The aeropress is very fidly. That's great if you're in the mood to experiment but not so great if you just want a decent cup of coffee. I do like the results of the aeropress for making iced coffee, but generally prefer the flavor of french press coffee. Paper filters remove a lot of coffee's flavor-rich oils.

The one deal-breaker that some people have with french presses is the sludge they let through, especially when used with a low quality grinder that doesn't produce grounds of uniform size. If you can't stand sludge and have a crappy grinder you pretty much have to use something with a paper filter.

The aeropress is self cleaning. You just plunge it into the trash.

Yeah, and then you rinse off the grounds that stuck to the edges. Then you go back and rinse out the funnel for putting the grounds into the aeropress. Then you rinse off the stir-stick. Then you clean up all the grounds that didn't make it into the funnel. Then you get the drips that escaped if your inverted technique wasn't flawless.

I would like to "hack" together a stainless steel AeroPress, at least the outer tube, I think the press is fine.

I don't know whether I've been pressing too hard or what, but I've noticed that my cylinder is expanding.

Mine has been stress-cracking from heat expansion and contraction. Definitely thinking of giving it up in favor of my glass french press.

If it's cracking your probably using water that's too hot. I've used mine almost daily for years with no issues at all.

Same here. I never use water over 180 degrees Farenheit and never put it in the dishwasher.

For most coffees you're going to want to be a little higher, around 198-203 degrees for proper extraction.

Very good choice to never place it in the dishwasher, it takes just a few seconds to clean and it lasts a lot longer

The standard recommendation for the Aeropress, including from Adler himself, is to use 175F water, much less hot than you'd use in other preparation methods.

In Seattle at least, there is near-universal consensus among every coffee shop I've been to using an Aeropress that 175 is much too low. Most go closer to 200.

What’s your definition of “proper”? You get a different flavor profile if you vary the water temperature. My favorite for single origin light roasts is very fine grind, not too much 170–180° water, and short steep time. It requires somewhat more beans to get strong coffee compared to a brew using more, hotter water and a long steep time, but the resulting cup of coffee is much tastier IMO.

You don't seem to be the only one:


I do think that contacting the company though might help.

I have an early one, use it a lot (near daily for years), no cracks (only issue is the rubber plunger head pops off often when removing). Those with problems, can you indicate which material it is? (BPA, BPA-free, translucent gray, big lettering on side, etc.)

Had mine for 3 years now. It's looking cracked/scratched, but still works just fine. Not bad for £25; I'll buy a new one in a heartbeat if/when it breaks.

If you leave it full of grounds for any length of time, it starts to corrode the interior of the tube (it starts to look 'scratched'). This can lead to seepage.

You also shouldn't store the plunger in the cylinder.

I've had mine 4 years, use it daily, hand-wash it, and never seen any stresses on the plastic.

That's a good point. If you wash it immediately after use, you can push the plunger all of the way into the cylinder (with the filter cap off) until it pops out the other end. It will spin freely and not put any pressure on the cylinder during storage. Then you can just rest it on top of the filter cap in a small dish and drop the accessories in the top. Of course, you can argue this adds unnecessary stress by doubling the number of plunges, but I haven't had any issues with it.

Even a Pyrex one would be interesting.

I'd prefer that to any sort of plastic, based on my own non-scientific but resilient worries about leeching chemicals.

Same. I've had my eye on the AeroPress for a long time and I'm very intrigued, but I can't get past the "hot water in plastic" thing. I'm sure there are at least ten other worse things I do every day, but ...

This might be the ticket: the reverse french press http://kk.org/cooltools/archives/10162

(I also like that it sounds like some sort of judo move.)

Heh, that's the traditional way of making coffee. Eg Turkish, or how it's used to be made here in Norway:

* Put kettle on, bring water to boil (now, the rough frontiers-type pours in coffee right away, enjoying the bitter, ruined taste that comes from too high temperature)

* take off heat (the hipster adds a thermometer, the scientist adds a thermometer, and takes the time, notes down the time, and uses a stop watch for next brew session)

* add coffee (if not already added), let the mix sit for an appropriate amount of time

* Either a) pour coffee into a cup, pour back in kettle - let settle -- pour into cup (traditional bonefire way[1]) or b) pour over a strain (hipster way)

[1] http://gfx.nrk.no//AGRFaC3nrw7fFDP219oVYQ-one6GgfK_yq075cFJq...

That's so gloriously obvious I'm amazed I'd never come across the suggestion.

I've tried something like this before, and the coffee tasted weird, but I may have done something wrong.

It may have just been a matter of waiting longer.

I would guess your grind is too fine. It shouldn't take an enormous amount of pressure.

If you push too hard anyways it will shoot out the sides. I often use mine as a pour over container anyways because I find it tastes better.

It doesn't, I'm just impatient.

Was impressed with mine, but after the first few days the mess, fuss, and hassle started to get a bit old. Next, this guy needs to invent the 21st century version, which is connected to your water supply, filters and heats the water, stores and grinds a few weeks worth of coffee, and you just press a button and out pops your coffee, with no mess.

I find it surprising that you find it to be overly messy / too much of a hassle. Maybe I've just gotten used to it, but I find it much less of a hassle than my old drip coffee maker, and it takes about 10 seconds to clean when I'm finished.

Perhaps I'm just a stickler for efficiency. If it's something that I'm going to do two or three times a day, every day, for the rest of my life, I like to think that I can economize every possible step and movement to the bare minimum. Certainly some people like the ritual aspect of crafting something by hand in multiple steps, and like I said, it was fun for me the first few days until it got old. Now I just want to press a button and have my cup of coffee.


Perhaps that's the right track, but now someone needs to invent one where you can just dump a kilo of regular coffee beans into the back, rather than supporting some huge multinational's billion$/year printer/cartridge revenue model.

Where will the spent grounds go...? Now you have something that is not a simple problem and will not have a simple solution. In fact, it is a $15K solution


Say what you will about Nestle, but they seem to be the only people trying to make a decent cup of coffee easy to serve.

Update: thanks for the downvote. I will stop attempting to show you how the expectations you have for a cheap, carefree coffee machine are unreasonable unless you make some compromises or invent it yourself. It is an unsolved problem, but I get the message. I am not welcome to burst your bubble with the real cost of things.

Of course it's an unsolved problem, that's why parent said "someone needs to invent one".

And there's no such thing as the "real cost" of things when we're talking about inventing new stuff. You're talking about the current cost, which is completely different.

I agree with you. Nespresso is about as about as close as it gets to quick, easy, decent coffee.

How about a Miele CVA6800? Only $3,399.


If the inventor will please make a portable, electric burr grinder I would be extremely happy. This is the missing piece, for travelers and those who cannot otherwise own a proper burr grinder.

Edit: came across this which looks promising http://handground.com/

Blue Bottle recommends Portlex https://bluebottlecoffee.com/travel-kit

Portable and electric are also mutually exclusive for car travelers, campers, etc.

I've been using the Hario hand grinder and I find it extremely difficult to maintain a grip. Is the Portlex easier to hold? I'm female thus possible not as strong as others who may be using this.

I have owned both Hario's generic handgrinders and I swear by Porlex. It's higher quality construction and easier to hold and use. It also snaps right into Aeropress for travel so they are a perfect combination. If you get one, get the mini as there's really no reason to buy the large one.


Which of the two Hario grinders are you using? I have the mini mill, and use it daily for my aeropress without any annoyance. But you need to have a quite coarse grind (no finer than filter grind) and do an inverted brew. Grinding out something like espresso fine coffee is a pain.

Is that the Skerton? I find that annoying at times even with relatively large hands. Wondered if the Hario MINI MILL SLIM would be better.

I had the Skerton. The Porlex Mini is better in every way.

That hario grinder is a piece of shit. Takes me at least 7 minutes to hand grind nonstop a Chemex (yielding 2.5 cups)/

So it's a french press made of plastic?


Take a French press. Replace the fine metal mesh with paper (so no grit gets thru). Use a much finer grind (French press requires coarse grind). Finer grind means much shorter steep time (30 seconds instead of 4 minutes). Put the filter on the bottom of the container, replace the filter plunger with a rubber plunger (so instead of pushing all the grounds to the bottom then pouring coffee out, it's more like a pressure-assisted syringe-shaped drip).

Idea is paper gets all the grounds out (no grit in cup), fine grind minimizes brew time, short brew time makes sweeter results, syringe style is accidentally self-cleaning.

Sort of. The finer grind, increased pressure, and shortness of steep time make it different. It's more like a cross between an espresso machine and a french press.

I bought it thinking it would be a novelty item. I was mistaken.

And it cleans itself. That part is awesome.

Without the sludge.

With the stainless steel filter screen, you can even have some sludge!

french presses don't use air pressure

For the last few months I've been doing Aeropress or a pour-over in a chemex on the weekends. I'm still getting my technique down for both and I can't claim that either tastes remarkably better than my Keurig (I totally admit I dont have a great palette for coffee), but it seriously is a lot more fun than just pushing a button. I really looking forward to my weekend morning coffee now.

Recently I've started doing cold brew coffee -- starting it Friday night and then diluting it with hot water in the morning. For me it tastes noticeably better and less bitter.

I've recently become a huge fan of the simplicity of a french-press cold-brew - something I came up with on my own, while being completely unsurprised that plenty of others have as well.

Just a course grind into a French Press full of water. Leave it on the counter over night, and press in the morning. At first I was letting it steep in the fridge, but found that it steeps stronger and faster at room temperature. Sometimes I'll throw it in the fridge in the morning and let it steep longer while chilling if I know I'll want iced coffee later in the day.

Cold brew definitely seems to maintain far more flavor. And I agree that it tends to be less bitter, though I've found lowering my water temperature (regardless of method) has removed most of the bitterness in my [near-]boiling brews.

How complicated it has become to drink coffee ;-)

The results are worth it. The only better brewer I've found (and I've got over a dozen) is a vacuum/siphon brewer ... but that takes an intensive half-hour of work to get one, albeit excellent, cup.

Significantly less so. The Vacuum pot predates the french press, percolator and auto drip. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_coffee_maker

They're also a huge pain in the ass to use.

And dangerous, if you have a glass one. I do, from the '60s; it's cracked and I've never tried it.

Cowboy coffee is pretty simple.

Is this article only available in a visual format? No audio version?

Honestly I would prefer a Clever Coffee Dripper any day of the week. zero mess, probably even more dummy proof than the AP, higher capacity, imho better coffee.

I know someone that loves International Roast instant coffee. Can someone define "better" coffee to me?

Freshly ground, careful amount of roasting, proper picking time and storage of beans. Those differences are very easy to taste. If someone appreciates the difference in taste then it is better to them. Why is this a difficult concept to you? Are you trying to talk others out of their preferences and suggest that instant coffee should satisfy them? Are you trying to be a sort of anti-snob? Sounds a little snobby in a different direction.

Update: Thanks for the downvote. I get the message. I should never answer a stupid question. Apologies.

You're being downvoted because your response started informative and then turned snotty. Would have been great with just the first 3 sentences.

I didn't want it to be great. I wanted to tell the guy the answer he already knows: different coffee tastes different. Can't my comment be just not-great?

Your comment can be damn near anything you want it to be. Do you expect that you should never get downvotes because you don't want them? I don't even understand why people pay attention to votes, but to have such an emotional reaction to the comment score truly boggles me.

Note: I don't expect this to be a great comment either. Downvote away! I honestly don't care.

I never talk others out of their subjective preferences. I don't try to talk my friend out of drinking cheap instant coffee because I dislike the taste of it. That is my whole point; taste is subjective.

I think you missed this recent YC blog post http://blog.ycombinator.com/new-hacker-news-guideline

I always wind up making a mess everywhere with mine

You might benefit from the inverted method and using a normal teaspoon to add the grounds and stir, instead of using the included accessories (I never use the funnel, and the stirring paddle is just...weird).

Unless I want to break out the kettle to heat the water, I heat the water in my cup and then pour into the press. My coffee cups pour like shit, leaking steaming hot water about. Plus if my ceramic coffee cup isn't pre-heated this way, the resulting coffee is luke-warm.

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