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AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

A simple coffee solution

The lightweight, compact AeroPress is the simplest way to make an excellent tasting single cup of coffee, no electricity needed

The first time I used the AeroPress in our office kitchen its somewhat sterile appearance drew more than a few confused looks, and my lack of confidence resulted in a small mess. But I quickly got the hang of the technique and grew to love my weird-looking beverage syringe. Now, as long as I have access to coffee grounds and hot water, the AeroPress allows me to make a great cup of coffee anywhere in less than two minutes. And in my year of using it, I’ve learned that I’m part of a large community of coffee enthusiasts who love the AeroPress, including many other Wirecutter staffers, as well as pros who conduct annual AeroPress competitions.

All of the parts of the AeroPress brew system dissasembled and arranged on a wooden cutting board.

In the early 1990s, inventor Alan Adler set out to make something that wasn’t fussy and time-consuming like the Kalita Wave 185 or Chemex but could brew a single cup of coffee that wasn’t watery. He decided to make a device that could brew coffee faster using pressure, as you would making espresso. After testing more than 40 iterations, Adler landed on the design that he released to the public in 1994.

The current AeroPress brewing system is comprised of four essential parts: the plunger, the seal, the chamber, and the filter cap. It also comes with a funnel, a stirrer, a scoop, a filter folder, and 350 filters. In order to use the brewer, you attach the seal to the plunger, add a paper filter to the cap (once you fit it together, you’ll see that it’s basically a giant syringe), and set the chamber onto your cup or mug. You add ground coffee to the chamber, add some hot water, insert the plunger and lift up a little to create a vacuum seal, wait for a little, and then press the plunger toward the grounds until you hear a hiss.

The AeroPress components neatly arrayed on a wooden cutting board and viewed from directly above.
The main components of the AeroPress dripper are the brewing chamber, the plunger, the seal (attached to the plunger), and the filter cap. Photo: Michael Hession

This device, which has since been embraced by countless coffee professionals and enthusiasts alike, provides one of the quickest ways to brew a single cup of coffee ever invented. Once you’ve ground your beans and heated your water, making coffee with the AeroPress with the recipe on the box takes less than two minutes. That recipe produces about 4 ounces of a full-bodied concentrate; it’s not quite espresso, but you’re encouraged to dilute with hot water before drinking, kind of like an Americano.

The writer Daniel Varghese pressing the plunger down on a brewing slurry of coffee grounds and hot water in the AeroPress brewing chamber.

In 2008, expert coffee roaster Tim Wendelboe hosted a small contest among three baristas in his Oslo cafe, giving whoever employed the best technique the title of World AeroPress Champion. To become the 10th holder of that title in 2017, Paulina Miczka had to compete against 3,000 baristas, each with unique recipes and brewing styles, from around the world. I spoke with both (as well as some enthusiastic Wirecutter staff members) to help me understand what makes the AeroPress so great.

It’s easy to clean

Once you’ve finished brewing your coffee, you can remove the filter cap from the AeroPress’s brewing chamber while holding it over a trash can. If the puck doesn’t come out immediately, give it a little plunge, and your grounds should go straight into the garbage (or compost bin)––a much neater process than scooping spent coffee from a French press. Then you can wash and dry your dripper as you would anything else. And it’s dishwasher safe!

A gif showing the process of pushing used grounds out of the brewing chamber and into a trash can.
To clean the AeroPress dripper, simply remove the filter cap and plunge the used filter and grounds into the garbage. Then rinse the dripper or, if it’s still really dirty, run it through the dishwasher. Video: Michael Hession

It’s easy to use wherever you go

Unlike glass or ceramic pour-over dripper, the plastic AeroPress is basically “unbreakable,” as Miczka described it, and self-contained. Wendelboe agrees. “Personally, I use it more for travel. When I go to Kenya or somewhere to buy coffee, I bring an AeroPress and a [hand] grinder [like the Porlex Mini] that fits into the [brewing chamber] handle,” he said.

A close up look at how our hand grinder pick fits into the brew chamber of the AeroPress, making it an even more compact travel kit.
Our favorite hand grinder, the Porlex Mini, fits directly into the brewing chamber of the AeroPress, a happy coincidence that makes traveling with the dripper a little easier. Photo: Michael Hession

It’s fun to master

Once you’ve learned the basics of the AeroPress, it’s pretty easy to begin experimenting with different recipes and the many variables of the brewing process. It’s simple to play around with water temperature and amount, grind and dose size, timing, and of course bean types and roasts, one cup at a time. “If you don’t like the coffee you made, just make another one,” Miczka advised. “Life is too short to drink bad coffee.”

A gif of Daniel going through the AeroPress brewing process listed on the box.
Once your water is boiled and your coffee is ground, brewing with the AeroPress is quick, easy, and fun! Video: Michael Hession

There are two main methods of brewing with the AeroPress: the standard method (where you fill the device filter side down and plunge directly into your cup) and the inverted method (where you stand the AeroPress on its plunger and fill it, letting it infuse for a few seconds before flipping it over to dispense). The inverted method is popular among enthusiasts because it offers a bit more control over the immersion and brew time since no water will drip down through the filter while you’re brewing.

Our favorite version of the standard method comes from Stumptown. It starts with 17 grams of coffee (ground to a medium or fine consistency). Begin by pre-wetting any surface—the seal, the brewing chamber, the filter cap, and the filter itself—that will be exposed to coffee with water just off-boil (about 205 °F). Then place the filter on the cap and attach it to the bottom of the brewing chamber. Put the chamber onto the mug you’re planning to drink out of and add the grounds to the chamber. Start a timer right as you add a little bit of your water, which will allow the grounds to bloom. Then add the rest of the water while spinning the chamber until you reach the number 4 marker; that’ll end up being about 220 grams of water. Place the plunger into the brew chamber and pull up slightly to create a pressure seal. After your timer reaches 1 minute, 15 seconds, remove the plunger, stir the slurry a little, then reinsert the plunger and press it down slowly, until you hear a hiss. This will produce about 7 to 8 ounces of coffee. Feel free to dilute with a bit of hot water if it’s too strong for your taste.

Daniel demonstrating the last part of the "Inverted Method" brewing process, flipping the entire brew chamber and coffee mug over and then pressing the coffee slurry into the mug.
To invert the AeroPress, press the brewing chamber toward the top of the mug and flip the entire system over. Video: Michael Hession

The inverted method starts with the same amount of coffee and water at about the same temperature. Pre-wet your filter, brewing chamber, and seal. Insert your plunger into the brewing chamber and invert it onto a stable surface. Add your ground coffee to the inverted chamber, then put in just enough water to cover the beans and allow them to submerge. Hold off about 20 seconds before filling the AeroPress with the remaining water, stir to ensure that all of your grounds are immersed, and wait one minute. Attach the filter cap, with the filter, to the top of the brewer and hold the opening of your mug on top of the attached cap. Use your other hand to hold the AeroPress, pressing it to the opening of the mug, as you flip the entire system over (you got this!), so that your mug is right side up and the AeroPress is set on top of it, as it would be if you used the standard method. Plunge straight down, steadily, until you hear that oh-so-satisfying hiss.

Though the AeroPress makes coffee quickly, something like a Nespresso machine or Keurig will make a cup even faster. Similarly, though the AeroPress makes relatively great-tasting coffee, it might not be as flavorful as a cup made with a pour-over dripper or espresso machine. These small compromises are actually the foundation of what makes the AeroPress so great. With a bit more time and effort, you get coffee that is much better than that from any capsule brewing system. But you’ve still put in much less time and effort than you would to master brewing with other methods.

You can really only use the AeroPress to brew one cup of coffee at a time. If you’re just making that first cup for yourself in the morning, or at work, that’s no big deal. But if you live with others, or want to make coffee for guests, you probably won’t want to rely solely on your AeroPress. To make multiple cups at once, consider getting a French press, Chemex, or a standard drip coffee maker.

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