I used freelance for a local coffee roaster. The company required me to work out of their offices which were attached to the coffee roasting facilities. The best perk: every time the roasters got a new batch of green coffee, they were required to roast a small batch and everyone in the office got to taste it for “comparison”. I am telling ya folks, nothing beats fresh roasted, fresh brewed coffee. Before my job at the roaster, I used to be happy just drinking coffee out of the vat at work. Now, Maxwell House just don’t get it for this girl.
So, when I can afford it, I like to stop by my local coffee roasters and pick up a batch of really good beans, grind them fresh and brew myself up a mess of fine coffee. The problem is – I had a drip style pot a la Mr. Coffee. True, it’s a far cry for the percolator but it still does not brew a great cup of java. I then went to a French press, which I found to be tasty but it always seemed to have some “sediment” in the bottom of cup when I finished. I do not want to look at sludge in the morning. Its bad enough I have to look at myself in the mirror, much less “mud” in my morning cup o joe.
I figured I would be doomed to the morning sludge when I came across a new type of coffee pot. It didn’t require me to plug it in. It wasn’t made out of fragile glass. It’s called the AeroPress. The press is made by Aerobie,Inc. in Palo Alto, CA. Are they manufactures of food paraphernalia you ask? No, they make items like flying discs. The inventor behind the company is Alan Adler, an engineering instructor from Stanford University. Take a look at this thing - it looks like something that a techie would come up with. I’m cool with that being a geek myself. Function over form anytime baby!
Let me just briefly describe the workings of the Aeropress. The main body of the press consists of a tube with a disposable microfilter on the business end. The grounds are measured with a provided scoop and placed into the body of the press. (One scoop equals one serving of espresso.) A handy funnel is provided to facilitate this and prevent grounds from scattering all over your counter. The other important part is the plunger. It consists of a hollow tube with a neoprene seal on the bottom. (The plunger can also double as a measuring cup for heating your water in the microwave - in case you don’t have access to a stove! Very nice thinking, Alan.)
Procedure: Water must be heated to a temperature between 165 and 175 degrees. Do not boil. The grounds are measured into the body with the handy scoop and funnel. Once the water has reached the proper temperature you pour the hot water over the grounds, stir with the handy provided stirring implement, insert the plunger and compress the grounds to extract all the coffee goodness. Of course this is a very skimpy description - but you can download the actual instructions for the procedure from the company website.
So how is this different from the French Press? First, the filter is much finer. A French press does not get all the sediment filtered out. Even when you use a coarse ground coffee from a burr grinder, you still end up with very fine particles in the cup. With a French press, if you do not drink everything right away, the remaining coffee sits in the pot and “steeps” the grounds, which can make the brew bitter. In the Aeropress method, the liquid passes through the grounds makes a kind of coffee concentrate. What comes out of the working end into the glass is strong. Espresso strong. This is good because you can then dilute it to the desired strength. My hubby likes his coffee to put hair on his chest while I like a traditional cup of Americano Now, we both get our way with only one procedure. You can even make the “coffee base” ahead and add hot water to it, kind of like the toddy method.
I found this product very easy to use. The key to success is preparation and consistency. You only have a few seconds to get the heated water into the press once it hits the right temperature. I actually started using an instant read thermometer to make sure I got the temperature just right, because once I let it get higher than 175, I could taste the bitterness that crept into the brew. As far as consistency, I had to make quite a few batches of coffee before I found the right formula of coffee to water. If you use an espresso roast and grind, you will get different results than if you were using a city roast with a drip grind. If you are not a thinker first thing in the morning, you might want to consider the making the concentrate the night before and adding hot water to it for that first wake-me-up cup. Since I had my new toy, I wanted to see what other people would think about the coffee it produced. That called for a party. Well, a small one. Actually, I just got together with Debbie and Gail for a coffee clache. Gail invited one of her neighbors, Lillian, to join us. Gail, Debbie and I used this as a chance to try out some new recipes. Gail contributed crepes filled with scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese sauce plus some killer cinnamon rolls. Debbie brought some almond pound cake. She confessed that she cheated by using a mix. (Tsk, tsk Debbie!) It was still good, but the almond flavor was just a tad artificial. Me-I’ve been playing with yeast doughs from my 1946 Joy of Cooking and made a yeast coffee cake topped with apples and walnuts. It was good, but it still needs a lot of work before I share the recipe.
Once we were all filled up, we turned to the taste test. Here is how I set up the experiment. First, I bought fresh roasted coffee from a local purveyor. I chose a medium roast Costa Rica and bought three different forms: whole bean, drip grind and coarse grind (for the French press).
Next, Gail procured some bottled water so that we would not have any off flavors from the local water supply.
The three methods of brewing were: Automatic Drip, French Press and Aeropress. For the Automatic Drip machine and the Aeropress, I used pre-ground coffee. For the French Press, I used the Coarse ground coffee. I made the brew according to the instructions for the respective equipment and poured the liquids into numbered cups. I also provided a glass of water for each taster. The tasters did not know which brew was in what numbered cup.
The tasters first sniffed the cups to assess the aroma.
- Cup 1-all tasters agreed that this sample had little aroma
- Cup 2- all tasters agreed that this sample had a strong aroma
- Cup 3- all tasters agreed that this sample had a strong aroma.
Next, each taster sipped some of the coffee without any additives. I asked them to take a sip of water before tasting the next cup.
- Debbie –the coffee was bitter and a little too hot
- Gail –the coffee was a too hot and was “flat”
- Lillian – Coffee too warm and was “heavy”
- Debbie – the coffee has a nice flavor without bitterness
- Gail- the coffee had a good flavor, very light body (almost too light)
- Lillian – the coffee tasted good but was a little cooler than she liked
- Debbie – the coffee has a good flavor with mild bitterness
- Gail- the coffee tasted good, but had too much sediment
- Lillian – the coffee had a good flavor, but she did not like the sediment in the bottom of the cup
- Cup 1 was the Automatic Drip
- Cup 2 was the Aeropress
- Cup 3 was the French Press
The auto drip machine was a newer machine that Gail received as a present from one of her sons. She uses it every morning to get her engine started. However, it produced a brew that was bitter and the hot plate kept the coffee at a higher temperature which may have contributed to the bitterness by continuing to “cook” the brew for a few minutes while I was preparing the other two coffees.
The Aeropress was voted the most liked coffee by show of hands before I revealed which cup contained which coffee. The brew had a deep aroma and flavorful while lacking any of the usual bitterness found in the other brewing methods. The only real complaint was that the coffee was a little “cooler” than the other two brews. Because the Aeropress starts off with a lower water temperature, it seems to be important to drink the coffee as soon as possible if you like a hot cup of java.
The French Press came in second. The coffee had a deep aroma and only mild bitterness. It also had a heavier body than the Aeropress, but that may have been due to the suspended grounds rather than the extraction method. None of the tasters liked the residue that was left in the bottom of the cup. Lillian described it as “muddy”.
So will the gals cough up the $30.00 to buy an Aeropress? Well…Debbie is the only coffee drinker in her house and has a single serve Melita that she swears by. While she loved the Aeropress, I don’t think she will be running out to spend the money unless I sneak in and steal her current coffee maker. Gail and Lillian love their low maintenance Mr.Coffees. While it isn’t the best cup of coffee, the automatic drip machines do offer convenience and a heating element to keep their caffeine fix warm. Me – I like the Aeropress a lot. It is fun and easy to use, and makes a killer cup of coffee. I am a convert and use it to make my morning cuppa.
So what are you waiting for?? Go out and get one!