The difference in grinders is a good point (lucked out getting it so cheap 2nd hand). When I can summon the effort I will have to do some side by side tests between it and the hario mini (plus the pharos when it arrives) for the aeropress. The only other side by sides I've done were hand grinder vs blade mill and 64mm flat vs blade mill. At the moment I don't have any coffee suitable for testing...
I usually use the old Solis Maestro (with one new burr as it was missing one when I bought the grinder for $8.00 at ThriftTown!) when grinding for the aeropress, as I don't want to disturb the MDF's setting that much. Even so, grinding to espresso specs for the aeropress with any grinder has always produced a bitter, overextracted cup for me.
two things make coffee taste bad. not getting enough out of the beans, (under-extracting), and getting too much out of the beans, (over-extracting). you need to learn what each tastes like, so you can know what made your coffee taste bad and you can adjust your technique in the right direction.
the aeropress makes amazingly good coffee drinks from amazingly bad, stale old coffee. you need to start eliminating variables. start by brew it according to the instructions on the package. EXPLICITLY.
1] first, eliminate as many variables in the coffee as possible. have enough coffee around that is of the same age and roast that you can make many drinks without running out of coffee. buy a can of preground yuban or folgers or maxwell house to start, even though you know you will not use it long term. now you have eliminated the variables of grind consistency, roast, age and origin of beans. IOW, even if it's crap, it IS consistent. and i guarantee you, it will still be drinkable anyway, as it will be the best yuban you've ever had, once you figure out how to control the aeropress.
2] it says to use 175degF water. do you do that? how do you know when it's 175degF? do you have a thermometer? is it reliable? have you calibrated it? if you answered "no" to any of those questions, your water temp will continue to be a variable, unless you use boiling water, which is likely to produce bad tasting coffee if your grind is too fine. that said, if your can of maxwell house is ground kind of coarse, which it probably is, you might find that you need hotter water than 175degF, but you won't know how hot if you don't have a thermometer.
3] if you do both steps, you have eliminated all but the last two variables, stir time and steep time. those, you can control without special tools like a thermometer or a world class grinder. do those things exactly like the instructions say.
So now, depending on how your coffee tastes, you can try brewing hotter or colder, to "fix" the problem. of course, when you start using "good" beans and grinding yourself, you will have to start dealing with those variables, too. but by then, hopefully, you will have a come along far enough that you at least have a good idea of what to tweak, to get things moving in the right direction for you.
I'm shooting for something similar to a drip coffee taste. I wouldn't be opposed to diluting but it just makes more sense to me to fill up the aeropress with as much water as I can, the appropriate coffee, and drink the result like a normal cup.
there's no better way to get drip coffee taste than to make... drip coffee. surprise.
do you drink or have anything to do with espresso? i haven't read your personal info, so i don't know. anyhow, the reason to dilute, instead of filling it with as much water as the final product will have, is EXACTLY the same reason you don't pull an 8oz "shot" out of an espresso machine. i will elaborate further if you ask, but based on your "seniority" here at CG, i'm assuming you know a thing or two about espresso. apologies in advance if i'm wrong.
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