Nifty, easy, cool, absurdly cheap, and makes absolutely great coffee every time.
Positive Product Points
Best coffee I've ever made. It's fast. It's foolproof. It's a little nerdy. It's easy to use and to clean. It's cheap. And it makes consistently fantastic double or triple strength coffee with no learning curve.
Negative Product Points
It doesn't sit on your counter looking all expensive and shiny, and it doesn't make true espresso.
I made bad coffee. Pour-over drip, auto drip, Bialetti, cowboy coffee, whatever. I changed the temperature, changed the grinder and the grind, changed the coffee, sprinkled cornmeal and salt and prayed to the Goddess. It was no use. My coffee was sour or bitter or both no matter what I did or how much flavoring or milk I added. I had to face facts; I was doomed to mediocre $4 espresso drinks. Even a good home espresso machine wouldn't work in my inept hands; there's no way I'd be willing to spend several hundred dollars for the privilege of weighing my coffee on a digital scale, sitting around waiting for a hunk of metal to heat up, and carefully timing shots that would probably still be bitter and sour.
Enter the Aeropress. I found a new coffee shop with a cool owner named Cruiser, small-batch fresh coffee, and Aeropresses on his shelf. What the hey, I was desperate, and $30 wasn't much of a risk. I bought some fresh-roasted Cuarenteno and hoped for the best. I started by following the directions, in spite of everything I read on this site about water temperature, brewing time, etc.
Oh my heck, as they say here in Utah, it was good. Very, very good. It must be a fluke, I thought. I tried it again. Still great. The Cuarenteno tasted as good as it smelled straight from Cruiser's roaster, not a hint of sourness or bitterness, smooth and fragrant with that elusive sweetness I'd never before experienced at home. I changed the grind, played with the temperature, let it steep longer or shorter. It was different, but still great, except that a finer grind took longer to press and made the coffee more bitter. I nuked some milk, added brown sugar, and made a strong cafe con leche or latte or whatever you want to call it.
It's sooo easy. It took less than a week for it to become a five-minute routine. Ever since I got this little marvel I only get my coffee from coffee bars when I've run out of Cuarenteno or am stuck away from home. I basically like my own coffee better than anyone else's, even Cruiser's coffee from his strange coffee-making machines.
I use 170 degree water and a grind slightly coarser than espresso from my Maestro Solo, the cheapest passable burr grinder I had found. The water boils in my electric kettle in the same time it takes me to grind the coffee. Pour the water into the handy plunger with easy to read markers on the side (you can nuke the water in the plunger if you want). Don't be fooled by the box's picture of a slender hand resting gently on the plunger; I lean on it, chin on hand, gazing sleepily out the window overlooking the valley, for about a minute. It's a hard life. It takes around 5 minutes from staggering into the kitchen to putting the clean parts in the dish drainer. In winter I start the milk in the microwave (shocking, I know) before grinding the coffee; in summer I add cold milk and ice. A little brown sugar and I'm ready to go on with my life.
Things you won't like if you are an espresso expert: The filter takes oils and mud out of the coffee. This means that I'm less likely to get a bad cup, but some folks like chewing their coffee. More power to them, but know that this isn't going to replace your french press or espresso if that's what you're going for.
The one-minute cleanup is as great as the 4 minute coffee. Push out the puck, pull out the plunger, rinse and wipe the filter-holder, plunger, tube and stirrer with a wet paper towel, drop into the dish drainer. After six months of daily use it looks the same as the day I unpacked it. The plunger has a big, thick chunk of rubber at the end, not some flimsy rubber gasket. The plastic doesn't seem to scratch up, the rubber plunger looks perfectly fresh, the water and coffee level marks haven't worn a bit. I expect it'll last for years; eventually one of my friends will steal it and I'll have to spend another $30.
Like other reviewers I do find it uses more coffee than other methods. In my case that's fine; I drink my one triple-strength cup of coffee in the morning and that's it for me, so this allows me to buy fresh beans every 10 days. Three scoops of beans for 3 short cups works for me.
Suggestions? Let's see.
Watch that you don't doze off, lean over and push the cup out from under the side. A straight-sided mug is the next best thing to a rubber-bottomed travel cup.
Hotter water makes the coffee more bitter. For pedestrian coffee lovers like me it doesn't taste as good. Boiling water with a splash of room-temperature water from the filter works for me. I drop my instant read thermometer in while I put the ground coffee into the tube. The thermometer makes me feel like a mad, sleepy scientist.
I don't use the moisten-the-grinds-for-a-minute method. I tried it and the coffee seemed no better or worse. Do it if it makes you feel better.
You'll be tempted to wash it carefully with soap. Makes no difference unless you're obsessive about your dishes. The rubber plunger seems to wipe all traces of coffee off the side of the tube. A wet paper towel and running water leave everything with no coffee aroma.
Fresh coffee is good, but I took it with me on a week-long road trip with home-made pre-ground coffee. It was a little less fragrant than fresh-ground and effortlessly relieved me of the swill available in rural Utah. So you don't really need to carry a ten-pound burr grinder everywhere you go. I'll bet using canned coffee in this thing would be way better than most good diner coffee.
Reuse the filter, don't reuse the filter, whatever. It's a 2 1/2 inch piece of paper. The Aeropress come with enough filters to last about a year, and you can buy a pack of 350 filters online for $4.00. If you're lucky enough to know Cruiser you can buy refills from him. Or you can pester your favorite local coffee shop to carry the Aeropress and support the cause.
Unless you're a coffee connoisseur, don't be intimidated by the reviews that say there are so many variables that you have to spend a week tweaking and fine-tuning your method. The directions on the box will make a great cup of coffee. Tweak it all day long if that's what floats your boat. But for a great cup of joe you don't have to tweak. Really.
The coffee is, of course, cooler than you'd get from an espresso machine. Because it's super-strong I just heat my milk to 190 and get a strong hot latte. Adding very hot water and half-and-half would have the same effect. Both of these would make a hotter cup than a french press would.
Whoever invented this thing deserves a prize. We few, we happy few, we Aeropress users, need to talk this up so more stores carry it so he makes lots of money so he can invent more wonderful stuff.
Also fantastic. I was lucky enough to buy it off the shelf at Jack Mormon Coffee I just wish Cruiser weren't so lazy that he can't be bothered to open before 10:00.
Three Month Followup
See 1 year followup
One Year Followup
I make very, very good coffee. Better than all but one bakery and one coffeeshop in downtown Salt Lake City. What do you expect? After all, I use an Aeropress. Such effortless coffee independence is wonderful.
The Aeropress does not seem to be able to make sour coffee. The only ‘bitterness’ I ever get is the normal bite of strong java. My ‘latte’ is better than any local shops, except that I have never gotten it together to buy the caramel syrup I like. As always, I make my one big cup of joe with this unit every morning, unless I’m out of beans or go to breakfast at Avenues Bakery, whose coffee is different but pretty impressive. If I go for breakfast anywhere else I bring my own coffee.
I tend to let the coffee steep around 15 seconds before beginning to press it, rather than the 10 recommended on the box. I find that Jack Mormon’s Cuaranteno tastes best when brewed between 165 and 170 degrees, while the Mejillones I now love so much, which is a darker roast, is better between 175 and 180. I don’t know why, and frankly, who cares? But both taste great no matter what. So if I ever try a new coffee again—if Cruiser stops carrying Mejillones—I’ll play a little with the temperature. As I said in my review, you can play with things a little to refine the flavor, but unlike espresso, french press, or brewed coffee you’re unlikely to make anything but good coffee.
As for durability, the rubber plunger has not deteriorated one iota from its original state. The measuring marks on both plastic pieces are as clear as they were when I unpacked them. The only sign that this Aeropress been around the block is that the plastic piece that holds the filter is a little cloudy from scratches on the inside where the plunger scraped the coffee down. I use a filter a day, so I’ve only had to buy one refill pack.
Such effortless coffee independence is wonderful. My only fear is that when something gives out in 10 years or so I’ll be able to find another.