For a single cup coffee experience, it's probably the best.
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive, produces tasty coffee, makes just a cup or two at a time, neat/simple concept, quality materials, does everything you would expect it to?
Negative Product Points
A bit messier than, let's say, an automated drip coffee maker or some single cup maker thing... so the clean-up of multiple parts.
EDIT: The following is a rather lengthy and slightly rambling take on the Aeropress. I think it has some good information coming straight from the mouth of excited, new coffee enthusiast (which is why I haven't changed it), but you will probably get tired of my casual writing style. If you want a solid summary of long-term ownership, read the "1 year follow-up." Especially if you are new to this whole "coffee fanaticism" thing.
So, an espresso machine substitute it's not, but it really does make a nice cup of coffee, and I love the thing. It's definitely better than a small drip coffee maker for my purposes. It's even kind of fun to watch if you use a clear mug. But anyways, I'm writing this review as college student, and I hope I can offer just a few more facts about using this coffee maker from that perspective. Here are some considerations.
I drink an average of one cup of coffee a day, so I was looking for a machine to use at school that would be simple, easy, and produce a cup of coffee at a time instead of a whole pot. So I think this machine is great. I like how I don't ever waste any coffee. I just make my drink and it's done. There's no extra sitting on a hot plate. On the occasions that I find myself making a cup for a friend as well, I tend to just go through the process twice, rather than trying to dose out the concentrated coffee into two cups. It's only a minor inconvenience, especially if you heat up all the water at once. I still probably would not suggest this for someone who makes coffee for more than one a lot, though. It just isn't designed for that. A press pot might suit you better, but that's just my opinion.
I appreciate how it can make (what I call) an "espresso style" shot. I can make a poor man's latte or an Americano. Sure, I'm not hosting a cafe selection here, but at least I have some options. If I'm having just one or two cups a day, I'm aiming for a small coffee experience over a caffeine kick. I can mix it up based on my mood, which is really nice. A drip coffee maker wouldn't be able to do this. So yay Aeropress.
Having drank a mix of both good coffee shop stuff and standard drip pot fare throughout life, I might rate this somewhere towards the upper end of coffee drinks as far as taste. It's probably not going to be as full of an experience as an excellent cafe might deliver, especially for espresso and related drinks, but it's still very enjoyable. I like it a good amount better than the stuff my parent's make at home with a drip machine for regular coffee, even using the same (pre-ground) grinds. Enough better, that is, that I usually bring my Aeropress home with me when I visit. I like my coffee better than what my friend's Senseo can do too (even with it's fancy crema). I don't pretend to be an expert in coffee tasting, but I feel like this maker brings out some of the finer qualities in good beans. I can taste more flavors in coffee that I usually don't from other places and other methods of brewing. It's mentioned all the time, but really, if you buy a decent grinder, use good beans, and grind everything fresh, this product will reward you. Unless the water temperature is too high, you will get quite nice, smooth, non-bitter coffee, probably better than a lot of stuff you have had before. Even with water 40 degrees cooler than the recommended 175 (oops) you can get tasty coffee... although it will be super mellow. So if you're worried about having to try really hard to figure this thing out, don't. Basically, it's hard to make a really bad cup of coffee with this, and its pretty easy to make a good one. Just follow the directions provided, and if you later feel inclined to tinker and experiment with the variables, you can make an even better drink.
Here's the main part of my review though, the functional aspects of the Aeropress. The high quality rubber and plastics (even on the supplied scoop and stirring stick) are nice. I get the impression that it would be rather difficult to break this thing even if I tried. I don't have to baby it or worry about shattering it in the sink by accident. I'm in college; it survived falling off my shelf one time. It hasn't scratched, faded, or browned at all. It is completely microwave safe. I've actually boiled water inside of one of the components and it was fine. The plastic doesn't even seem to transfer very much heat in general - it's easy to handle with hot water inside. The rubber makes a tight seal while pressing the coffee every time. This is at least partly because, with the right temperature water, a slight bit of water vapor accumulates on the sides of the tube, dampening the rubber as it pushes down. The filters always seal tightly so that no grounds ever show up in the cup. None of the materials seem to absorb very many odors either. Big plus. After a decent cleaning, only the rubber plunger has even the faintest smell of coffee still. After a just a quick rinse it smells like coffee only a little bit. This is good, I wouldn't want my tiny dorm room to always smell like coffee without a ton of effort.
Two things quickly occurred to me after I started using the Aeropress though - I have no microwave, and I have no sink. I mean, it's really obvious, but this substantially complicates the otherwise simple process of coffee making for college kids like me, or others without such things nearby. Heating up water required a trip down to the community kitchen's microwave at the end of the hall. Besides the fact that this microwave always smells like butter (curses... popcorn), it is also tiresome to walk continually back and forth. So I started using my roommate's electric water kettle. But this does not provide an easy way to heat water to specific temperatures when I wanted to "dial things in" for consistently delicious cups. So I eventually bought a thermometer. None of this is really a big deal, but think about how you will actually use this thing in whatever environment you are in. Do you need to buy something else to make it work? You really might want a thermometer if you are looking to craft the best possible cup of coffee every time. Secondly, like other reviewers have said, after brewing all you need to do is pop out the coffee puck and rinse everything off... which is another problem for me without a sink in my room. I have to walk down the hall again and rinse all the parts off, for every cup I make. Still, these minor inconveniences are the only aspects of the Aeropress that make me jealous of other types of coffee makers that make individual cups with far less cleaning and effort.
Regardless, this thing costs less than 30 bucks. Honestly, how can you go wrong? It's going to make good coffee - probably great coffee, it's going to be pretty easy, it's going to be worth it... even if you end up having to buy a couple of accessories or have to deal with the fact that it doesn't heat up it's own water for brewing. Even the filters are really inexpensive. I can't see the Aeropress being regarded as a poor value unless your expectations include creating the best espresso on the planet or something... because that's not what it's meant to make. I really like this thing. I mean, I even used it to pressure strain the the tiny vanilla seeds out of some wonderful home-made vanilla syrup one time. How spiffy is that?
The biggest plus is that I really enjoy using it. To me, it's fun to be involved in making your coffee, instead of having it appear automatically after digital magic. When I wake up for class with only five minutes to spare, I wish it was easier and faster, but every other time I can feel like a mini barista and actually create something. The humble Aeropress is an easy gateway into that fuller coffee experience.
Man, that sounds cheesy, but the buzz from a good cup makes me feel all warm inside. You're going to like the Aeropress - just go ahead and get one.
One final tip: after you stir the coffee grinds in the chamber before pressing, you need somewhere to put the stirrer if you can't immediately rinse it off. I hated to waste a napkin every time I made coffee (the thing has coffee grounds stuck to it and is all wet and such), so I ended up using a bottle with a neck wide enough that I can put the stick inside after I stir. That way excess coffee just drips into the bottle, and the thing sort of hangs there in easy reach. Just an idea.
It was an average Amazon purchase. I didn't get free shipping because of the low price, but everything else was good. I like them.
Three Month Followup
First off, this is more like a 6 month follow up because of the delay in writing my initial review. Secondly, I have been completely humbled by the over 70 page (?!?) thread in the CoffeeGeek forum about the Aeropress. Look to me no further for technical details - when the actual creator of this product is debating with consumers the taste changes involved in varying the diameter of tiny laser cut holes in thin metal sheet filters, I know comparatively very, very little. Seriously, go find out the answers to questions you haven't even thought of yet.
Any-who, the Aeropress is still going strong, and I still like it very much. I would rate the appearance of mine somewhere between every-so-slightly used and flawless, and this is coming from a complete perfectionist. I think I can see a few tiny scratches if I look hard. I happen to always wash mine by hand just because its so easy, but I would bet that a dishwasher maybe would fade the black filter holder after a year or so by a small amount, if you care about such things. I marred it with a fork a little bit one time too because it got wedged in the bottom of a mug. Heh.
I find routinely that the Aeropress let's me get the most out of whatever coffee I use. I think it brings out the best flavors in everything I have tried. I can tell by taste how fresh or stale my beans are. I can tell the difference between coffee growing regions too. You know all that fancy talk about citrus notes within coffee, or earth tones, acidity, brightness? Yeah, you will be able to actually tell what they mean! It's wonderful. I can barely enjoy free coffee from hotels anymore though, unfortunately. I will stand by the disclaimer that fresh grinding is absolutely key. I will add that, in my opinion, the Aeropress is much more forgiving on grinder quality than most other methods, most notably espresso from what I read. Still try to stay away from blade grinders, however.
The whole process of using the Aeropress, the little routine you develop, tends to impress people just a bit. My friends want to watch. They think it's neat - some of them want an Aeropress for themselves now. =) Pride in ownership is never a bad thing...
I've found the Aeropress absolutely perfect for making iced coffee now that it's hot and muggy here in Georgia. Brew Aeropress coffee concentrate into mug, dissolve some sugar, add some ice and milk, done. It works out really well. And not to brag but I've had several people, some only occasional coffee drinkers, tell me they *really* like my drinks. I mean, I tend to go out for coffee a fair amount less now myself, (except to buy beans from a local roaster of course), but it makes you feel pretty special when other people are coming back to your place asking for more coffee.
I guess my last little comment is that I have tried french press coffee now as well. Unfortunately, my grinder really isn't consistent enough to enjoy this method of brewing. It produces far to much dust that finds its way into the cup. I have had some really nice french press coffee at an exceptional cafe, but I cannot recreate this at home. The rather attractive Bodum french press sits on my shelf while the Aeropress caries on as my daily coffee brewing device. I just wanted to once again express my appreciation for how rich yet clean a cup this brewer can make. It's really nifty.
One Year Followup
I have owned the Aeropress for over 1 and a half years now. Right after my beloved Super Jolly, the Aeropress was the best coffee related purchase I have ever made.
These things are durable. I used it tons, washed it a lot, and dropped it occasionally, and the Aeropress still looks great. No cracks, discoloration, or lasting odors - just a few small scratches. I don't know if I will ever have to buy a new one. The second pack of filters I ordered was super cheap, and that was the only additional cost.
They make truly great coffee. I now have a commercial grinder and a nice espresso machine. I've moved on to the world of latte art and grinder adjustments. But every time I use my Aeropress I really enjoy the cup. The "americanos" are smooth, bright, and clean. The iced "lattes" are delicious. Everyone I have EVER made coffee for likes a cup from the Aeropress. If you really want to get "in" to coffee more for the first time, you need to own one.
Coffee is a hobby and part of a lifestyle. You too can be a coffee pro at home for minimal start-up cost.
proposed accessories (everything you will need for impressive Aeropress use): BURR GRINDER - The Aeropress loves fresh coffee, but it doesn't hate reasonably priced grinders. You don't have to buy a Mazzer Mini, just something better than a blade grinder. My Bodum Antigua worked like a champ. THERMOMETER - Grab a ten buck thermometer. Make better coffee and save some guesswork. I use mine for every brew now to get the best possible results. HOT WATER KETTLE - Microwaves work fine, but I think electric kettles are easier. FAVORITE MUG - Everything tastes better out of nice ceramic. And a reasonably sturdy mug is necessary for pressing.
... that's it.
the way I brew: - 1 and 1/2 scoops whole beans go into the grinder - beans are ground slightly finer than for drip - 172-178 degree water, depending on bean, up to #2 line - slowly pour over grounds - stir for 12 seconds - slow press - Add hot water for classic mug of coffee - Add sugar, then ice, then milk for amazing iced latte
The Aeropress is great at bringing out origin characteristics. It's versatile. It's cheap. It's fun... uh, you get the idea.