The Aeropress Vs. The Rest

aeropress_08The first aromas of freshly ground coffee rouse memories of conversations, dessert, or mornings bereft of full clarity. Coffee houses provide a unique environment to enjoy new coffees and sometimes new methods of brewing coffee.

A recently popularized brewing method uses the Aeropress device. But is it worth the hype? Is the Aeropress worth it compared to the tried and true methods of brewing? Simply: yes. The Aeropress coffee is simpler, easier, and more efficient than every other method of brewing.

A barista takes a number of steps to prepare an Aeropress, just like any other brewing process. The Aeropress is made up of two cylinders, which form a syringe-like apparatus. The plunger is inserted at the top of the chamber, and then the whole device is turned upside-down: this is called the inverted method.

The barista will have already started heating up water to about 180° Fahrenheit. Finely ground coffee is placed inside the chamber, and then enough hot water is added to thoroughly soak all of the grounds. The rubber stopper of the plunger forms an airtight seal against the base: none of the coffee will leak out.

Finally, the barista places the filter cap onto the device, and once the coffee is steeped a minute or so, the device is turned right-side up onto a mug. An air pocket is visible above the layer of coffee and, when the plunger is pushed down, will push all of the water through the coffee grounds for a clean and smooth extraction.

Instead of employing a daunting new method, most people wake up and start the coffee maker. A plastic device begins heating water and splashes it willy-nilly over coffee grounds. The hot water soaks up some of the oils of the coffee; it does not care how the oils are extracted. For this machine, the goal is to have caffeine-charged coffee flavored water. This is the auto drip machine.

Where Mr. Coffee is imprecise, the Aeropress shines: a consistent, even extraction produces coffee that is always delicious. Many people become confused by how much coffee an auto drip machine makes: 8 cups? Does that mean eight mugs of coffee or 8 measuring cups of coffee?

The Aeropress makes up to 10 oz. of coffee every time. Each of these methods does share the benefit of saving time. An automatic coffee maker can be prepared and left alone. The coffee will brew unsupervised. In contrast, once hot water is ready, the Aeropress is finished brewing in three minutes or less! For the morning rush, the Aeropress meets the task.

When time is not a factor, a good pour over coffee is always delicious. With careful handcrafting, a pour over is a personalized cup of coffee. The pour over is extremely similar to how an auto drip maker functions: water is poured into a brewing basket through coffee grounds and a paper filter.

The pour over is unique in that the water is controlled by a barista using a swan neck kettle, which is a heating vessel with a long spout. The barista will use this longer neck to hit all of the coffee grounds with an equal amount of water for a better extraction.

The differences of extraction between the pour over and the Aeropress can seem minimal depending on the region of the coffee.

For coffees with simpler flavor profiles like South American coffees, the difference in taste is minute; both brewing methods produce evenly extracted coffee. What the pour over method lacks, however, is universality. Can everybody use it?

The tools required for a pour over are numerous: a bee-house drip brew basket, an electronic scale, a swan neck kettle, and a thermometer. All of those items are expensive and fragile. An Aeropress is $30.

With a quality burr grinder and a way to heat water, nothing else is necessary. The ratios for price and ease of use are directly proportional for both methods. The pour over is more expensive and requires more skill.

The process is more involved; the barista preparing the coffee is committed to pouring water in at timed intervals and in a specific direction to ensure the water hits the grinds equally. The Aeropress takes no time at all. The coffee will steep according to taste, but never longer than two or three minutes. The barista does not have concern over the extraction process: the Aeropress takes care of all of that!

The easiest of all brewing methods is the French press, but its simplicity does not make it the superior system. The French press can produce more volume of coffee with a very full representation of the entire flavor profile of a coffee.

If one were to attend a cupping event—an affair similar to a wine tasting—the entire focus is on the taste of the coffee. The French press is the only method that does not use a paper filter; it offers coffee that tastes exactly like the product of cupping. Paper filters remove sediments and heavier oils from the coffee and prevent those flavors from actually being brewed. For those connoisseurs who enjoy dignifying coffee with all of the tasting notes, the French press is preferred.  However, there is a downside. The French press will brew coffee you can chew. Often described as cloudiness, the brewed coffee from a French press will indubitably have bits of the finer coffee grounds floating around.

Some brighter coffees will produce sharp notes of bitterness no matter how short or long the coffee steeps. Even with the disadvantage of the paper filter the Aeropress still produces full-bodied coffee with a clean extraction, completely avoiding the cloudiness and the bitterness.

Every brewing method offers different advantages. Automatic coffee makers can produce decent coffee in large supply without any real supervision.

The pour over coffee has that touch of personalization. The French press will make full flavored coffee that is true to whole profile of the coffee.

In any occasion, the Aeropress will always be the easiest technique to produce the best tasting coffee, and this is why it is gaining popularity in coffee houses and on kitchen counters.

– Micheal Lamb, Contributing Writer

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