There are few coffee brewers that have matched the prestige and respect of the AeroPress in the professional coffee world. Its simple design and brewing mechanics can be manipulated and played with to achieve some wild and delicious results, but it is also one of the most approachable manual coffee brewing methods.
The AeroPress can be a coffee brewer of intrigue and experimentation. It has the ability to brew great coffee with little care, but it also has the power to break out from normal coffee brewing principles to create something striking and unique.
If you are looking for a simple cup of delicious coffee, the AeroPress will satisfy. If you are searching for a coffee adventure, the rabbit hole goes deep with a million different way to enjoy this incredible device. No matter your coffee needs, this brewer delivers.
Power users and humble caffeine seekers alike - this ultimate guide is for you.
What Is The AeroPress?
Alan Adler is one of the world’s most successful frisbee entrepreneurs. Through his company, Aerobie, he launched a reinvented flying disc that had the center cut out. The disc could fly further than any frisbee before. I remember throwing these discs as a kid. Do you?
Adler was a “one cup kinda guy”, and was dissatisfied by the coffee makers of his day, which brewed too much coffee that resulted in waste. He put his inventive mind to the challenge of creating a quick, single cup brewer, and the Aerobie AeroPress was born.
Today, the AeroPress can be found in specialty coffee shops and the homes of coffee lovers all around the globe. It’s one of my favorites, and I can’t say I haven’t imagined myself competing in the World AeroPress Championships someday.
Materials And Design
The AeroPress is made of three parts: a cylindrical brewing chamber, a plunger with a rubber seal that fits into the brewing chamber, and a filter cap that attaches to the brewing chamber on the opposite side of the plunger.
The entire AeroPress brewer, with the exception of a rubber seal, is made out of polypropylene. It is extremely durable and safe to use for coffee brewing.
One of the defining features of the AeroPress brewer is its reliance on pressure as a modifier of extraction. Water extracts tasty things from coffee grounds when they come in contact. If you add pressure to the mix, you can change the rate of that fundamental extraction process.
Because of this adaptation, the AeroPress is capable of brewing a full cup of coffee in less than two minutes, faster than almost every other method in existence. It also allows us to break some coffee brewing rules that need to be followed in almost every other case. We’ll get to that later.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the AeroPress
I use my AeroPress on a variety of occasions, but there are some cases where it isn’t the ideal option. Let’s consider some of the strengths and weaknesses.
This is one of the great feats of the AeroPress. The plunger slides right into the brewing cylinder, making the device the most portable coffee brewer in existence.
To make things even better, our manual burr grinder slides right into the plunger, making it the perfect grinder-brewer travel combo.
Power is not necessary for the AeroPress. This element, combined with the size, make it perfect for travel and outdoor adventuring.
You could throw your AeroPress off a skyscraper and find it with no more than a few scratches. I don’t suggest testing that yourself. Just take my word for it.
The process is quick, but hands-on. You place the coffee and water together in the brewing chamber and let it steep. You then use the plunger to force the water through the coffee grounds into your mug. There is some resistance to the pressure, but it’s not an amount that should be uncomfortable for most users.
It may sound like work, but the entire process is quite simple and can happen in under two minutes. I usually take thirty to forty seconds to plunge, using the weight of my body rather than sheer wrist muscle. This takes away most of the pushing effort and doesn’t empty me of any energy.
The Brew (The Important Part)
The results of the AeroPress can be quite diverse, but one factor makes a larger difference than all the rest: the filter material.
The paper filters that the AeroPress ships with produce a relatively clean cup, but for many, including myself, it is too clean. Paper filters are notorious for absorbing most or all of the coffee oils. This is a shame, because those aromatic oils bring a lot of life to our coffee in the form of a silky mouthfeel and robust flavors.
Stainless steel mesh filters, on the other hand, allow the oils to slip right through, producing a full-flavored cup. Metal filters also allow some of the microscopic coffee particles through without letting any sizable grounds into your mug. They’re also way easier to clean when camping than disposing of paper filters.
These micro-grounds enhance our experience by enabling our taste buds to interpret the flavors from the oils and coffee liquid with more balance. Without them, we would probably think the acidity of the coffee is too powerful and distracting.
With the use of pressure during the brewing, the AeroPress tends to produce a creamier, fruitier cup than most other brewers.
I am often asked to compare it to a similar brewer, but it’s an impossible request. AeroPress coffee can really only be described as “AeroPress coffee”. You’ll just have to taste it for yourself to understand how rich, creamy, and satisfying it can be.
Let's Find Out If This Is The Brewer For You
- Are you ready to dive a little deeper into specialty coffee? This brewer is for you.
- Are you willing to learn a new (and rewarding) skill? This brewer is for you.
- Are you excited by experimentation and adventure? This brewer is for you.
- Do you enjoy a well rounded, flavorful cup of coffee? This brewer is for you.
- Do you want your coffee to be ready as soon as you’re awake? This brewer may not be for you, but you may want to rethink your morning routine.
- Do you often brew for two? This brewer may not be ideal, but here's a great option for you.
- Are you always traveling? This brewer is almost definitely for you.
Pre-Steps and Thoughts
Start With Great Coffee
Great coffee is always fresh. Seek out coffee roasters that proudly display the roast date on their packaging, and use the coffee within two weeks or so of that date for maximum freshness.
If you batch-grind your coffee, you’ll find it completely stale the next day. If you grind your coffee beans just a few minutes before you brew, they’ll sing their flavors to you, and you’ll never look back.
Freshly roasted and recently ground coffee is what you want for an incredible brew every time. A burr coffee grinder is what you’re after if you desire this satisfaction.
Find A Coffee To Water Ratio
Don’t underestimate the importance of a balanced coffee to water ratio. Most home brewers find themselves in one or two scenarios.
- They use too much ground coffee and each coffee particle doesn’t receive the amount of water it needs to extract a sweet, balanced brew. The result is underdeveloped, sour coffee.
- They use too much water and drown the coffee grounds. The excess water extracts too much out of the coffee grounds, resulting in a bitter and dull cup of coffee.
The best way to know if you’re using a good coffee to water ratio is to use a gram scale to weigh out the ingredients. Most brewing methods thrive between a 1:15 and 1:17 ratio (1g of coffee to every 15-17g of water), but the Aeropress can play by some different rules.
For this guide, we’ll be using 20g of coffee and about 250g of water (a 1:12.5 ratio). This higher amount of coffee will allow us to brew a the coffee more speedily while still ending up with a full flavored cup, thanks to the pressure created with the AeroPress plunger.
If you want to be an expert on ratios, read more about the golden coffee to water ratios.
Don’t Skimp On The Water
Brewed coffee is mostly water, so it makes sense that you would only want to use water that you enjoy drinking on its own. Let the water sit for a minute or two after it boils so it reaches a good temperature for brewing (195-205 Fahrenheit), and you’re ready on this front.
Use a Consistent, Fine to Medium Grind
Aim for a fine to medium-fine grind setting on your burr grinder. This realm of grind size will give you the ability to have that quick extraction we’re after without clogging the filter.
While our manual burr grinder is versatile enough to grind coffee at an espresso setting (better than any electric grinder under $300), I don’t suggest going that fine for the AeroPress. The grounds will be so small that pressing down on the plunger will be close to impossible, due to some wicked resistance and a nearly-clogged filter.
I know the AeroPress has been marketed as an espresso maker, but it really shines when used to make brewed coffee, and usually doesn’t function well with espresso-fine grounds. Stick to a medium-fine grind and enjoy the amazingness that ensues.
Two Methods: Normal And Inverted
There are two primary methods that people use to brew coffee with the AeroPress: normal and inverted.
With the normal method, you place the filter cap on the brewing chamber and set it filter-down on top of a mug. After pouring the water onto the coffee grounds and letting it steep, you insert the plunger and press down.
This method was the intended process, but it has fallen out of favor in the global specialty coffee community because it allows some water to drain into the mug before it has achieved a balanced extraction, no matter if you use paper or metal filters alike. It is difficult to have a fault-free cup with this method.
The inverted method became popular alongside the World AeroPress Championships, and is my method of choice without question. With the entire device flipped over, the plunger already inserted into the brewing chamber, and the filter cap set to the side, you can brew your coffee without any leakage.
Brewing a cup that is balanced to the last drop is far easier with the inverted method.
A Step-By-Step Guide To The Inverted Method
Assemble your beans, water, and tools and you’re ready to take the AeroPress for a spin.
- Fresh Roasted Coffee
- AeroPress Coffee Maker
- JavaPresse AeroPress Filter
- Yummy Hot Water
- Burr Coffee Grinder
- Kitchen Scale
Weigh out 20g of coffee (about 4 tablespoons) and grind it at a fine to medium-fine setting with a burr grinder.
Place the plunger into the brewing chamber, just far enough so that you won’t accidentally pull it out while you’ve got hot water in there. Been there - done that. Don’t suggest it. Add the ground coffee.
Start a timer and pour hot water about a third of the way up. You can swirl the AeroPress to get those grounds agitated, or you can use a spoon or paddle. Whichever you choose, agitate for about ten seconds.
This “bloom” phase enables the coffee grounds to expel the carbon dioxide trapped inside, which sets the stage for even extraction across all grounds.
Once a minute and a half have passed, slowly fill the AeroPress all the way to the top, carefully saturating all the coffee grounds.
After a total of two minutes, place the metal mesh filter on top of the brewer and screw the filter cap on tightly.
Place your mug of choice upside down on top of the filter cap and grab the AeroPress with your other hand. You’re going to flip them both at the same time so that the mug is on below the AeroPress, and the plunger is ready to be pressed down.
Take thirty to forty seconds to press down the plunger. Stop when you hear air being forced through the filter.
Enjoy a mug of delicious coffee!
A Step-By-Step Guide To The Normal Method
Start the normal method just like the inverted: assemble the necessary items, then weigh out your coffee and grind it appropriately.
With your filter inside, screw the filter cap onto the brewing chamber and place the brewer on top of a mug. Add your coffee grounds.
Start a timer and pour your water about a fourth of the way to the top of the AeroPress. Swirl the brewer or use a spoon or paddle to agitate the coffee grounds for about ten seconds.
After a minute and a half has passed, slowly pour more hot water into the AeroPress until the water level is about two-thirds full. Don’t fill the Aeropress up all the way. Most of the water from the bloom phase has already drained into your mug, and overflowing your mug by accidentally using too much water is an easy mistake to make.
After two minutes, attach the plunger and push straight down over thirty or forty seconds and stop when you hear air being forced through the filter.
Enjoy your coffee!
Something Doesn’t Taste Right
Does your coffee taste bitter or dull? You have likely over extracted from the coffee grounds. To fix this, we need to extract less next time. One way to do this is to grind your coffee slightly coarser so that each individual particle won’t brew so quickly. Another option is to reduce the total brew time by ten seconds or so.
Is your coffee sour or weak? Sounds like under extraction to me. The fix is basically the opposite from above: go for a finer grind setting or add a few seconds to the brew time to extract a little more.
No matter what your problems or solutions are, the best way to go about troubleshooting is always to change only one variable at a time. This will give you lots of insight into how these minor adjustments you’re making change your final brew, and you’ll be a master before you know it.
The Plunger Won’t Plunge
If you’re pressing and pressing and it’s just not working, it’s probably not because you need to work out more. You may have just ground your coffee a little too fine, and it’s building up more resistance than you’re capable of pressing down on. Just coarsen the grind setting next time.
There’s also a small chance your filter has gotten some grounds stuck in there, or the oils have gelled over a few of the micro-holes. This will happen over time, and all your filter needs is a good cleaning.
My Mug Overflowed With Coffee
It’s a miracle and you should continue to plunge and see what happens next! Either that or you used the normal method and ended up pouring in too much water.
That’s why we favor the inverted method - there’s no guessing about how much water is already in the mug, and there’s no chance of overflowing the mug.
For most days, a quick rinse in clean water should do the trick. Just make sure you wipe it well while running water over it to dislodge any coffee grounds.
If you’re brewing with papers, it’s pretty easy to just dump the filter with grounds into the trash. But as we’ve mentioned throughout the guide, this is not a sustainable practice becomes troublesome if you’re ever brewing coffee in the wilderness.
If you’re using our mesh filter, a simple wash after use will work perfectly. Every month or so, I suggest a more thorough cleaning to really get those resilient coffee oils off the filter. Performing one of these methods on a monthly basis will keep your filter in new condition, and protect you from the horror of realizing your filter is clogged with built up oil mid-brew.
- Soak the filter for 4 hours or so in a mixture of soap, citric acid, and hydrogen peroxide. 2-3 tablespoons of acid and peroxide per 2 cups of warm water should work just fine. A run through the dishwasher finishes this method.
- Boil the filter in a 1:13 white vinegar to water mixture and let it soak for at least six hours. Finish this method up with a run through the dishwasher.
- Use a dedicated coffee cleaner such as Urnex Coffee Cleaning Powder. This product targets coffee oils and reside specifically, and works in less than an hour.
- Mix 4-5 tablespoons of Oxiclean with enough hot water to soak the filter. Afterward, run it through the dishwasher.
You probably already have some of these ingredients in your home. Just pick whichever is most convenient and accessible to you.
Take a look at our YouTube channel if you’d like more assistance with anything.
The AeroPress is a great coffee brewer for those tired mornings and those adventurous afternoons. It’s the brewer of champions and of regular folks. It is a method that can brew some of the best coffee in the world, but it’s forgiving enough to satisfy the most humble.
My AeroPress has lifted me through many exhausting days, and intrigued me in moments when my adventurous spirit has poked through. I have taken it across the country. I have made it part of my home.
Though it isn’t a hands-off experience, it’s a rewarding one. The best things in life come about by focused, intentional work, after all. Grab some reusable Aeropress filters and you can also relish in the fact that your brewing habit is eco-friendly.
Chief Brewing Officer
JavaPresse Coffee Company