Cycling and coffee go together like morning rides and café stops. But what to do when you can’t access the services of your favourite barista? The Aeropress coffee maker might be the answer. We’d spied them on display at The Goods, and after a few hints one found our way into our home via a timely birthday.
I have to say I was a little sceptical of the barista’s claim that it was so good it was the only coffee maker he used outside work. Surely he has a Faema E61 on the bench for home brewing? Regardless we’d bought it more with making coffee away from home in mind, so if it made a reasonable coffee the portability would be enough to make us happy campers.
In form it looks like a giant syringe or a miniature French press. But the similarity to the latter is deceptive. The bottom of the “syringe” hides a paper microfilter. The coffee brews initially in the body of the syringe before being forced through the filter by the plunger. This is the crucial difference (in my opinion, I’m not quoting their marketing here): forcing the partly brewed coffee through the grounds on the way into the cup optimises the extraction and reduces the brewing time. This means good flavour without excessive bitterness. A French press by contrast merely pushes the grounds to the bottom of the pot, with no additional extraction, so you can’t get good flavour without bitterness.
It’s made entirely of plastic, but it’s all good plastic, if there is such a thing. Nothing is going to break or wear out anytime soon with reasonable care. If anything does get broken or lost then rest easy because every part is available separately for replacement.
To make a coffee you put a filter in the filter cap, screw it onto the body of the Aeropress and stand it on top of your cup. There’s a handy funnel provided for small cups. Then you pour in hot water, give it a stir and insert the plunger. Wait a minute or so before pushing the plunger down to force the coffee through the grounds and the filter and into your waiting cup. The seal on the plunger is nice and tight so there’s a lot of satisfactory resistance and hissing at this point.
It got a good workout on our six-week road trip to Perth and back over Christmas and I can report that it performed flawlessly apart from the odd user error, and to my surprise has indeed become our coffee maker of choice in the home, with the long-relied on stovetop Bialettis relegated to making large quantities only.
I did have a few coffee disasters along the way. A few times I forgot to put in the filter. Obviously user error but the overall process is so simple it’s easy to forget this essential step, and there’s no recovery once you’ve poured in the hot water. The other disaster resulted from the slightly unwieldy nature of the Aeropress when poised on top of a cup with coffee on the way. It’s steady enough in itself but it doesn’t take much to knock it over, which I managed to do once while brewing up on a footpath. One other issue I have discovered recently is that it is sensitive to how finely the coffee is ground. Some home-ground coffee I tried just didn’t work – it was impossible to depress the plunger. I suspect it was the unevenness of the DIY product as I haven’t had any trouble with commercial grinds.
Overall, I highly recommend the Aeropress. It makes great coffee, it’s easy to clean and easy to take on the road. It only makes one cup at a time but it’s quick so for a small number of brews that’s not an issue. My biggest complaint is that despite being a brilliant travel coffee maker – they promote it as “ideal for kitchen, travel and camping” – they haven’t really designed it to pack up neatly. It could do with a “travel pack” including a combination scoop and stirrer small enough to fit inside the body (the provided separate scoop and stirrer are longer than the body, and the bowl of the scoop is too fat to fit inside so you can’t DIY it down to size), and a small sealed container for storing filters safe from camping grime and damp.
To find out more go to https://aeropress.com/.