Follow along with our step-by-step AeroRecipe.
When I worked for a retail coffee company, there was a point at which we wanted to simplify our coffee program by choosing just one by-the-cup brewing method. We realized that we were looking for the best combination of flavor and ease of use. What brew method could we train our new baristas to make great coffee with most easily? I imagine that’s a type of coffee brewer that many home brewers are looking for as well. That's why the choice we made, the AeroPress, is one I thoroughly recommend.
A Little Background
The AeroPress was first produced in 2005 by Alan Adler, the owner of Aerobie. Aerobie like the flying disc? Yup, Aerobie like the flying disc. Much like that disc, the AeroPress is plastic, lightweight, and portable. (On a related note, we recommend taking both to the park with you). The method brews coffee by infusing it into water in one plastic tube, then pressing another tube with a rubber stopper to push it through a filter cap. This adds a significant amount of pressure, and since pressure speeds up extraction, it allows for the AeroPress to have a faster total brew time than the French Press or pour over methods.
This speed and pressure has led some, including the creators of the device, to label the AeroPress an espresso brewer, and while I get the similarities, I think (even if you brew it quite strong) it lacks the pressure to deliver the crema and lightning speed that define espresso for me. That takes nothing away from the AeroPress as a brewer though! It’s quick, it’s portable, and it makes a hell of a cup of coffee.
So, What Exactly Is an AeroPress?
AeroPresses come with a funnel, a stirrer, a scoop, and a bunch of paper filters. The funnel serves two purposes. First, you can pour your grounds into the AeroPress through it, making it much easier to aim. Second, it’s the same hexagonal shape as the AeroPress base, so you can easily press through it, making sure all your liquid gets into the cup. The stirrer, well it’s a stirrer, you can replace it with lots of things, but we’re definitely going to want to stir while brewing the AeroPress, as it’s really hard to get all the grounds saturated without doing so.
There's no need to get into what a scoop does, so let's focus on those paper filters. I'm generally pretty agnostic on whether or not you should rinse your paper filters while brewing pour overs or drip coffee, but with the AeroPress, I must insist. That's not because of any paper flavor, but rather because it's the only way to ensure the filter adheres to the cap. Pour some hot water through the filter and, if there are any waves or bumps created, feel free to spread it smooth with your fingers.
To Invert, or Not to Invert, That Is the Question
When figuring out how to use your AeroPress, there’s one big choice you need to make right off the bat: to invert or not to invert? The AeroPress recipe you’ll see on the box has you twisting on your cap, putting the AeroPress onto your cup, and pouring water in before attaching the plunger and plunging straight down. A few years into the life of the AeroPress, someone (I tried to trace this idea back to someone specific and, wow y’all, the internet is so vast) decided that they would prefer to assemble the AeroPress upside down. They pressed the plunger into the chamber, inverted it, and poured the coffee grounds into the brewing chamber — literally turning the AeroPress brewing world on its head.
The main advantage of inverting an AeroPress is control. Right-side up, the AeroPress basically looks like a weirdly-shaped pour over. Not a ton of water will pass through the coffee bed and filter while you’re pouring, but a little bit definitely will. So inverting the AeroPress helps control exactly how much water we have in contact with our coffee grounds at all times, which can only be a good thing.
Opponents of the inverted AeroPress would point to the fact that you have to eventually flip that AeroPress over, which adds an extra step. The added agitation can impact your coffee in unpredictable ways, but I’m willing to take that pretty easy extra step to keep everything else simple and consistent.
The next choice to make is how much coffee and water to use. The official AeroPress recipe involves brewing a concentrate, which you then dilute with water. I think it’s a lot easier to extract that coffee well by using something closer to a regular drip coffee ratio. We’re going to go just a bit stronger than we would for a pour over. With the way the AeroPress’ filter fits into its cap, it delivers a body that’s a bit less clean than a pour over or drip method (though still not nearly as oily and sediment-y as a French press), and I like a slightly stronger coffee to cut through that. Plus, with as small as the AeroPress is, there’s only so weak you can go before it’s just not enough coffee. So we’re going to use 15 grams of medium ground coffee for around 220 grams of water.
The wonderful thing about an infusion brew method like the AeroPress or French press — as opposed to a pour over — is that you can tinker with these brew ratios really easily without worrying about how long it will take you to pour the water or for it to drip through. If you’re making this recipe much stronger, you might want to add like 20 seconds and a more aggressive stir to the brew time, as eventually your water will become really saturated and start extracting more slowly.
Let's Get Brewing
With a medium grind size and this inverted method, I like to aim for around two minutes of total brew time. That’s considerably faster than a pour over, but, again, not as fast as real-deal espresso. During the first 90 seconds, we’re going to pour, stir, and cap. As you’re not pouring super-super-slowly, you can go ahead and pour all your water in before stirring.
Using a scale helps here, because the roast level and freshness of your coffee can cause varying gas bubbles to come out of the coffee, making the AeroPress more or less full-looking even with the same 220 grams of water. If you don’t have a scale, just fill the AeroPress until it's almost full, leaving a little space at the top so you don’t spill when you stir. When you’re done stirring, get the cap on immediately. This will help keep the temperature in your AeroPress where we want it. Screw that cap on as tight as you can. This whole process probably won’t take 90 seconds, so just relax until it’s time to flip.
After 90 seconds, flip your AeroPress onto your mug with the funnel on it. Remember that we want our total brew time to be two minutes, so no need to use all your force. Press gently, and with some practice you’ll be hitting that two minute mark in no time!
When you’re done brewing, cleanup is super-easy. Just unscrew the cap, get to a trash can, and pop the grounds and filter into the bag (or compost!). Rinse off the plunger and chamber quickly and you’re set.
This recipe works pretty well for most coffees, but the AeroPress makes it more customizable to your taste. If the coffee tastes too bitter, reduce your brew time by ten seconds; if it’s not sweet enough, brew a little longer. If it’s not strong enough, use a little more coffee, or vice versa if it tastes too weak. It’s all up to you.
Our AeroPress Recipe (or AeroPrecipe, If You Will)
Assemble your AeroPress upside down, with the more narrow piece on the table and bigger piece attached to the plunger and open all the way
Pre-heat your AeroPress with hot water
Put a paper filter in your filter cap, and pour some hot water through it to adhere
Measure and grind 15 g of coffee on a medium grind size
Get the pre-heated water out of your AeroPress and, ideally using the funnel, pour in your grinds
Place the AeroPress on the scale, start the timer, and pour 220 g of water
Stir gently to saturate the grounds
Screw the cap on tightly
At the 1:30 mark, flip the AeroPress onto your mug
Press gently, aiming to complete your press at 1:30