I love cafetiere coffee, I love Aeropress coffee, Espresso, pourover – there’s a recurring theme here… I love coffee!
But there’s something I’ve become aware of lately, and that is the impression that some people have that the Aeropress is a form or style of cafetiere / French press, rather than a coffee maker in its own right. This is something I thought was worth looking into further, and explaining to anyone who has this impression, and who hasn’t yet tried Aeropress.
I think it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of people who love coffee, will own a cafetiere – or if you’re across the pond in the USA you will refer to it as a press pot or French press. Many people on the other hand haven’t used Aeropress, as I hadn’t until about 6 months ago, and may be wondering what all the fuss is about.
To the uninitiated, Aeropress seems very similar to a cafetiere; there’s a chamber where nearly boiling water comes into contact with coffee grounds, and there’s a filter which is plunged. The process behind Aeropress is actually quite different though, as is the resulting taste and mouth feel.
This is the main reason I’m writing this post, it’s not meant to be a list of pros and cons of both, my intention is to accentuate the fact that Aeropress isn’t a form of cafetiere, but that it’s a brew process in its own right. This isn’t to say that I think Aeropress is better than french press, just different.
I know some have a different opinion on this, and to anyone who thinks I’m wrong here, I’d recommend you get hold of one for yourself and try it. I drink both regularly, and I’ve no doubt that they’re a completely different process, and a different taste and mouth feel.
They’re similar processes; they’re both immersion processes in which the coffee grounds are immersed in water, and they both involve a filter. The filter size however is much smaller for Aeropress than for cafetiere, and while the metal filter with a cafetiere is plunged to separate the grinds from the extracted coffee, the plunging process with Aeropress is done in a vacuum, under pressure.
I think some of the confusion comes from the inverted method for Aeropress, and this process does involve a steep / brew time, which does make it appear to be a more similar process than it would be if the original instructions were being followed, but even with the inverted method, it’s still a different process, and the resulting coffee is still different.
Aeropress does have a chamber in which coffee comes into contact with hot water, but unlike with French press, there doesn’t need to be a steeping or brewing time; in fact with the standard method which Aerobie stipulate, you stir for 10 seconds and then plunge. Compare this to the 4 minutes that most traditional press pot recipes stipulate, and you get the impression of how different a method it is.
Yes there is the inverted method too as I’ve mentioned, and there is a steep / brew time with this method which varies from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, but still the resulting coffee is different.
Aeropress has a paper filter, with a much finer mesh than french presses have, and even the metal disk filters available for AP are a much finer mesh than for cafetiere. With a cafetiere the plunger is purely about separating the grounds from the extracted coffee. With Aeropress, although some extraction occurs while you’re stirring the coffee, or while brewing if you do use the inverted method and leave it to brew, extraction also occurs under the pressure of the plunge, which is achieved thanks to the rubber seal on the plunger, and the super fine mesh on the filter. While it isn’t close to the 9 bars of pressure required for espresso, it’s more pressure than would be provided with a cafetiere, and it’s a finer filter so not as much of the coffee oils come through into the cup as with French press.
The result of this is that the resulting coffee has different characteristics to cafetiere coffee. I usually describe it as being somewhere between cafetiere and pourover, in that it’s not as heavy as cafetiere, and not as light as pourover. If you use the original method rather than inverted, you’ll create a concentrated espresso style coffee which you would then add water to, or add to water, or drink as is for an espresso style beverage.
Talking of espresso, I’ve seen AP described as an espresso maker, and I think it’s important to point out that it Aeropress isn’t quite espresso.
I really enjoy espresso, and I really enjoy Aeropress coffee, but AP coffee isn’t espresso, even if you do make it with less water – it’s very concentrated if you make it with a similar coffee to water ratio, but that doesn’t make it espresso. I see some posts and videos showing Aeropress hacks which produce crema, but it’s not true crema – even when levers are being used to create heavier pressures, it’s a thin “crema foam” usually, rather than a proper espresso crema.
But if we’re talking about making coffee at home, and we remember that an espresso machine is an expensive piece of equipment, when you look at what the aeropress is, and how inexpensive and portable it is, we’re really asking a bit much by expecting it to also be an espresso machine, and I don’t believe that was ever the intention of Aerobie.
To make espresso, due to the way the extraction works, we need 9 bars of pressure delivered in a specific way, we really can’t expect the same from a cheap coffee maker. This isn’t at all meant to belittle the Aeropress as although it’s cheap (i.e. inexpensive, I do not mean cheap quality), it’s also an amazing coffee maker, which produces stunning coffee. But to expect it to make true espresso I think would be asking a lot. Even a lot of the home espresso machines which cost 100 quid upwards don’t make true espresso, but that’s a different topic.
To understand what the Aeropress really is, we need to step back in time into the Aerobie offices several years ago, when the Aerobie flying ring inventor, aerodynamics genius Alan Adler was having a conversation with a colleague in the office kitchen about how bad electric filter coffee machines are when it comes to making a single cup of coffee.
Alan saw this as a challenge, and set to work on it. He didn’t set to work on creating a hand powered espresso machine – he set to work on creating a better way of making a single cup of coffee than using an electric coffee machine.
The fact that he not only achieved this, but that he also actually created something which some people call an espresso maker, is a sign of what an amazing job he did! He created a lightweight portable and affordable coffee maker, requiring no electricity, which is perfect for making a strong, smooth cup of coffee in as little as around a minute, with great control over the strength. It’s super easy to clean, and is ready to use again or to put away after simply firing the coffee puck out into a bin or a container, and giving the plunger a quick wipe.
By the way, I like to fire the puck of used coffee grounds into an empty Pringles can – and then when it’s full, it gets emptied into the compost, or if the weather is bad and I don’t fancy walking down the garden, it’ll get put in a freezer bag and frozen, to be put in the compost when I can be bothered.
As I’ve said, this post wasn’t intended as a “which is better” comparison, i.e. but if you did want to compare Aeropress vs. cafetiere, then it really depends on what you’re comparing.
If you’re comparing speed of coffee making, Aeropress wins if you use the standard method vs. the inverted method. If you’re comparing speed and ease of cleaning – Aeropress wins, in my opinion. If you’re comparing ability to make several cups at a time, cafetiere wins. If you’re comparing taste – you need to judge that for yourself, as it’s a subjective thing, and for me, it just depends on what I’m craving at that time, sometimes I have an itch that only cafetiere can scratch, sometimes it’s espresso, sometimes it’s Aeropress or V60, that’s the beauty of having such a wealth of coffee brewing methods available to us.
Personally, it doesn’t concern me which is better – I have an Aeropress, I have a couple of cafetieres (my favourite is my savisto stainless steel cafetiere), I have V60, I have my Gaggia classic espresso machine, I have a Hario cold brew pot, i did have a Moka pot but I managed to break it. I think they’re all great in their own right – and which one I’ll use at any given time will depend on my mood and the situation.
Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on Twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.