The AeroPress Coffee Machine: a new concept in an ancient art
By Mike Hanlon
January 15, 2006
January 16, 2006 There’s always a better way – ALWAYS! Humans have been consuming coffee for 1200 years, the first coffee shops opened 500 years ago and coffee is the world’s second largest traded commodity, behind only oil. More than 1.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day with the US market for coffee machines at 20 million a year and growing. You’d think we would have already perfected the best way to produce a cup of coffee from coffee beans, but several years of research by Stanford University mechanical engineering lecturer Alan Adler (the inventor of the Aerobie flying disk which holds the world throwing record of more than a quarter mile) appear to have found a better coffee machine. Independent reviews suggest the new Aerobie AeroPress delivers the smoothest, richest, purest and fastest cup of coffee (under 30 seconds) you’re likely to find and the bonus is that the AeroPress costs just US$30. And while it might look like a French Press because both use immersion and pressure, it works quite differently.
Human use of coffee originated in Ethiopia more some 1200 years ago, with the first cultivation of coffee in Yemen, the world’s first coffee shop opening more than 500 years ago (in Constantinople in 1475), and the first western coffee shops opening some 350 years ago (Italy 1640, Venice, 1652 London, 1672 Paris, 1675 Vienna). Coffee has been big business for a very long time, and surprisingly, is still the world’s second largest traded commodity, behind only oil.
Logically, the process of roasting and grinding coffee beans and turning them into a beverage would have long since been perfected. After all, there are more than 1.5 billion cups of coffee prepared every day with the US market for coffee machines at 20 million a year and growing.
We constantly write up new coffee innovations because most of the Gizmag teams exists on a staple diet of coffee and … errr, well, we like coffee … okay! We loved Nestle’s take on gourmet coffee creation at home ( Nespresso ) and have subsequently written about the capsule-based single cup brewer market comprised of Nespresso, Senseo, Illy's E.S.E Espresso pods, Keurig, Tassimo et al. We raved about the cleverness of the intelligent coffee drinker's mug and the low-cost simplicity and engenuity of the colour-changing disposable beverage lid because they allenhanced one of our favourite past-times - now we’re ultra keen to get our hands on the AeroPress.
The AeroPress is the resulting of years of applied research by inventor/engineer Alan Adler. Adler’s numerous brewing experiments demonstrated that proper temperature, total immersion and rapid filtering were the keys to obtaining excellent flavour. He then designed and tested dozens of brewing methods before settling on the AEROPRESS design.
After the methodology was settled, further trials were conducted with different prototypes being tested by households to finalise the design. The full AeroPress story is told in great detail here, complete with explanations of the different brewing methods and the advantages of each.
People see some similarities between the AeroPress and a French Press. Both use total immersion and pressure. But the similarities end there.
The filter in the French Press is at the top of the mixture. Because coffee floats, the floating grounds clog the filter and makes pressing and cleaning very difficult. Users are instructed to use only coarse ground coffee. But this reduces the amount of flavor that can be extracted from the coffee and necessitates long steeping times which extract bitterness.
Furthermore, even coarse ground coffee includes many fine particles. These small particles pass through and around the filter resulting in a bitter, gritty brew. The particles in the brew continue to leach out bitterness. Consequently French press users are advised to drink or decant the brew immediately. Also, some particles clog the filter screen making pressing and cleaning very difficult.
AEROPRESS coffee is micro-filtered. It so pure and particle-free that it can be stored for days as a concentrate. The concentrate can be drunk as espresso, mixed with milk for lattes, or diluted to make American coffee. French presses cannot make espresso or lattes.
Finally, cleaning the French press is quite a chore. The AEROPRESS chamber is self-cleaning. A ten-second rinse of the plunger is all that's required.
Reviews of the Aerobie AeroPress
Firstly, we need to acknowledge our friends at SingleServeCoffee, which not only tested the AeroPress here, but alerted us to the story in the first place. Not wanting to give too much away (because they have an extensive article on the Aeropress), but here’s an excerpt: “Delicious. Very non-bitter and always got the flavor of the coffee we were using. We could also depending on the mix time and the amount of time we took pressing the coffee out of the Aeropress get various strengths of coffee. We really enjoyed having almost total control over the type of coffee we produced and it all felt very zen like when you would get in tune with the Aeropress.
We tried various combinations of water temperature, grind, and time to press. In the end we got what we wanted with 176 degrees F water, 30 seconds of mix time, and around 35-40 seconds of press time using a Pete's Coffee or the illy dark espresso pre-ground coffee.”
Other coffee sites to have covered the AeroPress in blog fashion include CoffeeGeek and LocalsOnly Coffee
I've been very pleasantly surprised...This thing is really pretty amazing...it accomplishes about the same thing as that Clover thing as far as a short brew time and a cup made "expressly" for each person, but it costs 30 dollars instead of 6000. Coffee Geek
I am pleased to say, it not only has dramatically improved our home brew but also has made it difficult to drink anything else! You must try it to understand why this device is the only coffee maker I will ever own again. Making an AeroPress coffee takes only 30 seconds (start to finish) and best of all, only takes a few seconds to clean! Locals Only CoffeeShare
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