Ahh, the Aeropress from Aerobie. One of the easiest-to-use coffee-making devices around. It also is very forgiving in terms of temperature, time, and dose, and even grind. At around $25, all things considered, dollar for dollar, it would be tough to beat. The Aeropress is so very easy to clean after brewing. The compression at the end of the "press" compacts the coffee grounds into a dried puck that ejects easily into a trash receptacle, and a quick rinse and wipe of the plunger leaves the Aeropress ready for the next brew by inserting a fresh paper filter. Additionally, there are few devices (if any) that are more appropriate for travel. It is nearly unbreakable and takes up little space. If the plunger had a sealing lid, preground coffee could be stored inside of it (something I have mentioned to Alan, the inventor). It's even be great for backpacking where even cubic inch counts.
But in terms of the quality of the beverage, I personally find that the product of the Aeropress lacks body and overall mouthfeel because of the paper filters. Ignoring any environmental issue with disposable paper filters (which is very minimal) as well as the frustration met if you run out of filter papers and have to make your own (I am not fond of the taste of paper towels), the paper filters remove the "fines." Normally that is generally a good thing. Unfortunately, the filters also remove some of the oils and other elements which (again, for me) detracts from the overall experience when compared to some other brewing methods. Because of that I prefer the coffee that is created by the Espro Press which works like a French press but employs a patented double filter system that uses very fine-mesh stainless screens to remove virtually all sediment while leaving the oils and other components to give excellent flavor and body.
The lack of mouthfeel and decreased body has had my Aeropress relegated to a plastic bag in the unused-coffee-equipment storage area, and it has been there for some time. But suddenly (as they say in graphic novels) I saw a post on HB.com from Prima Coffee looking for one hundred testers and reviewers to evaluate a new filter disk made for the Aeropress. The Able Disk for the Aeropress had been around for some time, but users have evidently been requesting one with smaller holes. It was to those requests that Able responded, and so a limited run of new disks with finer holes were made and volunteers were recruited by Prima . Well, that sounded like me, so I applied, using my website (this website) and its previous reviews to represent my qualifications to become a tester, and on April 5 I received an E-Mail stating I was accepted and the disk was on its way to my mailbox. I had not previously used any of the Able Brewing products (made in Portland, Oregon, by the way), so I have no basis for comparison to their old disk (with larger holes).
Able Brewing (their website was nothing but a "coming soon" page when this review was written) makes permanent, metal filters for brewing coffee. Currently available are two items: the "Kone" for the Chemex brewers and the $15 "Disk" for the Aeropress. These are made of stainless steel in Portland Oregon.
This image illustrates the difference between the new Disk on the left and the current Disk (larger, fewer holes)
In use, the able filter is placed into bottom cap of the Aeropress with the printing on the disk facing the coffee. That is the side of the disk with smaller holes so the coffee particles are less likely to lodge in the holes. Other than that, it is a matter of adjusting the grind as well as the coffee to water ratio to find a taste you prefer.
From the first it was quite clear to me that the disk made a big difference in the quality of the brewed beverage. The body and depth of flavor was more akin to what the more-expensive Espro Press creates. I was able to create a brew with about the same volume of fines in the cup by grinding about ten increments more coarse with my Kony than I do for espresso, and using a bit more coffee to maintain taste. The fines are more controlled and less offensive than that found with a traditional French press. The last sip of a press pot cup of coffee is pretty nasty. The last sip using the Able Fine Disk is best avoided. It is best to avoid that bitter-coffee memory which taints what is otherwise an enjoyable experience.
Cleanup with the Able Disk compared to the paper filters is about the same Press the plunger fully and then remove the bottom of the press and "eject" the "puck" directly into the trash. Of course, you want to avoid ejecting the disc into the trash and then digging through the receptacle for the disk.
The coffee has been quite good. I pre-roast blended two parts Tanzanian and one part Tanzanian peaberry, ejected just before second crack. It is day 4 now as I sip a wonderful cup of coffee from that roast which I am having with lunch.
I never felt that the Aeropress made espresso (although others, including the inventor, disagree with that opinion). I found that the paper filters removed a lot of what I love about coffee. While the Able Fine Disk does not convert the Aeropress into an espresso machine, it does change the beverage created into something that took my Aeropress out of its plastic, zip-lock tomb in which it has been stored here in my home, and put it back into my arsenal of coffee-making equipment for when a fast and easy cup of rich, full-bodied coffee is desired with the least amount of cleanup.
At this point the Able Brewing Fine Disk is in the evaluation stage, but if my experience is any indication I think (or hope?) we can look forward to seeing it available soon.
UPDATE: (5/10/2012) The Able DISK-Fine Filter for AeroPress is now available for purchase from Prima Coffee for $12.50 with free shipping.