Aerobie Aeropress Review
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2006 - All rights reserved

      Trust me when I say that I am not the person to reference when it comes to forecasting future trends in coffee-making equipment. Knowing what I want is very different from knowing what consumers desire and what the market can support. We can all dream of machines, but getting them onto the shelves is an entirely different matter. With that said, it would seem that there is a polarity being demonstrated in the market. With espresso becoming more popular with American consumers we see more equipment being sold intended to make that beverage easier to make well, but at a price that few can afford. Single group machines that can make excellent espresso with little effort are now available, but at a price point that would buy a decent used car... in some cases with cash to spare.

      On the other end of the spectrum is the consumer who wants an excellent cup of coffee but who does not want to finance a machine nor invest in the counter space to deal with it (not to mention the time and effort it takes to get proficient at operating the device). There is a niche for a device that is simple to use, easy to clean, and makes a great cup of coffee as quickly as possible. As I was contemplating the above factors while looking at moka pots, coffee presses, and other such 'simple' means of making coffee I ran across the Aerobie website. Aerobie are the folks who became famous for the Aerobie Pro Ring - a throwing ring that holds the Guiness World Record for the object thrown the greatest distance by a human without assistance- a remarkable 1,333 feet (just over a quarter of a mile!).

      On the Aerobie website is where I found the Aerobie AeroPress , a coffee making device, made in the U.S.A., that upon first glance fills the criteria for being simple, easy to use, and fast.

      Pictured here are all the parts of the device, from the foreground, going clockwise:
- The measuring spoon (36cc, about 2.4 Tablespoons)
- Behind it is the "paddle" (stirrer- a nice inclusion as it prevents scratching of the cylinder as well as it being designed so as not to disturb the filter when you are stirring.)
- The "cap" (bottom of the cylinder) that is the "shower screen" and filter holder
- The handy filter disc holder. The Aeropress comes with 350 filters and more are available for purchase.
- The "chamber" (cylinder- shown on top of a coffee cup- the cup is not included)
- The "plunger" (piston with its rubber seal)
- Behind the piston is the funnel used for pouring the coffee as well as the water into the Chamber.

      If you take the basic functions of a French press and a vac pot, and combine that with the piston of a lever-operated espresso machine you start to get the idea of how the AeroPress operates. Place the the cylinder over your coffee cup. The bottom of the cylinder holds a round, paper filter disc. Coffee is placed into the cylinder and pre-heated water is added. Stir with the included stirring tool, insert the piston, and press to expel the filtered coffee directly into the cup. Their advertising states that the entire process takes about one minute, with twenty seconds dedicated to press time.

      In use it is just as fast and easy as the literature describes. Measure the amount of coffee and water desired. The manual describes this quite well, giving some recommendations of ratios to suit your tastes for styles of coffee. Heat the water and grind the coffee, again, both well described. Interesting, they recommend using water heated to 165 to 175 degrees F. (75-80C). This is a bit cooler than recommendations generally state for many other brewing devices or methods including press pots. The instructions specifically state not to use boiling water but it does state that the plunger can be used to heat the water in a microwave oven. The caveat against using boiling water for taste because the polycarbonate material is chosen to withstand the high temperature of boiling water. WIth water and codffee ready, here's the basic procedure:


- Insert a filter into the Cap's recess
- Assemble Cap to Chamber. It locks into place easily.
- Place assembly on top of a coffee mug
- Pour ground coffee into the top of the Chamber.
- Measure and pour in water. Both the Chamber as well as the Plunger are marked with the range of the proper amount of water to be used for each measure of coffee.
- Stir the grounds into the water for about ten seconds using the Paddle.
- Wet the Plunger's seal and insert the Plunger into the Chamber.
- Press down on the plunger. It takes about twenty seconds for a complete pressing cycle. When it hits bottom you are done.

      Clean up is quite easy, and maybe about as easy as you are likely to find in a coffee-making device. Lift the Chamber assembly off the cup and remove the Cap. Simply hold the assembly over a trash receptacle and press the plunger down as far as it will go. The Plunger's seal comes out the bottom of the Chamber and the puck is ejected from the chamber (as seen here) and is easily disposed of.

      The high-quality polycarbonate material washes clean with little effort, and a quick wipe of all the parts with a soapy rag and a rinse in clean water is all that is needed.

      As a test point I used the same grind I have been using for espresso with Silvia recently, and a grind that worked well with the Krups as well. Although the packaging and instructions frequently mention using the Aeropress to make espresso, it would be difficult to imagine this being the case. While it is quite capable of making a nice cup of smooth, rich, and delicious coffee, to say that it can make espresso, at least as most of the espresso-making world know the beverage, is stretching the facts.

      Using the above-mentioned grind, here is a photo of what was produced. About as close as I got to "crema" was the foam pictured here which disappeared in a matter of less than ten seconds. This was with my Rancilio Rocky grinding about five or seven clicks above the burrs touching. Most homes would not posses a grinder capable of grinding that fine, so attempting a deeper extraction to approach "real" espresso would be pointless.

      On the other side of that, the coffee was as described in the instructions and literature. It was smooth and well balanced, lacking in bitterness, and the cup was completely free from sediment of any amount pointing to the efficiency of their filter material. Even examining the coffee in bright sunlight after it had sat for a while I could not detect any fines in the cup at all. For something more like "espresso" you could increase the amount of coffee or decrease the amount of water. While not espresso, what you do get from the Aeropress is a rich cup of coffee with as much body as you like.

      Using the "espresso" made with the Aeropress, make a full four-measure pressing and you can easily get four "American" coffees with a single pressing with the addition of some additional hot water to each cup.

      I made two pressings during this test session. The first with one measure of coffee, and the second with two. I used a K wire thermocouple to test the water temperature and indeed, the pressing I made with water at about 170 degrees made a slightly smoother cup than the pressing I made at 185 degrees.

Conclusion
      The folks at Aerobie set out to create an easy to use coffee-making device that would also make a delicious cup of coffee, and they have achieved that, to be sure. It is easy and fast to use, cleans up quickly, and it virtually unbreakable.

      Depending on how you pack, it would be great on backpacking trips, and a wonderful addition to the kit in a motor home or travel trailer. Around the house it is a fine addition to, or even a replacement for the French Press or pour over coffee maker. The 4.25" wide base of the Chamber might make it a bit wide for backpacking, but the cup of coffee in the morning would make it worth it, and there are few other coffee makers that take up less space.

      I can't think of much of any way the device could be improved. If I was in a brain-storming session I might suggest:
- If the base of the Chamber was removable instead of being part of the Chamber it would make the device easier to pack. Of course, this would weaken the device a bit.
- For travel use, if the Plunger had a sealing cap, pre-ground coffee could be stored in it's void making better use of that space.
- A thermal indicator on the side of the Plunger (or one that could be dropped into the water) so that the correct water temperature could be achieved without the use of a thermometer.

PLUSES:
- Easy to use
- Delicious coffee
- Fast
- Easy to clean
- Physics degree (and electricity) not necessary to operate
- Press the plunger all the way through the Chamber and it stores fairly easily.

MINUSES:
- Needs their proprietary paper filters for best results

      At just under $30 it could very well be the best value in a small coffeemaker you are likely to find. If you like the full body of press pot coffee but hate the sediment, or love the taste of vac pot coffee but are tired of the clean up, or are just looking for a good cup of coffee that doesn't take all morning to make, get an Aerobie AeroPress. You won't be sorry.