In the world of instant coffee, you cannot get a better cup than with the Aeropress coffee maker. But to make the perfect cup, you’ll also need to have a background in the science behind Aeropress brewing.
Is Aeropress Intentionally Deceiving Us?
The inventor of Aeropress is a man who you might not know by name alone. Alan Adler is perhaps best known for being the inventor of the Aeropress, but did you know he’s also known for another equally confusing product? Years ago, he reinvented the Frisbee under a similar name calling it the Aerobie. And much like the Aeropress, it came without proper instructions on how to use it…
Now at this point, you have to give Alan some credit for capturing a part of American culture with such an iconic pastime as the Frisbee. But for most of us, using this sporting disc was all about technique. Adler himself even admitted that it was all about how it’s thrown, and to this day stands in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest flying disc recording at 1,333 feet (one-quarter mile). It was thrown by Erin Hemmings back in 2003.
The offer still stands from the Aerobie website to reward anyone who can beat this record with prize-winnings worth 1000 dollars! Not bad for a Stanford graduate who had previously designed control boards for nuclear submarines, military aircraft, and nuclear reactors. He’s even lectured at NASA, Google, Princeton, and the Royal Aeronautical Society of London. Rumor has it he might have given some aeronautic advice for the Mars Perseverance drone…
But the fact remains that even Mr. Adler’s recipe for Aeropress is still as vague as it gets except for one significant mention in his instructions. He calls for the temperature of the water to be 175F degrees. Those who have any education on coffee brewing and have heard of Nel Drip brewing methods will understand where this is going. Unbeknownst to most of the Western world, a lower water temperature prevents the burning of coffee grounds.
However, is Alan Adler trying to fool us with his cryptic Aeropress recipe, or is he staging another purpose? It seems fairly obvious that Adler is very keen on finding niche markets. Astonishing as it might sound, it only took a decade and a half for Aerobie to become a success. In an article from 1985, he reported that he had only sold 3,500 from launching his product officially in December of 1984 to February of 1985!
Ironically, he invented the Aerobie in 1970 which was originally called the “Skyro” and reportedly sold about one million before he retained the rights to rebrand them as the official Aerobie name. Back to the invention of the Aeropress, this will also follow an equally interesting path to success using a different method of rebranding. To help sell his version of pressure-based extraction he employed the Melitta cone and pour-over process.
Not only that, he nearly flopped in the first year alone, had it not been for a vague review of his invention in a popular online coffee forum website Coffee Geek. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are now able to witness history in the making, as it only took less than 15 days on New Year’s Eve of 1985 for Mr. Alan Adler to make his introduction post. At the time of the original post, there were only 19 actual posts made with just under 850 views.
The post later went on to gather over 7.3 million views and 2700 posts, with at least 683 posts from Alan writing to fans on this forum. Special thanks to zef81 from Des Moines, Iowa for creating the thread that was the shot heard around the world. He went off the radar sometime in 2012 and has been quiet ever since. Zef, if you’re still out there, we’d love to hear your side of the story and what inspired you!
On With The Show!
As history proves itself, the ongoing World Aeropress Championships have served as Alan’s global success. Not only has a global interest peaked in over 58 countries all over the world, but more than 3000 people each year also turn up at these competitions to show off their latest Aeropress coffee method. That might sound like a hard pill to swallow, but that leaves 58 different recipes each year that are created in the process!
If you haven’t been keeping up with the Joneses, that little global bug called COVID-19 put the entire WAC to a screeching halt! So, the last official competition concluded in 2019 with much fanfare. We’ve decided to narrow it down to a recipe that is considered the best, based on the last 5 years of Championship winners. It goes without saying that the best so far happens to be from a country that knows how to brew coffee in the Netherlands!
Here is Wendelien van Bunnik’s winning Aeropress recipe:
- Place the plunger into your vessel and turn it upside down. You’re making an inverted style of coffee for this recipe. Place 30 grams of coffee at a 7/10 grind ratio into your vessel. This is followed by 100 grams of filtered water (Wendelien uses Spa Blauw water- 30PPM) heated to 197-6F degrees. Use a stopwatch at this point. Now- let it sit for a total of 10 seconds.
- Taking a pair of regular wooden chopsticks, you stir the mixture for a total of 10 seconds using 20 (back and forth) firm mixing motions.
- Now you place the filter cap onto the vessel. Be sure to pour hot water onto the filter section to wet out the filter beforehand. Press out any unwanted air before putting the cap into the syringe vessel.
- When your stopwatch has reached the 40-second mark, you can now flip your Aeropress onto a waiting mug. Now use a firm downward push to extract the coffee from the syringe. In total there should be 60 grams of liquid that goes into your cup.
- Add 100 grams of water from your kettle into your coffee mug and give it a taste. If you need to add more, this is the time to do so. Her method used a total of 120 grams of water that was extra.
- Now you cool the coffee down using a stirring method to bring the overall temperature down to 140F degrees.
- Your coffee is now ready to enjoy by taking small sips.
Best Brewing Methods
There are two noticeable methods to making Aeropress. The standard method is to place the coffee into your vessel while it sits filter down over your coffee cup. Then there is the inverted method which uses the plunger inserted already and this is how coffee is brewed. Whichever you try, will give different results. The better versions lately have all been inverted, yet that’s up to your imagination in the end.
1. Iced coffee
Who drinks iced coffee these days? You would be shocked how popular iced coffee has become with so many cold brew recipes floating out there on the internet. Making iced coffee using the Aeropress starts with a recipe that doesn’t water down your brew. This is achieved by making the same coffee recipe you’ve chosen using enough to fill up a couple of ice trays. These are frozen to ensure that your iced coffee isn’t becoming watery.
Fill the ice tray up to the mark because water will expand as it freezes. Smart huh? If you want to pre-flavor your coffee before freezing, this will further prevent your coffee from getting watered down by using cream or sugary syrups.
The question is always going to be, how do you like your coffee? And if you don’t have a preference you might be shocked at how much the Aeropress improves the flavor of any kind of coffee beans you use. Using a regular coffee machine just doesn’t give you the same flavor profile as Aeropress will provide. These tips can improve and mellow your flavors if you don’t like sharp and biting flavors otherwise.
- Always let your coffee grounds bloom for 10 seconds or more. What this does is allows carbon dioxide to form and escape. If you use a paper filter, this will reduce the cafestol that may get into your regular coffee. Aeropress reduces this type of oil that makes your coffee taste sharp and with an obvious bite. Metal filters will pass this right through and make your coffee taste stronger with sharper flavors.
- Pay attention to temperatures, water cleanliness, stopwatch timers, and the weight of how much you use in grams. Being more precise makes you a better Aeropress coffee scientist. Brewing times should be based on the Nel Drip method (which is what Alan Adler is emoting in his version), without waiting all day for the paint to peel off the walls. Sure it sounds sarcastic, if you’ve ever had Nel Drip before, then you might have needed to grab a quick shave from all the waiting around it takes to get a fresh-brewed cup!
- Keep a logbook- It will help you to make notes about perfecting a recipe and brewing times. Certain grind ratios will all have different brewing times to get the right taste. This is where you have to be willing to sacrifice your time to be a scientist of coffee. Don’t believe us- ask the 82,000 coffee fanatics who followed the original 2007-2008 Aeropress thread from Coffeegeek.com to find out!
3. Mixed coffee drinks
Coffee drinks are wonderful if you don’t turn them into a Starbucks-flavored disaster. Coffee should be best enjoyed with flavors that are subtle and give a hint at what you should taste in return. Your coffee beans need to be freshly ground instead of coming in a powdered form. This prevents flavors from being lost so when you brew them using the Aeropress method, will come out shining through.
Needless to say, if you need to have vanilla or caramel flavor with your coffee, use quality syrups that are made with natural ingredients. If you must, make them yourself so you can have original flavors that help compliment the taste of your coffee without masking it.
Do’s And Don’ts
You better hope you remember how to play “Mother, May I” since this section is going to save you from those dreaded Noob mistakes! Here is the golden list of dos and don’ts you should always keep in mind:
- Always use clean water, but more precisely- filtered clean water.
- Measure the exact amounts you need beforehand using a gram scale.
- Stick to your mixing times unless you’re making a new recipe or formula.
- Keep your Aeropress clean at all times, it’s very easy to clean and remove coffee grounds.
- Don’t heat your water above 205F degrees, as you will totally burn your coffee as a result.
- Don’t try to compact your coffee grounds like regular espresso, it won’t work the same.
- Don’t try to push the syringe on a table that’s too tall, use a lowered table for better leverage.
- Don’t ever forget you’re working with hot water- 175F degree water causes burns too!
Our Favorite Methods
Alas, the best is yet to come since we’ve searched for our favorite method which is of course the inverted brewing method. This allows you to skip a step and still gives you a nice smooth cup of coffee similar to espresso that can be mixed, diluted, or enjoyed straight from the mug. Here we go:
- Start with putting your kettle on the stovetop or plug in an electric kettle, setting it to reach 175-180F degrees. Your water needs to be filtered from a portable water filter or from a built-in filtration system under your sink. Fill up your kettle with at least 2 cups of water so you have extra to work with. If you have a digital thermometer, this will help you monitor the water temperature much easier.
- Now you want to grab the plunger and put it into the syringe vessel and place this plunger side down on a low table. This should be at a hip level for the best leverage possible. Measure out 18-20 grams of coffee grounds and grind it to a medium-fine 8/10 ratio. Somewhere between table salt and powder is the consistency you want to have. Dump this into your vessel and give it a little shake to even it out.
- Now you can add your heated 175-180F degree water into the Aeropress vessel, use 100 grams of water measuring your syringe on a digital scale. Tare off the extra weight so you can see how much you put into the syringe. Now you start a digital stopwatch and let it bloom for the next 10 seconds.
- Your Aeropress might come with a mixing stick but you can also use anything handy. Try using a portable coffee mixer after the first 10 seconds is up. Start mixing your grounds with this, putting it at the bottom of your hot water for another 10 seconds. Now you removed this and let the off-gassing simmer down for the next 15 seconds. Use some of the kettle water to soak your coffee filter and press out any air inside it using a flat spoon handle or the edge of the spoon.
- Place the filter onto the top of the syringe and hand-tighten this firmly in place. Now you’re ready to flip it over onto your coffee mug. When your timer reaches 60 seconds, you can now begin to push down on the plunger using a slow and steady extraction of your coffee. Since you’ve allowed your coffee to get rid of its carbon dioxide, it will be smoother as a result. You’ll have about 70 grams of coffee inside your cup since the temperature was lower.
- After this remove your Aeropress from the top of your mug and taste it. If you need to add more water, you can dilute it further. This is always a matter of personal tastes, so add milk, cream, and sugar after this. Now you can enjoy this top recipe anytime!