There are so many great ways to brew coffee it’s almost overwhelming. Although each brew method has its own pros and cons, today we are going to focus on the Aeropress. This nifty little device may not look the most artisan and rustic but the coffee it can brew more than makes up for this.
As with any brew method, you have to understand this device to really get the most out of it. For the time you put in to learn about it, you’ll get exponentially more back in coffee flavor so it’s well worth investing your time.
The most important factor when getting to grips with your Aeropress is to use coffee that’s ground to an appropriate grind size. This brings me to the biggest question of the day which is ‘what is appropriate?’ and ‘what grind size should I use for the Aeropress?’
The answer is simple, you want a medium-fine grind, similar to table salt. Finer than drip coffee but not as fine as an espresso grind. The grounds will have particles between 1/16” and 1/32” (1.6 mm to 0.8mm) in diameter.
Now let’s dive deeper and find out everything you need to know to become an Aeropress pro.
What is the Aeropress
The Aeropress is a compact and easy-to-use coffee maker that combines the brewing power of hot water and pressure to extract all those delicious coffee flavors. It’s a plastic device, a bit like a large syringe, that you add ground coffee and hot water to. After 2 minutes you press down on the large plunger and this creates a pressurized environment to finish the brew cycle. The water is forced through a filter and you end up with a small volume of very rich, tasty java, all in just 2.5 minutes of brew time.
The Aeropress is inexpensive to buy and incorporates pressure whilst brewing to make an espresso-like cup of coffee. It’s worth mentioning that it’s not as high pressure as you would use when brewing true espresso but you do get a lot of the flavor notes without having to invest in an expensive espresso machine.
Why Use an Aeropress?
There are so many great reasons to choose this brew method. Let’s start with the taste of Aeropress coffee. It’s rich like a French press coffee but smoother and less oily due to the filter or you could say, it’s a bit like pour-over but bolder due to the immersion stage. It has some notes of espresso due to the small amount of pressure used in the brewing process. It’s a well-rounded, delicious cup of coffee that combines all the great tasting elements of each brew method.
As well as brewing delicious tasting coffee, the device itself offers many benefits over other brew methods. It’s inexpensive to buy, easy to use, extremely durable, and also very portable. It’s small and lightweight so stores away easily but can also be packed away to take to work or on holiday very easily.
Best Grind Size for Aeropress
The most important step with every coffee brew method is to get the right grind size. If you choose a grind setting that’s too fine then the coffee will taste bitter and over-extracted. If you choose a coarser grind than you need then the coffee with be thin, under-extracted, and taste a bit like dirty dishwater.
The best grind size for Aeropress is a medium-fine grind, roughly the consistency of table salt. An espresso grind is too fine and a drip-coffee grind can be edging towards being too medium-coarse. You want something in between these two.
To really get the geek-glasses on, the grounds will have particles between 1/16” and 1/32” (1.6 mm to 0.8mm) in diameter.
How To Tweak This
Getting the perfect coffee grind size has a bit of an art to it and once you get the hang of this the coffee brewing world is your oyster. Grind size needs tweaking depending on your brew method but can also need to be adjusted when you choose different coffee beans. You may also need to switch things up if you switch from a metal to a paper filter or the other way around.
You can find the perfect Aeropress grind through trial and error. If you find that you have to press with a lot of force and the coffee comes out thick and at a small volume then your grind setting is probably too fine. Select a coarser grind setting next time and see how it feels.
If the plunger presses down very easily and your coffee is watery and thin then you have used a very coarse grind. Choose a finer grind next time and see how it feels.
Over time, you’ll get used to how the pressure should feel with all the different grind sizes to make great coffee every time.
Burr Grinders vs Blade Grinders
Another really important point when choosing the best grind size for your brew method is the kind of coffee grinder you use. It’s essential to use a model that you can adjust the grind settings to ensure you get an even consistency with every grind.
Burr grinders are the only way to achieve this. They use interlocking burrs to grind the whole beans up and you can adjust the distance between these burrs to change the coarseness of your grind.
Blade grinders are way cheaper to buy but work a bit like a food processor where a rotating blade roughly chops the beans into different-sized pieces. This results in poor coffee extraction. Another issue with these grinders is the blades heat up as they turn so can burn the beans before you even start your brewing process.
Burr grinders give a cool, even grind that gives a balanced extraction and ensures your coffee tastes great with every brew.
Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground Coffee
If you want the freshest tasting, most delicious coffee every time then the best choice you can make is to choose whole coffee beans. As soon as coffee is ground up it starts to lose a lot of its flavors and aromas that are locked into the whole beans.
If you buy whole beans and only grind exactly the amount you need for each batch of coffee then you’ll benefit from the freshest flavors with every batch. Ideally, source your beans fresh from local roasters and you’ll experience a coffee taste sensation like never before.
A really important factor to consider when brewing ANY kind of coffee is using water that’s the correct temperature. If the water is too cold then the coffee will be weak, thin, and under-extracted. If the water is too hot then the coffee will taste bitter and burnt. You need water that’s at the ideal temperature range.
This range is 195-205F or 90-96C. This will ensure a lovely, balanced extraction that’s bursting with flavor.
You can achieve this temperature by using a kettle with a built-in thermometer or any kitchen thermometer. If you don’t have any of these to hand then boil the kettle and let it sit for a minute as this allows the water to cool to around this temperature.
Aeropress Brew Guide
Regular Brew Method
This brewing method is recommended by the Aeropress manufacturers and is a great method for newbies to get you started. It’s really simple and straightforward to follow and once you get the hang of this method you’ll be confident to try the inverted one.
Start by removing the plunger from your Aeropress and then place a filter into the screw cap. Secure the cap onto the chamber and balance this on a sturdy mug. Add a scoop of medium-fine grind coffee to this chamber and give it a gentle tap or shake to level out the coffee.
Add hot water (between 195-205F) to reach level one on the indicator and stir this using the stirrer provided with your Aeropress. You can add the plunger and press down after 10 seconds to give an espresso-type coffee or you can top the water up to level 4 and let it sit for up to 2 minutes to give a cafe lungo style coffee.
The downside with this brew method is the water starts leaking through the paper filters straight away so you get a mix of weaker, under-extracted coffee that can dilute out the delicious flavors in your coffee.
To avoid this issue, try the inverted method.
This is a method used by most Aeropress users and baristas alike. It does run the risk of the hot water scalding you if you’re not confident so I’d recommend the normal method first until you feel comfortable to give this a go.
Insert the plunger into the top of the brew chamber until it’s secure. Balance this on a level surface up-side-down, so that’s filter end up. Add a scoop, that’s around 17 grams of coffee. Add hot water (195-205F) to just cover the coffee and give the mixture a stir. Let this sit for 20 seconds to allow the coffee to bloom and then top this up with enough hot water to reach the number one line (around 270ml).
After 1 minute, 45 seconds, secure the cap and Aeropress filter in place. Get your mug ready and place this upside down on top of the press.
At the 2 minute mark, flip the whole device, mug and all so it’s the right way up and the mug is balanced on a level surface. Start pressing the plunger down slowly and stop when you hear a hissing sound.
This method certainly makes the best coffee but takes a bit of practice to get perfection.
Metal vs Paper Filter
When brewing coffee with an Aeropress you have the option of using metal or paper filters. Paper filters are generally recommended but if you prefer a thicker coffee with a more oily texture then you may wish to consider the metal mesh option.
You’ll need a slightly coarser grind for these filters as fine grounds can slip through the gaps. It produces a bolder coffee with more intense flavor notes but isn’t to everyone’s taste. Another benefit is the metal filters are reusable so cut down on waste.
Grind Size for Other Brew Methods
Here are some grind sizes for the most common coffee brew methods listed in order of fine to coarse.
Turkish coffee needs the finest grind of all. Select an extra-fine grind that’s powdery like icing sugar.
An espresso maker needs finely ground coffee but not as fine as Turkish. Somewhere between table salt and powdered sugar.
Moka Pot and Aeropress
The Moka pot takes a very similar grind size to your Aeropress. Medium-fine like table salt works best for these brew methods.
Drip Coffee and Pour-Over
The grind setting for these options can vary a bit depending on the device you’re using. A pour-over set-up like the Chemex needs a medium grind, similar to sea salt or sand. Some brewing options need the coffee medium-coarse, especially if a reusable filter is used.
French Press and Cold Brew
These brew methods need a very coarse grind due to the longer, immersion brewing techniques. You want the grind as coarse as possible.
An Aeropress is the perfect coffee brewing companion to make delicious rich coffee at home, at work, or on the go. It needs the coffee to be ground to a medium-fine grind but the exact settings depend on coffee used, grinder used, as well as other brewing variables. I hope this article has been helpful in showing you everything you need to know about the Aeropress and why it’s such a good choice for coffee newbies and baristas alike.
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