If you’re wondering whether to take the plunge (pun totally intended) on an AeroPress, then this is for you.
The AeroPress is similar in price to most manual brewing methods, but much cheaper than any good machine. It’s easier to use and clear than most brewing methods, too. The AeroPress brews as consistently as anything, with very smooth and complex flavor if you know what you’re doing.
|Automatic coffee machine
|Automatic coffee machine
|Bonavita Metropolitan (check price)
|Hario V60 (check price) + Bonavita kettle (check price)
|Bodum Chambord (check price)
|Bialeti Venus (check price)
|Espresso machine (with a catch)
|Breville Duo Temp Pro (check price)
There are plenty of other relevant points to compare. Things like portability and versatility are a big deal for some folks, but not for others, so we’ll set them aside for now.
If you’re already sure an AeroPress is for you, then go here to pick one up. Otherwise, read on to see if it’s what you’re looking for.
By the way, there’s one accessory that lets any brewing method work its best. Hang on tight and I’ll cover that at the end.
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AeroPress Vs. Coffee Machine
The AeroPress will always be cheaper than any decent coffee machine. Nothing is automatic, so that alone makes for an obvious winner.
There are actually some coffee machines in a similar price range to an AeroPress, but they tend to be very bad. Granted, I’m a bit of a coffee snob, but they’re just not worth it.
Seeing as the automatic coffee maker is, well, automatic…there’s no comparison. Fill it up, press the button, and you’re done.
That’s especially true if you’re making more than one batch. There’s a trick to brew more than you’d expect in an AeroPress (see my review for the details), but it’s a little cumbersome and still fairly limited.
However, that’s only the day-to-day picture. In the long run, cleaning and maintaining a coffee machine is much more work.
All in all, it’s a tie.
While a machine is theoretically more consistent, it really only comes into play for large batches.
In fact, the basket and spray head are usually too large to be consistent for small servings.
Once you figure out an AeroPress process that works, it’s extremely easy to repeat. I’ve shared some of my favorite AeroPress tips here.
This, too, is a tie.
Coffee machine selection is critical, since there’s little you can do to override a bad or imprecise one. If you’re using a cheap old Mr. Coffee, then the AeroPress should beat it every time.
But a high-end machine, preferably with a SCAA certification, will deliver equally good results. It’s just not as versatile.
Good coffee machines go to great lengths to spray the water delicately and evenly. That’s more complicated to automate, hence their higher prices.
Cheap ones usually settle for a single spout or two, which puts all the water in one spot in the coffee. That spot gets over-extracted while others stay under-extracted. That’s exactly why you don’t make a pour-over by dumping all the water in the middle. The result is a subpar brew.
But when a machine disperses water evenly, it basically replicates what you’d do manually with a kettle. And in that case, both methods will brew quite nicely.
AeroPress Vs. Pour-Over
A good pour-over cone is under $10. I especially like the plastic Hario V60 (get it here), and also enjoy the Melitta (get it here). These are cheap and durable. Plus, their results are every bit as good as what you get from fancier materials like glass and ceramic
AeroPress filters are about half the price of V60 filters, but at just 5 or 10 cents apiece for either (depending on quantity), the difference is too small to consider.
However, pour-over brewing works best with a gooseneck kettle, so that’s a sort of hidden cost.
They’re not necessarily expensive, though. This stovetop Bonavita model is a bargain and served me well for years.
With practice and a good gooseneck kettle, pour-over brewing becomes fairly automatic. Today, I do it on autopilot.
But it takes practice, and it’s also nearly impossible to make consistent pour-overs without the precision of a gooseneck kettle. That’s an issue when traveling.
The AeroPress also has a bit of a learning curve, but it basically comes down to timing. Most people find that quick to perfect and easy to repeat.
The AeroPress’s plunger design gives you total control over brewing time. That alone makes it easier to create consistent results.
It doesn’t make up for totally sloppy grinding or wild guesses on water-to-coffee ratios, but it does minimize their influence.
Pour-over brewing requires a lot more care to produce the same results. Pouring the water at the same rate, even in the same pattern, is more important than you might think. This becomes easy with practice (see the previous point) but is harder to pull off when you’re traveling or just in a hurry.
This is a tie, because each wins in certain scenarios. It really comes down to taste and brewing preferences.
But if you like darker roasts, and/or you like to brew in very different ways, then the AeroPress is the ticket. It’s harder but still possible to get the super-light brews that work for very light roasts. On the other hand, the AeroPress lets you create much heavier, full-bodied brews that even start to resemble espresso.
AeroPress Vs. French Press
An AeroPress and a French press cost roughly the same. Of course, the latter varies since there are many on the market.
The processes of measuring everything, grinding coffee, and pouring in water are almost identical.
They also take a little care to get the coffee out. For the AeroPress, you need a slow and gentle press on the plunger to keep sediment out. For the French press, you also need to pour slowly and avoid agitation at all costs (unless you like that muddy sediment!).
But French press clean-up ranges from annoying to an absolute nightmare, and for that reason alone, I have to give the nod to the AeroPress.
The only drawback would be making large batches, since AeroPress volume is quite limited. Even so, I’d rather do two or three AeroPress batches than ever clean a French press again!
By the way, contrary to popular belief, you really can brew French press without so much sludge. Here’s James Hoffman to demonstrate the technique.
This is an absolute tie. Assuming you use the technique from the video above, and dial in a good AeroPress recipe as well, both are easy to repeat.
Both are immersion brewing, meaning the coffee stays inside rather than dripping through. Gravity isn’t a factor until you pour (or plunge), so brew time is totally within you control either way.
This is an interesting question. On the surface, you’d think two immersion brews would taste about the same in the cup.
After all, you just let the coffee and water sit together, then pour/plunge it all out.
And that’s correct: the process really is fundamentally similar.
However, the filter type makes all the difference when it comes to flavor. The AeroPress’s standard paper filter absorbs some of the coffee oils, whereas a French press’s metal filter does not.
The paper also has much finer pores (versus the mesh-like French press) so the AeroPress leaves far less sediment in the cup.
That’s a matter of preference, though, so you could call it a tie.
But that’s not quite the full story. One cool thing about the AeroPress is that aftermarket metal filters are available. (I like the Able DISK Fine, available here.)
These totally change the character of the brew, and can be remarkably similar to French press if that’s what you like.
In light of that, the AeroPress wins. There’s just no other device that can brew something close to French press, something close to pour over, and its own distinctive profile.
AeroPress Vs. Moka Pot
A standard moka pot costs roughly the same as an AeroPress. The difference is rarely more than $10 or $20, unless you want a particularly large or design-conscious pot.
Tip: if you’re at all worried about aluminum in contact with your food and drink (as I am) then opt for a stainless steel moka pot like the classic Bialetti Venus (find one here).
The moka part consists of a couple more pieces than the AeroPress. It’s not complicated to put together to brew, but it’s not quite as simple, either.
Depending on your stove, managing heat for the moka pot can take a little trial and error.
Here once again is James Hoffman demonstrating the right way to brew with a moka pot. As you’ll see, it’s a little complex.
For me, cleaning up a moka pot is irritating. Some parts are very hot and need to cool, which poses a problem if you’re hurrying out the door.
And while it’s no problem to take an AeroPress, pour-over, or French press on the road, that’s not so easy with a moka pot. Unless you know you’ll have access to a burner or hot plate, it’s out of the question.
Both devices have a slight learning curve. After that curve, they’re easy to get consistent results from.
With the AeroPress, it’s a question of timing.
The right brewing time and the right pressure on the plunger make a world of difference. They’re also simple to replicate any time, and place you like.
With the moka pot, you’re trying to dial in the right heat. The time from “that’s nice” to”wow, that’s bitter!” is very brief.
So the process of getting the heat just right isn’t trivial for a moka pot…assuming you want the best coffee it’s capable of, not just whatever comes out. It also changes a bit if you’re using a different heat source.
But once, you’ve found a process that works, it’s not hard to repeat day after day.
Bottom line: even though the moka pot can be harder to get right, both are equally consistent once you know what you’re aiming for.
Moka pots make a very thick, concentrated brew that resembles espresso. The AeroPress can do something similar, depending on the brewing technique you choose.
However, I find it easier to get a rich and nuanced flavor from the AeroPress.
Good moka pot brews have been elusive. The higher heat makes it easy to scorch the grounds, which causes harshness and astringency. That’s not inevitable, but it’s likelier, and few coffee enthusiasts enjoy that flavor.
In any case, you have little control over the moka pot’s brewing process. That’s a benefit to some but a drawback to others (myself included).
For good or bad, it means you can’t easily tweak the brew to suit the coffee.
If you drink the same coffee daily and take it with creamer and sweetener, then even a harsh moka pot brew may be just fine.
On the other hand, if you prefer it black and/or you like to try different coffees, then I’m confident you’ll enjoy them more with an AeroPress.
AeroPress Vs. Espresso Machine
The AeroPress wins by a landslide here, of course.
Some inexpensive pump-driven espresso machines are surprisingly good. I used to have a De’Longhi EC155 (Amazon link) that pulled some decent shots after a minor modification.
But a more robust and versatile machine, like the Breville Duo Temp Pro (Amazon link), costs several times more than an AeroPress.
And that’s before accessories like a tamper or knock box.
You may also need to spend more on an espresso-friendly grinder. That’s not necessarily the case, since it depends on what grinder you already have, not to mention how seriously you take your espresso.
The details of grinder design are too much to get into here. The quick version is that the burrs in espresso grinders are optimized for very fine settings. They also allow very fine adjustment in that range.
Most grinders aren’t designed that way, since those features don’t really matter for anything besides espresso and Turkish.
Plan on spending at least a couple hundred collars for a good manual espresso grinder, and more for an electric one. (And for espresso, you’ll probably want an electric one. It’s painfully slo to do such fine grinding by hand.)
For comparison, great hand grinders for the AeroPress are more like $100-$150 as of writing. I’ve shared three recommendations here, if you’re curious.
There are basically two types of espresso machine buyers.
Some folks want the push-button experience of a super-automatic machine.
Others want the hands-on process of a more manual process. It involves continual testing and dialing in, but it yields the better drink.
That is a huge difference in ease of use, and the AeroPress falls right in between the two.
The AeroPress is not a push-button device, so it’s not quite as easy in that respect.
But the AeroPress is still simple and intuitive, and much easier to master than the more manual espresso machines.
Sooner or later, however, every espresso machine needs maintenance. Sometimes it’s not DIY maintenance, either, but actually requires a specialized repair service.
There’s also a fair bit of cleaning and daily care, too. That applies no matter how automatic or manual the espresso machine is.
For that reason, the AeroPress wins for ease of use. There just isn’t much to deal with.
I’d call this a tie between espresso machines and the AeroPress.
Espresso can be highly consistent. It just takes considerable practice or a highly automated machine to get there.
You obviously can’t automate an AeroPress brew, but it’s a simple process and therefore easy to repeat.
Either way, consistent results are possible. And with practice, or an automatic espresso machine, they’re almost inevitable.
For espresso-style brewing specifically, there’s no question that an espresso machine is the winner.
Nothing else can produce the amount of pressure that true espresso requires, period.
Without that pressure, you cannot get the thickness and extremely strong flavor you’re looking for.
To be fair, you can use some AeroPress techniques to get much closer to some aspects of espresso. There are also some accessories to get you even closer, like the Fellow Prismo that I discussed here.
But at the end of the day, espresso is espresso, and AeroPress is not.
Overall Winners By Category
If cost is paramount, then an AeroPress, moka pot, and pour-over brewing will all come out close.
The pour-over brewer by itself is cheapest, but adding a gooseneck kettle bumps the price up to the same range as the other two.
If ease of use is your main concern, then an automatic coffee machine wins for large batches (more than 1-2 servings) whereas the AeroPress wins for smaller ones.
A French press or a super-automatic espresso machine are arguably easier to brew with, but much more work to clean and/or maintain on an ongoing basis.
As for consistency of results, most methods are equal. There’s always a learning curve and a testing/experimentation phase, but once you have a good method, it’s usually not hard to replicate. With time, it even becomes second nature.
Finally, flavor is a hard one to call. One of the great things about the AeroPress is its versatility. With the right technique and/or accessories, you can replicate other brewing styles very well. So, unless you’re deeply attached to a very specific style or flavor profile, then the AeroPress wins.
The one exception is espresso. If the flavor and mouthfeel of true espresso are what you want, then a dedicated machine is what you need.
P.S. I mentioned up top that all brewing methods depend on one accessory. And that’s the grinder. Poor ones make inconsistent particle sizes, which cause weird flavors from otherwise good coffee. When I upgraded to a Timemore hand grinder a couple years ago, the difference in taste was incredible. I wouldn’t have believed it until I tried it. Don’t miss the full review here.