The AeroPress is like nothing else on the market. It’s part immersion brewer, part French press, and–kinda sorta almost–part espresso-maker.
It’s also the only device that’s so appealing to fellow coffee geeks and totally casual users at the same time.
The AeroPress’s quirky design opens up all sorts of brewing possibilities, some of which are less obvious than others.
Below are three proven ways to brewi a cup better with your AeroPress!
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1. Try the inverted AeroPress method for more consistent brews
The AeroPress “naturally” sits in your mug with the filter end down.
In that position, gravity means that a little coffee will pass through the filter and into your mug during brewing. Not a huge deal, but it’s annoying if you’re a stickler for consistent results.
One simple solution is insert the plunger just a few millimeters after filling the AeroPress. In that position, the plunger prevents air from flowing in the top, which in turn counteracts gravity to prevent (most) coffee from dripping out the bottom.
Always squeeze the top of the chamber as you place the plunger, and then keep the plunger slightly angled to the side. This maximizes the gap to prevent a seal; otherwise, it will just press the coffee straight out, prematurely. It’s a little hard to describe, but intuitive if you try it hands-on.
However, that method is clumsy, requires quick movement and precise timing, and still allows for some dripping before you set the plunger.
I’m surprised I didn’t realize this sooner, but it’s also not the only way.
The whole thing works in the first place because the gasket on the plunger makes a watertight, airtight seal (and needs this replacement if it doesn’t). Turns out, it works equally well upside-down. That means that if you simply invert the AeroPress before brewing, you’ll have no problem keeping coffee inside.
Is it obvious? Maybe.
Is it useful? Definitely!
Before brewing with the inverted AeroPress method, I like to:
- Place the filter in the filter cap, set it in the sink, and pre-wet it with hot water.
- Let it drain while adding coffee and water.
- After adding all the brewing water to the AeroPress, immediately screw the top on to help retain heat.
Pro tip: Hold the mug upside-down on the AeroPress with one hand, and turn the whole thing right side-up with the other hand. This minimizes drips and messes.
Here’s a visual example that might help clarify:
As we’ll see next, the best part of this method is how effortless it makes some more…exotic…AeroPress techniques.
2. Experiment with grind, temperature & timing
Total coffee-water contact time (a.k.a. brewing or extraction time) is critical to how your coffee tastes.
Too short, and the coffee is weak and perhaps sour. Too long, and it’s harsh and bitter.
Lots of properties of the coffee itself will affect extraction time: roast level, bean varietal, freshness, etc. However, those are mostly outside your control within any one batch of beans, so set them aside for now.
That leaves three main factors that you can play with:
This is intuitive enough. Just like it’s easier for water to pass through gravel than sand, it’s also easier to pass through a coarser grind than a finer one.
Just make sure you’re using a high-quality for consistent results. I’ve shared a few ideas here to get you started.
The water temperature
This is harder to explain. If you’re a chemist, or knowledgeable about fluid dynamics, please chime in!
Anyhow, the warmer the water, the more quickly it flows through the coffee. (It also affects the flavor, since some compounds in coffee aren’t very soluble until water gets close to boiling.)
Obviously enough, more downward pressure will force water through coffee more quickly.
At the extreme, you have espresso: ultra-high downward pressure that forces water through coffee in seconds when it would have taken minutes with gravity alone.
Drip brewers, by definition, rely on gravity to get the water through the coffee. Same goes for pour-over cones and most automatic coffee makers. Gravity is constant, so downward pressure is constant.
There is a pretty narrow range of grind and temperature combinations that actually taste good. Gravity is what it is.
If you want something stronger and thicker-bodied (quick extraction from fine grounds), it’s just not possible. Neither is an extremely long soak with cool water coarse grounds, like for cold-brew.
But with the AeroPress, you can directly control downward pressure, which lets you override the “natural” contact time you’d expect from a certain grind and temperature combination.
The coffee world is your oyster.
Granted, it doesn’t allow espresso-machine levels of pressure, but it’s still much more than gravity, which opens up lots of possibilities.
For instance, try something like this, using the inverted method described above:
- Grind the coffee much finer than usual. Not espresso-fine, but noticeably finer than usual.
- Use a low water-to-coffee ratio. For instance, I might normally brew with ~16:1 but go as low as 4:1 or even 3:1. (You might want to start with a little more coffee than normal, otherwise the yield might be disappointingly small.)
- Use water just shy of boiling, e.g., ~97C.
- Stir vigorously, put the filter on, and let it sit for about three minutes.
- Using a very sturdy mug, push down as hard as you safely can to express the coffee in just a few seconds. (I’m not joking about a strong mug; glass shards and burned hands are not fun!)
Or, go the opposite direction altogether:
- Use a very coarse grind with lukewarm water, around 12:1 water to coffee.
- Let it sit (again, inverted) for a few hours or overnight.
- Press very slowly, then voilà: cold brew!
Those are just two examples of how inventive you can get, far beyond what drip brewing allows.
James Hoffman, coffee guru and YouTuber extraordinaire, even devised his AeroPress Dice to turn all this into a bit of a game.
3. Change it up with a metal filter
Reducing waste is always a win, and metal filters certainly check that box.
They’re also nice on the road, when you don’t always know how many AeroPress filters to pack.
(Speaking of which, here’s a quick bonus tip: the filter cap is also a great filter keeper for travel! Just dry it thoroughly, insert a few filters, and mount it to your AeroPress. No more trying to keep delicate filters from getting creased.)
But the most interesting aspect is how much they can change the flavor and mouthfeel of an AeroPress brew.
Unlike paper filters, a metal one cannot absorb oils, so it allows them into the cup. This affects both flavor and mouthfeel, since the oils are aromatic and, of course, do not mix with water.
Depending on how fine the filter is, it may also allow some of the ultra-fine grounds through. (If you’ve ever wondered why French presses leave a bit of “sludge” at the bottom, their coarse filters–and a bit of brewing techniques–are to blame.)
These solids can also affect the flavor and mouthfeel, sometimes in ways that complement the greater oils with more eathiness and body, but sometimes in unpleasant ways.
Start with a finer filter like the Able DISK Fine, which you can order right here. This maximizes the sweet and fruity notes while minimizing solids, but by all means, experiment with others as well!
AeroPress tricks: recap & a parting tip
Here, you’ve seen three ways to get better, or at least more interesting, coffee out of an AeroPress:
- Invert it to maximize retention during brewing
- Take advantage of controlling downward pressure to try grinds and temperatures outside the norm
- Switch to a metal filter for noticeably different characteristics from the same beans
All of these can create unexpectedly awesome coffee, especially if you enjoy experimenting with a few consecutive brews.
P.S. Nothing makes up for a poor grinder. In fact, besides the beans, nothing else has a bigger impact on the brew. Sounds strange, but it’s true. I think the Timemore Chestnut is the best value out there, so check out this review for more info. (Plus it’s finally available from the US, so no need to wait a month like I did for a delivery from China!)