Each year it seems as though there are more brewing devices out on the market trying to get their piece of the ever-expanding coffee industry pie. By and large, most don’t gain any traction. We figured out many of the most efficient systems for combining coffee and water years ago; the first patent for the French press is from the 1850s, the Chemex was developed in 1941, and percolators were the norm until the 1970s when home drip coffee machines became staples of the American household. So how then did the AeroPress manage to become popular enough to spawn international competitions and become a favorite brewing device of coffee lovers all over the world?
This wasn’t meant to be a product sold in over 60 countries. Alan Adler simply wanted to brew a good cup of coffee. Inventor of the Aerobie frisbee, the record holder for farthest thrown object, Adler developed the AeroPress out of his own curiosity and began selling it in 2005. At the time the Specialty Coffee Association was still quite young and the AeroPress’ timing was perfectly slotted into a growing industry that was leaning into experimentation.
As we’ll discuss, the design of the AeroPress encourages brewers to break some of the standard rules we have for coffee brewing and play around with brewing variables. The fullest expression of this is the World AeroPress Championship, which began in 2008 with three competitors and had grown into an international competition taking place in 65 countries as of 2019.
These competitions only worked because the AeroPress encourages play. We have an established set of rules for brewing coffee. For instance, we tend to recommend a consistent coffee to water ratio (typically around 1:16 by weight), and water just off boil (195-205 degrees). However, AeroPress’ official recipe calls for water at 175 degrees, and to use a scoop of coffee and fill the chamber to level 1 of 4. Immediately there’s a deviation from a norm with the recommended temperature, and by not filling the brew chamber completely AeroPress is inviting experimentation. The implicit message here is, “We’re going to break the mold, and you should too”. As a result AeroPress recipes at competitions and cafes to world over have a lot of diversity when it comes to grind setting, water temperature, brew ratio, time, and even how the device is orientated. You can check out the past winning recipes here.
We compared immersion and filter brewing methods a few weeks ago here and one of the challenges of categorizing the AeroPress is that it’s both. The coffee and water hang out together, and with the plunger on a slight vacuum is created meaning that manual pressure is required to force the coffee through the filter. We can take this a step further and invert the device. Instead of placing the filter over a cup the top of the plunger is used as a base and the brew chamber is set on top. This allows more control over the contact time between water and coffee, and is the method listed below.
Have a question or a topic you’d like to see covered? Shoot us an email at [email protected], or tune in to the livestream Wednesdays at 10:30am, Brian will be taking questions in the chat!