Inexpensive, novel technique for espresso and Americano
Since the earliest days of coffee brewing (dating back to about 850 A.D.) there have been quite a few methods used to extract the flavors and smells we crave in this universally popular beverage – from the most primitive boiling technique to the most sophisticated high-end espresso machines and plenty in between including perk (stove top and electric), drip (manual and automatic), French Press, vacuum (affordable Bodum or the new $11,000 Clover machine), cold brewing, Japanese slow drip…so you might think there isn’t much room for a novel method to prepare the magic elixir. But you’d be wrong…
Before proceeding with the Gadget Guru Review, a short detour to comment on a classic method recently being resurrected, i.e., Starbucks’ recent re-discovery of the traditional Melitta manual drip method – the technique of pouring hot water over finely ground coffee in a filter for a gravity-assisted extraction; the technique that first introduced me to the subtle and addictive flavors in a fine cup of coffee. My initial introduction to coffee preparation growing up in a household where coffee was revered was the overcooked perk method that our parents adopted as standard. I came to enjoy coffee prepared in this manner in my late teens in spite of these limitations but had nothing to compare it to. (Note to all those younger than 50, this was the pre-Mr. Coffee era). The one innovation my parents adopted in my 18 years at home was moving from a stove top perk in an aluminum pot to a Corningware electric percolator.
So when I discovered Melitta hand poured drip coffee shortly after striking out on my own it was a revolutionary revelation… a whole new sensation in taste and style. Gone was the overcooked, acidic, raunchy and bitter taste of perked and a whole new world of subtle and aromatic flavor became possible. Soon afterwards, the rest of the country caught on and automatic drip coffee makers were introduced to eliminate the “hard work” of boiling water and pouring it over the grounds. This quickly became the standard. Perked coffee experienced a relatively quick and painless passing. So the Starbucks campaign to promote its new “brew-on-demand pour-over” method as novel is a bit disingenuous – it’s more of a retro approach. Don’t get me wrong – whenever you brew fresh coffee as close to its consumption as possible, you’re on the right track. Even the finest coffee begins to lose its rich aromas when held at drinking temperature over time. The individual brew-on-demand technique is a great idea and will lead to a better cup of java.
So with that in mind, this Gadget Guru Review focuses on a truly novel method that is also a brew-on-demand technique. It produces espresso or Americano coffee that can almost rival my $800 super-automatic Gaggia and at a price of just under $30 is worthy of your attention. The Aeropress Coffee system is remarkably simple – yet it employs the basic techniques needed to brew a delicious cup of espresso:
In order to brew espresso properly you need fresh, finely ground, dark roasted coffee, hot water and pressure to push the water through the grounds in about 20 seconds. If all goes well the result is a rich, syrupy, full-bodied drink with the characteristic foamy light brown creama on top.
On first examination the Aeropress looks a tad cheesey – kind of like a Ron Popeil special you might stumble across on a cable network shopping channel: act now and you’ll get the Aeropress, 4 lbs of coffee, a lifetime supply of filters, and a set of steak knives…It consists of a Lucite tube with a paper covered filter on the bottom, which you place directly on a mug and a plunger with rubber seal that goes into the tube. To brew, you place the freshly ground coffee (to a fineness typical for espresso) in the tube and heat the water on the stove, instant water heater, campfire, etc. to just below boiling (about 95 deg C). Then pour over the grinds, stir and wait 10 seconds. Add the plunger and slowly, gently push the plunger down until it bottoms out. This process forces the hot water through the filter extracting its flavor.
Cleanup is a snap – just unscrew the filter holder, push the plunger down further until the dregs pop into the garbage and rinse. The pieces come in a convenient zippered pouch so you can haul this gizmo with you on the road and make decent coffee in your hotel room. On the negative side, some may find the pressure required to push the plunger down a tad onerous. Also, it is not the method of choice if you are trying to supply a room full of guests with coffee for desert unless you don’t mind everyone having their coffee at separate times. But for one or two cups at a time, this new fangled brewing technique has definitely found a seat at my coffee bar.
The author wishes to credit his daughter Joanna for introducing him to the Aeoropress Coffee System