AeroPress – Instruction Guide and Tips

Although the AeroPress Coffee Maker might look like a penis pump, it makes really good coffee. Find out what's so special about this preparation method and why the AeroPress is so trendy. Step-by-step instructions for perfect cup results every time are also included.

I can’t remember when exactly I first picked up an AeroPress. All I know is that I was immediately fascinated by this strange device with its many individual parts. It took me a while, however, to really appreciate the special features that this preparation method offers:

This form of coffee preparation isn’t just an unnecessarily complicated variation of other (simpler) options – it conjures up a completely one-of-a-kind coffee which, as a cross between light espresso and pressurized drip coffee, produces special flavors all of its own.

I’ve now revised the old AeroPress instructions, made them clearer and added a few updates to the original how-to guide. That’s because after years of aeropressing experience, I’ve come to an important conclusion:

Unfortunately, this video is only available in German.

Although this device might look complicated, it’s simpler than many of its kin – it also enables you to try out a whole bunch of experiments and recipes. I’ll introduce you to some of them in my AeroPress Tutorial (in German only) on YouTube.

What is an AeroPress?

The AeroPress consists of three basic components:

  1. A brewing chamber,
  2. A plunger,
  3. A filter cap together with filter.

Where we’re heading with this then becomes pretty obvious. The brewing chamber is perfectly designed for the full immersion method, whereby each and every coffee granule comes into constant contact with water for the entire duration of brewing. The AeroPress is comparable to a French press in this regard.

French press Arne finished coffee

The plunger is also similar in design to that of a press pot, but thanks to the narrow brewing chamber, a little extra pressure is added as the finished coffee passes through the filter cap. This results in a kind of ultralight AeroPress espresso.

The filter paper not only holds back the grinds, but also any oils and bitter compounds – just like with a conventional pour-over coffee dripper.

These three touchpoints together produce a flavor and coffee style that the three “cited” preparation methods individually do not.

Caffeine study Arne with the finished coffee samples

Proof of this was also provided by my large-scale caffeine study in which I investigated the question “How much caffeine is really in your coffee?” With regard to absolute caffeine concentration, AeroPress coffee came in at fifth place, directly behind all the variations of espresso and stove-top moka pot coffee.

It also ranked fifth in terms of caffeine content per typical portion size, only surpassed here by the varieties of cold brew and cold drip as well as French press coffee.

The AeroPress has been around since 2006. Its developer Alan Adler is a true inventor in the style of Gyro Gearloose and holds more than 40 patents for all kinds of aerodynamic and electronic innovations.

I guess the AeroPress looks and works the way it does precisely for this reason. It’s more complicated than a French press, but less complex than a portafilter machine. It also encourages you to try things out.

How Does AeroPress Coffee Taste?

AeroPress coffee is fundamentally very similar to French press. But unlike with full immersion brewing using a press pot, the AeroPress’ filter prevents grinds from landing in the cup. Because the coffee grinds used are finer, however, and the water flows through them with the aid of a plunger within a narrow chamber, you end up with a style of coffee more closely resembling espresso.

AeroPress Arne being funny

AeroPress coffee thus has less body, while at the same time retaining distinct drip coffee accents, without any crema. It’s nevertheless more full-bodied than the coffee produced by manual pour-over methods and has a more refined flavor than press pot coffee.

Take care though: using this coffee maker incorrectly or overdoing it in terms of the quantity of coffee per cup, will result in significantly more bitter compounds!

Which Coffee Should I Use With the AeroPress?

You have full freedom of choice when it comes to coffee beans, since the AeroPress effectively combines three completely different preparation methods. As always, I’m a fan of lighter, fruity varieties.

Weighing coffee beans with coffee scales

Because AeroPress coffee almost borders on espresso in terms of style, you can even go for a blend with a Robusta component or have a look around at what darker roasts are available. As I said: experiments are welcome! This applies to the beans and quantities used, as well as the AeroPress recipes too, of course.

AeroPress Instructions: Brewing Parameters, Dosage and Preparation

With a total of seven individual parts (including the special AeroPress filter), this device sends a clear message that extra care needs to be taken during coffee preparation.

Before jumping to the operating instructions, let’s first take a look at the most important brewing parameters, such as:

  • The quantities involved,
  • The grind size, and
  • The brewing temperature.

Few other preparation methods offer such a wide range of different standards, recommendations and variations to the original method. I usually use this air pump lookalike coffee press with the following brewing parameters:

  • 15 to 22 g (1.5 to 2 rounded tablespoons) coffee per 150 ml (5 oz) water
  • Finely ground coffee (about setting 3.5 of 10)
  • Water temperature of 80 to 90 °C (176 to 194 °F) – the main point is that it shouldn’t be too hot.
  • Infusion time depends on method used (usually not longer than 1.5 minutes)

Pay extra attention to your coffee beans during grinding. Very light roasts with a tangy acidity need to be ground slightly more coarsely than nutty varieties.

Solis coffee grinder grind size comparison

Remember to also increase the dosage a little when using a coarser grind, so that the surface area available for extraction remains the same.

This again is just my recommendation, however, as prior to pressing, you too can experiment with granule size and thus the resultant pressure. That is, after all, what the device is for.

Which Filters Should I Use With the AeroPress?

In your comments, you’ve repeatedly told me that you reuse each and every filter paper until it falls apart. If that doesn’t affect things in terms of flavor, then on the face of it, I don’t really see a problem.

Once swollen, however, paper fibers unfortunately no longer have the same absorption capacity or permeability. The pores quickly become clogged by coffee oils. That said, I can certainly understand the fact that you don’t feel like buying new ones all the time.

Still, when looking at prices, the original filters from AeroPress cost only around $11.50 for 350 pieces – that’s more than enough to fuel your coffee addiction for several months. If you’re looking to eliminate trash, you can also buy metal filters from third-party suppliers.

An AeroPress compatible permanent filter set with three disks of various pore sizes currently costs around $13. Individual ones can be brought from about $8 each.

The most important thing to note is that the diameter of the filter should fit the filter cap perfectly so that no coffee flows unfiltered past the sides. To that end, you could also cut a standard Melitta or Hario filter down to size. It’s just that nobody ever does.

AeroPress Tutorial: The Classic Method

The classic method, as described in the original AeroPress Coffee Maker‘s operating instructions, consists of ten steps. These should be followed carefully, at least initially, in order to achieve optimal extraction:

Filling the AeroPress with water using coffee scales
  1. Place a filter into the filter cap.
  2. Wet the filter cap and filter with hot water and screw onto the brewing chamber.
  3. Place the brewing chamber on top of your cup.
  4. Add coffee grounds into the brewing chamber.
  5. Fill with hot water up to the middle marking.
  6. Stir continuously for 10 seconds (using enclosed stirrer, coffee scoop or measuring spoon).
  7. Fill the AeroPress with water up to the upper marking.
  8. Insert the plunger, then pull it back slightly in order to create a vacuum.
  9. Wait approximately 30 to 55 seconds.
  10. Press the plunger down slowly until the rubber seal has almost reached the coffee ground.

Should the finished coffee be too strong, you can lengthen it by adding hot water to make an AeroAmericano. Or next time shorten the brew time in Step 9.

To clean the device, unscrew the filter holder and simply push the filter and remaining coffee sediment out – give it some oomph!

One further tip: wetting the plunger slightly will ensure smoother motion, making it easier to press down.

AeroPress Recipes: The Inverted Method

Amongst ideas such as the bypass technique and other AeroPress brewing hacks, the so-called “Inverted Method” is my personal favorite – it’s actually the only way I use this device.

The instructions are as follows:

  1. Insert the plunger a short way into the brewing chamber.
  2. Turn the device upside down.
  3. Add the ground coffee.
  4. Place a filter into the filter cap.
  5. Wet the filter apparatus with hot water.
  6. Fill the brewing chamber with hot water up to the uppermost mark (the upside-down 1).
  7. Stir continuously for 10 seconds (using the enclosed stirrer accessory).
  8. Leave to brew for 30 to 55 seconds.
  9. Attach the filter cap with filter onto the AeroPress (from the top).
  10. Place an inverted cup over the entire assembly.
  11. Holding firmly, flip the whole thing over.
  12. Press the plunger down slowly until the rubber seal has almost reached the coffee grounds.

This trick with the headstand results in coffee that’s generally more full-bodied. It also makes handling the device easier – even if it doesn’t sound like it. Cleaning, in this case too, simply requires a bit of oomph and a *plop*.

Cold Brew Made Using the AeroPress: The Ice Cold Alternative

Even as I write this update, it’s becoming noticeably warmer again outside. Which means it’s also time again for tasty cold brew.

Cold brew coffee with lemon

You can make this using the AeroPress too, of course, and to help you I’ve written a whole separate “Cold Brew Made Using the AeroPress” tutorial. The most important ingredients and parameters for cold brew are:

  • A piece of plastic Saran wrap
  • 20 g (2 rounded tablespoons) coffee per cup, coarsely ground
  • 220 ml (7.5 oz) cold water
  • 10 to 24 hours of time.

The coarse grind tailors the extraction process to the long “brewing period”, with the size of the coffee granules being roughly equivalent to those used with a Karlsbader coffee maker. Aside from that, proceed almost exactly as you do for the hot brewed inverted method:

Arne with Karlsbader coffee maker
  1. Add coffee to the AeroPress.
  2. Fill up halfway with water.
  3. Stir.
  4. Fill up with the remaining water.

Instead of attaching the filter holder with filter directly to the end of the brewing chamber, place some Saran wrap over it first, then screw on the filter holder.

This “airtight” modification is literally intended to ensure that the cold brew doesn’t oxidize during the long infusion process. This isn’t just undesirable, it’s not good from a hygiene perspective either. When brewing in a Cold Brew Jar, you’d ordinarily use a lid.

Arne with a Cold Brew Jar

Once the infusion time is up, you can remove the filter holder and the Saran wrap, then insert a normal filter. The device should then be turned over and pressed into a cold glass, preferably one already laced with ice cubes.

This cold brew is definitely stronger than other versions, so it pays to lengthen it into a Cold Brew Tonic or other signature drink. You could use cold almond milk for this or simply just water.

Signature drink nitro cold brew

Advantages and Disadvantages of the AeroPress: Is It Right for Me?

In addition to the experimentation aspect and its laboratory aesthetics, the AeroPress also boasts the following very convincing arguments:

  • Thanks to the (ugly) plastic, it can be taken anywhere.
  • The individual parts fit into a small bag.
  • Aeropressing can be just as easily done in the woods as in the office!
  • Cleaning is extremely easy and therefore also exceptionally hygienic.
  • The finished coffee doesn’t contain any sediment.
  • The brief but complete contact between the coffee grounds  and water ensures the maximum extraction of flavors.
  • An original set never costs more than about $30 on Amazon.
  • It’s perfect for testing new roasts.

Compared to other preparation methods, however, the AeroPress also has some clear disadvantages:

  • Each throughput produces only a small amount of coffee. Making AeroPress coffee is therefore too laborious to supply a whole troop. Only a coffee maker can help you there.
  • 100% plastic is never the most optimal material for such a device.
  • It requires consumables with associated additional costs in the form of special filters.
  • It takes a while to find your perfect preparation method and brew ratio.

In other words: unpacking the AeroPress, getting started and enjoying a cup of coffee straight away is not usually an option. But if you want “special” coffee without having to buy expensive equipment, then you’ll find this device an exciting companion.

AeroPress overview with Arne

Do I Need Any AeroPress Accessories?

Needless to say, the AeroPress’ success has also attracted imitators and encouraged third-party manufacturers to develop accessories.

For example, a specially designed “organizer” for the AeroPress has now come onto the market. It looks okay, but is completely unnecessary and makes the device needlessly larger and bulkier.

Then there’s the AeroPress Go, which features a “built in” travel mug. In theory at least, you’ll be even better better off on the road and this idea is surely an interesting alternative for campers and globetrotters. The AeroPress Go costs slightly more than the original, but I’ve not had a chance to review it yet.

The Fellow AeroPress Prismo, which attaches to the AeroPress in place of the supplied filter apparatus, is quite different again. This pressure valve with permanent metal filter turns the original device into a “manual espresso machine” in the style of the popular Nanopresso from Wacaco (the non-capsule model, obviously).

Because you know my view: “anyone who drinks capsule coffee has lost control of their life” – this applies to manually operated travel coffee makers too.

Unfortunately, this video is only available in German

In my “AeroPress Espresso? Fellow Prismo Adapter Review” video, I tried out this valve for you live on screen. My conclusion: the flavor is fuller and more convincing, but still a long way from a real espresso. I’m neither for it nor against it.

Unfortunately, this video is only available in German.

If you want to make your AeroPress a reliable travel companion, don’t miss my “Coffee on the Road: What Backpackers Need for the Perfect Coffee on Vacation” video and be sure to also equip your rucksack with the right coffee grinder. I personally take along my Comandante, as always, but can also recommend the Porlex Tall as a cheap (and extremely robust) alternative.

I don’t really know whether it’s necessary to drag coffee scales along too, as you often read about others doing. Because we’re using a rather broad dosing range and, thanks to the markings, you quickly learn where any given quantity typically lands in your AeroPress anyway, visual judgement is usually sufficient here.

Pour-Over Coffee vs. AeroPress Coffee: Is It Even a Contest?

I keep getting asked how similar or dissimilar pour-over coffee and AeroPress coffee are – probably also because you know what an absolute pour-over dripper disciple I am. Instead of talking about this at length, I’ve summarized the most important differences in a table.

 Pour-over coffeeAeroPress coffee
Main categoryPour overFull immersion
Coffee styleDelicate, aromatic, multifacetedIntense, aromatic, multifaceted
Precision requiredHighLow to Medium
Equipment costVery low Low
Biggest advantage Excellent control over brewing parameters Excellent experimentation & customization options
Biggest disadvantage Very prone to errorOnly produces small quantities of coffee

Pour-over coffee and AeroPress coffee go their own completely separate ways based solely on which main category they belong to, and therefore, can hardly be compared with one another. I firmly believe, however, that people who consistently find pour-over drip too weak or boring will finally find happiness in a cup of AeroPress coffee.

Feel free to come up with further questions and comments, they’ll definitely find their way into the next update too!

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