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Everything You Need to Know about the AeroPress (A.K.A. the Best Coffee-Brewing Mechanism for Travelers)

The AeroPress might just be the best way to brew coffee—even when you're not on the road.

The AeroPress needs no introduction. For years, it's taunted me on Amazon as “the best” coffee maker for brewing coffee. But it looked like it belonged in a science lab. Just give me a regular French Press, please.

But far from being the best French-press style coffee maker, it’s probably one of the best travel gadgets for hitting the road, bright and sharp at 4 a.m. Gotta get that crack caffeine.

To cut to the chase, the AeroPress retails at $29.95 on Amazon. Its durable materials and construction are built to go the distance; unlike most French presses made out of glass, the AeroPress is made of plastic. The ability to compress parts of the AeroPress into a smaller package make it smaller to carry around than the 11.8-ounce Grosche French Press I own. The main downside? There are so many moving parts!

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The basic AeroPress package consists of several parts: (1) the chamber, (2) the plunger, (3) the cap, (4) the paper filter, (5) the scooper, (6) the stirrer and (7) the funnel. I’m not even including the stand, which stands.

For the most part, the chamber and plunger are easy to compact together, with the cap attached. Paper filters can be replaced with an Able Brewing metal disk coffee filter—because who wants to carry paper filters—and this can be cleaned and attached inside the cap. Essentially, the main components can be condensed into two parts. The full height can be compressed to 5.5 inches (14 cm) without the extra accessories.

This leaves the stirrer, scooper and funnel. The stirrer and scooper have pretty self-explanatory uses though it’s probably possible to sub smaller stirrers and scoopers if desired. It’s important to point out the length of stirrer might be a factor if you’re making a larger cup of coffee; it’s designed to be the perfect size for the AeroPress chamber. Most of the time, I compromise and use the handle of the scooper to stir. If it’s placed like so, inside the “main compartment,” its height expands to 7.5 inches (19 cm).

For the most part, the funnel is pretty useless: the main use is to scoop freshly ground beans more easily into the mouth of the AeroPress. It can also be placed underneath the AeroPress to get coffee into a smaller-mouthed cup. This rarely happens (under 20% of the time). Most standard sized-coffee mugs have zero issue, as long as the mouth is under 7 cm in diameter. For instance, it will not fit in Mason jars if that’s your thing.

I like leaving the funnel and stand at home; I find it’s not really necessary most of the time. To keep things compact for the smallest footprint, it’s possible to compress it down to 2-4 moving parts.

The procedure for brewing

One of the main selling points is that it’s ridiculously fast to make a cup of coffee once the water has been prepped. We’re talking 60 seconds max, which is a lot faster than the standard French Press brewing time at 3 to 4 minutes. I refuse to time it against a Keurig machine because I hate those things. My hate for those things is unparalleled.

Brewing is extremely simple even if the procedure is a bit atypical from normal brewing procedures: place a paper or metal filter inside the cap, screw it into the chamber. Place chamber on top of mug. Insert one scoop of coffee into the chamber, add boiling water. Stir, for ten seconds, plunge and it’s ready to go. Boink.

For the most part, it’s good for brewing same amount of coffee as my French Press. It doesn’t seem like its good for brewing several cups at once.

Taste, cleanup and storage

This is the exactly the type of coffee maker my ex-boyfriend would probably own. And the same type of thing that would make me want to punch him in the face, as he’d most likely talk about coffee extraction, oils, water temperature and why I needed to buy a “decent grinder” for a “few hundred dollars.”* Now, I hate myself for joining the league of hipsters that swear by the AeroPress.

In terms of taste, it is perhaps one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. The experience is just as smooth and rich as a dark European sipping chocolate. Like many others have noted, it creates an espresso-type of coffee. And at the risk of having people attack me for not knowing my coffee—y’all are crazy—I’m going to leave it at that. There are plenty of other peoples that can attest to the acidity, bitterness and type of coffee it creates. It’s so good, that upon the first taste, I immediately made a second batch, regretted it and am now shaking like an addict.

Our version of the AeroPress came with a nylon tote: It’s not my favorite thing and I’m 100% sure I can find a better way to transport it. Besides, when I transport it compressed like I described above, there’s too much empty space in the bag. Some actually suggest a Dopp bag is perfect for it.

Cleanup is noticeably easier than a French Press: Simply remove the cap, find a place to dispose the grinds, and hover it over the trash can. Then with a final push from the plunger, pop the grounds into the trash. Rinse under the tap. That’s all there is to it.

Travel accessories are required

"I can’t wait to pack the paper filters!" said no one ever. This is where the stainless steel Able Brewing DISK Coffee Filter steps in; it completely eliminate any needs for any paper filters. It’s easy to toss this filter in the attached cap and store it permanently there for a smaller footprint. It comes in two versions: standard and fine, which will affect the cup o’ joe taste. For the better.

The one pictured is the standard version.

There’s also an unexpected side benefit of going with a stainless-steel filter: It allows the oils to seep through, creating a fuller body cup of coffee. That's impossible with a paper filter. But let’s face it, this is not why people buy it. It’s because, at $12.50, it’s essentially saves both money and hassle. By the time most people get to 1,225 cups, they’ve arguably spent that already replacing the filters. (In terms of savings, that’s only enough to last any coffee aficionado 1.68 years at a rate of 2 cups per day. So if the disk lasts longer than two years, you’ve made your money back.)

It’s actually the Able Brewing Travel Cup that has more questionable value. Essentially, it’s a rubber cap for the AeroPress plunger. Not much else to it. As part of its fundamental design, the plunger has a hollow chamber that’s essentially used for nothing. The travel cap turns it into a storage area for transporting coffee grounds, whole beans, or even paper filters.

Please note the paper filters must be slightly contorted to fit inside and it only fits in a few versus an entire package of 350. (It’s also marketed as a brewing grip but I’d skip it if this is the main purpose for buying it. It is a nice side bonus, though.)

The hollow chamber roughly holds about five scoops of coffee grounds. Even though it’s not airtight, making coffee doesn’t affect the stored grounds. It does hold up pretty well when we shook it around, though. The only issue I found is that it’s a bit hard to scoop out the coffee grounds from inside the chamber but I guess that’s something that most people are going to have to deal with. Priced at $10 on Amazon, it’s probably not the most reasonably-priced piece but tell me another place where I can find a rubber cap that’s the exact same dimensions as the AeroPress and I’ll happily defer.

Taking into account all the accessories—though I guess they can be optional—a full AeroPress travel coffee setup costs about $52.45. That’s definitely not the cheapest setup out there, considering that it doesn’t even come with a cup. But it does provide a way to transport grounds. We've seen lots of travel coffee products out there and there definitely are simpler, decent options that get the job done—but AeroPress provides the best coffee. Besides, the AeroPress is something that might already have a permanent spot in the home.

My ex-boyfriend would be very pleased.

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