Today I was researching coffee for some reason. So I started off researching french press coffee makers where you pour hot water over some coffee grounds and then force a strainer down over all of that and wind up with coffee on top and grounds trapped at the bottom. The nice thing is this is a pretty simple machine and they are cheap. People swear by these. I was watching a show on Discovery about coffee (maybe that’s what set this off) and a couple of the experts said that is their favorite way to make coffee. The problem with the french press is the filter is pretty porous and it lets fine grinds past, so you end up with cloudy coffee with some sediment. You can avoid that by grinding the coffee to end up with bigger chunks. Sounds simple, but most grinders can’t do that and you end up with some big chunks and some little ones in economical grinders. So french press lovers say you need to spend $200 on a special burr grinder that will only produce big chunks of beans. So much for economy: a $15 coffee maker requires a $200 grinder.
While doing the research, I found a really interesting post by someone who posted the hierarchy of important parts of making coffee:
1. fresh ground
2. good roast
3. good grinder
4. appropriate temperature
5. good water
6. good machine
7. barista skill set
This is interesting, because he says you’re getting way ahead of yourself if you go looking for a good machine and you aren’t going to, say, use the appropriate water temperature. Likewise, skill is no match for picking a good roast or using good water.
Well, I’ll tell you right now that I have no intention of going hog wild on coffee beans and grinders. My deal right now is that I am able to sometimes get Publix preground coffee for a penny using their mystery coupon deal. And decaf is better for me than regular because I get headaches the day after drinking real coffee. And I’m not even talking strong coffee. I’m using 1 tablespoon of grounds to make about 8 oz. of coffee. So this bag of really cheap coffee lasts me months! So I’m already skipping the two most important things by not grinding the beans fresh and not choosing a good, fresh roast (some people roast their own beans in an air popcorn maker!).
But I’d still like to do the most with what I’ve got. Since I’m using preground coffee, it seems like the french press is out unless I want a lot of sediment. But then I read about people using an AeroPress, which was invented in 2005 and is made by the same people that make Aerobie flying rings. It is similar to a french press in that you add hot water directly to coffee grinds and then filter out the grinds, but has some key differences. Rather than a plunger with a strainer on it, there is a filter on the bottom. The plunger is more like the plunger of a hypodermic needle and it forces the water and coffee mixture through the bottom filter. In fact, you trap some air in the top, so the plunger doesn’t even make contact with the coffee. And there is no sediment since a filter is being used. And because of the filter, you can use any size grind you want (a finer grind will make it harder to force coffee through the filter). Cleaning is easier because you are throwing away the messy part (the filter) instead of re-using it.
You aren’t even supposed to use water that is boiling hot. But doing so means you need to use more coffee grounds. Unlike an automatic drip coffee maker, this method has a couple of variables that you can control, like the temperature of the water and how long the coffee steeps (you’re not supposed to wait 4 minutes like with a french press, they say just to stir for 10 seconds and start pressing, but others say it is better to stir a little longer and use a little bit hotter water than the 175° recommended).
Lastly, the AeroPress makes concentrated coffee (they say you are making espresso) so you then add some more hot water when you are done. That might work for me because I could heat up some water and milk while pressing and then I wouldn’t be adding cold milk like I do with my drip coffee maker.
Here are some instructions on the web.
Anyway, for $26 at Amazon I figured I should try it out.