History of the AeroPress
A quick origin story on one of the best tools a home barista can have.
The AeroPress is a humble invention that has captivated the minds and palates of coffee drinkers all over the world. It’s a common sight in every cool café and a popular wish-list item for all coffee lovers.
But of course, the AeroPress wasn’t always as famous as it is today. Let’s take a look at the more than 10 years of history of our favorite home espresso maker: The AeroPress.
A Lesson in Espresso
Where would we be without espresso? It was what started it all, and why we have things as wonderful as the AeroPress. The espresso, invented in the 19th century, shortened the brewing time of coffee from minutes to seconds. Indeed, it made coffee go viral.
And viral did it go. An invention mostly famous in Italy and France at first, the espresso machine would soon make waves and become a common sight all over the world in the 20th century. The world was in love with espresso.
The Moka Pot would be invented in 1933 by Italian inventor Alfonso Bialetti and it would be the first approach to homemade espresso. As popular as this invention might have been -and it is still used to this day- it only produces a subpar cup of espresso. This is because the Moka pot relies on the boiling of water, reaching higher temperatures and risking burning your coffee.
Then, we wanted espresso in our homes. Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have been witness to a myriad different ways to make coffee at home the way that we drink it at the café. Things like small espresso machines, manual espresso makers and even single serving coffee machines… We’ve seen it all. And then, in 2005, a very unique coffee maker was invented: The AeroPress.
The thing that made and still does AeroPress so great is that it was created thinking only about the coffee. In other words, it was made to be practical over all else. Many other espresso machines today, particularly home espresso machines, are loaded with extra functions and made with shiny materials… all things that don’t necessarily better the quality of your coffee but do inflate the price.
Alan Alder is an inventor who is famous for inventing the Aerobie ring in the 1970s. The Aerobie ring was a toy flying disc that improved on the frisbee. The Aerobie proved to be much better than the frisbee and has the World Guinness Record throw of 856 feet.
Alan, like many of us, wanted espresso at home. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would go out to meet friends at a coffee place, much less the kind of person that would buy take-out coffee every day. As a busy businessman, he needed strong coffee, fast. So he got to work on that problem.
The result was the AeroPress: A cheap device that works on the same principle that other espresso makers do, which is extraction by pressure, eliminating the need for any machinery. Instead of steam-driven pistons of old or the intricate electricity-driven pumps that we use today, the AeroPress relies on you, the coffee lover, to provide this pressure by pressing down on the AeroPress’ plunger.
The use of force to pass the water through the coffee means that we no longer need to wait around; A shorter steeping time, in turn, means a much better coffee.
Advantages of AeroPress coffee
- Shorter brewing time (about 30 seconds)
- Same coffee concentration as espresso
- Higher pH than drip coffee
- Easy to clean after using
Using the AeroPress
Owing to its great design, the use of the AeroPress is quite intuitive and very easy to pick up. It consists of three elements, namely: The plunger, the chamber, and the filter cap.
The filter cap fits either a paper or metal filter and is screwed onto the chamber. The chamber holds the coffee grounds and water. Once ground coffee and water are combined within, the plunger is inserted and then pressed down to extract the coffee. It is common to stir the coffee grounds and water for ten seconds before inserting the plunger to promote coffee extraction.
Besides this method of brewing, there is another way to brew coffee with the AeroPress which, although not intended, tends to be favored by baristas and coffee lovers.
It’s called the Inverted Method, and it works by turning the AeroPress upside down, with the plunger already inserted and the filter cap taken off. One then proceeds to add coffee grounds, water, and screw the filter cap. A coffee cup is placed on top, and then the barista proceeds to flip both at the same time, pressing the plunger down as soon as it’s upright again. This method avoids the leakage that takes place when using a non-inverted method and results in a better brew.
Besides these two more established ways to brew with the AeroPress, there are still many ways to experiment and brew coffee with it -like making cold brew coffee in the AeroPress-, which is just one of the aspects that makes this device so unique.
Cold brew coffee is not like any other type of coffee. A lot of the chemical reactions that are brought about by the high temperatures to which we usually subject our coffee grounds are absent when making cold brew; The result is a type of coffee that differs greatly in flavor even when making two cups from the same batch.
Cold coffee is, in fact, the newest brewing method there is – all of the other methods were invented more than a century ago. Even the espresso, the most popular brewing method there is, was invented in the 19th century, although it worked very differently back then. Cold brew is a much newer technique and has a lot of advantages over other brewing methods.
Types and advantages of cold brew coffee
There are two types of cold brew coffee: Classic cold brew and the Japanese cold brew.
Classic cold brew is the true cold brew. It is made by steeping coffee grounds in water, using a glass container, left to steep for several hours inside the refrigerator. The brewing process can take anywhere from 12 hours to several days. After the coffee has been steeped, it is then filtered and served as is, or over ice.
Advantages of cold brew coffee:
- Brews a less bitter coffee.
- More balanced pH; not as acidic as regular coffee.
- Easier to make.
- No need for machines or tools.
Then, there is the relatively newer and popular Japanese iced coffee, which is filtered coffee brewed with a Hario V60. This method is designed to brew directly on the ice. The result is a coffee that is not watered down and has a different flavor to cold brew. The aroma, particularly, is superior to cold brew since it is by heat that most of the aroma is released when brewing.
Some advantages of Japanese iced coffee:
- Better aroma.
- Freshly brewed cold coffee in under 5 minutes.
- No need to make big batches at a time.
But it turns out there is a *third* way of making cold brew coffee. Using the AeroPress, we can make a type of cold coffee that has all the good qualities of both cold brew and iced coffee. It takes significantly less time than cold brew (under 7 minutes) yet doesn’t use hot water, which avoids bitterness and sourness in our coffee, making it a true cold brew instead of an iced coffee.
Let’s take a look at how to make cold brew coffee with our AeroPress.
AeroPress Cold Brew
This recipe uses the original Alan Adler AeroPress recipe as a base. (Alan Adler is the inventor of the AeroPress and President of AeroPress, Inc.)
What you’ll need:
- 14 grams of very finely ground coffee.
- Room temperature water.
- Chilled water and/or ice.
How to brew:
- Push plunger out of the chamber.
- Put a filter in the cap and twist cap onto the chamber
- Place the chamber on top of your coffee cup or mug.
- Add the 14g of coffee. Shake the chamber to level the bed of coffee.
- Add room temperature water up to Level 2 on the chamber.
- Stir for 60 seconds.
- Insert plunger and press down for 20 to 40 seconds.
And with that, your coffee is ready. Well, almost – what you have now is more akin to an espresso. Plus, it’s at room temperature. Here’s where the chilled water and the ice come in: First, use a little chilled water to dilute it until you’re satisfied (usually 2/3 cup) and then add ice cubes to turn it into a real iced coffee.
The AeroPress iced coffee is a better type of cold brew, offering more aroma than cold brew in less time than it would take to brew an iced coffee. And since you’re extracting the equivalent of an espresso, this coffee is perfect for cold beverages, like homemade Frappuccinos!