Words S Lynch.
What links Punjabi martial arts and third wave coffee brewing? It's not the references Dom and I make to espresso machine Tai-Chi. No. Its far more tenuous a link than our self congratulatory comparisons to Yip Man.
The formidable flying weaponry of the Sikh religion. Razor sharp discs which were apparently the inspiration for the "Aerobie Flying disc", the vastly improved version of the Frisbee. That same guy, Alan, then went and made a coffee maker. Which is in absolutely no way similar. If you want to read why he did it then you can here: Aeropress Story
So It doesn't quite have the prestige and heritage of other equipment, it hasn't evolved from Italian pistons and levers or glassware from Victorian chemistry labs. Given what I would call ill-considered packaging it wouldn't look out of place on the bottom shelf in Boots next to the home enema kit. But once you get it out of the box it's actually quite a pleasing, well engineered coffee syringe.
When I attempt to explain to customers what an Aeropress is, I liken it to something between a French Press and an espresso but much closer to the filter end of the scale in terms of intensity. The way that we're serving it anyway.
It's marketed as a home espresso and coffee maker, which is a tad confused. But If you order an Aeropress coffee in any coffee house serving them, then they most definitely won't be bringing you an espresso sized shot. (Conversely if you happen to order an espresso in your local shopping centre cafeteria, you will most probably be brought a small cup of watery black coffee. )
Espresso machines (if you recall from a few weeks back: Naked Portafilters and issues extracting,) exert a pressure somewhat greater than a plastic tube and an 8-and-a-half-stone Barista could handle. But the Aeropress does involve considerably more pressure than French Press, as the satisfying hiss at the end of the brew confirms.
So I suppose it puts the drink into a category of it's own. Which makes it exciting; another process and set of variables to control. Another opportunity to feel like a child at primary school doing a science experiment. I might start writing Hypotheses, observations and conclusions and finish it all off with a scatter-graph with a line of best fit.
There are a few methods for using it, so much so that it's own cult following has spawned an Aeropress championship. Personally I am a little averse to Barista Championships in general, I have no competition in me, but I am sympathetic to the fact they encourage the advancement of technique and exploration of coffee brewing. Why not throw in a limited edition Gold Aeropress as incentive?
But I'm assuming you're not here to read about competition recipes. In fact there's a slim chance you actually asked for an Aerobie for Christmas but now, after expressing your surprise at the radical re-design, launched it across the living room a couple of times, smashed a few baubles and ruined your Gran's enjoyment of Her Majesty's speech, you're definitely certain someone's made a mistake. And maybe now you'd probably just like to learn how to use it for making coffee.
What we're using:
Wooden stirrer (metal and plastic can affect taste.)
We're using the "inverted immersion method," I'm not sure if that is the correct name or if it even warrants such grandiose nomenclature, but it's a fairly standard method of turning the thing upside down.
We then zero it on some scales with the cap off and add 17 grams of ground coffee. (Use the funnel or be careful not to get any grounds around the rim or where the cap connects, otherwise you might compromise the seal and have no pressure, reducing the device to a co-polymer french press. )
At the moment we're serving a Nicaraguan bean for Filter coffees, but for the purposes of experimentation I tried using the Ethiopian Limu to see how those drier spice notes would translate to a softer brew.
Grind wise I'd suggest a medium coarse grind, too fine may run the risk of over-extraction, particularly with the increase in pressure. But on the other hand I've tried the coarsest, a French Press grind, and ended up with some thing a little dilute tasting.
Next prep your filter, if you use the paper ones supplied in the box then make sure you rinse it, place the paper in the end cap and run it under the tap or pour some hot water through it. This ensures you don't get any papery taste in your coffee.
The other option is a metal filter disc made by the Able Brewing Company. It's reusable which makes it more economical and more environmentally friendly for a busy coffee-shop. It also won't filter out so much of the oil in the coffee so you'll end up with a nice silky, glossy filter coffee which is a little more opaque and has a bit more body to it.
Once the filter is ready and waiting, add the hot water. Make sure it's freshly boiled, a couple of degrees of cooling can make a big difference to the end brew.
I add 208 grams of water to bring the total up to 225g this seems to give a decent strength brew but you'll have to adjust to your taste and the freshness of your chosen bean. (You can add half the water and give it one gentle stir to get all the coffee in contact with the water, then continue to fill up.)
Start the timer for 1 minute as soon as the water makes contact with the coffee. Another more gentle stir then twist the cap tightly into place. When the minute is up turn the press the right way up, place it over a jug or sturdy cup and steadily apply some body-weight to the plunger. Keep pushing until you hear the air hiss out at the end and then admire your creation.
Here's something I hadn't noticed until writing this blog. Once you've made the coffee and taken the cap off the press, before you get too enthusiastic and pop the 'puck' out of the end, push the plunger very slowly and carefully keeping the cylinder of coffee grounds intact. Take a close look and you'll be able to distinguish the layer of fines. These are the smaller particles of the ground coffee, (which I wrote something about in that espresso blog and how they can affect taste and disrupt water flow under high pressure. more here: Naked Portafilters...)
It's not particularly pertinent to brewing a good cup with the Aeropress, considering the lower pressure, but I would hypothesize the speed at which you depress the plunger affects how thick that layer of fines becomes. For scientific reasons I'm sure. So this may be another avenue of investigation for another day.
So have a happy 2014 with that Aeropress, safe in the knowledge that the Aerobie you wanted would not give you half as many heart palpitations.