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Gear Review - Aeropress Coffee Maker


Original Post
Daryl Allan · · Sierra Vista, AZ · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 1,040

So I found the best campground coffee maker ever. I didn't plan on this being an actual gear review but after writing it, i decided to move it here. Some background on me first: I've been roasting my own beans for about 4 years now and am the proud owner of a Rancillio Silvia espresso machine. I've made coffee in everything from Army canteens using a sock as a filter to a La Marzocco GS3. And I don't camp often but when i do, the morning cup with friends is the best part of crawling out of the fart sack.

The discouraging factor in making coffee from actual grounds when camping is almost always cleaning up the mess. We always have the instant method but we're talking about a good cup of coffee so those instant single serving packs just aren't an option. Excluding instant add-water/stir methods, the most common options i see at the campground are the french press and the italian stovetop device. These are both a mess to clean up without a garden hose.

So this leads us to the Aeropress. I just bought one from Amazon for about $25 and another $3 for 300 [extra] filters; free shipping. A friend told me about it a couple years ago but only recently decided to give it a try after destroying my 3rd french press.

It's basically the same idea as a french press - only much better. The operation closely mimics the Clover machine concept, just inverted; coffee in contact with water a reduced amount of time to limit acidity/bitterness of end product. Being about $9,975 less than a Clover, it's just a big fat syringe with a filter on the bottom instead of a needle. You set it on top of a cup, put the grounds inside along with some hot water, let it sit for about 10-20 seconds, press out the coffee then top off with hot water. Strength is determined by grind, steeping time, and amount of beans.

Aeropress
Cleanup is easy making it one of the reasons this is great for camping. To clean, you take off the filter holder on the bottom and push the plunger the rest of the way through which pops out the coffee puck along with the filter leaving just a few grounds on the rubber plunger head. Wipe this off with a towel and you're done cleaning.

So if you're like me and like a nice cup of coffee at the campground without all the pain in the butt mess and hassle, this is a cheap, compact, easy to clean option that makes waaaay better coffee than any drip or french press available. I don't have any stock in this company, i just believe in giving credit where it's due and spreading the word about good products.

Aeropress

Robert 560 · · The Land of the Lost · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 570

Hi Daryl,
Great review!! I've also been thinking about getting one of these. I just can't seem to get my day going without a "good" cup of coffee.

AJS · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 25

Ohhh, very nice!

I was just looking at the French Press attachment for my JetBoil the other day, but this look like a much cleaner solution to my caffine cravings in the backcountry!

-Adam

Clay McGann · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 10

I've been using the Aeropress for about six months. It is by far the best option I've found for making coffee at the campsite. Highly recommended.

SCherry · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 561

I have been using the aeropress for years. At first all my friends made fun of me, and now they are all converts. All it takes is actually making them a cup. Plus its so easy to use and clean and is a very small and light device. I've even taken it into the back country to the base of the Spearhead in RMNP. Hands down the best way to make real espresso and americano's when camping. They used to sell them at REI but now Amazon is the place to find 'em. No need to get the extra filters as the supply that comes with the press has lasted me a long time and is still kicking.

Kat A · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 495

Ooooh, I wasn't aware of the Aeropress! That just might go on the shopping list. Thanks for the review Daryl.

Phillip Morris · · Flavor Country · Joined Aug 2002 · Points: 20

Better or Worse??

kirra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 530

imo = worse

aluminum metal steamed in your caffe - they say - is not so good for ya latta in yer day (i.e. alzheimer's) All of the sharp-edged Itallian versions seem to be made of this while the rounded ones are usually steel (you have to check)

I have a version of this in stainless, Expresso rocks my world..!! Daryl I'd have to agree with the 'grounds' issue ~ too funny lol f-sack. Hope that 'sock-filter' was a clean one :)

Ryan Kelly · · work. · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 2,970

Funny, I've been looking for a new method. I somehow convinced myself that I could survive with instant because I couldn't stand cleaning coffee makers while camping. I finally gave in and started taking a press. You just can't get a dark enough cup of coffee with a press - IMHO. I've started contemplating just taking a percolator camping.

I dunno, this thing just looks like a press.

Kat A · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 495

It does look similar to a French press, but I think the difference is that your coffee doesn't keep sitting on the grounds until you finish drinking it (or pouring it), making it bitter. Is the Aeropress made of glass or plastic?

AJS · · Boulder, CO · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 25

I also have a stainless espresso maker for hiking, and love the results. But the aeropress seems to one-up the metal designs for ease of cleaning in my book!

Ryan: it may be that this can make up for darkness with quantity! :-)

Nick Adams · · Delafield, WI · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 55

It looks like the Aeropress is made of very hard, clear polycarbonate (#7) plastic that contains Bisphenol A (BPA) which, when released, is thought to cause many different long-term health effects.

Sorry to rain on the parade but I thought you'd all want to be informed of what goes into your bodies.

That sock may stink but it does the job...

A couple of references (with more embedded):

sciencedaily.com/releases/2…

health.usnews.com/articles/…

Daryl Allan · · Sierra Vista, AZ · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 1,040

Phillip, imho the aeropress is much better than the italian stovetop method and here's why. The aeropress allows you to control the temp of the water down to the recommended 175 degrees. The stovetop percolator is predisposed, by design, to a set temperature. Unless you're really good (and patient), the water temp will reach very near boiling before rising up through the pickup tube before being pushed through the grounds in the center chamber. This allows tanins to be released from the beans en masse into the top chamber causing a bitter end product. The polyphenollics (sp?) released via high temps and/or prolonged exposure is what causes that bitter 'bite' that many brewing methods are akin to. Tanins are also thought to contribute/cause migranes for some people. Same theory applies to beer making and just about any other beverage that is derived from mashing plant matter in hot (>160 degree F) water.

I also have a stovetop italiano thingy and it's great but the end product is a little too bitey and cloudy for me. I'm not a big fan of the gristle that goes along with coarse filter methods such as this and brass/reusable filters, etc.

Kirra, you're spot-on with the aluminum thing. I cut out deodorants with aluminum and noticed my memory improving dramatically. Now i smell like a racehorse at the crag but at least i can remember where the shower is... =/ (oh, and "yes"... clean sock). =)

Ryan, if you know someone that has one of these, i highly recommend trying it out to see if it will get dark enough for you. Here's why: the directions call for only about a quarter of the total cup volume to be poured into the grinds. The full volume is achieved by topping off the mug essentially diluting to taste. The initial "press" is really espresso. They say you can use 1-4 scoops (via provided scoop) in the device. I use two for one large cup. Four would blow your head off in the same size cup. I don't like it that strong but i know many do and those folks essentially just do espresso shots all day. Personally, I'm hyper enough with just one cup.

Kateri, you nailed the fundamental advantage of this thing. The grinds are only in contact with the water for no more than 30-40 seconds. Not enough time to extract the bitter polyphenolycs.

Nick.... damn you (just kidding). You raise a good point but my mom just told me last week after i gave her flack for some death-by-pancakes-drowned-in-fruit-whipped cream-and-syrup she was having at IHOP... she said, "You know, you're going to feel pretty dumb one day lying in a bed dying of nothing". Okay, maybe that's not the best advice to go giving out but until they come out with a stainless model i'm going to have to take my chances. It's that good. =)

Btw, Nick. I read somewhere that boiling such things made with carcinogen-containing plastics or prolonged exposure to hot water can leech out significant amounts of the harmful chemicals. The idea was that by exposing them to hot water for a long time, you could effectively reduce the amount of carcinogens that are leeched into food prepared by the appliances. Sort of like a half-life concept applied to BPA and the bad polies. Have you seen/read anything like that?

Jason Wells · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2001 · Points: 100

For those wanting quality over quantity, I got one of these as a gift and it rocks. It uses Starbucks-style sealed espresso pods so there is no clean up. I also have a battery powered milk frother (about the size of a pen) which completes the deal. You need to boil so little water that the process seems to take about half the time of my old french press. It's been perfect for backpacking. I got mine here: wholelattelove.com/Handpres…

Nick Adams · · Delafield, WI · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 55

Your mom makes a good point Daryl. Kinda like "...if you ain't livin', you're dyin'"

As for leaching out carcinogens with repeated boils, it might work. There is a finite amount of BPA in any hard plastic (#7) container so putting our clear Nalgenes or the Aeropress through cycles of straight boiling water may reduce the ppm or ppb of BPA you get in your next cup of joe!!

Just don't hold me to this down the line if your mom's admonishment bears out!!

Great review Daryl.

kirra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 530

whoa sweet jason this could very well be the ultimate camping & caffeine expresso experience except...

I want my own "pods" filled with my own favorite organic blend of hazelnut-mocha expresso roast - Do yu know where I can find a pod-maker..? :)

Daryl Allan · · Sierra Vista, AZ · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 1,040
Nick Adams wrote:...Great review Daryl.
Thanks!

Jason, i don't care if that thing works or not. The fact that it looks like a lightsaber makes it worth carrying around on the outside of your pack.

Seriously though, thanks for adding that. Like Kirra said, if we can just find a way to get home roasted (or custom blend) stuff into pods, i would like to try that thing out. The pods concept alone must make it an absolute breeze to clean. There's the next million-dollar idea: a home-pod maker.
Galibier_Numero_Un · · Erie, CO · Joined Jun 2007 · Points: 0

Another vote for the Aeropress. I haven't used it camping yet, only at home.

The Aeropress replaced a $400 Saeco Rio Vapore espresso machine and it makes as good or better shots. I kid you not.

Pre-made pucks? Might as well use instant. I'm not arguing for taking my $250 Rancilio Rocky grinder camping, but once you grind beans, you should brew them in 15 minutes, not 15 days or 15 weeks.

This machine shouldn't be underestimated for home use. I'm cured of lusting after a $1,500 heat exchange unit for home use, and if I can take it camping (o.k. I'll compromise and pre-grind my beans), this is an added bonus.

Since I tend to drink cafe au lait, my technique is as follows:

1. heat a cup mixed with 50-50 whole milk and water in the microwave
2. bring a couple of ounces of water to boil in a tea kettle
3. run the water from the tea kettle into the Aeropress and brew over the heated cup of milk/water

The only thing that's missing is a steamer from a high dollar espresso machine (step 1), but I can live with this.

Both the microwave and stove-top water get to temperature in 90 seconds, which can be critical when you need to wake up in a hurry ;-)

If you want to get picky about dialing in you temperature, you can adjust your timings after a few trials, using a thermometer. Here in the Front Range, 90 seconds gets my cup of milk to the right temperature, and my tea kettle just starts to whistle at the same time, which serendipitously brings the water to 175 degrees F (remember, I'm at 5,000 feet).

It's interesting, but if you read up on Espresso, they'll talk to a correct brewing temperature being in the 192-194 degree range. The Aeropress guys are right. With their machine, 175 is the number. Brewing at higher temperatures produces a bitter shot.

Cheers,
Thom

kirra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 530
Galibier_Numero_Un wrote:It's interesting, but if you read up on Espresso, they'll talk to a correct brewing temperature being in the 192-194 degree range. The Aeropress guys are right. With their machine, 175 is the number. Brewing at higher temperatures produces a bitter shot. Cheers, Thom
regarding the puck-maker.. I was referring to a portable unit which could perhaps resemble an ol' fashioned cordless juice/press squeezer and be whipped out immediately after bean grinding (also on location) of course.. :)

Thom I'm a bit confused about your comment on the temp/bitterness related to Expresso. Steam is only created (necessary for expresso) at a certain temperature. This cannot be controlled (?) - I agree about the lower temp being better for brewing allaround however, upon doing this for several years now via same expresso machine, I noticed bitterness only with certain beans. Perhaps bitterness is a direct result of not only the temperature at brew time but also of the roast and/or type of coffee bean that is being brewed.
Ryan Kelly · · work. · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 2,970
Daryl Allan wrote: Ryan, if you know someone that has one of these, i highly recommend trying it out to see if it will get dark enough for you. Here's why: the directions call for only about a quarter of the total cup volume to be poured into the grinds. The full volume is achieved by topping off the mug essentially diluting to taste. The initial "press" is really espresso. They say you can use 1-4 scoops (via provided scoop) in the device. I use two for one large cup. Four would blow your head off in the same size cup. I don't like it that strong but i know many do and those folks essentially just do espresso shots all day. Personally, I'm hyper enough with just one cup.
I certainly will be on the lookout for anyone who has one - so beware if using one at Jtree this season, you might have an unexpected visitor - I'm always willing to try something new.

My problem with percolators is exactly as you discuss, boiling water and the resultant acidic taste. Fine for my espresso, but not my coffee. I've actually been considering one of those ice drip makers, and just taking a thermos full for trips. But the main comment I hear on them is that it doesn't make strong coffee. Perhaps I'll start the morning with an espresso then move on to reheated ice drip.

- still looking for the perfect cup

Clyde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 10

After using one for a while, I reached the conclusion that the Aeropress is useless for my purposes. When camping, I'm generally making coffee for a group of people who have zero patience in the morning. The Aeropress falls way short here, much too time consuming. The only good solution I've found so far is a cone filter that fits a thermos bottle. French press is too messy for cleanup and requires extra water that is often in short supply. The moka pots aren't much better than a percolator IMHO, blech. At home, the Aeropress just doesn't compare to what my Gaggia delivers. I suppose if you do solo car camping trips, it's okay; sure wouldn't backpack with one. At least it's cheap. Perhaps if they made one 4 times bigger, it would work well. YMMV

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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