What’s the best coffee to brew when you use an Aeropress? We’ve done the tasting and have got the answers you need right here.
A lot of speciality coffee lovers like us have shared the same story about an experience we had that changed coffee drinking for us for good. For many, it’s the Aeropress brew method that has been described by its first time triers as being like nothing they’d ever tasted before. Why do so many of us who have been brought up on espresso-drinks become enamoured by the Aeropress, and what is the best way to enjoy it? Find out all the answers you need…
What is an Aeropress
The Aeropress is a relatively new invention in coffee terms (considering the industry is centuries old). It was invented in 2005 by Alan Adler who at the time was the president of Aerobie, a foam frisbee style toy maker!
It is a filter brewing method that utilises a plunger mechanism (like a syringe) to force hot water through a bed of ground coffee. To look at an Aeropress when it is disassembled it can appear on the face of it to be a confusing system, but don’t worry it is actually fairly easy to get to grips with. You just need to add a filter and some coffee to the filter cap, assemble the plunger and then it’s a similar process that you may already be used to with french press (steeping, then plunging), albeit with more steps. We’ve provided a handy Aeropress Brew Guide here.
What does Aeropress coffee taste like?
The final flavour of a cup of coffee is largely dictated by the journey has been on up to the point of brewing. What plant species and varietal did the beans come from, where was it grown, what was the processing method, how dark was it roasted? With that being said, the brew method also has a vital final say on your drinking experience.
Of all the brewing methods, it’s fair to suggest that the Aeropress offers the purest coffee drinking experience. What do we mean by that? The method provides a very clean cup that is usually bright and refreshing, that almost seems to be silky in texture. It is a method that also seems to unearth even the most complex flavour notes from coffees, which makes it a perfect method for speciality beans (more on that shortly).
This is why many people who try an Aeropress for the first time are taken back by its experience, especially those of us in the UK who have been brought up on milky espresso-based drinks.
What is the best coffee to use for an Aeropress?
The Aeropress brew method lends itself to speciality coffee for those reasons we just mentioned. This is especially true of its ability to expose even the most complex flavour notes from coffee that would otherwise be washed away or hidden beneath more dominant flavours – bitterness for example can very easily overpower sweetness and acidity in coffee.
It is important to pick the right coffee to use for brewing with an Aeropress, just like any other brew method. The best way to choose the right coffee is to remember a lot of the words we’ve used to describe its result and pick coffees that will share similar traits. So, ‘light’, ‘bright’ and ‘clean’ are three good words to keep in mind when you’re shopping for coffee.
The first important thing you need to look out for first is the roast profile, which is how dark the beans have been roasted. Espresso style coffee will not work with an Aeropress, as it has been roasted too dark and will be overwhelmingly bitter. You want to go for beans that have been light roasted for filter coffee, always aim for speciality beans if you can. These will have the natural flavours you need for an optimum Aeropress brew, and the roaster will have roasted them lightly to nurture those pleasant flavours.
When it comes to grinding, most speciality roasters will pre-grind your coffee for you. If you need your coffee pre-ground select the ‘filter’ option or if you see ‘Aeropress’ as an option choose that. The right grind is important to every brew method as this controls the extraction process during brewing. If it is ground to fine, your coffee will be over-extracted and taste overly bitter. If it is too coarse, your coffee will under-extract, which will taste sour and grassy.
We would always recommend that you grind your beans to order because there’s no better way of preserving freshness than to keep the beans whole until you need to brew them. If you do have your own burr grinder, use a similar setting to brew any pour-over brewing method (medium).
Different origins and processing methods
Once you’ve chosen the right roast profile and the right grind, the rest of the decision making is really down to your own taste preferences. Some people go wild for coffees that are naturally super-acidic, others need a little more sweetness.
The origin (where the coffee is grown) and the processing method (how the beans were dried) are important factors. Coffee is like any other natural product, in that where it is grown in the world can have a massive effect on the final product. The easiest comparison to make is wine and how a Pinot Noir grape grown in France can taste worlds apart from one grown in California. It’s just the same with coffee in that different origins offer naturally different flavours due to differences in climate and terroir.
Learning all about coffee origins is probably one of the most fun parts of exploring different coffees. We don’t want to spoil that journey for you by telling you exactly what you should be tasting from each origin but we’ll be happy to provide you with a rough guide to get you started.
South America is probably the most famous coffee growing region in the world, in particular Brazil and Colombia. Coffees from these countries tend to offer good body and chocolate-sweetness which makes them great for espresso blends. There are plenty of exceptional specialty origins within this region producing coffees that’s perfect for filter methods. Look out for Colombian beans with their high levels of acidity that can taste like apples or limes.
In Central America you’ve got places like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that produce naturally sweet coffees, with notes of exotic fruits like mango and honey melon. Most of the growing in these regions tasks place on small-holdings which means the lots are often in short supply, so once it’s gone from the menu board or online store it’s usually gone for another year!
Then there is Africa, a notorious coffee region including places like Kenya and Ethiopia. Coffees grown here often offer much higher levels of acidity than anywhere else in the world, with berry-like fruitiness and even floral notes. This makes for an especially bright and refreshing cup of coffee that most of us fall in love with the first time we try it.
The processing method is important in you choosing the right coffee too, as we have previously mentioned. This refers to the stage where the coffee cherries have been picked and the beans are dried. The two main methods for processing coffee are washed and natural, there are some in-between terms but you really just need to grasp the main two for now.
Washed processing is when the cherries are picked and all of the cherry is removed, leaving just the beans inside to be washed and then dried in the sun. Natural processing occurs when the cherries are picked, and then some or even all of the flesh is left on the bean while it is dried.
These two methods offer distinctively different flavours, with washed probably being the most popular choice for filter coffee drinkers. If you remember the three keywords we picked up earlier on, ‘light’, ‘bright’ and ‘clean’, this helps to explain why the washed processing method is preferred.
You might be thinking that with all that considered, a washed speciality coffee from Kenya should be the obvious choice for an Aeropress and you are absolutely right in many ways, it certainly would tick all the boxes. But don’t let this stop you from discovering your own tastes and trying different origins, with different processes to brew with your Aeropress.
The only non-negotiables are the roast, which should always be light, and the grind, which should always be around medium. Everything else is really open to your exploration and interpretation.
After all, coffee can be such a subjective experience and you may uncover something that completely changes your game. Happy brewing and happy exploring!