A few days ago, I asked myself the question whether it was possible to brew a French press-style coffee in an Aeropress. I thought this would be possible because both the French press and the Aeropress are immersion brewers. Water is soaked in grounds and left to steep for a period of time. Then, the grounds are separated from the coffee. A French press does not do as good a job at removing the grounds as an Aeropress—this is on account of the size of the holes in a French press metal filter—and so the cup profiles are a bit different.
This morning, I decided to see if I could use a French press recipe in my Aeropress to create a delicious cup of coffee. My recipe was as follows:
Prepare coarsely-ground coffee and pour the coffee into the Aeropress, inverted.
Wait one minute and then stir ten times.
Wait three more minutes.
Attach the filter cap on the Aeropress and push.
This recipe is based on the French press recipe in Craft Coffee, a useful home brewing guide. I set my Baratza Encore grinder to 28, the recommended setting for French press coffee in the manual. The Aeropress grind recommendation was strong so I thought there was no need to do any additional research on what grind size to use. This let me test how my grinder works with a coarser grind. I was able to achieve what looked like a consistent coarse grind with ease.
I did not let my French press bloom like I would with an Aeropress brew. Instead, I poured all of the water in at the same time. This presented somewhat of an issue because of the characteristic "crust" that a French press grind creates. Because the crust rises up quite a bit, I decided to put in slightly less water than I would for a traditional Aeropress brew. I would usually fill the Aeropress almost to the top—as far as I can go without a risk of spillage. This turned out to be a good idea because the crust rose quite a bit.
If I try this recipe again, I may use a bloom time so that I can pour in enough water. A 30 second or one minute bloom would be enough. At one point, I was concerned the crust may rise too high but in the end the crust stayed in the brewing chamber.
I waited three more minutes before pressing the coffee. Once these three minutes were up, I attached the filter cap to the Aeropress and then flipped the device. I knew that there would be less resistance in the plunge on account of the grind size—it is easier for water to pass through a coarse grind because there are more gaps between the pieces of coffee—so I did not push as hard as usual. I wanted a slow, steady push, instead of a gushing push.
I was excited by this coffee from the moment I started brewing, wondering what the final taste would be like. My first impressions were great. The coffee was properly extracted—sweet, flavourful, and without any negative sourness or bitterness—and the resulting cup was clean and clear. Unlike a traditional French press, there was no sediment accompanied by this cup. The body was quite heavy but that is a characteristic of the coffee I was drinking. I would not describe the body as being as chewy as I would taste in a French press coffee.
What did I learn? Coffee brewing all operates under the same principles which are independent of brewing device. I built this assumption based on theory but I wanted to test it. Filters seem to have the biggest impact on the brew—metal versus paper versus cloth. I used a coarser grind in my Aeropress and a longer brew time, allowing me to properly extract the coffee.
I would not recommend my recipe as a substitute for a French press if you like the full, heavy body of a French press. But I was able to yield a delicious and well-extracted cup of coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed the cup. This recipe was a bit less intense than my usual routine which I complete in 2:15. I usually agitate, pour in more water, and then wait. I only had to stir 10 times with this recipe and then wait until the coffee was ready to flip. I was a bit more relaxed brewing this coffee.
Try out my recipe and see what you think. What else could I try with the Aeropress?