Introduction: The Complete Aeropress Guide

About: Eric Forman works in the intersections between fine art, design, architecture, and technology. Forman uses digital fabrication and custom software to create objects and spaces that dynamically respond to viewe…

The Aeropress is my favorite cheap coffee maker on the planet. It is vastly superior in taste to French Press and if you like your coffee strong or espresso-like, better than pour-over too. It is under $30, fast, delicious, and easy to clean. The key is it extracts coffee via a giant air-tight syringe, without acidity. It does have a few design flaws which have easy workarounds, described in this Instructable. Also, it is good for small quantities (1-2 shots), but not so good for large quantities (3-4 shots), despite the product's claims. Finally, although it is very cheap, it does use more coffee per "shot" than a real espresso machine.

It was invented in 2005 by the engineer Alan Adler, who made a fortune from the incredibly aerodynamic Aerobie. (Don't open those links yet, stay focused.)

For Autodesk AiRs - it is now available in the Studio kichen.

Step 1: The Parts

It looks more complicated than it is! In truth, it is ingeniously simple.

Basically, you insert a filter, add coffee to the chamber, add hot water, stir, and plunge.

Coffee nerds the world over have come up with various tweaks to this sytem. Here is the system I use, combining the techniques I have found work best for me...

Step 2: Heat Water

An electric kettle is the best method. You can use whatever you have.

The water should NOT be boiling. That will make the espresso bitter. 180°F is ideal, a little cooler for dark roasts, a little hotter for light. If you have a kettle with temperature control, great. Here's how to use the one we have in Studio 9:

  • Fill with water - only use the water you need! You will save water and get your caffeine fix faster.
  • Press On button
  • Press Temp Set
  • Press -/+ buttons to desired temp
  • The display will stop blinking after a few seconds, then show current temp
  • LED indicator above On/Off will go off when temp is reached, kettle turns off automatically
    • Note: you can use Hold to keep water at desired temp, but don't forget to turn it off

If you have a regular kettle, you don't need to nerd out with a thermometer. Either heat water for 3/4 of the time it takes to reach a full boil (measure it one day when you are bored), or wait for about 45 seconds of cooling after it has boiled.

NOTE: we are starting the heating process now, so we can set up the other parts. By the time we're done, the water will be ready.

Step 3: Grind Coffee

Okay you can use pre-ground coffee, but I strongly encourage you to grind on demand. It doesn't take long and is an easy free boost to freshness and quality.

Ideally you have a conical burr grinder, but a cheapo blade grinder will work. These photos show a cheapo since I didn't want to be obnoxious about the ultra deluxe Rancilio we have.

Keep your beans in something to retain freshness - do NOT use your freezer. Somewhere dark and airtight is all you need. At Studio 9 we have an Airscape container. Remove the clear lid and pull up the black seal by its handle.

ONE SCOOP = ONE SHOT OF ESPRESSO. Feel free to make yourself a double.

Note: the Aeropress scoop is bigger than a standard coffee scoop. The measurement is the same for whole beans or pre-ground.

FINE GRIND is best. Almost as fine as espresso grind. If you have a grinder without granularity setting, grind for 20-30 seconds. Tip: You will know if you made grounds too fine if it is almost impossible to plunge (upcoming step).

Step 4: Set Up Aeropress and Add Coffee

The Aeropress is designed to extract coffee directly into your mug. The intended method is to put the chamber on your mug, add coffee, stir, and plunge. However this has a design flaw, as the coffee begins to drip while you add water and stir, before you are ready to plunge. And if we wanted weak-ass drip coffee, we'd be using a different method. Therefore, I favor the Inverted Method.

Put the plunger upside down and fit the chamber slightly over the rubber seal. Make sure it's reasonably sturdy - pushing in to the "4" mark is fine.

Add coffee to chamber. If your grinder has a rectangular basket, or you are using the scoop, you can pour directly in. Otherwise consider using the funnel so you don't spill.

Tip: use the handle side of the scoop to scrape out remaining grounds.

One scoop of coffee should fill about one number's worth in the chamber.

Note: in theory the Aeropress can make up to four shots at once. In practice, this just isn't true. And I also find you need more water than the markings indicate. Two shots works fine, and you can get away with three, but that's about it. When I make coffee for me and a pal I do a triple (1.5 shots each), if I want more than this, I will do separate extractions, which luckily is fast with the Aeropress.

Lastly, close your coffee container, keep that black gold fresh. If you are using the Airscape, press down on the black seal until it bottoms out, then add the clear lid.

Step 5: Brew Baby Brew

In brief:

  1. Put filter in cap
  2. Add hot water
  3. Stir (10 sec.)
  4. Screw on filter cap
  5. Flip
  6. Plunge (20-30 sec.)

Filters - the paper filters that come with the Aeropress work well, are cheap, and 2000 filters = 1 newspaper so environmentally defensible. However I still prefer a re-usable stainless steel filter. If you buy one, I recommend the ultra-fine mesh type, not the rigid disc types (the holes are too big).

Tip: if you use a paper filter, wet it first so it doesn't slip when you put the filter cap on the chamber.

Water - you can fill just 1-2 numbers worth if you want espresso. Most people fill almost to the top because they are making Americanos.

Tip: Some say the taste is better if you use smaller espresso quantity of water, plunge, and then add hot water.

Tip: If your set-up is slow, make sure your water hasn't cooled down too much.

Stirring - about 10 seconds, be thorough, rotate the chamber so no grounds are left unmixed.

Filter cap - put on quickly first so the filter doesn't fall out, then make sure tabs are aligned. The filter cap tabs fit into slots on the chamber flange. It doesn't need to be super tight, just enough to be sure it won't fall of.

Tip: If you are doing this uncaffeinated in the morning, double-check the cap is firmly in the slots and the filter has not slipped.

Flip - this is the only fancy part. Just flip it over on to your mug. Quick and confident. You don't need to be hectic, it won't come apart in mid-air.

Tip: the chamber flange is sized to fit on most mugs, but you should check beforehand if you have a vey small or very large mug.

Plunging - gentle pressure is the key. It should be moderately hard to press down and take 20-30 seconds.


Step 6: Take Your First Sip of Black Gold

Remove the Aeropress from your mug and flip over again.

Tip: pull up very slightly on the plunger to create a reverse vacuum, this will keep eliminate drips. It is easiest to hold the chamber with one hand and pull the plunger with the other (a half-inch is plenty). If you want to be fancy you can do it one-handed by pulling up with index finger while pressing down with thumbnail and other fingers.

Add milk and/or sugar if you want. For me, organic half-and-half and no sweetener. (This is a good time to wean yourself off of sugar, you only need that for mediocre coffee, believe me.)

Top off with extra water if you like Americanos.

Tip: if you like to clean up first, wait to add your extra hot water until that's done, especially if you use milk, since that cools down your coffee substantially.


Step 7: Clean Up

Unscrew filter cap for rinsing in sink.

Position Aeropress over trash or compost and push plunger in to eject the "puck" of coffee grounds.

Rinse off chamber and plunger seal. You do not need to separate it! This is part of the genius of the Aeropress, the seal is so tight it wipes itself clean as you plunge.

Tip: For efficiency, I throw stirrer into sink after stirring, throw filter cap into sink after plunging, then I eject coffee puck, then bring Aeropress to sink - that way I can rinse all parts at once.

Store the Aeropress separated so your plunger seal stays robust. I like to put the stirrer and scoop into the funnel.

Be nice to yourself, or the next user: wipe your grinder clean. It takes 5 seconds and keeps stale leftovers from accruing.

Okay...That's it.

Honestly, after you do it once, it is the fastest and easiest method out there.

Autodesk AiRs - ask me for help any time.