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?