New Kid on the Block
By far the most recently invented addition to our hall of fame, the Aeropress coffee maker was created by the Aerobie brand in 2005. It may not be the most attractive device in the home brewing category, but it is has become a household name in specialty coffee just the same. It is super cheap and practically indestructible, but it owes its notoriety to its truly unique method of extraction.
What Makes it Special?
The Aeropress is really interesting because it combines pressurized extraction with paper filtration. The only other mainstream methods that use pressure are the french press and the espresso machine, but neither of these utilize a paper filter. Any method that incorporates pressure will have a very peculiar quality to the body, due to an emulsification of colloids. This is especially true of the french press, which is often described as a 'fatty' coffee experience.
The Aeropress will accomplish this emulsification without allowing undissolved solids to end up in the cup. It is a middle ground between the french press and the classic pour-over style brewer.
Choose Your Own Aeroventure
There are so many different ways that people use this thing. There are filter modifications, theories on proper ratio, grind size, time and temperature for water, speed of applying pressure, etc. The Scandinavians even have an annual competition celebrating the possibilities.
You can follow the brew guide that it ships with, which yields a very low acid extraction and uses a lot of coffee. Or, a quick internet search will turn up countless variations to keep you experimenting. We prefer some of the 'inverted' methods (look it up) to the original instruction, but you must taste and see for yourself.
A Great Camper's Companion
One other thing to mention is how conveniently this device can be stowed away in a backpack. About the size of a can of soda and a fraction of the weight, it is an ideal way to bring coffee craft with you on your wilderness adventures. It is made of BPA free plastic, and it is not something you need to worry about breaking, either. There are even some examples of manual grinders that will collapse and fit into the Aeropress cylinder for a very tidy coffee maker's bundle.
One of our favorite things about the Aeropress is how easily it can be cleaned. The bottom filter holder is unscrewed, then the spent filter and coffee 'puck' are removed by pressure with a satisfying 'thunk.' The surfaces of the device can then be rinsed in a matter of seconds.
Like any brew device, the Aeropress has its share of pros and cons. The positives are that it makes a unique cup, it is easy to use and clean, it is compact, and it is durable. On the other hand, it is not the most attractive device, it only makes a single serving at a time, and plastic is not the most temperature stable material. All things considered, every coffee craftsman should have one of these in their collection, but perhaps not on display.