My brother-in-law is a retired brewer who is pretty well connected in the regional beer scene, which I only mention because I needed a touchstone in order to use the term “beer snob”. As anyone who has a passion to create the very best product they can in their area of expertise, the term is not as pejorative as it seems, assuming the person it’s applied to doesn’t behave in ways that make it so (my brother-in-law is not one of those people). I wanted to say this because I don’t consider myself a snob about anything, but there was a time when I considered becoming one, except instead of beer, I was looking at coffee.

Coffee snobs aren’t new; I would even say their stereotype predates most other modern snobs, at least at the current levels of public consciousness. Ultimately, I realized that in order to be a coffee snob I would have to devote a lot of my time, effort, and money towards coffee, seeking out a variety and breadth of beans from around the world, but the fact is that I only really care about what I like, and have no desire to spend my time suffering (or being insufferable) through years of one-off attempts to discern how one brew is slightly better or worse than another. I like coffee, I like to drink coffee, and that was ultimately why I opted to remain just “some guy who likes coffee”.

That doesn’t stop me from trying to make a good cup of coffee, though. I grew up with Coffeemaker drip carafe machines that were the household standard in the 70’s and 80’s. I have tried Keurig, french presses, and percolators. Every option has its own plusses and minuses, and regardless of what anyone, snob or otherwise, will tell you, it’s all a matter of preference. My latest attempt at home-brew experimentation is the AeroPress, a kind of reverse french-press-slash-Chemex pour-over that’s actually just a plastic pneumatic coffee injection device.

The gist is that the tube is stoppered with a grid basket that holds a paper (included) or fine metal (sold separately) filter. Coffee is then added to the tube, and then water. As the water seeps through the coffee and filter, the plunger is inserted and pressed down gently and steadily, forcing the water through the grinds. Because I opted not to go all coffee snob, I can’t explain the whys and wherefores here, but there’s some difference between a gentle pour-over-and-drain and a brutal mashing of water through bean-dirt in a vacuum chamber.

I’ve got to say, though, the coffee that comes out of this is pretty good. Actually, I might consider this to be actual coffee, as I have always been imprecise in my brewing methods regardless of the vehicle, and have not adhered to measurements in any form at any time in the past. The closest I have come has been in using the Keurig, which I relied on for longer than any other method because of it’s consistent results. Still, the results from other methods and machines have always been overly bitter, which could be attributed to water temperature, grind size, grind amount, water amount, and eventual dilution with additives. A friend commented that he drinks his coffee black, which immediately turned my stomach based on my personal experience with my own coffee making; I like a little coffee with my sugar, but that’s par for my own course.

The coffee that has come out of the AeroPress is smooth, much smoother than any other coffee I have made, ever, really. I’ll wave my hands to distract you from a lack of explanation as to why, but I’m pleased. Not very pleased, for reasons that have nothing to do with the performance of this device. See, my Keurig has developed a short which was tripping breakers on every outlet I tried it on. I had been angling for a newer machine when I saw the AeroPress at Target only minutes after I had chased my wife down the main aisle with the display model of said new Keurig. I was issued an ultimatum: the AeroPress ($31) or a new Keurig ($170), and it would be the last coffee machine allowed in the house. My wife doesn’t understand hobbies, nor does she drink coffee, which should be obvious. So, I went with the more portable, untested option, and while I’m happy with the results, I am less happy at my wife’s disproportionate hard-line against my coffee habit.

Continuing in a similar vein, this machine can be fiddly. For one, if the coffee in the chute isn’t level, or if the water is added unevenly, then the seepage may commence quicker than expected. My first cup was complete even before I got the plunger into the tube, which I suspect was either due to uneven coffee or possibly the coarse grinds I was using. The second attempt wasn’t much better, as the video below shows, because after tipping the tube towards the camera, the grounds were all buttressed against one side of the silo. Thankfully I learned to embrace the chaos for the third cup, leveling the grounds and attempting to evenly distribute the water. While the coffee still seeped through before the plunger was introduced, it wasn’t anywhere near as concerning; I had plenty of time to agitate the mix and apply the pressure.

There’s a bunch of good reasons to try the AeroPress if you like coffee: it’s cheap, it’s portable, it makes great coffee and even has an optional attachment to focus the output to make espresso. Also, there’s a World Championship AeroPress competition. I shit you not (amount of coffee notwithstanding).

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