The best way to make coffee is an Aeropress with fresh-ground medium roast from a cheap spinning blade grinder, and I bought a $100 burr grinder to prove it.
I can’t praise the Aeropress enough. When heating the water with an electric kettle, which is quite fast, it takes less time to brew than drip coffee (though it does require one or two more minutes of attention), it’s easy to travel with, the results are excellent, and it’s just $40.
An electric kettle is worth having – so much faster than a stovetop kettle. A kitchen scale is nice if you want to experiment with different measurements, but you can also do this by just eyeballing the beans you place in the grinder. That’s how I started my experiments.
You should use a spinning blade grinder. I don’t have a specific recommendation, get whatever is cheap on Amazon.
- Measure about 31g of beans on a kitchen scale, and grind them.
- Place the aeropress on top of a mug, with a regular paper filter, and pour the beans in.
- Pour hot water into the aeropress, stir, top off after stirring.
- Plunge for 20-30 seconds.
- Pour a bit of extra water in, to what feels like the right amount of liquid in the mug.
I drink it black.
I took something I read somewhere and adapted it organically over time. If I recall correctly, the first iteration came from the simple instructions that came with the Aeropress, filling grounds up to the 2 mark on the cylinder, and then water up to the 4 mark, but it’s been so long I’m not completely certain.
The result is dark, dark coffee. It’s closer to black than brown, and definitely not translucent. It’s not espresso – technically espresso can only be made with higher pressure than you can achieve in an unmodified Aeropress, and the result doesn’t taste as intensely soil-like as espresso either. Right after plunging, there is a bit of foam, but the crema on top of espresso is both nicer to taste and much longer lasting. When I drink coffee made this way, I can see little rivulets down the side of the mug, like wine legs.
It is truly my favorite way to drink coffee. I realized recently that I don’t even like going to shops for black coffee any more – the best alternative sold at a cafe is an americano, and no americano is as good as this. Other ways to get nice coffee at a shop, like pour-over and chemex, have too thin a product. (Shops are still nice for other espresso-based drinks, but I drink them more rarely.)
I have a burr grinder, but I don’t recommend it. I actually grind on two different settings – about half on fine, and about half on coarse. This gets results as good as a cheap spinning blade grinder on my expensive-ish burr grinder.
Last year, someone very important to me went and bought Bones Coffee Cookies N’ Dreams beans, which taste like stale Oreos and sadness. Similar to Axe body spray and cigarette smoke in vehicular interiors, it’s chemically impossible to remove this flavor from a grinder once it’s been used. (Thankfully using my Aeropress was too inconvenient, so it wasn’t contaminated.) The grinder had to be thrown away.
Given this opportunity, I thought I might upgrade to a nicer grinder. Everyone says that the best coffee is made by burr grinders from Baratza, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend $150, so I opted for the $100 Oxo, even if it was “a bit less consistent”.
But I hated the results!
The fine and medium settings taste really similar to me, too thin and too light. When pouring the water over the grounds in the Aeropress cylinder, it doesn’t foam as much as it should, which means I get more water than I should in the cup. The coarse setting is better, but it has an empty flavor, which I can only describe as “like being hungry”. Every time I drink it I want something more substantial. It’s missing something, I think a greater concentration of oils from the beans. At any grind setting, the color is more brown than black.
Why use a burr grinder
The whole point of a burr grinder is being able to get a consistent size of coffee grounds.
“Weak” and “sour” are how I’d describe coffee made with consistent grind size, whether coarse or fine – not the coffee I make with unevenly ground beans. Maybe I like my coffee bitter? I can recognize the tannin flavor in wine and overbrewed tea, but I wouldn’t call the coffee I make “tannic”, and I wouldn’t say it is too bitter. I also wouldn’t say that coffee brewed with a consistent size of grounds on either end of the spectrum is sweeter than what I make; mostly, I’d describe that coffee as acidic.
It isn’t just how I make it, either. Nice coffee at expensive cafes tends to taste similar to the result I get when I brew with a consistent grind size.
A varied size of grounds, in my experience, also results in a much thicker brew for the same amount of beans, and I very much prefer that consistency.