Aeropress vs Espresso – A Brewing Method Comparison for Coffee Snobs

aeropress setupWhether your searching for caffeinated beverages in a convenient or cost-effective manner, there are many options for you. If one wants quality, then that’s another story.

So which brewing methods will check all the right boxes?

That’s not always the case, in fact, you might just need to be optimizing your current setup.

Let’s discuss two of the most common brewing methods today the space-age Aeropress vs the tried and true Espresso.

What’s the Difference Between Espresso & Aeropress Coffee?

Traditional espresso is defined as a concentrated coffee shot brewed from roughly 1 tablespoon of finely ground coffee. Espresso is particularly notable for its layer of foamy cream called crema which is generated because the espresso is being brewed under high levels of atmospheric pressure. Here’s the technical, no-nonsense definition of true, unadulterated espresso:

“… a 25-35ml (.85-1.2 ounce) beverage prepared from 7-9 grams (14-18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195 °-205 °F (92 °-95°C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.”

Espresso machinesEspresso machines are true feats of engineering. Sometimes you’ll find three stages of water boilers deep inside the machine which keeps the water temperature at just the right temperature all day long. These machines also feature a pump system (Sometimes two) that can generate 7 to 10 bars of pressure on command. It’s this pressure that is mainly responsible for the crema many are so infatuated with.

The Espresso Drink

history of espressoEspresso machines are powerful devices with backbones of science and engineering.

Espresso is a drink that can be used in many ways. While many prefer the straight espresso taste, it’s also worth noting that espresso is also used to make drinks such as a latte, mocha, macchiato, cappuccino, or americano.

The espresso drink took the world by storm in the late 1800s. Angelo Moriondo filed an Italian patent for a steam-driven “instantaneous” coffee beverage making device thus changing the world of coffee forever. Still focusing on Italy, the rise of espresso consumption soon became synonymous with urbanization, espresso bars providing a place for socializing.

Fast forward to now, espresso machines for home use have become a prominent staple of coffee enthusiasts the world around. The technology of making this great concentrated coffee beverage has advanced so much that espresso can be made remotely from your Bluetooth-enable smartphone. However, many now want to know what the Aeropress is capable of.

The Mysteries of The Aeropress

aerobie aeropress inventorHow many notable frisbee entrepreneurs can you think of? Perhaps there’s just one to remember.

That’s Alan Alder. Perhaps you recall the name Aerobie for their sports equipment, especially the reinvented flying disc that had the center cut out. The disc was famous for its distance, being able to fly further than any frisbee previously created. Perhaps it’s the concept of going above and beyond (literally) that led to the inspiration for the AeroPress.

The AeroPress was a solution for a proper single cup coffee maker. It’s a predecessor to many coffee trends that came before. Still, it falls short in one major way when comparing to the espresso shot.

It’s technically not able to be an espresso shot.

The Aeropress satisfies many of the properties of an espresso shot though. However, the true nature of the Aeropress is that of a filter-style coffee. The Aeropress is a convenient portable device but doesn’t have the capability to brew with a comparable pressure to an espresso maker. So the crema one might get in an Aeropress will be significantly different, and is under scrutiny from many espresso connoisseurs.

Chout out this link for our further review of the AeroPress.

Many find the affordability and portability of the AeroPress to win their hearts over wholly. After all, it’s quite a genius contraption and it is definitely easy to use. Never before in the history of coffee has there been more convenient options for crafting delicious coffee, and the Aeropress options are great additions to the office or the great outdoors.

Just remember if you’re going to be camping then it’s likely you’ll need a grinder that’s portable too.

Espresso is highly concentrated, plenty oily flavors and has a layer of thick foam called crema. This Aeropress coffee even if you use a lot of coffee grounds and very little water still does not becomes espresso, it is just strong coffee.

Which isn’t all bad, still there are a few simple tricks to get the most out of your AeroPress if you’re still dissatisfied with its standard product.

Crema and The Aeropress

espresso cremaAs was pointed out before, it seems that espresso purists might make the biggest fuss about the true definition of the Aeropress brew. That being said, no matter the sipper or drinker, the coffee the Aeropress creates is wildly good and particularly a feat of impressive engineering.

The results of the AeroPress can be quite diverse, but one factor makes a larger difference than all the rest: The filter!

The paper filters that the AeroPress ships with creates a relatively clean cup, but for many, you’re simply filtering out the oils and flavors that lend to a bold cup of coffee. The trouble with paper filters is that they are notorious for absorbing most or all of the coffee oils. This is a shame because those aromatic oils bring a lot of life to our coffee in the form of a silky mouthfeel and robust flavors.

In fact, there’s a compound found in coffee that hasn’t been filtered called diterpenes, which is notorious for its amazing anti-inflammatory properties.

If you are a serious Aeropress user then you surely would love to be able to make delicious crema from your press. Well here’s a technique that will surely improve the flavor of your cup, if not it’s at least worth experimenting with as many baristas find this a great addition to their home coffee practice.

The Inverted Method

It’s not the first thing you’d think of when using this apparatus to brew but what’s developed is a new method of brewing using an inverted (upside-down) AeroPress.

In inverted brewing, the plunger is placed into the column close to the top of the column, and the entire AeroPress stands upside-down, resting on the top of the plunger. Strange right?

One or two scoops of ground coffee are added, followed by to-temperature water, and the entire mixture then stirred. While that brews, a filter (preferably the metal mesh that won’t filter out oils) is placed into the filter cap and moistened to help it stick in place.

Next, the AeroPress cap is placed on top of the column and screwed into a secure position.

Lastly, once the desired brewing time is complete the AeroPress is either turned right-side-up and plunged normally or held at an angle and plunged somewhat horizontally.

This method is more similar to the French press, particularly because it extends the brewing time in which the grounds and water sit together. Thus it is recommended to use a much more coarse grind that might be used in a French press. Thus, Aerobie doesn’t endorse this method in particular.

It also leads us to an entirely new discussion, French Press coffee Vs. Espresso.

Inverted AeroPress coffee has some intersecting and unique properties:

  • Claimed to have roughly the same concentration as espresso
  • Higher pH (thus lower acidity) than drip coffee.
  • Super quick brewing time.

Differences between it and French Press include:

  • Uses a disposable paper filter which removes most of the coffee solids (a French press uses a coarser wire or nylon mesh filter). However, several third-party reusable metal filters are available.
  • Shorter brewing time, which leads to less acidic coffee
  • Uses light air pressure to extract flavor.
  • Uses a fine grind (slightly finer grind than drip, but coarser than espresso machines use), versus the coarse grind recommended for French presses

A few tips to get the most out of your Aeropress, and your coffee in general:

  • If you’re having difficulty with the plunger, it’s possible that the grounds are tamped down so much that air isn’t able to penetrate them and thus you’ll need to lessen the amount of pressure you’re putting onto the tamping process.
  • The fresher your roast is and the less time you wait after grinding the beans the stronger likelihood of imparting the best flavors into the brew.
  • To really get the most of the apparatus, always store the plunger separately outside of the AeroPress, this will allow the AeroPress to maintain it’s suction prowess.
  • As with almost any coffee brewing method, it’s easy to perform brews and experiment with the various ratios such as water temperature, grind sizes and steep time once you’ve got the handle on the process.
  • Make sure to clean the AeroPress after each session, as grounds are easily built up within the device and if you aren’t careful will remain in the filter or other areas and impart off flavors to future cups of coffee.
  • It’s also recommended that you invest in a pour-over kettle. The design of a pour over kettle often features a gooseneck spout that allows for a more even and controlled pour over your ground coffee. There are many options out there for a great pour over kettle so do your research.

Espresso Machine Buying Guide

espresso machine high-end

Okay, so if you’re not satisfied with the Aeropress it’s time to look into investing in a proper espresso machine. This can get tricky, so let’s review the finer points and walk you through our compact espresso machine buying guide:

Let’s talk budget first. Some of these things cost a couple of car payments, on the high-end, while others are cheap enough to simply pull the trigger on today. How much have you set aside for your new home espresso machine?

For a beginner just venturing into the world of home espresso making one could find a more affordable machine and find out which features are worth having, and which you can live without. If you are careful, one can invest in a relatively affordable machine and slowly buy and sell their way to the top.

So it’s useful to consider the features you’ll want in an espresso machine, with what kind of regularity are you going to use it, and what kind of beans are you going to be grinding to use with it?

For a super-fine espresso grind, one is going to need a pretty impressive grinder too. So it’s best to consider that when creating a budget.

The difference between semi-automatic and automatic espresso machines is slight however the price jump to this class of machine can have a large price tag.There are many domestic models and some might seem like a commercial espresso unit in stature and down-payment. Automatic espresso machines have a few more functions and features, but the most significant difference between the two is the fact that automatic espresso makers will perform near perfect dosing on a regular basis.

Plus they’re easily adjustable with a little practice.

This makes automatic home espresso machines a perfect option even for the novice. just venturing into the world of espresso making; you don’t have to guess whether the espresso is ready to serve or if it still needs more water because the machine has taken that element of the guesswork away. They’re fast acting machines and made to last.

There’s also stovetop espresso makers, they are of a different class all themselves. More in line with a percolator. It’s worth looking into these impressive stovetop units, but remember that you’re not getting the same kind of espresso a machine is capable of delivering. They’re also somewhat challenging in the sense that getting the perfect espresso takes a lot of practice and patience.

We hope you’ve had a proper introduction to these two brewing methods. Obviously, they both have their own merits and fit a variety of different scenarios that one could be faced with. In the end, both kinds of equipment will make you a great coffee brew, but the devils in the details, as they say.

Feel free to check out our other reviews and coffee gear to see where your coffee brewing ventures will take you.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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