Aeropress Live! Second impression.

Alan Adler, of Aerobie industries, brought the Aeropress coffee maker to Discovery Coffee for a 3-way show-down with the Clover Coffee brewer and the Synesso espresso machine.

Quick lead-in: The Clover Coffee maker is an 8000 dollar single-cup coffee maker that is considered "the bomb" in the specialty coffee industry. This is leading edge stuff folks. There are a handful of Clover Coffee makers in use now and the consumer buzz is intense. The Synesso, on the other hand, is not only recognized and well-entrenched as a bench mark unit for espresso, but also, it's a well deployed, nationwide, in the specialty coffee industry.

The aeropress: It is a 39 dollar assortment of plastic bits and pieces that look, quite frankly, more like a breast pump crossed with a cattle insemination tool than a coffee maker.

We have a full review of the product here. Make no mistake about it - The coffeecrew give the Aeropress coffee making system an enthusiastic "two thumbs" up. No question. No hesitation.

Quick review of Alan Adler and Aerobie Industries: Alan Adler is an electronics engineer and inventor, amateur astronomer and former instructor/lecturer at Stanford in California. He is a stereotypical science guy who talks and looks like he`s has way more ideas still up his sleeve. He is also a very nice guy. He believes in his product and he has lots of experience developing ideas that not only put massive smiles on tens of thousands of faces (like the Aerobie Flying Disc), but they also work. This is American ingenuity at its best.

The test environment: Discovery Coffee is the brainchild of Sam Jones, Victoria B.C.'s most respected authority on all things coffee and espresso. His cafe contains a Deidrich roaster, a 3-group Synesso espresso machine, a Clover Coffee making system and an impressive array of coffee grinders including a Mahlkoenig. Add to that, the most motivated and professional clutch of barista-partners anywhere.

So how did it go?

Aeropress versus The Clover Coffee System

With the assistance of Sam and his crew, they brewed Clover samples of Ethiopian Yirgecheffe coffee while Alan Adler prepared an assortment of brews with the Aeropress. Same coffee, same water, same grinder...

For the record, the Ethiopian Yirgecheffe coffee seemed a little off. It was roaster fresh, probably a day old or so. The first sips from the Aeropress tasted full bodied but with none of the wild floral notes and lemon astringency that I am accustomed to detecting with Yirgacheffe. When I taste this coffee, I am expecting blueberry notes and a ringing lemon twang on the tip of my tongue. Even the most inexperienced coffee taster can detect fruit with Ethiopian coffee. The first Aeropress coffee brew had no fruit and no twang. Bad.
The first samples from the Clover revealed the same flaw, at least initially. No fruit. No lemon.
Within a minute of cupping the Clover sample, I could just make out distant shimmering fruit notes in the cup as well as a little acidic ringing. Sadly, this doesn't count as scientific observation because I had several mouthfuls of Aeropress a few minutes earlier.

Score: Aeropress 0 - Clover 0

This is not a negative finding here folks. There was no clear winner.

Aeropress coffee versus Synesso espresso.

After spending about 10 minutes ruminating on our findings, while Alan Adler looked on, he suggested: "Can I make you gentlemen some espresso with the Aeropress?"

To be honest, I think I may have blurted the words "heresy!" and "Sam, I will get the railway ties and kerosene... you get the rope!" ...or something to that effect.

Anyway. While the Discovery Coffee crew brewed a handful of wonderful espresso shots with the Synesso, Alan Adler brewed up some coffee `concentrate` with the Aeropress. what is `concentrate` you ask? Well. Strong coffee. Yea. Strong coffee.

Quick sidebar if you have not read the Aeropresso review yet. The Aeropress uses a brew column, a paper filter, filter holder and rubber tipped plunger for:

- mixing a slurry of coffee and hot water and
- pushing the coffee/water mixture through an atypical paper filter, leaving the spent coffee grinds inside the brew column and the brewed coffee in your cup.

It is sort of like a French Press with a push... or a drip brewer... with a push of pressure.

How much pressure? Some numbers were uttered during the comparison phase of the Aeropress versus the Synesso shoot-out. I will assume I was hearing wrong because my impression (impression not actual numbers) is that the brew column pressure must be about 3 atmospheres, maybe 4.

The Synesso brews real espresso at 9 to 12 Bar. 9 to 12 Bar is the kind of pressure that is absolutely necessary to brew true espresso coffee. Short of going into a long and snore inducing description of what espresso is (or is not), I will say this: It is a combination of water temperature, coffee quality and grind, brew duration and pressure that creates what we have come to accept as 'espresso'.

How did the Aeropress do?

Alan Adler brought a device called a Brix meter. It measures the levels of suspended solids in fluids; water, juice, oil, what-have-you. Long story short - the stronger the beverage (in Coffee-World) the higher the BRIX number - pretty simple huh?

We put samples of synesso espresso into the Brix meter.
We put samples of Aeropress coffee into the Brix meter.

The Aeropress coffee maker produced more concentrated coffee than the Synesso.

What did it taste like? To my palate, the Aeropress concentrate samples tasted like coffee with a push or, in other words, stove top espresso. Which we all accept as not being espresso. Stovetop is coffee brewed at 3 Bar using steam as the "plunger".
It did not taste like tradtional espresso. No surprise there. It is generally accepted that high pressure (9 - 12 bar) creates and environment condusive to the production of espresso coffee. No pressure, no espresso coffee taste.

It is kind of like putting Barley, Hops and Malt and some lab-grade alcohol into a beaker and calling it beer.
It is not beer. It is a slurry of beer ingredients.

Score: Aeropress 0 - Synesso 1

My bonus observations of the Aeropress Coffee maker

I have been spending time this summer doing a 4-day work week with long weekends every weekend. We have been exploring the region of Southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. The Aeropress coffee maker has been with me the entire time. I am also packing along a Solis Maestro or Baratza Virtuoso grinder whenever possible.

Conclusion: Without question, the Aeropress coffee maker offers a sound alternative to the specialty coffee enthusiast:
  • looking to have great coffee wherever their travels take them
  • eliminating the need to have bad coffee where no good coffee is available and
  • adding the ability to sample exceptional single origin coffees (or blends) wherever you might be.
Some of the best cups of coffee I have had, while travelling, have come out of the Aeropress coffee maker. In short, it is the single most important development in coffee brewing techniques in years.

It is not espresso, nor should it be labled espresso.

For 39$ + shipping, this is one item that every coffee lover should have.

Colin Newell and Adam Tindale are two of Victoria's most infamous coffee lurkers. We exist among the best of the best in the business. Still learning every day, we report on cafe culture and the Specialty Coffee phenomenon in Canada and the U.S.A.

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