By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee
The Aeropress is a great method for home brewing beginners. Despite it being a simple bit of kit, there is a huge amount of information online about the Aeropress and a lot of terminology that can confuse the novice. Our home brewing blogger James has set out a really useful glossary to help.
What I like most about the Aeropress is that the device can be as complicated as you want it to be. There are so many ways to customise your brew that you could use a different recipe every day for years. Or you can keep your brewing simple and use the same recipe day-after-day. This was the approach I took when I found a recipe I liked. I stuck with a recipe for a while, content to be making good coffee. Then, I started to experiment. In the process of trying new recipes, I came across a lot of terms related to the Aeropress, from "bypass" to "the inverted method."
I found myself looking up terms in different books and online, trying to figure out what they all meant. To help you learn more about the world of Aeropress brewing -- and the words that you may hear -- I have written a short glossary with some terms that you are most likely to encounter. Here, I focus on the parts of the Aeropress and common terms used to describe Aeropress recipes. I will not talk about every brewing variable in coffee brewing; there are too many to fit into one blog post.
Brewing chamber: The cylinder in which coffee brews. The brewing chamber has four numbers: 1, 2, 3, and 4. These numbers can help guide you when you are adding water. The numbers are especially useful if you do not have a scale but when you want to be consistent in how much water you pour into the device.
Plunger: The cylinder with a rubber plunge at the bottom. This fits into the Aeropress. Pressing the plunger in the Aeropress chamber when there is coffee inside creates pressure which forces the coffee out of the bottom of the filter cap.
Filter cap: The cap with holes which screws into the brewing chamber. This cap holds your filter. Some brewers use paper filters -- sometimes two, if you want a cup with less bits of coffee in it -- and others use metal filters. Metal filters produce a cup that tastes more like a French press, according to my research.
Stirring stick: The wide stick used to stir the coffee in the Aeropress. Some brewers use chopsticks or a spoon. I prefer to use the stirring stick because it is easy to clean. The stirring stick reaches down to the bottom of the Aeropress so you can easily stir all of your coffee.
Regular method: This technique involves putting your Aeropress brewing chamber on a cup with the filter cap attached. You put your coffee grounds in the chamber and add water. After the coffee has brewed you attach the plunger and push it down to move your coffee into the mug or carafe below. This method is safer than the alternative, the inverted method.
Inverted method: The inverted technique involves using the Aeropress in an upside-down position. Put the Aeropress plunger upside-down on your counter and then place the Aeropress brewing chamber at the top of the plunger. You will brew your coffee in the brewing chamber which is attached to the plunger. When you are ready to decant your coffee into a mug or carafe, you attach the filter cap and flip the device onto the mug or carafe.
Vacuum: Inserting the plunger in the Aeropress creates a vacuum. This stops most of your water from falling through the filter paper in the regular method, which helps improve the consistency of your brew. Some brewers pull the plunger up a little bit inside the chamber, although this is not necessary.
Plunging slowly: Plunging is when you push the plunge into the Aeropress, causing the coffee to fall into your cup. Most recipes say that you should "plunge slowly." This is said to improve the sweetness of your final brew. While I cannot confirm plunging slowly makes the brew sweeter, a slower plunge helps keep out some of the fine coffee grounds that may make their way into your cup. I find a slow plunge produces a clearer cup of coffee, one where it is easier for me to detect the flavours in each brew.
Recipes and Other Jargon
Concentrate: A highly-concentrated coffee. Recipes that call for a concentrate usually involve adding some water at the end.
Bypass: This is the water you add to a concentrate at the end of a brew to reduce the strength of your coffee. Bypass water is usually added to a concentrate. Bypass water gets its name from the fact the water you add is not involved in the brewing process (i.e. put through the Aeropress chamber).
Stirring (agitation): Aeropress recipes usually have short brew times. My standard recipe is done within under two minutes. Stirring helps to speed up your brewing process by agitating the coffee grounds and encouraging them to give more flavours to your final cup of coffee. Stirring is optional, but a common part of shorter recipes to ensure as many good flavours come out of your coffee grounds as possible.
World Aeropress Championships: A global competition with regional divisions where people make coffee with the Aeropress. Each round of the competition calls for three people to brew a coffee. A panel of judges chooses which one is best by pointing their finger at the cup they like the most. The winner of each round advances further into the competition. The World Aeropress Championships is known for its laid-back culture, with an emphasis on brewing great coffee.
As I said at the beginning of this article, Aeropress brewing is as complicated as you want it to be. A simple recipe can go really far. Most home brewers have a go-to recipe: one that they think produces the best cup for them. There is no right or wrong recipe because everyone has different coffees, water, grinders, and techniques. But, when you have a recipe it is good to be able to understand why it works. I hope the above glossary has helped you answer some questions you may have had about Aeropress recipes and learn a bit more about how to produce an Aeropress coffee.
Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog
Need a place to start when brewing with an Aeropress? Check out our recipe HERE.