If you read my first article about the Aeropress, it might have seemed that I would not use an Aeropress because of its plastic construction. The article describes in detail why I love the inert chemical properties of glass, in addition to my strong preference for preparing warm foods & beverages in glass or steel vessels to preserve the integrity of the flavors. Long ago I was jaded by water from a sun heated plastic bottle that tainted the water with a plastic flavor & smell.
Blowing Away Misconceptions
My skeptical perspective of the Aeropress turned out to be totally misguided. This morning at about 6:30am on the 5th day of December 2016 I used the Aeropress to produce two infusions of coffee from finely ground coffee beans that blew our socks off as some of the best tasting coffee we have ever had, and that was served black without anything added, a real testament to the Aeropress' ability to churn out amazing coffee infusions.
I rinsed off all the parts of the brand new unit. This Aeropress was gifted to us many months ago by my super generous father-in-law Allan. I used the scoop included with the Aeropress to measure out the beans into our small cheap electric grinder ($13 @ Fred Meyer). Heating filtered water in a stainless steel pan to boiling, while the water was heating I setup the Aeropress by placing a fresh filter into the filter holder cap. Next I placed the unit on top of cup one. Using the included funnel to transfer the ground coffee into the Aeropress, I leveled the grounds by tapping it, then placed the unit on top of Megs cup & poured boiling water in up to the 3 mark. Inserting the plunger, I pressed down over the course of about 30 seconds and watched as the air pressure, not the plunger forced the water through the coffee grounds past the filter and into the cup.
Even Black Coffee from the Aeropress Tastes Great
Meg normally always put half & half & some sweetener into her black coffee because our french press churns out some exceptionally strong, acidic, harsh flavored coffee; not that anything is wrong with this flavor. Actually the dense heavy flavor pairs nicely with heavy cream & sugar or half & half, or flavored syrups like Hazelnut Frangelico. Meg said "the black coffee from the Aeropress was delicious, without needing anything else". I completely agree that the black coffee from the Aeropress brings forth more of the botanical fruit notes, flavors and smells normally drowned out by the stronger flavored infusion components expressed by the french press brewing process.
The entire thing resembles an over-sized syringe, even the gasket of the plunger made of the exact same material used to produce syringe gaskets (sytrene-ethylene-butadiene-stryrene : SEBS : made in the USA, approved by the FDA & EU for food contact applications) The Aeropress uses air pressure to force the water through ground coffee, so the plunger and gasket does not actually touch the infusion reaction, coffee grinds or water, and produced the best tasting coffee I have ever tried.
Meg agrees that the Aeropress produces some of the smoothest tasting coffee she has ever tried. Allan, Meg's father, told me that he "knows coffee baristas that use an Aeropress to make their personal coffee", evidence of the superlative infusions produced by this interesting device. Unlike a french press, the filter paper removes two diterpene chemicals that can upset the stomach. Furthermore the processing of coffee in the Aeropress results in an infusion that is up to 9x less acidic, making the resulting coffee easier on the digestive system.
FAQ Surprisingly Informative
I read the entire oem FAQ section of the Aeropress website to gain the boldness to try straying away from my ardent stainless steel / glass ideologies about cooking and beverage processing. Its a remarkably instructive & interesting collection of information about the Aeropress, its construction, operation, principles, maintenance, materials, even contains some of the ideologies and warnings about alternative brewing methods, namely the inverted variety. You can also order replacement parts directly from the OEM. Have a look at the official FAQ
Time / Exposure
Timing can make all the difference. The hot water & coffee infusion produced in the Aeropress is not in contact with the plastic housing materials long enough to impart any off flavors. Furthermore the Aeropress manufactured starting in 2014 are made of an opaque polypropylene that is one of the least reactive of all the thermoplastics & plastic polymers. The Aeropress is also manufactured in the US with stringent tolerances, quality control & quality assurance in an ISO certified factory.
Relatively Safe for Plastic
Free of Phalates & Bisphenol A (BPA), the plastic is also considered food & beverage safe at temperatures close the approximate boiling point of water. PP becomes soft at temperatures around 300-400 F and should never be heated on a stove top, in a microwave or inside an oven, unless the goal is to heat it so that you can reshape the material over a mandrel for the engineered and expressed purpose of changing the shape of the polypropylene.
One of the most common things that people express when contacting the manufacturer of the Aeropress is a model made of stainless steel, glass or a combination thereof. They claim that building a unit out of glass would make it fragile based on their extensive research into alternative brewing technologies and devices that employ glass as a material. Meg was able to break two borosilicate glass kettles by leaving them unattended on the stove until thermal shock shattered them, odd for the otherwise thermal shock stable borosilicate, reinforcing the claims made in the FAQ.
Not Stainless Steel
Aeropress's manufacturer claims that building the units out of stainless steel with the required close tolerances would make the resulting unit far more expensive, though my father-in law Allan & I agree that a market exists for a stainless version of the Aeropress. Meg likewise said that "A profession" model could be produced and marketed as a higher end version of their otherwise very affordable standard PP units (polypropylene = PP)
Not that I am going to give away my french press anytime soon, it was our first coffee machine & I am fond of its construction materials, build quality despite the cheap price, and overall look, feel, operation & clean up. I recently did a complete teardown of the french press to clean everything carefully. It sits idle now as I go forward expressing a new way to express flavor from ground coffee beans in a polypropylene Aeropress that was gifted to us by the wonderfully generous Allan :)
A Stainless Steel Screen
The unit ships with paper filters cut from the same material used to make traditional coffee machine filters. These small discs are roughly 2 inches in diameter and only cost about 1 cent each. If you want to use unbleached filters, you can take one of the OEM filters and trace a cutout onto the paper of an unbleached coffee filter, several discs can be cut from a traditional filter. Third party companies manufacture and sell stainless steel screens, though the use of an SS screen in place of the paper discs will result in a slightly more intense flavor, increase acidity, the presence of terpenes that can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, and SS screens pass small sediment into the resulting coffee infusion that many people find unpleasant as a grit on the bottom of their coffee cups.
Reusable Paper Filters Also Compostable
The paper filter is a more effective filtering medium than a stainless steel screen, and you can reuse the paper filters up to 30 times according to one European user of the Aeropress. He simply rinses off and drys out his old filters and uses them over and over, the filter discs are also completely biodegradable, just like the spent coffee grounds, and are appropriate in both cases to put into your domestic curbside yard-waste containers, or hot compost piles of significant size as to support the decomposition of paper effectively, usually a cubic meter or bigger. On my first attempt to recover the filter paper, I found it was coated with coffee grinds, stuck by cohesion to the filter holder cap. I simply inverted the assembly, giving it a downward shake over my compost collection container to eject the spent grounds & filter. The plunger was used to eject the coffee from the end of the tube assembly, though I had to give it a shake to dislodge some of the grounds as well. A quick rise with cold water, the unit is now inverted air drying over a small glass dish!
Pending Long-term Review coming up at some point!