Best suited for: @aeropress
Theory: Since coffee is just sitting in a chamber and is not (instantly) passing through a filter, it’s considered best practice to introduce all water as quickly as possible. This is because flavour doesn’t particularly change if water is added in stages in immersion brews, so really we're just finding an overall dilution that we want to drink. Essentially a recipe will be how long you choose to steep a coffee for before passing it through a filter. What makes an Aeropress different to other immersion brewers is the fact it's made out of plastic, and you are passing the coffee through a paper filter.
Plastic has a lower thermal mass and a higher level of heat retention. With a brewer like a French Press or another ceramic dripper, this would mean our steeping time should be a little longer, but because we're using plastic and also using pressure to pass the coffee through a paper filter, the Aeropress can enjoy a shorter steeping time. For this reason, you'll often see Aeropress recipes steeping for around about 2 minutes.
In my experience, plastic also affects the temperature you can approach a brew with. If you prefer brewing hotter, heat will hold very well. If you prefer brewing cooler, you can actually use a slightly lower temperature than what you might be used to. The full immersion of coffee grounds during the 'steep time' means we enjoy a slightly more full bodied coffee with enhanced sweetness.
Approach: Pick a desired strength through a ratio (1:14 being a ‘strong’ ratio and 1:17 being a ‘lighter’ ratio), and pick a level of intensity through temperature (88c being a lighter expression of that ratio and 100c creating a heavier expression). Your dose and yield are simply created through how much coffee you want to make.
If you'd like to agitate, a stir at the start of a recipe, or before the 'steep time' can help ensure an even saturation of coffee, but is really only necessary if you didn't wet all the coffee with your kettle. Agitation after the steeping period will help determine strength, and you can explore this through stirring or swirling. The main thing is to 'break the crust' that forms and have the coffee sitting at the bottom of the dripper so the water passes through it, and stirring or swirling will help you achieve that. If you are stirring, you can stir many times to increase extraction, or you can just stir a couple of times to have a more balanced cup. If swirling, a decent swirl should catch all the grounds and have them settle at the bottom.
Taste: Immersion style brewing brings out more body and sweetness thanks to contact time of coffee with water. In a way immersion brewing is more ‘user friendly’ and is also closer to how roasters calibrate their coffees (cupping at a 1:17ish ratio using boiling water).
Try this: when you’re ‘stuck’ on a coffee or don’t have access to a gooseneck kettle.
Example recipe for Aeropress:
Dose: 12g Water: 200g Temperature: 99c Grind: Medium-fine (3.3 on a Kinu or 20 on a Comandante)
At 0’00 fill your Aeropress up to 200g making sure to saturate all your coffee in one pour. Let the coffee sit for 2 minutes.
(Note, I prefer using the 'standard' position for Aeropress as I find it's less messy).
At 2’00 you can stir or swirl, whatever you fancy, but I recommend plunging quite slowly. I personally always experience a slightly heightened sweetness with a slower plunge.
Adjustments: If you find the coffee tastes ‘weak’, try increasing your dose. This will lower the flavour clarity, but increase strength. There's nothing wrong with liking a 1:12 or even 1:14 ratio, especially if that works best with the coffees you like to drink.
If your coffee tastes astringent and flat, try coarsening your grind. By 'astringent' I mean the intense drying sensation particularly at the edges of your mouth. By flat I mean the flavours are there and the sweetness is good, but it's lacking clarity.
If your coffee tastes like ‘nothing’, try grinding finer and using hotter water.
Example 1: I'm drinking a medium roast specialty blend and I like to add a bit of milk. Brewing at a 1:15 ratio I find the milk is making the coffee taste bland.
I'd recommend dropping your ratio down even further, using 13 or 14g of coffee to 200g water (for example). Make sure your grind is set so your plunger isn't too hard to press, so you can still enjoy the unique flavour of your coffee. If you're adding milk, definitely approach using hotter water to make the coffee flavour more present.
Example 2: I'm drinking a single origin lot from my favourite roaster. The flavours are muddled and hard to find. What can I do?
If your flavours are hard to find clearly I would say it's mostly because of dilution, or because your grind is too fine. Try adding more water or using less coffee if you're using boiling water, or coarsen your grind. If you coarsen your grind and you find the flavours are still hard to distinguish, try dropping your temperature a little bit to soften the overall cup.
If you're finding the flavours are just lacking in a strength way, then make sure you're using hotter water or even add more coffee.
Example 3: I'm drinking a coffee that tastes nice but it has a bit of a weird chalky, or roasty finish. What can I do?
This will most likely have to do with the coffee itself, and is either an issue of green quality or roast quality. The best thing to do if you're finding you're extracting generally unpleasant flavours is to intentionally extract less. Same goes with medium or darker style roasts - it's best to use cooler water to minimise how many negative flavours go into your cup. If you'd like to make up for lost body, try adding an extra gram of coffee.
An underextracted coffee shouldn't taste bad, it should taste light and lack sweetness, and an 'overextracted' or astringent coffee should affect the finish most of all.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send a message to @jamesperrycoffee on Instagram