A De-Pressing Tale

'Aeropress' photo (c) 2011, Yara Tucek - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Coffee and I have a love-hate relationship, ever since my first cappuccino (flavored powder mixed with hot water, like caffeinated Swiss Miss) caused to walk laps around the Calvary Chapel building, made me paranoid and nervous, and left me so sleep-deprived that I had to leave school the next day.

I've since learned to adjust to and appreciate the stimulating effects of coffee, thinking of it as my OTC Ritalin. Coming from a tea-drinking household, my gateway drug was a can of Folgers. I graduated from that to whole bean, ground with a blade grinder, still made with a standard drip machine. A chance encounter with a french press at a friend's home caused me to re-evaluate my coffee-making ways. I was gifted a french press by my mother in law last year, and promptly melted the bottom of it on my flat-top stove burner, which has been the sight of MANY atrocities. I lost the crock to my programmable crock pot the same way. (That was also a gift from my mother in law. I'm sorry Mom!) Thankfully the french press survived and gave us a year of faithful service until we decided to upgrade (the french press is stored in our cabinet now, in case we have guests who want coffee.) It's true it was a smoother cup that from a drip machine, but the lack of the filter meant we were getting sludge in the bottom of our cups, which Hugh wasn't fond of.

We heard about the Aeropress coffee machine through the website Boing-Boing and it sounded like a dream come true. Make a shot of espresso in 30 seconds? French press coffee gets bitter very quickly due to the oils in the beans, the Aeropress micro-filter eliminates that problem. You can store leftover coffee and make an iced latte the next day! And it's only $25! Uh-mazing.

I decided to get Hugh one for his birthday because he was sick of the coffee dregs and also because I wanted one. He opened it and asked me if it wasn't the equivalent of Homer Simpson getting Marge a bowling ball with his name on it. I pretended to be insulted.

Now came the test. The first cup was not so great because I made the mistake of reading the instructions that CAME with the Aeropress instead of immediately  going to the inter-webs. The tubes never let me down.

The Aeropress starts out by confusing you because there is a 1, 2, 3, and 4 printed on the side. To make one cup of coffee, the water level goes up to 2. If you want to make two cups of coffee, too bad. You have to just make another single serving, separately, because if you add any more grounds than the amount it takes for one cup the patented air pressing doesn't work and it takes 20 minutes instead of 20 seconds, or so it seems. I have NO idea why there is a 1,2,3 and 4 printed on the side. The 2 is the only one that counts. And I have NO idea what the 2 even means because what it makes is one shot of espresso. One.

Because I didn't understand this, and I also didn't understand that I was making espresso and needed to add extra hot water to make a Cafe Americano, I just poured some milk in and wound up with cold, bitter cup of coffee. Ick. But once I figured out that out I have consistently made delicious, smooth, hot coffee. It's so easy that I tried really hard to convince my friend Jeanette to get one. She was dubious, as the website made it sound like a chemistry lab, with water being boiled to specific temperatures and what not.

I get what she means. Hugh once came to me with fear in his eyes and I asked him what was troubling him so. "I just stumbled upon a website for coffee aficionados," he whispered. "Apparently we need a burr grinder that costs $500 or we are drinking the equivalent of cat urine."

Between discussions of weighing coffee and the benefits of burr grinders vs. blade it's enough to make you hang up your fair trade organic dark roasted whole bean pressed coffee and  just start drinking tea. And of course you have a whole other slew of issues there...loose leaf vs bagged and I don't know what all. Filtered water vs spring water?  Someone help me out here...I'm not much of a tea drinker (except for Chai...I do have opinions about Chai.)

But I felt confident that the Aeropress was a simple, inexpensive  way to make expensive coffee taste even more expensive. And I was right. It wasn't any harder to use than the french press really, and I found if you let the water reach a boil and then waited a minute for it to cool off you didn't need a thermometer, which is good, because nothing sucks like getting someone a present and them not having the proper tools to use it. It's like getting a kid a remote control car and not including batteries.

All went well. Until this morning.

I made one cup at 5:15 am in preparation for my daily walk with my neighbor Amber. All was well, except I had forgotten to clean the chamber the last time I used it, a big Aeropress no-no. Easily dealt with. I came back from my walk at 6:30 and made a cup for my husband. No problemo. But by then the effects of MY last cup were wearing off (this is my excuse.)

You guys remember the time I brewed a pot of hot water? No problem here. I put the grinds in. Yes I did.

But when I went to look for the plunger you use to gently press the coffee I was LOST.

I just USED IT.

Then I realized that the top of the plunger is open, and basically invisible when pushed into it's receptacle.

So yeah. I put the grounds into the plunger.

I tried to pour them into the chamber, but I had already added the hot water and it was a huge mess. Plus I realized the filter wasn't screwed on all the way and basically what we were dealing with was lots and lots of coffee sludge falling everywhere, but mostly into the sink (thankfully.)

I wanted to be cute, and say "You have to drink coffee to be coherent enough to MAKE coffee," but sadly I had ALREADY HAD COFFEE.

So what I want to say is that I stand by my assertion the the Aeropress is an excellent, simple to use product.

Unless you are me.