Brewing for Balance, Acidity, or Sweetness: Three Recipes on the AeroPress

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In our roastery, I’m constantly exploring new brew methods and recipes. This past week, I found three recipes for AeroPress that I thoroughly enjoyed. After brewing each one, I tasted the coffee and experimented with some small changes. I found that I was able to highlight unique attributes in one coffee by changing my brew variables. How did I do this? In this post, I’ll share the recipes I found as well as the adjustments I made to emphasize the effect on the final cup.

What is an AeroPress?

The AeroPress was introduced to the coffee industry by Stanford scientist and engineer Alan Adler in 1984. The invention came about from Alder’s desire to brew his everyday coffee with lower perceived acidity and bitterness.

An AeroPress is one of many tools used to brew coffee within the industry. It’s fast and easy to use, and built for portable brewing. Many baristas enjoy it for its versatility and ability to brew coffees with different flavor profiles. There’s even a World AeroPress Championship where participants compete for the title of Best Brew. You can read the winning recipes here.

The Recipes

When I’m developing a new brew recipe, I start by referencing recipes from other coffee professionals online. I can use these as a jumping-off point. After brewing, I taste the coffee, then I’ll make one adjustment at a time, changing the brew’s final flavor profile to fit my preferences or to achieve desired outcomes.

For this experiment, I used a washed coffee from Colombia, the El Tambo from AMACA that we highlighted recently in our blog. I knew this coffee was sweet, citric, and clean. I was intrigued to see how this coffee would showcase itself in each of these brew recipes.

James Hoffman’s Ultimate AeroPress Recipe: (standard)

Dose – 11g
Grind – 4 EK / 450-600um (really fine)
Water Amt – 200ml
Water Temp – 208 degrees Fahrenheit
Brew Time – 3:00
TDS – 1.23%

  1. Assemble your AeroPress with cap and filter fitted into the device. Set on a vessel or mug.
  2. Begin by rinsing your filter and dumping your rinse water.
  3. Use the plastic funnel to dose your coffee into the brew chamber and shake for a flat even bed.
  4. Start your timer. Begin by pouring a total of 200ml into our brewer as quickly as you can.
  5. Fit your plunger gently in the AeroPress, without pressing it down too far, and allow your coffee to steep.
  6. At 2:00, hold the base of your AeroPress and mug. Give it a good swirl to knock down the coffee on the walls, but don’t create a vortex.
  7. At 2:30, begin to press down gently until you hear a hissing sound.
  8. Aim for a total brew time of 3:00

    This first recipe comes from coffee YouTube celebrity James Hoffman. It produces a familiar cup profile. I wanted to feature a recipe that highlight balances through flavor and tactile experience, and this recipe does exactly that. I ground the coffee slightly coarser than James does, because we wanted to achieve a super clean mouthfeel. As our team tasted this brew, we collectively agreed that it was an everyday crowd pleaser. One that we could keep coming back to drink anytime. All the attributes of sweetness, bitterness, and acidity within this coffee are in harmony with one another. We tasted notes of a heath bar and a lemon pastry when we brewed the Colombia El Tambo with this recipe.

    This brew measured in at 1.23% TDS which is on the stronger side of the “ideal” measurement range, but the elevated strength only enhanced the balance of flavors in this cup. You could use a water bypass to dilute the brew slightly if you prefer less strength in your coffee.

    April Coffee Roasters: (standard)

    Dose – 13g
    Grind – 6.75 EK
    Water Amt- 200ml
    Water Temp – 185 degrees Fahrenheit
    Brew Time – 2:00
    TDS – 1.17%

    1. Assemble your AeroPress with the cap and filter fitted into the device.
    2. Place your brewer on a mug or vessel of your choice.
    3. Begin by rinsing our paper filter with hot water. Dump rinse water after.
    4. Use the plastic funnel to dose your coffee into the brew chamber and shake for a flat even bed.
    5. Start your timer. Our first pour will be 50ml, with a fast and straight flow rate.
    6. Immediately after, stir quickly to agitate and saturate all of our grounds. Do not stir too deep.
    7. Fit your plunger about 1cm into your AeroPress to slow your drip rate.
    8. At 0:30, remove the plunger and begin your 2nd pour of 150ml of water with a slower flow rate for a total of 200ml in the chamber. Fit the plunger into your AeroPress again to slow the flow of water.
    9. At 1:30, start pressing your AeroPress until you hear a small hissing sound. Do not push all of the air through.
    10. Aim for a total brew time of 2:00

        Our second brew recipe comes from April Coffee Roasters. It produces an entirely different flavor experience. The faster brew time and the inclusion of agitation at the start of the brew accentuates the acidity found in this coffee. We experienced more nuanced flavor, a refreshing mouthfeel, and a high-quality acidity that brightened the cup. Initially, the tactile experience is mouthwatering which then turns to a round, soft, juicy texture on the palate.

        The original April Coffee Roasters recipe called for a water temperature of 190° which we lowered to 185°. We also poured the water a little slower than their instructions described. These small differences produced a lively and exciting cup that measured 1.17% TDS which is the “ideal” strength for brewed coffee according to the SCA Brew Control Chart.

        2021 World AeroPress Championship Recipe: (inverted method)

        Dose – 17g
        Grind – 6.75 EK / 810 um
        Water Amt – 200ml
        Water Temp – 176 degrees Fahrenheit
        Brew Time – 2:00
        TDS – 1.56%

        1. Begin by rinsing your paper filter with hot water. Dump rinse water after.
        2. Use the plastic funnel to dose your coffee into the brew chamber and shake for a flat even bed.
        3. Start your timer and pour 50ml of water, using a gentle spiral and saturating all of the coffee.
        4. At 0:10, stir gently three times and allow your coffee to finish blooming.
        5. At 0:30, start your second pour with 150ml of water for a total water weight of 200ml. Use a medium speed for this second pour rate.
        6. At 0:50 stir again gently three times and push down carefully to bring the surface of the coffee all the way to the top of the brewer. Fit your filter cap on the brewer and allow it to sit.
        7. Place a vessel or pitcher on top of your AeroPress at 1:35 and prepare to flip the brewer.
        8. At 1:40, carefully flip the brewer over and press the plunger gently until you reach 2:00 on your timer and you hear a hissing sound.
        9. Transfer your fresh brew into a new vessel or mug by pouring it at a high altitude. Roughly 8 inches high. This aerates the coffee and helps increase perceived sweetness.
            This final recipe comes from 2021 World AeroPress Champion Tuomas Merikanto. His recipe creates a coffee with a much thicker, almost viscous body. When we brewed this recipe, we experienced a full, effervescent, and sweeter cup. Our goal for the final profile was to highlight the sweetness and body in the Colombia El Tambo. With this recipe, we’re able to get a buttery, nougat-like sweetness and syrupy mouthfeel.
            Tuomas’ original recipe utilized two paper filters in the filter cap (it’s common for baristas to use more than one filter or to use a combination of metal and paper) but we went with just one for simplicity. He also uses 18g of coffee, which we lowered to 17g in our version. Lastly, he used a water formula from Third Wave Water, and we used the filtered water in our roastery which is calibrated to have a slightly lower minerality. The minute differences maintain the overall quality of the original recipe but makes it a little more repeatable on our brew bar.

            Final Notes

            The AeroPress is popular because there are seemingly endless ways to make coffee with it. Understanding the variables of extraction help you manipulate a create different cups of coffee with this simple and versatile brewer. Because of its small size, it’s possible to brew with a very small dose, stretching out a bag of coffee and giving you the satisfaction of dialing in the perfect cup. Whether you’re chasing balance, acidity, sweetness, or something else, the joy of brewing is in the process: try it and taste it.

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