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Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
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Discussions > Coffee > Machines > Aeropress versus...  
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Enrico
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 1:05pm
Subject: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

I have to say I admire the Aeropress if only for having generated the longest thread in CG history, 488 posts and counting, with over 73,500 views, and that's just one of several threads...

Having spent hours reading through countless of these postings, many of Alan Adler's replies, Mark Prince's comments and the two current consumer reviews on this site, I still can't really figure out why somebody who is happy with a French Press should buy an Aeropress.

Basically, it seems to me that the Aeropress has several disadvantages compared with a French press, two characteristics in common and one noteworthy advantage:

- The Aeropress only brews 1-2 cups at once, while French Presses come in all sort of sizes
- The Aeropress is made to brew directly into a strong, ugly "builders' mug" rather than something more elegant like the Bodum Eileen glass mugs or a larger carafe that you can serve on a table for all to share
- The Aeropress promises simplicity but coffee quality varies greatly depending on an infinite number of variables that one needs to get right

The low price and the ease of use are common to both Aeropress and French press. Against this, the only real advantage that time and again people mention is Aerobie's paper filter which avoids sediments in the cup.

So basically if one came up with a better filter for French presses, the case for the Aeropress falls flat on its face?
In other words, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel by coming up with a whole new way of brewing coffee, it seems that one would do better by trying to improve on the only real weakness of existing press pots which are the filters, is that about right??
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Gate
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 1:12pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

They simply don't taste the same. More differences than just the fines in the cup. They both have their places in a coffee lover's heart. It just might be two different coffee lovers, however.
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rasqual
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rasqual
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 2:28pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

Enrico Said:

Having spent hours reading through countless of these postings, many of Alan Adler's replies, Mark Prince's comments and the two current consumer reviews on this site, I still can't really figure out why somebody who is happy with a French Press should buy an Aeropress

Posted May 9, 2006 link

Right. Anyone for whom fines in the French pressed cup isn't an issue, probably wouldn't gain much with the Aeropress unless they shared Alan's concerns about cholesterol (I haven't seen a lot of panic about that on the boards lately ;-)

As you note:

The low price and the ease of use are common to both Aeropress and French press. Against this, the only real advantage that time and again people mention is Aerobie's paper filter which avoids sediments in the cup.

For me, that's a selling point.

So basically if one came up with a better filter for French presses, the case for the Aeropress falls flat on its face?
In other words, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel by coming up with a whole new way of brewing coffee, it seems that one would do better by trying to improve on the only real weakness of existing press pots which are the filters, is that about right??

The Aeropress was designed by Alan to do something else -- eliminate oils from the cup. I think for many French press lovers, this is a capital crime. For my part, I'd prefer to see the oils in the cup but I don't abide any nonsense that fines constitute "body." That's just a lame excuse for the shortcomings of the French press in this respect. It's also a shortcoming of the Clover, and it's a shortcoming of the Aeropress with a metal filter.

From a standpoint of brewing differences, the use of a paper filter allows for a finer grind than one usually sees in a French press. This allows for faster extraction. For my part, I'm persuaded that typical instructions for French press result in some over-extraction (of the fines, certainly), an error equal and opposite to the Aeropress's "default" under-extraction.

Alan refers to his test users' preference for somewhat under-extracted brew. This pre-marketing finding flowed naturally into the instructions he supplies with the device. Unfortunately, this has resulted in several Aeropress users complaining that the brew comes out under-extracted ("flat") -- an attitude I just don't understand when the solution is simple: ignore the instructions and brew longer! If I complained that a French press resulted in bitter over-extraction, the obvious advice I should be given is "well don't let it steep so long."

The Clover or the Vac pot is probably closer to being what an Aeropress is than a French press -- minus the filter issue. Both the Clover and a Vac pot filter the bloom last, whereas a French press filters it first. The Aero filters it last AND runs it through a filter instead of metal -- so it goes further in reducing what the Clover and the Vac pots will reduce from what a French press offers with respect to the oils in coffee. This is assuming that most of the oils we care about are in the bloom -- something I take for granted.

The French press passes as much of the oils as any method possibly can, IMO. In this respect it is superior to all other methods, as far as I can tell. The French press produces a lot of fines in the cup, but in this it is not necessarily much worse than other methods using screens, mesh, etc. So it offers the best in one respect while not being the worst in another.

I'm yammering and I'll stop.   ;-)
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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 2:33pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

Enrico Said:

I have to say I admire the Aeropress if only for having generated the longest thread in CG history, 488 posts and counting, with over 73,500 views, and that's just one of several threads...

Posted May 9, 2006 link

Not even close. The great "Look Out JonR" thread is currently at 2534 posts and 143,674 views. Yow!

Enrico Said:

The low price and the ease of use are common to both Aeropress and French press. Against this, the only real advantage that time and again people mention is Aerobie's paper filter which avoids sediments in the cup.

So basically if one came up with a better filter for French presses, the case for the Aeropress falls flat on its face?
In other words, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel by coming up with a whole new way of brewing coffee, it seems that one would do better by trying to improve on the only real weakness of existing press pots which are the filters, is that about right??

Posted May 9, 2006 link

There's a lot to this argument. I'm eagerly awaiting your improved FP filter...
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Jasonian
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Jasonian
Joined: 8 Aug 2005
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 3:18pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

RapidCoffee Said:

Not even close. The great "Look Out JonR" thread is currently at 2534 posts and 143,674 views. Yow!



There's a lot to this argument. I'm eagerly awaiting your improved FP filter...

Posted May 9, 2006 link

Doesn't there already exist a nylon filter with improved filtration?

 
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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
Joined: 4 Dec 2004
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Espresso: La Spaziale S1
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 3:37pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

Jasonian Said:

Doesn't there already exist a nylon filter with improved filtration?

Posted May 9, 2006 link

Don't know. I'd be interested. The similarities between AP and FP are evident, and FP is certainly more convenient for brewing larger amounts. But my comment was made tongue-in-cheek; it's much easier to say "all we need is an improved filter for FP" than to actually produce one!

rasqual Said:

The Clover or the Vac pot is probably closer to being what an Aeropress is than a French press.

Posted May 9, 2006 link

Alas, no experience with Clover brew. But I agree about the vac pot. Both AP and VP taste profiles are dominated by a smoothness that you don't get with a FP.
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JohnF
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JohnF
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 4:02pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

RapidCoffee Said:

Don't know. I'd be interested. The similarities between AP and FP are evident, and FP is certainly more convenient for brewing larger amounts. But my comment was made tongue-in-cheek; it's much easier to say "all we need is an improved filter for FP" than to actually produce one!

Posted May 9, 2006 link

I've had a FP for a decade and for the last few years have used the nylon insert. It does reduce sediment significantly.

I've had an AP for a couple of weeks and for me don't find it to compare directly to the FP or insert enhanced FP either. It's just a different brew for me. Reducing FP sediment to 0% would also not replace the AP for me.

It's a fun brewer that can be manipulated in a lot of different ways. I expect manufactured metal filters very soon, I hope Aerobie considers 4, 6, and 8 shot models, and probably a few other things along the way. If anything the AP may take a swath out of the FP market.

But on a personal level I think it's like everything else....if it brews you need one. I'm not getting rid of my FP or my AP any time soon.

John F

 
"coffee is bag to me. It always follow me like bag. I do love coffee. Its taste & aroma make me sweet~ . I happy happy day with coffee"
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DonTMan
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DonTMan
Joined: 27 Apr 2006
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 5:30pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

How about just cutting a circle out of a large paper filter and placing it against the screen of the FP. In fact, I am interested so I think I'll give it a try right now. I expect it might be difficult to press though.

Don

 
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_________________________________
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rasqual
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rasqual
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Location: Chicago area
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Espresso: *$ Barista, non-pressurized
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 6:01pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

JohnF Said:

I've had a FP for a decade and for the last few years have used the nylon insert. It does reduce sediment significantly.

Posted May 9, 2006 link

I have one as well. It does reduce fines in the cup.

Here's a view of both screens magnified identically. The smaller screen's holes are .07 mm across, the basic (Bodum) French press screens are at least .16 mm across.

At 70u, the nylon screen is in the same range as the Clover metal screen (40-100u). French press users employing this kind of screen will get about the same amount of fines as a Clover, but with oils I doubt the Clover can deliver as completely. That's just informed intuition and palate talking -- not sound analysis.

Note: the nylon doesn't cover the full diameter of the press, so in fact more fines get through than if the whole surface were a 70u mesh.

Alan Adler has provided a few people with metal filters to test, and at least some of these have been around 127u. The French press steel filter is a bit coarser.

I'd like to see a 50u filter for the Aeropress.

BTW, a Swissgold filter is actually coarser than the nylon mesh shown here. I couldn't get my Swissgold under the microscope without wrecking it, but a visual comparision of the Swissgold and the nylon made it clear that the nylon was finer (I used a loupe). It was also clear that the Swissgold filter is a thing of extreme beauty and precision.

rasqual: twoscreens.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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DonTMan
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DonTMan
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Posted Tue May 9, 2006, 6:10pm
Subject: Re: Aeropress versus French Press: Tipping the balance?
 

Update:

I should preface this by saying that I have not received my AP yet so I don't have a true basis for comparison.

Very interesting. It worked!  I used a Vienna roast Puro Scuro. Until now I have found this roast to be a little too robust for my palate.  I brewed using roughly the AP recipe. I only heated the water to 185. I added 28 grams to my Chambord.  I did grind a little finer than usual since I would be using extra filtration.  Instead of filling the chambord I used half the normal amount of water. I stirred for roughly 20 seconds. I then laid a circular piece of filter paper on top of the bloom added the press, waited 10 seconds and pressed.  I was surprised that the press was only a hair harder to push. After I poured I diluted to the standard portion size for the chambord.

Very smooth. The hard roast edges are muted and there is a pronounced sweetness in the cup that I did not taste before.  No sludge in bottom of cup and almost no sediment. A very clean cup that is the best I've experienced from this batch. I realize that I changed several parameters that could account for all but the reduction in sediment.  

Oh well I guess I have to try another pot keeping my standard FP criteria: full pot of water, standard brew temp of 205. Then add the paper filter. And then I'll have to do yet another pot done the same way as above but without the paper filter.

I suspect I'll find that the taste changes come primarily from the reduced brew temp and steep time.

Don

 
Don Cummings
_________________________________
Red Dog Roastery -  http://reddogroastery.com
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