If I didn't have one, I would buy one. If it didn't exist, someone would have to invent it. No, it's NOT "espresso". It's better.
Positive Product Points
So easy, just about anyone can make excellent coffee. Most any type of coffee I have thrown at this has brewed very good to excellent coffee... even the worst coffee I have used resulted in at least tolerable coffee. V simple to use. Easy to clean. Fast. Very good results, and Repeatable results. This brews much better "airopresso" than ANY espresso I have every had (sorry Murky... maybe it was just an off day for you guys).
Negative Product Points
A longer barrel, a stand, or some guides would help (for the inverted method).
Slightly deeper filter threads (to use fibre /felt filters) would help
A commercial source of 2" food-grade felt filters would help.
The markings on barrel and reservoir are pretty subjective and there seems to be only coincidental correlation between them.
A case? Would it be too much to ask for a non-dorky looking case to carry it in? (sorry, personal trauma involved there).
I think that the results do not necessarilly scale as implied (i.e., two two-shot drinks wind up differently than one four-shot. I haven't tried it with four one-shots). This effects economy and flavor (but still excellent).
I have owned this for almost three years, and it is the ONLY method I have used since shortly after the first few cups. I own two of them, one for work, one for home/travel. I have resorted to taking this to classes with me to replace the free coffee supplied by trainers (Sun's was OK, but Oracle's was un-drinkable).
I HAVE gotten some bad coffee out of it, as any good scientist is liable to do, if he experiments with temperatures and coffee qualities. Some "Gift" coffee has turned out beyond saving. The Mermaid's coffee will always do in a pinch, but it's so easy to get fantastic results from just about any bean, that I only do that as a last resort.
I got one just before a family vacation so my wife didn't have to pack both our grinder and our drip machine. She loves me so much that THAT was our normal traveling behaviour. The second was won at a rigged company Christmas gift party.
I am responsible for several folks at work finding and buying them. Others just borrow mine at work, and they all declare that they makes excellent coffee with it. Even my wife, technophobe that she is, makes excellent coffee with it -- but then, I'm snobbier than she is. ;-)
I own't bore you with water temperatures and brew times, suffice it to say that if you get one and like it, you'll tinker and experiment until you declare it's the best things since phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range. You will want to know what temperature your water is at.
I resorted to stealing one of the kids padded plastic lunch boxes to keep and carry it in at work. I look dorky, but I have great coffee.
I do re-use the filters. I used to keep count until I had hit 20-uses repeatedly. Now, I just try to remind myself to discard and get a new one if I can't remember how long I've been using the old one. The felt filter gifted to us lazy experimentors by Rascal has been a unique and wonderful experience. I lost count on how many uses, and finally had to throw in the towel when it wouldn't come clean and I couldn't tell which side was singed. If I could cut a straight circle, I'd make a new one with the spare felt he sent, but I've already destroyed two.
I've brewed right-side up, upside-down, and maybe sideways. The "oils" question was interesting, and I have decided that I can just brew right-side up, although the felt filter really helps that, also.
I keep the pucks to put in our compost. Sometimes the kids will try to trick their friends into eating the expelled pucks, waiting on a plate on the counter. They do look delicious.
Easy, but now it would add $10 to the cost, easily. I drove 30 miles to Sur La Table to get one. They had just gotten them in, and nobody knew squat about them. I explained and discussed until the sales person was begging to be let go. (Not excused, fired). SLT is a neat store, and they had some other coffee machines set up for samples. Too bad they didn't have the AP set up, but I imagine that the markup on the other machines is pretty hefty.
Three Month Followup
Three more months, four more conquests...
Of the folks at work who have been sampling the Aeropress results regularly, three more puchased Aeros for home. And now, I've got to buy one for my daughter's boyfriend for Christmas -- my wife made the mistake of making coffee for him, and now he's hooked. I tell you, it's a revolution. "Coffee to the Peeeepllllle!!!!" OK, it's not that bad.
I get mid-morning and after-lunch calls from a couple of guys in the lab. It's our version of a smoke-break, I guess. We've worked out a nice little assembly line, that gets three awesome mugs worth of coffee in about 8 minutes -- including setup and clean up, depending on how much time we spend gabbing.
My coffee costs have gone up, as now instead of just myself drinking coffee at home, it's my wife and several of my kid's friends. The coffee cream (1/2 and 1/2) costs have gone up at work and at home, but at least we share the costs at work, doing a round robin.
As you will read in posts by many other users, I have noticed distinct flavor differences when the water temperature is off by a few degrees, like when the coffee machine water heater is in the middle of heating the reservoir (10-15 degrees hotter), but monitoring the temperature and equalizing fixes that. I have also noticed that different coffee types may need their own profile. Again, this is not a problem, as when you find a coffee you like, you can tweek and get a perfect cup almost every time. Everybody will have profiles based on their personal tastes.
Hotter temperatures give me very smooth, bright finishes on some lighter coffees, but French Roast is my all time favorite. I go pretty much by the book: match the # of scoops to the amount of water, at 170 degrees, for about 13 seconds stir and 20 second plunge. The same guys I coffee with do a 2:1 or 4:1 water/coffee mix, let is steep longer, and add less water afterwards.
I can't stress strongly enough that one of the main features is the ability to tailor your results to your personal taste, and get consistent, high quality, delicious results.
Would I buy one again? Again, and again. So far, I count 8 APs in my circle of friends and acquaintances. This is far outweighed by the number of Mr. Coffees in the US, but the balance is growing, so there's hope for the future. ;-)
One Year Followup
This is NOT a *1 year* followup, as when I wrote the original review, I had owned two APs for almost 3 years. It's now going on 7+ years. I still have "just" the two APs. We have suffered some setbacks, but in Goot American Fashion, we have persevered, and overcome. Ok, actually, we just make do, because, even after years and years, I just don't have time to fix the situation. Is my time THAT valuable? No, I just don't HAVE any left.
I have three more conquests... the best being having visiting dignitaries for a week to look at something I was developing, and suggesting a coffee break. We went to the little kitchenette, I did the AP presentation, gave them coffee, and chatted about the process, etc. One of the folks pulled out her amazing over-size tabphone and ordered one. OK, it's not THAT special, but it makes ME feel special... just let me have that, OK?
Our casualties: The press-flange at the top of the reservoir has succumbed to stress and pressure. Both APs. HOW do we deal? At home, my wife uses a potholder over the top to shield her hand. At work, one of the other guys bravely took one for the team, taking the "topless" reservoir and loaning the group his good one.
I actually called the office and asked how much to get a new reservoir. The nice man there told me "just take it back to one of the stores and tell them it broke and that they should give you a new one." I don't know how it will work, I really (really) just don't have time. It sounds sad. It makes me sad. It may never happen.
Other items: Because we have a rolling roster of members at work, I keep a pretty close watch on costs. We have a tally sheet for coffee, and I keep totals per coffee bag / coffee cream bottle, and every new bag, I tally up and divide. The actual per-mug costs vary slightly from session to session, but we average about 60 cents per mug -- meaning two scoop of french roast and the best real half & half coffee cream in a bottle. Sometimes it's down around 56-57 cents, sometimes it hits 70 cents or so... mainly because of unit/container differences -- we go through cream faster than bags -- and once a year, we go for the fresh roast coffee.
The last best thing I can think of... Immersion blender + heavy whipping cream + sweetened condensed milk + two shots from the AP + freezer = the BEST coffee ice cream you will ever have. Seriously. I've found myself making it at 3am, thinking that I can eat it when I wake up. The beauty? You can make it in about 6 - 8 minutes once you have the ingredients.
When I told the visitors about the ice cream thing, one insisted that we make some, so we stayed after work one night and I did the whole thing for them. The next day? Happy campers, I'll tell you that.
Bottom line: If you don't have one of these, get one. Get extra filters. Re-use them. At home, we're still on the ORIGINAL SET OF FILTERS. For issues like losing power for a week in winter, losing power for a week after a hurricane, etc., get a camp stove or even little alcohol stove. You can use evaporated milk in a pinch in place of real coffee cream. Play with the beans, play with the roast, play with the temperature, play with the mix. Try a good french roast, steeped for 10 seconds, at 170 degrees F. Try it straight. Try it full strength w/ sugar and good coffee cream. Try shots over ice w/ sugar and c/c. Try it inverted. The big thing, just try it. When you can play with it.