Coffee

My Aeropress Brewing Method

Aeropress — by Casey Klekas

Photo credit: Casey Klekas, because it's a much nicer shot than I can produce in my ugly little kitchen. I do have that same kettle though.

I don't listen to many tech podcasts these days and thus I'm not subscribed to John Chidgey's show, Pragmatic. (Sorry John. It's not you, it's me.) But when the latest episode—in which Marco Arment guest-hosts to wax scientific about coffee—came up in my Twitter feed, I couldn't add it to my Huffduffer queue fast enough.

It's a great listen if you consider yourself a coffee nerd, and quite educational if you're a newbie. I particularly liked hearing Marco discuss why he doesn't fuss over his brewing process anymore. His method is similar to my own, but mine is even simpler in some ways:

  • I add about 1 (U.S.) cup of water to my kettle and bring it up to 195°F.

  • While the water heats up, I scoop some freshly-ground coffee—the most important factor, really—into my inverted Aeropress, up to the "bottom" of the #3 circle (the plunger having been inserted just enough to touch the #4 circle). I don't have a kitchen scale to weigh my coffee, but over time I've found this amount works nicely for me.

  • When the water's ready, I pour just enough to coat the grounds and let them bloom for 45 seconds to let out all that trapped carbon dioxide. Marco derides this very practice on the podcast, and maybe it is just placebo, but I do it anyway.

  • At the :45 mark, I add water to just under the top rim of the Aeropress, stir the slurry mixture around a bit, and let it steep another 45 seconds. At this point I typically run just a little of the hot water through the Aeropress filter/cap, not because I've ever detected any paper flavor in my coffee (I haven't) but because it helps the filter adhere to the cap when the time comes to flip it over.

  • At the 1min 30sec mark, I twist the cap on, flip the Aeropress onto my trusty coffee mug, and plunge. I try to finish before my iPhone timer reaches the 2min mark, and I always stop as soon as I hear any hissing noise coming from the Aeropress. Again, this might be placebo, but I've read that plunging any further will extract the more bitter flavors into the cup.

And that's it!

If this seems like a lot of details to remember, just know that writing it all out like this is severely more complicated than the actual brewing process. It takes me about 7min from start to finish, and most of that is waiting for the kettle to heat up.

The point I want to get across here is that I don't worry much about exact measurements. Like any recovering coffee nerd I've tried experimenting and being fussy and even emulating Aeropress championship recipes, but again, the most important factor by far is using recently-roasted, freshly-ground beans. If you start with good beans and a little practice, it's hard to screw up the end product.

As for the iPhone timer, I don't use any fancy coffee apps. I've tried a lot of them and always come back to the stopwatch bundled with the built-in Clock app. It's simple and it works fine.

"Cut to B-Roll of Coffee"

Zachary Carlsen of coffee blog Sprudge is steamed that Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee isn't so much about the coffee anymore:

“Gone are the episodes of destination coffee-bar stops for decent coffee. So far, this season’s episodes have Seinfeld and his guests and cameras shoot in old-timey diners. In episode three with comedian legend Robert Klein, the pair visit the Landmark Diner in Ossining, NY but don’t even drink Landmark’s coffee. As they hem and haw, they drink from their take-out Starbucks cups they got off camera. Outside food and drink? Anything for his Majesty, King Seinfeld.

Maybe he's right, but I'm not as bothered by it. The show is as entertaining as ever and still one of my favorite things on the internet. As long as the conversations are interesting and they keep that coffee b-roll footage coming, I'm happy.

In any case, Zachary's article is a fun read and I get the sense he wrote it mostly in good jest. Mostly.

* * *

In related news, today saw the release of the latest episode which features John Stewart of The Daily Show. I particularly enjoyed this moment at the 8:12 mark, as they were walking through a typical-looking suburban neighborhood:

Jerry: How close is this to how you grew up?

John: Pretty close.

Jerry: Really?

John: Yeah.

Jerry: Do you wish your kids were growing up like this?

John: No, that's why I've been working so hard.

And while we're on the subject, here are all of my favorite CICGC episodes, in case you've never watched the show and need a place to start:

"A Little Hyper Aware"

Season four of my favorite web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, kicked off yesterday with a delightful interview featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, an old station wagon, and...a singing Seinfeld?

Overall, this was a great episode to start the new season with. I only hope Jerry never decides to do that intro again.

The Marine's Secret Weapon: Coffee

Former U.S. marines Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez wrote a blog post for the New York Times in August 2013 about how even terrible coffee can (and does) become a necessary social experience for soldiers on deployment.

“We never expected it to become an obsession. Coffee was more than just a drink. It was a way to remember what it’s all about, a way to connect with old friends, a way to make sense of where our paths in life had taken us.”

A fascinating aspect of life in the military that most of us never have to think about. Makes me wonder what other ways soldiers find to bring bits of home with them into the field.

Tonx Bought by Blue Bottle Coffee

From the Tonx blog:

“As Tonx has grown we’ve added friends to the team, assembling top talents in green coffee sourcing, coffee roasting, software development, design, marketing, and customer service. One thing we lacked though was a dedicated production facility that would allow us to continue growing and improving. Getting there meant either raising a serious wad of venture capital (no picnic!) or finding a partner in the industry that shared our values and ambitions.

With Blue Bottle, we have found a more established company that still has an innovative startup culture, continues to evolve, and is dedicated to improving people’s experience of coffee on an ambitious scale. And they have resources we could only dream of.”

This is one acquisition I can get behind. Congrats to everyone at my favorite coffee subscription service!

For more info, Wired has the full report.

The Invention of the Aeropress

Zachary Crockett, writing for Priceonomics:

“There’s really nothing bad to say about the device other than the fact that it’s a funny-looking plastic thingy. Then again, its inventor, Stanford professor Alan Adler, is a world renowned inventor of funny-looking plastic thingies”

Great article about the history and making of the Aeropress, one of my all-time favorite household gadgets and easily the best coffee maker I've ever owned.

(I also love how they refer to an Adam "lonelysandwich" Lisagor video simply as, "An AeroPress fan's artsy instructional video.")

Tonx Gift Card Exchange

Tonx Coffee is a favorite service of mine, and for good reason. Coffee fuels a lot of the writing work I do, and having a fresh bag delivered to my door every two weeks is a godsend. I also appreciate the company as a whole, from the excellent customer service to the branding.

Now they're running an awesome promotion where you can put Starbucks gift card balances towards your Tonx subscription, dollar for dollar. As someone who received a few Starbucks gift cards for Christmas, this is perfect for me — and I assume the same is true for a lot of others too. (More info about the promotion can be found here.)

If you're one of those few people who haven't given Tonx a shot yet, I'd sure appreciate if you signed up using my referral link. Think of it as directly contributing to more writing getting published around here :)

Dan's Coffee Run

One more post for this evening and then I'm off to bed.

I came across this video recently, and found it hugely inspiring. Every Thursday, Dan goes on a Starbucks coffee run for the various patients visiting the Michigan Cancer Center for chemotherapy treatments. He pays for every drink with his own money, and we're talking about one or two dozen drinks sometimes.

Although I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks (even as an ex-employee of the company myself), I think that what Dan is doing is so incredibly cool. I love how selfless this guy is:

"People without hope, come in here for hope. I'll do it with my last breath and my last dollar."

If you want to help him out, you can make a donation.