Battle of the Presses - Aeropress vs American Press vs French Press
Ever since I first posted about the It’s American Press coffee maker, people ask me the same set of questions. What makes the American Press different than a French Press or an Aeropress? I’d give my answers based on my experience with each individually and my understanding of how extraction works. I decided I needed to test them side by side and really figure it out. So on a rainy morning, I met up with Richie and Jeremiah to have a brew, taste, and discuss session.
The go to manual cup brewer. I used my French press daily before I really got into coffee, back in the early Starbucks days. When used traditionally, the French press works by pushing the grounds to the bottom of the carafe. It's known for it's dense body and sediments that result from the sediments slipping through the screen. I've recently started using a longer steep method that removes the most of the grounds rather than pushing them to the bottom.
Before we started brewing, I needed to decide which of those recipes to use. While I think the long steep method makes a superior cup, it’s not the recipe the average French Press drinker uses. So to keep the discussion identifiable to the average user, we decided to use the traditional recipe.
- Ratio: 1:16 - 23 : 368
- Water temp: 205°F
- Grind size: Coarse, 7 on the Handground
- Start timer, pour to weight
- Stir at 1:00
- Plunge at 4:00
This little plastic wonder coffee maker single-handedly elevated my home coffee experience. Ever since I received this guy for Christmas, it's been a central part of my growth and journey. I still use it on a daily basis four years later. The Aeropress has a nearly unlimited amount of recipes that divide into two categories, upright or standard, and inverted or upside-down.
I decided to use my go-to upright recipe. The inverted method will likely make for more closely similar flavor profile to the other two presses, I’ll save that for another test. Instead, in the spirit of identifiability, I decided to go with the style it was originally designed to use.
- Ratio: 1:16 - 23 : 368
- Water temp: 200°F
- Grind size: Medium-fine, 2 on the Handground
- Pour bloom, then start timer and stir
- Pour to weight
- Press *Note: The Aeropress doesn’t actually have the capacity to make a single cup using these measurements. I should have instead brewed two 12g cups one after the other to simplify the process.
It's American Press
After a wildly successful IndieGoGo Campaign, the American Press (officially named It's American Press) enters the ring as the relative newcomer to the brew method world. It takes the basic concept of the French press and flips it on its head. It presses a pod of coffee through the water, creating pressure against the contained coffee to extract better and faster.
The American Press produces remarkably consistent results in my testing so far. Grind size and ratio provide the greatest contributions to the different recipes. For this test, I picked a middle of the road recipe that matched the French Press in overall brew time.
- Ratio: 1:16 - 23 : 368
- Water temp: 205°F
- Grind size: Medium, 3 on the Handground
- Fill carafe
- Pre-infuse for 2 minutes
- Press slowly for 2 minutes
On it’s own the French press produced a solid cup of coffee, nothing to write home about, but certainly enjoyable. The weight and mouthfeel had the thickness the French Press is known for. When we compared it to the other two however, we discovered a sourness and a lack of depth in the flavor. Many of the more nuanced flavor notes just didn’t show up as prominently as they did in the Aeropress or American Press.
The American Press brought the same, familiar weight and mouthfeel of the French press but backed it up with a rich flavor profile. Richie remarked that this cup felt like sipping coffee, something you’d make to sit down with a book on a rainy day and enjoy slowly. It had a smooth, almost creamy experience that emphasized the more decadent notes in the coffee with very little acidity. That smooth experience was further emphasized in comparison to the Aeropress.
The Aeropress, on the other hand, produced a bright, clean and volatile cup. With an emphasis on the more fruity and floral notes, the brisk acidity gave the cup a sharp liveliness. The flavor profile shifted dramatically over the palate, especially when compared to the mellow American Press. Interestingly enough, as the cups cooled, the Aeropress maintained its brisk flavor profile while the other two mellowed even further, losing some of their nuance.
All three methods are easy and approachable. None of them require precise technique to produce a good cup of coffee. Both the Aeropress and American Press require a little more of a hands on approach while brewing and a little more effort in the pressing. However, neither of them suck to clean as badly as the French Press. Of the three, the American Press is probably the best option for someone who doesn't want to invest in a scale. Thanks to it's self contained pod and carafe, you could easily pour to the line on the carafe and fill the pod. The French Press clearly beats the other two in one area though, brew volume. Both the Aeropress and American Press max out around 12-14oz. The French press on the other hand can brew 8+ cups depending on the size, all without needing to adjust the brew method.
- Notes: Hefty texture and mouthfeel. Sour, lack flavor depth when compared to the other two. Lots of sediments.
- Max Brew Volume: 8+ Cups
- Brew Time: 4 min
- Clean Up: Atrocious
- Cost: $15-30
- Notes: Rich texture, dense mouthfeel. Emphasizes decadent, spice, and earthy notes. Some sediments.
- Max Brew Volume: 14oz
- Brew Time: 2-4 min
- Clean Up: Easy
- Cost: $80
- Notes: Clean, brisk and volatile. Emphasizes fruity and floral notes.
- Max Brew Volume: Aproximately 12ox
- Brew time: 1-2 min
- Clean up: Piece of Cake
- Cost: $30
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the bright, volatile liveliness of the Aeropress. It’s still my go to brew method in the mornings. It perfectly emphasizes all of the things I love most in coffees, especially those fruity and floral notes. Both Richie and Jeremiah voted for the American Press, they loved the rich texture and decadent flavor profile. Clearly, if you like the taste and texture of a French Press, you need to give the American Press a shot.
Disclaimer: I received the American Press in exchange for pictures and my honest opinion. My friends didn't receive anything except free coffee and good ole time.
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