Each morning, as I press two hundred and sixty grams of steaming hot water through seventeen grams of ground coffee, I conduct a tiny scientific experiment. The question I'm pursuing is the same every time: what will produce the best cup of coffee?
Like any reliable scientific endeavour, I must control for as many variables as possible. I weigh out exactly 17 grams of beans. (Alright, I admit it, sometimes I'm forced to accept 17.1.) As the kettle rises to a boil over the element, I use my Porlex hand grinder - a burr grinder is key here for consistency - to grind the beans down. When the kettle whistles, I move it from the element and count out thirty seconds as I prepare the AeroPress for inversion brewing, pour and settle the grounds over the base of the plunger and wet the filter inside the filter cap to keep its papery taste out of my coffee. Once the thirty seconds are up, my hands trace circles, pouring the water out in a thin, steady stream until the water and grounds rest just below the AeroPress’ edge. I carefully immerse and swirl the stir paddle in one slow revolution. This ensures that all grounds receive equal extraction.
Next, I count out forty five seconds while setting out my mug, screwing in the filter cap with whetted paper filter inside, and returning my scale, beans and grinder to their spots in the cupboard. Finally, I place the mug upside down over the AeroPress' filter cap, then flip it and the mug, before slowly and steadily plunging through. I stop plunging the moment I hear “the gasp” - a release of air as the plunger nears the bottom of the press. As I lift the AeroPress from my mug, steam and the tantalizing aroma of coffee rises. All that’s left is to remove the filter cap from the AeroPress and push the tiny cake of grounds and filter into the garbage. Most mornings I read as the coffee cools, before finally taking that first sip.
The key to consistently brewing a great cup of coffee lies in this repetition of routine and control. The only variable is the grind. Each bag of beans has it’s sweet spot - that perfect grind level where the coffee tastes best for the brew method - too coarse and the coffee will taste bitter and undeveloped, too fine and it will be sour. It's a process of brew, taste, adjust accordingly.
Although the AeroPress is great for brewing away from home, the experiment becomes a bit more challenging on the road. Inclement weather can cool the water too fast, blow that steady stream anywhere but the inside of the AeroPress, carry dust into your enamel mug. Maybe you’ll forget to pack the filters and have to improvise by cutting a traditional coffee filter into a rough circle. But perhaps it’s the view or the fresh air or the exhilaration of being outdoors, because somehow that not-so-exact outdoor experiment will taste just as good as the careful ritual practiced indoors in the quiet hours of the morning.
Scale, Porlex grinder and AeroPress can be purchased at coffee shops across the city/globe. The enamel camping mug was a limited release from Joseph Visser's project From Here & Away in collaboration with Thom Bargen. My AeroPress recipe is adapted from USAC Champion Jeremy Moore. Beans used here are from the excellent Edmonton-based roaster Transcend, purchased at Little Sister Coffee Maker.