Gear Review: Backcountry Coffee with the Aeropress

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If you like coffee, you need an Aeropress.

It’s been nearly ten years since my friend Farley from NRS gave me an Aeropress to try. He insisted that the Aeropress made the best coffee he had ever had, and after a decade of using one I have to agree. What’s better is that the Aeropress is small and light enough to go along on all but the most ultralight backcountry adventures. If you like coffee, you need one.

Cristi and I use an Aeropress to brew our coffee every morning. This little plastic coffee engine has replaced drip cofeemakers, pour-over filters and the French press in our kitchen. It’s light enough to go along on canoe and kayak trips and makes the best coffee I’ve ever had. Here’s how it works:

The Aeropress consists of two plastic tubes that fit into one another. The inner tube has a rubber seal at the bottom and serves as a plunger to drive coffee through a filter that fits at the other end of the outer tube. This pressurized system creates a concentrated cup of coffee that is very much like a shot of espresso.

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Aeropress loaded and ready for water. Paper filters shown in foreground left. Able Brewing metal disk filter at right in filter cap.

Once you’ve pressed a shot through the filter you can add water to the cup to create a cup of coffee of desired strength. Coffee produced in this way is stunningly good, low in acidity and free of grit. To my taste it’s better than drip or pour-over coffee and far superior to French press.

The device comes packaged with 350 paper filters, so you can make plenty of cups of coffee before you’ll need to buy replacement filters. Or you can buy a metal filter screen like the one manufactured by Able Brewing. My friend Todd sent me one of these a few years back and I’ve been using it almost exclusively since. I’m sure there is a flavor difference between paper and metal that some coffee experts could pick out, but to my taste the results are about the same: delicious.

My original Aeropress lasted about 5 years before the rubber plunger wore out. Part of

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The funnel allows you to fill narrow mouth bottles.

the reason it failed was that I didn’t consistently press the plunger all the way through the cylinder each time I brewed a cup. If the rubber plunger seal remains in the tube the rubber will become compressed and will have a shorter lifespan. If it does fail you can order a replacement part directly from Aeropress.

The system comes with a funnel that fits into the mouth of most insulated bottles or narrow mouth coffee cups. This allows you to press a double or triple strength shot into your Thermos and add water to fill it to full capacity.

I’ve experimented with a variety of different brewing techniques and number of scoops and have settled on a technique that I first saw from the guys at Black Rifle Coffee. I like to assemble the Aeropress and set it on the counter inverted with the filter opening facing upward. I then add two scoops of coffee ground for a drip coffeemaker. Hot water is added to fill the cylinder and the coffee is allowed to bloom for 30 seconds. Then the filter cap with brewing disk is tightened in place and the whole thing is flipped over onto my coffee cup to be pressed.

 

Here’s a video demonstration linked from the BRC YouTube channel:

The Aeropress is a little bit bulky or heavy for backpacking, but it works great for canoe or kayak trips, raft trips, winter tobaggan trips or car camping. If you like coffee this little powerhouse is the best $35 you can spend. Buy one, you’ll love it.

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