I have a confession to make that may get my B-List Nerd Card revoked, but I don’t think the Aeropress coffee brewer makes great coffee.
It makes good coffee, and when it comes to brewing speed and cleanup it’s unbeatable. But I’ve been using one off and on for nearly four years now, generally aiming to brew what I consider to be a standard twelve-ounce cup of coffee, and there’s a lot of…quirky things about it. You can’t brew a twelve-ounce cup of coffee with it. Instead, you’re supposed to brew it at about triple-strength, which is what the Aeropress is designed to do, and dilute it. (They call the triple-strength coffee “espresso,” which it manifestly is not.)
Yet when I do that—even using (at least!) as much ground coffee as I would for twelve ounces of water—I often get watery coffee. I can get consistently good eight ounce cups of coffee by using enough water to make the concentrate about double-strength instead, but twelve is hit or miss at best. I’ve talked with baristas at good local coffee shops like Chromatic and Bellano and they’ve said they had similar experiences.
The other thing is that even a good cup of coffee on the Aeropress has, well, a distinctly Aeropress flavor, in much the same way that cold brew coffee tends to taste distinctly like cold brew coffee. The sweetness gets highlighted, the bitterness is muted, and two very different coffees—say, a dark roast Sumatran and a light roast Ethopian—have their similarities accented more than their differences. This isn’t bad, but it’s noticeable.
I think the Aeropress appeals to so many geeks because it’s simple yet endlessly fiddly: change the grind, change the steeping time, change when and for how long you stir, brew it inverted, so on and so forth. You can’t match that level of fiddliness with anything but a pour-over cone.
But I don’t always want fiddly. A lot of times I just want coffee, consistently brewed well and full-flavored. Geeky is still a plus. And this led me a few months ago to the Clever Coffee Dripper.
Basically, what the Clever does is act as a hybrid of filter pour-over and French press. It’s a big cone that takes #4 coffee filters (the ones that you’d use for most electric coffee makers that have cones rather than baskets—bigger than what other “single cup” cone brewers use). Put the filter in, put the coffee in, then pour the water in. Don’t “pre-soak” the grounds, stir after a minute and a half or so, and wait about four minutes.
Then, just set the Clever on your coffee cup. A stopper in the bottom gets opened when it’s on a cup; when it’s on the counter, letting the coffee steep, it’s closed. The coffee pours out of the Clever over a minute or so.
I can’t say the Clever gives me the best coffee I’ve ever had, or even the best coffee I’ve ever made. And, yes, I’ve had (eight-ounce) cups from the Aeropress which are as good as the (twelve-ounce) cups from the Clever. But the Clever brews a great cup of coffee every single time.
I’ll still keep the Aeropress and the other coffee torture devices I’ve accumulated over the years. There really isn’t much tweaking you can do with the Clever, and hey, tweaking is fun. Also, when I want more than a cup at a time, I need something else. (More about which another time, maybe.) But for my standard, go-to single cup brewer, the Clever has won me over.