Aerobie AeroPressAfter reading about the Aerobie AeroPress at Brotherhood of the Bean I was very curious about this new method of brewing coffee. Skeptical from my experience with the Toddy cold brew system I decided to see if Aerobie would send me one to review. Alex at Aerobie was quick to respond and a couple days later I got the AeroPress.

How it works

Part French press, part espresso the AeroPress is a new breed of coffee maker. First you insert one of the micro-filters into the filter holder and twist it onto the larger of the two tubes (seen in the picture to the left.) Set the tube on top of your coffee mug (not included, but I’m sure you don’t need another one anyway) and add one scoop of ground coffee for each shot of espresso or (small) cup of coffee you wish to make.

You then add hot water (165-175 degrees Fahrenheit) to the tube and stir for ten seconds with the included stirrer (the tube is graduated so you’ll know how much water to add.) Now the fun part… Take the plunger and press the coffee through the filter. This part takes about another 20 seconds.

If you want espresso, you’re done. If you want Americano-style coffee just top off your cup with a bit more hot water. Cleanup involves untwisting the filter holder, pushing the coffee and filter out of the tube and rinsing the plunger and filter holder. It’s just that easy.

I found the maker very easy to learn and I got fantastic coffee on my first try. The only tough part was getting the water at just the right temperature. An instant-read thermometer helped me figure out the timing and now I can nuke up the hot water with no guess work.

The results

Though skeptical at first, after using the Aerobie AeroPress for a couple weeks I have to say it makes great American coffee and some of the best espresso I’ve ever had! Now to back that statement up I feel I should mention that I used to work in a coffee shop with a Rancilio Z9 which served nothing but Lavazza espresso and this $30 home machine made equal or better espresso than the best we ever got out of our Z9! The AeroPress process even yields a nice crema on top of the espresso.

And yes, you read that right, $30 is the price. That includes the maker, funnel, scoop, stirrer, filter holder and 350 filters. The filters are proprietary, but hey, when you only have to order them once a year (or so) who cares…

After a couple weeks of use I can only see two drawbacks to it. First, you will use more coffee than in a typical drip coffee maker. This is typical to espresso makers. Second, the unit will only make four cups (about two typical mugs) of coffee at a time. Typically this won’t be a problem as the whole process is so quick you could still turn out a dozen mugs in less than 10 minutes.

Conclusions

The Aerobie AeroPress has earned a place on my counter. Fulfilling my need for an espresso machine, at a fraction of the cost of any other I would consider, and my occasional need for a single-cup maker my AeroPress isn’t going anywhere.

Beyond regular use I think this maker has great potential for camping. The maker, scoop and stirrer weighs in at just over 9 ounces and is all made of durable polycarbonate (I believe) so it would pack small and light and would be much less fragile than a French press.

The AeroPress would also make perfect espresso for recipes. At the price it would be worth having around for this alone.

Read more about the AeroPress at Aerobie’s site. They also have a complete listing of both US and international vendors.

coffee, espresso, drinks

So if you’re a frequent reader you may have noticed that most of my reviews are positive. It’s not because I like everything I get, see, hear and read, just that I’m far more inspired to write about something I like than something I don’t. In the case of the Toddy Cold Brew system I am making an exception to this rule in order to review a truly disappointing brewing method.

The Toddy Cold Brew Coffee System website claims “The Toddy coffee maker extracts the coffee bean’s true delicious flavor and eliminates much of the acidity, producing a bold, super-smooth coffee that can be served one cup at a time.” The site also boasts a long list of positive reviews. The Washington Post has even called it “the ultimate coffee maker” but my experience with it was quite the opposite.

Toddy Coffee MakerThe theory is by brewing coffee with cold water you will extract less acidity and bitterness resulting in a superior cup of coffee. The system makes a concentrate from a full pound of coffee which can then be stored and prepared one cup at a time. With the convenience of working with the concentrate the system is also supposed to save coffee since you can make only as much as you need eliminating leftover coffee.

The allure of more convenient, better tasting coffee got the best of me and, after reading all the reviews I could find I decided to order a Toddy Cold Brew System directly from their website. A few days later it arrived.

The system consists of a large funnel, a carafe, and round, thick filters. To make the coffee concentrate you place a plug in the small hole in the funnel, place a filter in the inside holder and put a full pound of ground coffee in the funnel. You then add nine cups of cold water to the coffee grounds and let the mixture sit for twelve hours. After the brewing time you pull the plug and let the coffee drain into the carafe. To serve the directions recommend diluting the concentrate with three parts water to one part concentrate and heat.

I used the Toddy system for several weeks. I tried quite a few different coffees, a couple different grind sizes and varied the brew time according to the included instructions.

The results

After dozens of cups I was very disappointed with the results from the Toddy system. While the claim of low acidity held true the flavor was bland and the body absent. Hot or cold the only way I could make a nearly acceptable cup of coffee was to mix the concentrate closer to one to one. Mixing the concentrate this strong resulted in less than 10 mugs of coffee per pound of coffee, causing a huge waste compared to drip brewing. All other variables did little to improve the bland flavor.

Conclusions

If you’re hyper-sensitive to acid in your foods the Toddy Cold Brew System may enable you to drink coffee without discomfort. If you’re looking for a better cup of coffee, look elsewhere. Drip, press, espresso, vacuum, even percolator brewing all produce a much more satisfying coffee than the cold brew system.

What this system offers in convenience and simplicity it sacrifices in flavor. The $34.95 spent on this maker would be better put to a good quality drip coffee maker.

coffee, coffee maker, cooking, food, beverage

Brotherhood of the BeanFor the sadly misguided reader who wishes to read about coffee that hasn’t passed through the guts of a small mammal I give you Brotherhood of the Bean.

These guys are relatively new on the scene but it’s quite clear from their coffee talk and product reviews that they’re very serious about their bean. Hopefully the Brotherhood will maintain the quality of their content and continue posting frequently.

coffee, cafe, food, dining, food

Armeno Coffee RoastersA few weeks ago I emailed Armeno Coffee Roasters to ask if there was any chance of seeing my old favorite coffee Maui Kaanapali Moka again. This coffee had disappeared from the market a few years ago. All I knew was that the plantation had closed down.

I was thrilled when I got a prompt response from John Parks, one of the owners of Armeno, saying he’d called the new owner of the plantation and Armeno was going to get a sample of new Maui Moka to try out. The sample must have been good since last week Armeno sent out an anouncement that Maui Moka is back!

About the plantation

This coffee is grown on the Hawaiian island Maui on the Kaanapali estate. Full details on the grower and estate can be found at their website. Specifically they have this to say about the Maui Moka:

Moka (a.k.a. Mokka, Mocha, Maui Moka)

This by far was the most intriguing variety in the trials. Based on the outcome of the cupping results, Pioneer Mill eventually planted a third of their acreage to this variety. It is contrary to the belief that large beans mean a better cup. In the case of Moka, size does matter! It is hard to find a bean larger than a screen 14. The bean is round and is often mistaken for a peaberry. Upon closer examination one can notice the classic dicotyledonous flat side signifying two whole beans per cherry. The cup is smooth and wonderfully fused with different chocolate flavors and often times with good acidity.

In the cup

The bean is quite small compared to other coffees and the smell of the roasted coffee is divine. I could hardly wait to see if it would be as good in the cup as I remember.

Yesterday I finally brewed up a pot and I must say it’s as good as ever. The nose is rich and complex and the flavor outstanding. The coffee has a medium-full body with relatively low acidity and rich chocolate flavors. The coffee drinks equally well black or with cream and sugar. The aftertaste is pleasant and fades quickly compared to other coffees with this much body and flavor.

Armeno’s meticulous treatment of their coffee (which is carefully chosen, roasted to order in small batches and shipped immediately) shows through in all their coffees, and the Maui Moka is no exception. There is no burnt flavor or bitterness, just rich coffee goodness.

At $19.95 per pound this rare bean may not be for everyone, but if you’re a coffee lover who likes a richer cup I highly recommend the Maui Moka. The full, rich body sets it apart from Hawaiian Kona and other fine coffees and makes it my absolute favorite coffee.

If you’re interested in trying it you can order Maui Moka directly from Armeno’s website. While you’re there check out their other coffee varieties.

coffee, hawaii, rare coffee, moka, mokka, mocha, maui moka

Place in a mug (preferably an Irish coffee mug):

  • 1.5 oz (1 shot) Irish whiskey
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Get a small plate handy. You’ll need it quickly.

Steam this with the steamer on an espresso machine until it’s about as hot as coffee. About 160-180 degrees Ferenheight if you’re counting. Using a grill lighter or match immediately ignite the vapors of the whiskey, let burn for one to three seconds, and snuff by placing the small plate over the cup.

Make and add to the cup:

  • 1 shot espresso

Top with:

  • Lightly whipped cream

The whipped cream should not be whipped as much as you would for other purposes but rather be to soft peaks.

The shortcuts

We don’t all have espresso machines or want to whip our own cream for just one drink, so here are some possible shortcuts…

You could probably do the whiskey and brown sugar mixture in the microwave. You’ll still want to ignite it. That is a very important step.

Strong black coffee could be substituted for the espresso.

For the whipped cream, buy the stuff in the can and don’t shake the can before you use it. You’ll get a thicker, more liquid cream out that’s perfect for this recipe.

Thanks to Amy for reminding me of this recipe. It’s been a long time since I made it, but I think I remembered it all.

coffee, drinks, alcohol, beverages, whiskey, whisky, irish whiskey, irish coffee

« Previous PageNext Page »