The AeroPress Ritual

Just this once, allow me to defy conventional wisdom and share something from my experiences: coffee, not tea, is the soothing, satisfying beverage of the modern gentleman. A radical statement, I know! But bear with me and I'll explain. I don't want to badmouth tea, but beyond making my throat feel a bit better when I'm sick, it's never really done anything for me, and I've certainly never felt anything approaching affection toward it. In my world - which may not be your world - coffee is simply more enjoyable. Now I'm not arguing that the piping-hot over-roasted double Venti Sumatra blend you get at your local Starbucks (ignore the oxymoron, please) is going to relieve stress or provide inspiration, but not every cup of coffee is created equal - literally. And while I'm hardly a leading expert on the subject, I do think it's worth devoting a few words to the glory that is a well brewed cup.

I want to focus on things you can control with this post, and unfortunately, you're probably not going to be able to count quality of beans among them. I mean, you could make it a point to seek out the world's greatest beans and order them online and pay through the nose for them if that's your priority. I wouldn't blame you if it was, but I tend to use what's available to me. There are a couple of local establishments near me that roast their own stuff and have a good reputation for quality, and for my purposes, that's enough. When I get down the road and have a bit more disposable income, that may change, but what I'm saying is: get the beans you can. Just make sure that they're relatively fresh, smell good, and have not been ground! Nothing will ruin good coffee like grinding it ahead of time.

So what can you control? Three things: your environment, your brewing method, and your drinking experience, and while the second of the three affects the taste of the cup, the first and third affect how much you'll enjoy it.

The Environment: I like to brew at home. I tend to brew before breakfast, so I'm not messing around with anything else. I keep my space relatively uncluttered. I don't play music or leave the TV on when I'm brewing. I try to remove those kinds of distractions. With the exception of good company, it should just be you and the coffee. Allow yourself to focus on it and enjoy the ritual.

The Brewing Method: For years, I brewed in a drop pot. The coffee was crude and generally unpleasant, but it was also a convenient way of delivering caffeine to my system. After a few years, I got myself a French Press and a blade grinder. This was better, but not great. The Press itself produced coffee with a fair amount of sediment in it, and the grinder simply didn't cut it. Well, actually, it did cut it, and that's the problem. A grinder is supposed to grind, not slice and dice and pulverize. Blade grinders simply aren't designed to grind coffee, and the result is invariably an uneven, inconsistent grind that affects how water penetrates the bean. If you want to grind coffee at home, get a Burr grinder - which is what I did. 

Since August, I have brewed exclusively in an AeroPress, and it's simply changed my life. An AeroPress effectively combines all of the best qualities of the French Press and pour-over methods into a single, simples package. Using an AeroPress is a complete and utter pleasure, and the active nature of the process makes you feel like you're really making coffee. As for the process - well, the video below from Adam Lisagor explains it better than I ever could.

That's the standard Americano style of brewing, where you're essentially drawing a shot of espresso and then watering it down. I personally prefer the inverted method, where you immerse the ground coffee in hot water and then extract a full-bodied cup, similar to a French Press.

Either way will produce a spectacular cup of coffee. Don't tart it up with milk or cream or sugar unless all you want to taste is milk or cream or sugar. Leave it black. Now all that's left to do is drink!

Drinking Experience: Ah, but that's part of the ritual as well! Sometimes you're in a rush, and I get that, but I really think that coffee should be enjoyed in a moment of rest. Sit down in a comfortable chair and sip slowly. Don't check email or Twitter. Don't speed through the cup. Take your time. There's no pressure. It's just you and your coffee.

It may seem like a small thing, but taking the time to observe the AeroPress ritual can make or break a day - at least, it can for me. So forgo that trip to Starbucks, put aside that travel mug, sit back, and enjoy.