Pour over vs Aeropress: Everything You Need to Know
If the disastrous 2020 taught me anything, it's that you need to expect the unexpected and be ready to survive on the bare minimum for a while. With an office coffee maker out of reach, it's time to set up your home cafe with the best appliances there are. You'll need a grinder and a coffee maker, electric and manual versions of both in case our lives take an apocalyptic turn. While electric machines are pretty straightforward, the manual coffee makers are where we run into the first critical question:
To pour or to press?
It's my humble intention to help you find the right answer for your caffeine needs in this short post.
Aeropress vs Pour Over: What's The Difference?
Before I dive head-first into nitpicking the benefits and drawbacks of each java-brewing method, let me round up the major perks and flaws for those impatient for a quick answer.
- Beautiful brewing hardware to complement your kitchen
- Compatible with standard paper coffee filters
- Single-serve and full carafe brewing
- Consistency and mastery take practice
- Works with certain blends and grinds only
Pour over is among the oldest of tried-and-true coffee brewing methods. Invented at the turn of the 20th century by a German housewife who found a creative use for her son's blotting paper, pour over is still among the most beloved coffee brewing techniques the world over. There are plenty of variations, from Chemex and V60 to electric drip machines that rely on the same principle of filtering hot water through the medium-ground beans. While pour over may seem dated and out of style, it's recently gained a fresh boost of popularity thanks to clever and beautiful brewing devices.
- Consistency is easy to master for total newbies
- Fully customizable brewing
- The brewing time of under 2 minutes
- Lightweight and perfect for traveling
- Single-serve brewing only
- Plastic body and parts
- Specialized, non-reusable filters needed
Aeropress is probably the youngest among the popular brewing methods. Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler of Aerobie, it has gained recognition with surprising speed, and by now, baristas are competing in the World Aeropress Championship every year. Falling in between a souped-up French press and a manual espresso machine on the spectrum of coffee makers, Aeropress may seem like a useless novelty, but it's anything but. It's extremely versatile and user-friendly, perfect for those looking to mix things up or just getting into home brewing.
Despite their differences, the equipment requirements for Aeropress and pour over brewing are surprisingly similar. There are only two critical things you'll need for both methods: kettle and paper filters. You can use any hot water source, be it a stovetop pot, an electric kettle, or a pan over a campfire. Filters are also a must, though they are quite different. Pour over relies on traditional cone-shaped filters, while Aeropress calls for small round microfilters, so there's no getting away with the same pack for both brews.
That's just the tip of the iceberg in an epic throwdown of pour over coffee vs Aeropress.
While the latter is extremely forgiving and capable of producing consistent flavor and aroma without much precision, pour over brewing calls for greater attention to detail. Still, both methods will make use of a kitchen scale and timer. The former will help you measure the right amount of grounds and water to ensure your coffee is strong enough. The latter is useful for practicing pouring hot water over the beans or pressing the Aeropress plunger. Controlled extraction time prevents your java from turning sour or bitter from under- or over-extraction. Besides, timing yourself is the best way to produce consistent results and later experiment with your favorite beans to find the perfect extraction technique.
You will also need a grinder to prep the beans for brewing. Use medium settings for pour over and fine settings for Aeropress. If you're in a pinch, go for pre-ground beans, as espresso grind is ideal for pressing, and drip grind works well for pour over.
Scoops, brushes, towels, cups, spoons–all these will also come into play for both brewing methods, so keep them close at hand to focus on the extraction instead of looking for something you're missing.
Aeropress beats pour over in terms of single-serving brewing speed. Once you get the grounds and hot water inside the chamber, blooming takes up to 30 seconds, and the pressing lasts around 30 to 60 seconds. Your cuppa will be ready in under two minutes, though you'll need to repeat the process if you're entertaining guests, and brewing four mugs with an Aeropress can take well over 15 minutes if you diligently clean the device in between cups.
Pour over is more of a meditative brewing technique, as blooming takes 30 seconds, and extraction can last up to ten minutes if you're preparing a full pot and using medium-fine grounds. While a single serving may take longer, pour over beats Aeropress in terms of serving four or more cups at once.
Pour over brewing provides plenty of control over coffee aroma and flavor, but it's still ultimately the same beverage you'd get from a drip machine. It's mild-mannered, medium-bodied, pleasant. But there's no way of using a pour over pot for any other brewing technique.
Aeropress is a Swiss army knife of non-electric coffee makers, opening a host of brewing options if you're willing to think outside the box. Traditionally, you'd get a drink similar to espresso, bold and strong, thanks to the espresso grind. But if you're in a mood for something with less of a punch and more character, use a coarse grind, and you'll get a cuppa reminiscent of French-pressed java. You can also use an inverted brewing method to get a small batch of cold brew concentrate going. And thanks to the built-in filter cup and microfilter, you won't need to fuss with getting rid of coffee particles in your brew.
I won't go deep into brewing details because there are plenty of detailed guides online, and you can guess the right technique by experimenting for a week. Instead, I want to share two tricks that will take your brew over the top.
Blooming is a universal constant of quality coffee. It's as easy as letting your grounds warm up and outgas before you start brewing. Whether you use an Aeropress or a pour over pot, add a splash (up to 2 ounces) of water to the beans and let them sit for 10 to 60 seconds before adding the rest of the water. You won't believe how much difference this simple step will have on your cuppa. If you pay close attention to professional baristas, you'll notice them using blooming regardless of the brewing technique.
For pour over, pouring is the key word. You can't simply dump the full kettle of boiling water into the filter and expect good results. Instead, use a thin stream of hot water and keep the spout close to the grounds. Go around the filter basket in a spiral, starting from the outer edge and moving to the center. Your goal here is to soak the beans evenly, so they release all flavor and aroma into the brew.
Pressing is equally crucial for using Aeropress. It's about exerting consistent pressure throughout the brewing process and keeping the extraction time within a minute. If you press slower, you risk over-extraction that will turn your coffee bitter, but if you rush through pressing in under 30 seconds, the brew will taste weak and sour. Be careful, and don't force the plunger down if there's too much resistance. Instead, dump the water and beans and try again with a coarser grind.
Home brewing is a surefire way to save on fancy coffee drinks from a cafe, even if you go with a top-of-the-line super-automatic espresso machine. Compared to that, Aeropress and pour over are two extremely affordable ways to enjoy java.
Here's an overview of the numbers.
You can get your hands on Aeropress for around $30 to $40. The package will come with plenty of accessories, including a funnel, stirrer, and scoop. You will also receive a complimentary pack of 350 microfilters. The only thing not included for a complete setup is a mug, but I think you have at least one of those.
Once the filters run out, you can easily get a new pack for under $10 (350-count). It should last you almost a year if you enjoy a single cup of Aeropress coffee every day, or around six months if you press a couple of cups daily.
Say you spend another $50 a month on coffee beans and electric bills for boiling the water and grinding the beans. Even if Aeropress only lasts a year (though it's more sturdy than that), your monthly coffee expenses will amount to barely $60. If you were to take your caffeine needs to a cafe, that forty would only stretch for ten or twelve servings.
Figuring the numbers for pour over is challenging because there is plenty of hardware in this category. The most affordable devices cost the same as Aeropress, about $40. Some coffee makers include scoops and permanent filters, but most require you to use disposable filters that cost anywhere from $10 to $20 for a 300-count pack. All in all, pour over coffee isn't much more expensive than Aeropress java.
As the expenses are equal, you should focus on your flavor preferences and brewing aesthetics when making the final choice.
Aeropress vs Pour over: Coffee Flavor
Aeropress comes closest to producing espresso-like coffee without a pressurized machine. The brew is full-bodied, intense, and extremely flavorful. However, you're more likely to feel the darker, earthier notes, as well as the toastiness of the roast, instead of enjoying the light acidity and fruity notes. The exact flavor profile depends on your beans of choice, but I suggest you go with a medium to dark roast and give espresso blends a try. Arabica and Robusta blends are extremely satisfying in Aeropress, providing a powerful caffeine punch and a bold flavor.
Pour over is virtually a manual drip machine, so any blend you would usually use in a drip coffee maker will work well with pour over. When done right, this brewing technique produces a medium-bodied cuppa, smooth and well-mannered, without overwhelming acidity or bitterness. The bean-to-water ratio is small enough to let you enjoy individual flavor notes and deduce mild nuances of fruit, citrus, and flowers. If you like experimenting with single-origin beans and discovering their unique flavors, pour over is a great way to go on a worldwide coffee journey without leaving your kitchen.
Pour over vs Aeropress: Caffeine
Of the million things that affect your daily cuppa's caffeine content, a coffee maker isn't even among the top five. Let me explain what matters when it comes to caffeine:
- Coffee variety. Arabica boasts superior taste, but Robusta beans are easier to grow, and they hold twice as much caffeine. That's why the strongest blends incorporate up to 60% of Robusta beans while bringing the price down.
- Roasting. The longer the beans are subjected to heat, the less caffeine remains to be extracted by the hot water. Although dark roasts seem more intense, they are usually lighter on caffeine than the vibrant light roasts.
- Grind size. Small coffee particles have a larger surface area to volume ratio, making it easier for caffeine to infuse the water. Sometimes making your coffee stronger is as easy as using a finer grinder setting.
- Grounds-to-water ratio. It works the same way as adding sugar to your cup. The more beans you use for the same volume of water, the stronger brew you'll get.
- Extraction temperature. The hotter water you use, the faster essential oils and chemicals, including caffeine, dissolve in water. Still, boiling water will scorch the beans, and most brewing methods will tell you to use it hot (at around 200 F) but not boiling.
- Extraction time. Even if you use cold water, leaving the beans inside for hours will result in a stronger brew. That's why cold brew is usually stronger than your average pour over.
With these six factors in mind, you can deduce which is stronger: pour over or Aeropress. The real answer is they are probably equally strong if you use the same roast, bean-to-water ratio, and water temperature. Aeropress uses a finer grind setting, but the extraction time is lower, balancing the caffeine equation.
Aeropress vs Pour over: For Travelling
Sometimes it feels like Aeropress was invented with travelers in mind because it's so lightweight, portable, and unbreakable. And if you couple it with a hand-held manual burr grinder, you've got yourself a handy coffee brewing setup wherever you go. As long as you have access to a hot water source (be it a campfire or an Airbnb stovetop kettle), you're all set for your java ritual of the day.
While pour over is still more travel-friendly than a monster of a commercial-grade espresso machine, it's nowhere near Aeropress' level of portability. Travelling is especially challenging for ceramic and glass pour-over devices, like Chemex. You run the risk of losing it to a luggage handling accident.
To be perfectly honest, I don't think of it as pressing versus pouring. I own a pour-over pot and an Aeropress and use both occasionally. I love the beauty of the Chemex brewing ritual and seeing the water seep through the grounds to form the nectar of the gods. It gives a nice touch to family gatherings and dinner parties. Aeropress is more of a dirty little secret, when I'm in the mood for a strong cuppa I don't wish to share. It's also become my loyal travel companion, though we haven't been out in a while.
When you go searching for Aeropress vs pour over, Reddit, Discord, and Tumblr will provide plenty of opinions, so you'll surely find like-minded caffeine addicts whichever brewing method you prefer. I believe both devices have a place in a home barista's setup. Considering the relatively affordable rates, you can get a pour-over pot and an Aeropress much cheaper than a super-automatic espresso machine or an advanced drip coffee maker.
How Long to Brew Pour Over Coffee?The extraction time varies depending on your skill level and the number of servings but usually takes around 5 minutes.
How to Make Pour Over Coffee Stronger?Try replacing 100% Arabica beans with Robusta and Arabica blends or increasing the grounds-to-water ratio.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Starbucks Decaf Pour Over?The decaffeinated beans lose up to 99% of their initial caffeine content, so expect your cuppa to hold anywhere from 15 mg (Short) to 30 mg (Venti).
What Is the Most Dangerous Aspect of Using the Aeropress Brewer?If you prefer the inverted brewing method, a loose filter cup may get away from you when you turn the device upside down, and hot water may spill over your hands.
Founder and owner of Lion Coffee and 3ChampsRoastery, 1st place winner of Ukrainian Barista Championship 2017. Interested in travelling, football and Formula-1 (besides coffee, of course).