What Defines “Perfect” Coffee?

By , December 2, 2014

I posted the last essay, When “Good Enough” is Best because recently, “good enough” has proven, once again, to be best.

After my recent “coffee jag” posts, beginning with Exploring Coffee’s “Magic Ratio”, I learned about the AeroPress® coffee and espresso maker. I’d heard a little about this new style coffee maker before, but looked into it more thoroughly, and decided to try it. I had some birthday money from my in-laws on hand (see Anticipation) and, considering how fond my father-in-law is of coffee, I decided it would be an appropriate gift from them.

Look! It even makes Christmas coffee! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

Look! It even makes Christmas coffee! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

The AeroPress works very similarly to a French or European press coffee maker, in that it presses water through coffee grounds. It pushes hot water through the coffee into an individual cup or carafe, then the grounds can be disposed of rather than sitting in the bottom of the container, continuing to affect the coffee. TheAeroPress claims to offer a smoother cup of coffee as a result.

I rely on French press coffee makers on the rare occasions I don’t use my Italian stove top espresso maker. I recently discovered that I own four of them in various configurations! I always have to work around fine ground coffee clogging up the screen filters of the presses, so the AeroPress sounded like a good alternative.

I also like the logistical convenience it offers. I can share a kettle of hot water with Michelle when she makes tea. I can also heat water on the wood stove. While I can make coffee with my espresso maker on the wood stove, it takes a high heat, is rather slow, and I feel the handle of the maker gets a bit cooked. If we’re using the range, we can use one burner instead of two.

I’m very pleased with the coffee the AeroPress makes. I made sure to buy a metal filter, which, aside from aliviating the need to buy replacement paper filters, doesn’t absorb the particular coffee oils that, if not absorbed by a paper filter, enrich the coffee and prevent heartburn. Even so, I’m not sure I’m getting better coffee from it.

For one thing, it technically requires more coffee beans than the espresso maker, so it loses  frugality points.

More importantly, it provides a smoother cup of coffee than I apparently have come to appreciate!

It appears I’ve grown to love and depend on the less refined, ever-so-slightly sedimented Italian cup. Furthermore, while coffee made in theAeroPress imparts some aroma in the room, it can’t match the full blown plume of coffee fragrance the espresso maker pumps out. This aroma, which even pleases family members who can’t stand coffee, is part and parcel of the coffee making experience, and I will not willingly dispense with it.

So, while the AeroPress may produce a technically superior cup of coffee, it can’t deliver a cup that meets my particular preferences. And really, when it comes down to it, which is the true goal: making something others might consider perfect, or pleasing one’s self?

TheAeroPress is light, sturdy and compact; I plan to pack it when I travel from now on. Some days at home, I’ll use it for quickness and convenience. But, for a “perfect” cup of coffee, I guess I’m sticking with my old stove top espresso maker.

One Response to “What Defines “Perfect” Coffee?”

  1. Martin says:

    Hi Mark….I have to agree, being a bit of a coffee addict myself…I find the simplest time tested methods to be the best.

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