So you appreciate good coffee but don’t have the budget for an expensive espresso machine, what can you do? We’ve taken a look at two upstart devices: the Aeropress, which debuted in 2005, and the Minipresso, the result of a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2014.
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The Aeropress resembles a giant syringe. Hot water is mixed with ground coffee, then pushed through a paper filter into a cup. The result is similar to coffee you’d get from a drip or filter.
The Minipresso looks like a small thermos flask with a bulge. Ground coffee is placed in a basket at one end, hot water into a tank at the other, and the bulge becomes a pump handle used to force water through the grinds. It claims to turn out a double shot of espresso coffee complete with crema.
Technical writers George Block and Erin Bennett – both experienced coffee drinkers and home baristas – made and tasted a few coffees. After they’d stopped shaking they shared their thoughts.
$70, filters $7 for 350
Available from coffee suppliers around NZ
Ease of use: 4/5
George: “We got a disappointing result when we followed the manufacturer’s brew method. Half the coffee ran through the filter before we got the plunger in, resulting in a weak brew. It was a different story when using the inverted method (an alternative method subject to intense discussion among Aeropress aficionados), which was easier and resulted in a good full-bodied brew. The Aeropress was easy to use and clean-up was a breeze – the plunger self-cleans and it only needs a quick rinse.”
Erin: “The Aeropress is self-contained and no problem to store. The inverted method – where the Aeropress is flipped over, the water is poured on the plunger head and it’s then flipped back – made brewing much easier. The coffee was smooth and sharp, but it was still weak. Cleaning up was quick, and you get an awful lot of fun ‘shooting’ out the puck of spent coffee.”
US$59 including shipping to NZ
Available from www.wacaco.com
Ease of use: 2.5/5
George: “Really impressive espresso with a rich, silky crema. Amazingly, it was comparable to the office’s high-end manual Breville espresso machine and not too far from a double shot you’d get in a café. The catch? It’s fiddly to use. It disassembles into five pieces, which then require reassembling in the correct order without spilling the hot water. Plus, the coffee holder is small and difficult to pack. It wouldn’t be much fun with frozen fingers if you were off tramping, but it’s a viable option for a picnic or while watching the kids play sport.”
Erin: “Nice and compact, with a place for every piece, it produced strong and sharp coffee. It was easy to use and could also be considered a hand-strengthening exercise. However, water leaked through the seals as soon as I turned it upside down and the puck was messy to remove, leaving my hands covered in wet grounds. It has a novelty factor, but its single-cup capacity and fussy clean-up means it’s a lot of work if more than one person wants a caffeine hit.”
First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
With so many designs, features and technologies on offer, there’s heaps to consider when choosing an espresso machine. We’ve tested 33 models and explain what to look for.
A soft brew is a coffee made without pressurised water. While espresso is a “wake-you-up” coffee with intense flavours, soft brew is subtle and often allows for more flavours to come to the fore. While there is a fine line between good and bad espresso, soft brews give more leeway.
We trialled several soft brew methods — plunger/French press; pour-over carafe; pour-over cup; and filter machine — assessing how easy the different processes were to use and, just as importantly, clean up afterwards.
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