Buying an AeroPress used to be easy; for years, there was only one model. Thanks to its ingenious design—a syringe-like plunger that pushes coffee in the brewing chamber through a small paper filter—it made fantastic coffee, offered all sorts of room for experimentation, and was easy to clean. In 2019, some 14 years after the debut of the first AeroPress, the company introduced the travel-friendly Go. This minimally miniaturized version of the original design was particularly nice for using on trips, since it meant an end to relying on crummy K-Cups in hotel rooms.
For a while, it was just those two. Then, this year, the dam broke—the result of both a 2021 investment in AeroPress by Tiny Capital and fans’ insistent clamoring for more AeroPresses—and the company released a few new versions of its brewer. Unfortunately, while the Original and Go had a “lightning strikes twice” vibe, the new crop is more of a mixed bag. Somehow, after all this time, what’s come out still feels rushed. We’ve been using the Original and Go for years and started testing the new gear as soon as it came out. While it’s not as universally appealing, there are features that fans may want to consider and some to avoid. If you already have an AeroPress, that’s almost certainly everything you need. But if you’re buying a new one, here’s some advice on which version to get.
Best for Home or Office
If you’re a longtime AeroPress owner, chances are this is the one you’ve got. Not much of a looker in its cloudy gray color, but it’s an exceedingly high performer and has been a favorite of baristas and home brewers since it came out. Part of the reason is that it allows you to control so many of the brewing variables: water temperature, amount of coffee, grind size, and bloom and brew times. Even when you don’t make a perfect cup, it’s usually still pretty good. The compact size means it barely takes up more space than a mug in your kitchen, and it’s fairly easy to take on a trip. Plasticky? Yes, but also durable enough that I no longer remember how long I’ve owned mine. I have an Original and a Go, and I tend to use the former at home and take the Go on the road. If I worked in an office, I would keep an Original there. Compared to the other models, it’s probably the most versatile, ready to accommodate your inner nerd when you want to take a deep dive. Even if this were still the only one in existence, we’d be just as fanatical about it.
Best for Frequent Fliers
It never really dawned on me that the Original could be improved, and in a way the Go is just a slightly smaller version, yet the changes are ingenious, allowing for it to nestle inside a mug, along with a scoop, stirrer, and little compact-like clamshell that holds filters. Pack it all up and toss it in the bottom of your suitcase for your next flight, or put it in your backpack and head for the hills. (Campers love these.) You can, of course, bring whole beans and a hand grinder, but that seems like overkill to me. Grind what your need before heading for the great outdoors or, if your adventure is more urban, find a coffee shop at your destination, meet some locals, buy a bag, ask them to “grind it for AeroPress,” and ask if they have any brewing suggestions—I bet they will. Before you skip town, buy a bag of beans to grind at home and call it both a souvenir and self-care reward. The 8-ounce Go is obviously for the travelers out there, but if you’re not too finicky, it’s close enough to the 10-ounce Original that owning both feels redundant. I travel a lot, so if I had to pare it down, this would be The One.
We’re Cloudy on the Clear
I thought this would be the one to dethrone the original. It’s more expensive, but it’s notably better looking and features the ability to see into the brewing chamber, factors that make the bump in price worth it. It seemed completely plausible that the company would quietly sunset the Original in the Clear’s favor, but I’m not sure anymore. Aside from this one being made of Tritan plastic, the two models appear to be physically identical, yet when I started testing in depth, things felt upside down. AeroPress nerds love to use the “inverted method” where the barrel is set on top of the plunger and the coffee brewed before attaching the lid and filter, flipping the rig onto a mug, then depressing like normal. Inverting means no dripping along with a bit more precision and control. It’s my default method, but on the Clear, inverting felt a little dicey. If the plunger or interior of the barrel are damp from washing or a quick rinse between cups, the barrel, which you’ll remember gets filled with scalding hot water and coffee grounds, isn’t as stable as it is on the Original; the fit isn’t quite as snug, something that for those who like—or think they might someday like—going inverted should consider a nonstarter.
I will note that despite testing with a full-production model, I haven’t seen much in the way of others experiencing this problem. If you really want the Clear, maybe wait a year, watch reviews, and see if this becomes a problem.
Best for (Really) Big Boys
AeroPress fans have been clamoring for a bigger version of the classic brewer for years, mostly because the Original’s 10-ounce capacity means making coffee for more than one person can be a pain in the butt. Those fans got their wish with a model that’s twice the size of the original. But bigger does not seem to be better. In fact, bigger seems a little more dangerous. While the Original, Clear, and Go all use the same size cap and filter, each piece of the XL is larger. It has its own filters, and you brew into the carafe it comes with, because the XL’s larger diameter makes it too big to brew directly into most mugs. It also gains a lot of height. With the plunger extended and connected to the barrel, and all of that sitting on the carafe, it’s 19 inches high. In our testing, 5’3″ Seattle barista Reyna Callejo from Olympia Coffee Roasting Company stood on a stool to get it to work, a balancing act involving hot liquids you likely will not want to be doing before your morning coffee, or ever, really. Using the inverted method also feels more perilous—that’s half a liter of hot water you’re perching high above your countertop, legs, and private parts. If you really love AeroPress, want an extra cup’s worth every time you brew, and aren’t put off by the potential perils, go for it, but most of us who crave more coffee would likely be better off with a different kind of brewer.
Put a Lid on It?
This accessory—which attaches to all AeroPress models except the XL—is designed to keep your brewing dripless, which it does if things are working right. A ketchup-bottle style pressure-actuated valve allows the inverted-averse to experiment with grind sizes and brewing times with no drip. Your coffee won’t go anywhere until you press the plunger. It also is supposed to create an “espresso-style crema” with dark roast, which turns out to be vaguely sudsy bubbles, not the delicious, dense, caffeinated foamy goodness you might hope for. It’s sort of like the peach fuzz on a teenage boy’s upper lip compared to a legit bushy mustache. In fact, I did not notice much in the way of positive change that the cap had on the coffee it made. That flow control works great, though. Good luck cleanly ejecting the puck into the compost bin; without some peculiar futzing that I—and a lot of people online—never figured out, the filter and a layer of grounds tend to detach from the rest of the puck and get stuck in the cap. I had fun looking through the Amazon reviews, many of which complained about leaking, but laughed out loud at the one that hit home the most: “I don’t think it does anything.”
This reusable stainless filter allows AeroPress users to avoid using and pitching the paper filters. Cutting down on paper waste is a noble intention, but I was fairly unimpressed with the results. Most notably, the end product is much sludgier than what AeroPress users are used to. Even for me, a French-press fan who doesn’t mind some sediment in the bottom of my cup, this seemed like a lot. Unless you use a Flow Control cap, the stainless filter also lets coffee drip through much faster than a paper filter does. Amazingly, water poured from a tap through an empty (no grounds) AeroPress with the stainless filter and stock cap will fill then overfill the vessel beneath it, not the brewing chamber. With a paper filter and the same cap, the brewing chamber fills, then takes well over a minute to empty out. Similarly, when you’re brewing coffee and depress the plunger, it sinks so fast and easily that keeping steady pressure on it is tricky. Finally, among all of our daily environmental sins, pitching a compostable 2.5-inch wide paper disc (which can be used for multiple brewings) barely makes a blip compared with, say, that plastic or plastic-lined bag your coffee comes in. As with the Flow Control cap, there’s probably a tiny niche of people who will make regular use of this, but I think most of us will drop 15 bucks on it, struggle with it a few times, then forget about it in the utensil drawer.
My Own AeroPress Setup
Most of us will be completely happy with just one AeroPress. Through work, I happen to own two, which is mostly redundant. If I had to whittle it down to just one, I’d take the Go. If I traveled less, I’d be fine with the Original and just take that on trips—it does just fine.
The rest of my home setup includes an Oxo scale for weighing coffee beans by the gram. The current version of the scale is this Stainless Steel Food Scale ($56), a great all-rounder in the kitchen. WIRED editor Michael Calore likes Oxo’s Precision Scale ($45) that features a built-in timer, which is useful with more complicated AeroPress or pour-over brews.
My grinder is a Baratza Encore ($150), which I love for the quality of the grind, overall value, and durability. It’s also repairable, a spot where many other manufacturers fall short.
While I love the look of gooseneck kettles, I find them finicky and slow-pouring when I’m not using them for coffee. Instead, I’ve been using the Cuisinart CPK-17 ($99) for four years, and it’s still chugging away fine. It’s a reviewers’ darling, with six preset temperatures and a “keep warm” button to hold it it at that temperature for 30 minutes.
One little thing I’ve come to appreciate is working on a silicone mat while I brew. AeroPress fails are rites of passage, mostly because they can make a spectacular mess. I use a Silpat mat from my baking drawer, which provides a solid, nonslip base and helps keep disaster at bay.