[July 28, 2008 Update: I have had much better results with the Chambord since writing this original post. See my "Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique" post for details.]
After a couple years of immense satisfaction with my Aerobie Aeropress, I decided to give press pots another chance. After all, my last use of press pots (with dismal results) preceded my discovery of Mark Prince’s coffee geek website and podcast by many years. Perhaps my new-found knowledge of proper grinds, beans and brewing techniques would yield better results.
The Problem with the Aeropress
I’ve been an Aerobie Aeropress evangelist since I first discovered it. But, I’ve become annoyed by the fact that the Aeropress is designed primarily for espresso shots and 80z Americano cups of coffee. I drink two 12 to 14 oz cups of coffee each day.
The Aeropress brews THE-best 12 – 14 oz cup of coffee I have ever had – period! But the process I use is a kludge. The Aeropress’ water chamber holds only 8 oz of hot water. After pouring the first 8 oz’s into the chamber I wait and stir and wait and stir as gravity pulls the first 4 to 6 ounces through the beans and the filter. As I wait and stir, I slowly pour, ounce by ounce, the final 4 to 6 ounces of my desired 12 to 14 oz cup into the chamber. Only then can I press the final 8 ounces through. This is tedious. And with newly roasted beans, I have to proceed even slower as the new bean bloom can result in overflow and clean-up issues.
Despite requests by Aeropress lovers, Aerobe has not yet created a larger version of its product.
Onward to the Bodum Chambord
So, with this post on the coffee geek forums I set out to explore the press pot as an alternative method to brew my one-at-at-time 12 oz cups of coffee. Since it seems that most quality French Presses are the same, I settled on the 16 oz (4 cup*) Bodum Chambord. (Thanks for the recommendation JVBorella)
While this Bodum Chambord is available to Americans for ($20ish) at Amazon.com, the best price I could find in Toronto for it was $39 at the Shaper Edge in Toronto’s Eaton’s Center. Everywhere else (Sears, the Bay, Second Cup) was charging $49.
With high hopes, I followed Mark Prince’s excellent How to Use a Press Pot tutorial. Not coincidentally he used an earlier version of the same 16 oz Bodum Chambord in his tutorial.
KAP Grind 1 Test: The manual for my Kitchen Aid Proline (KAP) grinder (available at Amazon here – reviewed on coffee geek here)) suggested setting the grinder setting to a course grind of 1, (the largest possible grind) for press pot coffee. By contrast, I use a 6.5 – 7 setting (a relatively fine grind) for my Aeropress coffee).
The resulting coffee**, compared to Aeropress coffee, was a thin, sharp tasting coffee with a slight tinny taste and a lingering acidic after-taste. There was zero sludge in the cup (a common problem with press pots). I didn’t like it enough to drink down to the last drop though.
KAP Grind 3 Test: Not to be deterred, I figured the thin taste could be ameliorated with a relatively finer grind. So I next tried setting the KAP to 3. The result: much nicer. Much thicker and robust. Less acidic and less tinny, but not what I enjoy. There was a thin cloudy residue left in the last sip or two. Not sludgy or dusty. More like sipping cotton candy textured coffee – if that makes any sense.
KAP Grind 4 Test: The next day I tested the Bodum with a KAP Grind 4 setting. This didn’t help at all. The result was even more of a cloudy texture to the coffee. Not enjoyable. And the tinny after taste was still there.
The KAP Grind 3 test makes me a little hopeful that I can get a decent cup out of the Bodum. I wouldn’t, for example, be embarrassed to serve the coffee from my second test to a guest. But the results so far are far, far away from the quality I routinely get with my Aeropress.
I understand from Donald Blum’s review, that nylon and gold filters are available. I wonder if either would remove the tinny taste? I’d like to try one of these filters if I can find a place to purchase them at a decent price.
Barring better results from future testing with a nylon or gold filter, I’m doubting whether this Bodum will ultimately replace the Aeropress.
The Quest Continues
Short of a big surprise, after a bit more testing I expect to be back to the drawing board. My ultimate goal is to find a convenient, one at a time, method of brewing a 12 to 14 oz cup of coffee, with the quality of the Aeropress but with less work. Perhaps I’ll try a vac pot next.
My Aerobie Aeropress, is going to get more continued use than I had expected.
* Note: In the world of coffee merchandising a “cup” of coffee usually refers to 4 oz of coffee. Bodum follows that regrettable convention when describing their 16 oz Chambord as a 4 cup device.
** Note 2: As always, I used my freshly roasted Peets Arabian Mocha Sanani beans.