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You’ve got an Aeropress but ran out of the right coffee? Can you make that bag of left over filter coffee work? Here’s what you need to know to brew good coffee.
By adjusting your technique it’s possible to use filter or French press grounds in an Aeropress but they won’t produce the best results. Pre-ground espresso powder from the supermarket is the best option if grinding your own beans is not an option.
Keep reading below to find out what the best grind size is for your Aeropress and why other sizes might not work optimally.
Using Filter Grounds In An Aeropress
Using filter grounds in an Aeropress is not going to produce the best results. The coffee will likely be a little sour and weak. Filter grounds are ground coarser than is optimal for an Aeropress which leads to slower extraction and less pressure in the press.
Coffee grounds for filter coffee are usually around the medium size which translates roughly to coarse salt. This is a bit too coarse for an Aeropress to work properly in a short amount of time. The Aeropress is supposed to be an easy and quick way of brewing good coffee.
Using coarser grounds means you’ll have to steep the coffee for longer to get the proper taste and strength out of it. If all you have are filter grounds, just steeping for a few minutes longer to make sure all the grounds are properly extracted is a good idea. That does mean you’re better off using the inverted method or something like a Fellow prismo to make sure there is no coffee leaking into the cup before pressing.
Usually there is a little leaking of the water through the filter during the steep time. When using coarser grounds there is less resistance from the coffee so there will be a faster drip. Combine that with a longer steep time and most of the water will have flowed into the cup before actually pressing. Since you want to extend the steep time, this is something you want to prevent by using the inverted method or Fellow Prismo.
If you’re not sure how to use an Aeropress exactly, read this complete beginner guide.
Using Espresso Grounds In An Aeropress
Using espresso grounds in an Aeropress will likely result in coffee that is very bitter. Espresso grounds are very fine and will extract very quickly which means it probably be too over extracted when used in an Aeropress. It can also cause the plunger to become very hard to press.
However, there is an exception for pre-ground supermarket espresso grounds. These are usually not as fine as espresso grounds used in coffee shops or for high-end home espresso machines. The basic espresso machines people have at home are usually built in a way so they can brew OK coffee while not doing everything perfect. Very fine grinds are more difficult to get working well (but produce better results if you get it right), so these machines are built to work with slightly coarser grounds.
The espresso coffee you buy in the supermarket plays into this and is ground slightly coarser. Which actually makes it quite suitable for an Aeropress. It might still be a little too fine but it’ll be as close as you’re going to get with pre-ground from the supermarket.
Using Caffetiere Grounds In an Aeropress
Using grounds for a French press is not going to work is an Aeropress. For a French press, the grounds are quite coarse. This leads to very low extraction and most of the water will just leak through the filter before pushing the plunger.
However, if you’re using the inverted method, you can use caffetiere grounds in an Aeropress. You’ll get different tasting coffee than with the ‘proper’ method, but it can still be delicious.
In a French press, you’ll usually let the coffee and water infuse for 4-5 minutes before pushing the plunger down. This way, the large coffee grounds get the time to be properly extracted. If you use the inverted method for the Aeropress, you can avoid the water leaking out the filter since the coarse grinds don’t provide any resistance for the water and so it can just move through. Inverting the press puts the plunger with the seal at the bottom which doesn’t let any water through. Using a Fellow Prismo is an alternative.
The main reason for the coarse grind size in a French press is the metal filter screen. The coarser grind helps the filter to keep as much as possible out of your cup. With a paper filter in the Aeropress, this isn’t necessary since paper filters get rid of almost every little particle that would create residue in your cup.
So while you can make French press grounds work in an Aeropress, there aren’t any real benefits.
Using Pre-ground Coffee In an Aeropress
While using freshly ground coffee beans will almost always produce better coffee than from pre-ground coffee. However, as long as the grind size is correct for the Aeropress, pre-ground coffee will produce good results.
Going to the supermarket doesn’t really guarantee you’ll get the right grind size or even good grounds. In the supermarket, you’ll often get either filter or espresso grounds. That means they’re either too coarse or too fine. However, as said above, if you have to pick one or the other, go for the espresso grounds since they’ll likely be closer to the size you need.
The way to get the best pre-ground coffee is to go to your local coffee shop or coffee roaster, tell them what you want to use your grounds for and let them grind it. That way you get higher quality coffee than from the supermarket that’s ground to the right size and fresher as well. Not all coffee shops might be willing to do this but if they sell their own coffee, you can usually get it done.
Of course getting high quality coffee also makes a difference but it’s in some ways less important than the grind size. You have to brew what you’ve got well to get good coffee. If you have great grounds, that makes it even better. However, brewing badly with good coffee doesn’t guarantee results.
What’s The Right Grind Size For An Aeropress?
The best grind size for the Aeropress is medium-fine which is comparable to table salt. It’s finer than for filter coffee and coarser than for espresso.
Unless you get your coffee ground to order, it’s best to grind your own coffee beans. A good hand grinder will be adjustable and so you can set it to exactly the size you need. You’re also not stuck with a whole bag of coffee you’ll have to use for one brew method. It’s easy to change the grind size on a grinder so there is no problem switching between brew methods.
By the way, in some cases you can reuse Aeropress filter papers but in other cases you can’t and you add a bad taste. Learn more here.
Whole beans also stay fresh for longer which means good tasting coffee for longer. A good hand grinder is a good option since you’ll get a lot of quality for your money. But, of course it takes a bit longer and takes more effort than an electric grinder.
An electric grinder will be a bit more expensive but requires a lot less effort. However, they do tend to be a bit noisier than hand grinders.
Recommended Aeropress Equipment
- Original Aeropress: The original Aeropress (Amazon) is the way to go for most people. It makes the most coffee and is still very portable. Just bring your own cup.
- Grinder: To get the best coffee out of your Aeropress, freshly ground coffee is important. The TimeMore C3 (Amazon) is a great choice for an Aeropress for both grind quality and portability.
- Fellow Prismo: If you get the fellow Prismo (Amazon), you get a filter lid replacement that allows for drip free and stronger brewing as well as a good metal filter screen.