How long should you wait before pushing the plunger down on your Aeropress after pouring in the water? That’s a simple question with a little more complicated answer. Here’s what you want to know.
A good steep time for the Aeropress is 2 minutes for a light, 1.5 minute for medium and 1 minute for dark roasts. This includes bloom time. Those are starting points and it depends on your exact coffee and taste what’s best. Steep longer for stronger coffee but at the expense of more bitterness.
How this works exactly and how you can change the taste and strength of your Aeropress coffee by changing the steep time can be found below.
How Long To Let An Aeropress Steep?
The recommended amount of steep time for an Aeropress is only about 15-30 seconds. In my experience that is not long enough and a longer steep time of up to two minutes works better. That is including the bloom time.
That means after putting the grounds in the Aeropress, you pour a little bit of water that’s just enough to get all the grounds wet. You start the timer when pouring this first bit of water. Wait 30 seconds and then fill the Aeropress up with the rest of the water. Then wait until the timer hits 2 minutes before pushing the plunger. This gives a bit more steep time than recommended but I’ve personally seen good results with this. Not sour, not bitter and strong enough to have a good depth of flavor.
What works best for you and your coffee will require some experimentation. I’ve had good results with longer steep times but your milage may vary. It also depends on how fine the coffee is ground. The finer the coffee is ground, the less steep time you need.
It does also depend on which roast level you’re using. A darker roast extracts easier/faster than a lighter roast and therefore needs a shorter steep time. The two minutes recommended above is for light roasts. Darker roasts can steep significantly shorter than that. 1.5 minute is a good starting point for a medium roast while 1 minute is a good place to start for darker roasts.
What Does Steeping An Aeropress Do?
Steeping is just letting the water and coffee grounds hang out together. Doing this helps extract all the flavor compounds from the grounds.
Just like brewing tea, the compounds in the coffee grounds have to be extracted by the water. This process takes some times and is influenced by different factors. The grind size is a big one that impacts the speed of extraction since smaller coffee particles have more surface area which means more water can touch the grounds at the same time and do it’s work.
The steep time is simply giving the water more time to do it’s job and so increasing extraction. The longer you wait before pushing the plunger, the more time the water and grounds have to hang out and for the water to get the taste compounds out of the grounds. So in a way, steeping for longer, makes the coffee stronger.
However, make sure you don’t go too far since over extraction can cause really bitter coffee.
Pressure is another factor that impacts extraction. That’s why espresso machines can make such strong coffee with very little water in a small amount of time. An Aeropress does create some pressure but nowhere near the amount of a really espresso machine.
How To Use Steep Time In An Aeropress?
The steep time mentioned above is a general guideline that works for most coffees and most people. As long as the grind size is in the right ballpark you’ll get a good tasting and quite strong coffee with a good depth of flavor with a xx minute steep time.
As you can read above, steeping is about extraction. Extraction is how much you get out of the coffee grounds. It’s not a good idea to get everything you possibly can out of the grounds since that will result in the coffee becoming very harshly bitter. On the other hand, if you don’t extract enough, you’ll get a weak and sour cup of coffee.
Since steep time plays a role in extraction, you can use it to make changes in this regard. That means if your coffee is sour and/or weak, try steeping it longer. If the coffee is too bitter, try steeping it shorter.
Make 30 second changes to the steep time at once so you don’t overshoot your target. Using a coffee scale with timer or just a timer on your phone is useful to stay accurate. If you’ve never tried changing the steep time, you might be surprised how much of a difference there is in just 30 seconds.
What If Steep Time Doesn’t Fix You Aeropress Coffee?
Steep time does make a difference in taste but there are more things you should be aware of. If your coffee comes out very sour or bitter, there are some other factors you should look at first like; stirring, grind size and water temperature. Also make sure to do a bloom.
The grind size is the first thing you should get right. The grind size makes a really big impact on how quickly the grounds extract. The finer the grounds are, the more surface area there is on them per gram which means more water is in contact with it at a given time. That means finer grounds extract much faster and letting them steep longer has a faster impact as well. The right grind size for an Aeropress is medium-fine. It should be finer than for a pour over method but a little coarser than for espresso.
Doing a proper bloom and stirring is also an important part of the Aeropress brew method. Pour a little bit of water over the grounds to get them all wet. Then stir to make sure all the grounds are hydrated properly and there are no dry clumps left. Then let that sit for about 30 seconds before pouring the rest of the water in. This helps free up all the compounds in the coffee and makes them easier to extract. Also it helps to evenly extract all the grounds which helps with a balanced, round taste.