Death of the Espresso Elite

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Pete and I have an ongoing debate. He likes to hit up Cielo on Main St; I prefer Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney, or, not wishing to deal with the line, Deus ex Machina on Lincoln and Venice. I have others: Tom’s, also on Abbot Kinney, recently expanding its charitable shoe line to open a flagship with a backyard cafe; Venice Grind, the only spot walking distance from my apartment, also does in a pinch. While coffee snobs love to talk badly about Intelligentsia, rainmaker that it is, no other spot is as consistent and reliable. I get the hate; I used to avoid Williamsburg when I lived in Brooklyn.

I don’t take my espresso as seriously as I do my chocolate, but it is important. I’ll hit up Starbucks while on the road, if need be, grimacing. Some friends throw words my way for refusing to step into a corner bodega for coffee—what I put into my body is important to me. I’d rather not ingest something unpleasant than do so because it’s there. You learn to be discerning as a vegan, if you want to be a healthy one, that is. Truth is, I dislike coffee. I drink espresso, one a day, most days though not every, in the morning. It’s not only the caffeine. I like the ritual.

Pete and I might disagree on coffee shops, and he’s allowed to be wrong. Yet I knew he wasn’t last week when he texted me about the Aeropress. I respect a man who respects his beans. When he told me he ordered this plastic contraption for $30, and that it brewed an incredible shot, I trusted his opinion. My instinct proved correct.

otb-squidgieI was under the assumption that I’d eventually have to drop over a grand for a serious espresso machine. ‘Eventually’ is key as I’m not in any financial position to do so. Even if I had the money, I’m not sure I would. I love Americanos, but I also enjoy the ceremony of the coffee shop. If I dropped that kind of coin on a machine, I’d never allow myself the luxury of a line again.

But I was also frustrated at the espresso makers I’ve had. My first $100 one was a nightmare. The $300 jammy I received as a present churned out aluminum-tasting drips. A Marzocco would set me back an entire month’s salary—or two, or three, depending on which model I bought. So how could a $30 plastic tube provide comparable pleasure?

I’m not going to claim that it’s the best Americano I’ve ever had. But it’s better than some of those listed above. Aerobie, the company that manufactures the Aeropress, explains its own ‘science‘ behind it, but like I said, I’m not that into espresso to care about the process. Just the results.

The most fascinating aspect about this is the company itself. Upon stumbling onto its site, I discover it creates such fine products as Sharpshooter Golf Discs, the Orbiter Boomerang, the Aerospin Yo-Yo and, of course, the Squidgie Disc, perhaps the most important evolution of the frisbee ever.

Seriously, this is democracy in action. Think that $7,000 GS/3 is impressive? Try dropping your grind on top of this $.03 filter.

I never got the whole pod brewing phenomenon. Every ‘espresso’ I tried from one of those tasted like wet, sour dirt. The French Press contraption never interested me. The Aeropress? A rare thing of beauty. I’m not forgoing my occasional ritual, but I now have an affordable equalizer to the $3-a-day Americano habit. Besides, how could this couple be wrong?

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