If you’re on the hunt for a new coffee brewing device to pick up, you’ve probably run into a classic gear battle that’s been around for years: AeroPress vs. pour over devices.
This question pops up all the time, and it’s easy to see why.
The AeroPress is hands down one of the easiest coffee brewing devices, and the existence (and popularity) of the World AeroPress Championship is testament to how versatile the press is.
Meanwhile, pour overs are the method of choice for many knowledgeable baristas (and World Brewers Cup champions).
There are many factors at work when deciding which of these two device types to go with. They produce quite different results, and they also have different learning curves.
So we’ve put together this guide to help you choose whether an AeroPress or a pour over brewer would be better for you. We’ve covered everything from taste profiles to ideal temperature ranges and more.
There’s no doubt that both pour overs and the AeroPress are fantastic, but in the end, the best device is the best one for you. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what each type of device has to offer.
We’ll go through an overview of each and then go over three main criteria: taste, ease of use, and other considerations (like the ability to travel with a device).
AeroPress: A Quick Look
At first glance, the AeroPress looks more like a medical tool than a coffee maker. However, it’s pretty similar in concept to a French press, although the taste is completely different.
(In fact, the taste of the brews the AeroPress can produce is a large part of the reason why people buy this beloved device.)
While the AeroPress has many parts, it packs small. Every AeroPress comes with the main brewing device, a coffee scoop, a stirring stick, a funnel, filters, a filter holder, and a bag.
The AeroPress produces smooth tasting coffee with minimal bitterness and acidity. In this way, it’s similar to the kind of cup a French press makes, but the main difference is that AeroPress coffee isn’t as full-bodied.
Rather, it’s juicier and often brings out fruity notes in coffees. It’s an immersion brewing method, which means the coffee spends more time submerged in water.
You’ll often see the AeroPress being touted as an “espresso maker.” This is not the case! By definition, espresso requires a certain amount of pressure, and the AeroPress can’t produce much pressure.
While there’s no strict definition for espresso, a general definition is “concentrated, thick, coffee-based, topped with a layer of dense foam and created with a machine that forces hot water through a basket of tightly packed, finely ground coffee at very high pressure.”
While the AeroPress can’t make true espresso, it can make “fauxspresso,” or strong coffee that has some of the qualities of espresso. This is similar to the kind of coffee you’d make in a Moka pot.
Technically any coffee brewing device can make super strong coffee, but since the AeroPress relies on pressure, it will give you a better fauxspresso than, say, a pour over.
Best for: Drinkers who like smooth, juicy coffees or who want fake espresso on the cheap.
Ease of Use
It might not seem like it, but the AeroPress is actually easier to use than many pour overs! There are less variables to consider, and many coffee experts admit that it’s hard to make a bad cup of coffee with the AeroPress.
For this reason, it’s extremely forgiving to new brewers, so if you make a mistake, your cup won’t end up tasting awful.
At first, the learning curve can be steep, but it tails off soon after. Once you get the hang of where the parts go and how it works, you’ll be brewing in no time.
It takes about 2 minutes to make a cup, so if you’re pressed for time (pun intended), the AeroPress is your friend.
There are also plenty of recipes (some of which require you to flip the device upside down!) to experiment with if you feel like it.
Best for: Busy drinkers who only have a few minutes in the morning and want an easy way to make tasty coffee.
The AeroPress doesn’t have many downsides––if you like the taste of the coffee it makes, and if you don’t mind dealing with all the little parts, you’ll have a versatile coffee maker on your hands.
However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t emphasize that the AeroPress is made of plastic, and you’re putting hot water (sometimes boiling) through the device.
Now, this may seem like crackpot pseudoscience, but there’s something to it. A polymer scientist at Clemson University analyzed the AeroPress and posted a warning about its antimony contents.
Antimony can leach into food or drink, and the element can cause irritation, stomach pain, and ulcers. If you’re going to be using the AeroPress as your daily driver, it’s something to consider.
Best for: People who aren’t worried about the combination of hot water and plastic.
Pour Over Brewers: A Quick Look
There are many types of pour over devices, so the AeroPress vs. pour over battle can get confusing if you don’t know what to look for.
You might see people saying that one pour over device is better than the AeroPress but another is worse.
We’ll break down the main similarities and differences so you can see if you’d rather be an AeroPress aficionado or a pour over practitioner. If you’re new to pour overs, check out our beginner’s guide to pour over coffee.
Regardless of what type of pour over brewer you use, you’ll usually get a bright, acidic cup of coffee. (Not acidic in the bad way––think citrus fruit.)
A pour over will produce a cup with less body than the AeroPress, but it will also emphasize some of the harder-to-find flavors, ones you might not get from the AeroPress.
So if your coffee has a note of blueberry, for example, and you can’t taste that in the AeroPress, you might get it from a pour over.
Best for: Drinkers who want a more delicate, flavorful cup of coffee.
Ease of Use
This is where the comparison between AeroPress and pour overs gets tricky. There are many different types of pour overs, and some of them are harder to use than others.
Without going into all the finer details, know that a flat bottomed pour over brewer will give you a more even extraction, which means it’s easier to make a good cup of joe.
A conical pour over will be trickier to master since there are more variables at play; you have to control the flow of the water precisely and will need a gooseneck kettle for best results.
In short, pour overs like the Kalita Wave are super easy to use and beginner-friendly.
Conical pour overs like the Hario v60 or Chemex will be tougher to learn, but they’re the pour over devices of choice for many pro baristas and coffee lovers alike.
So if you just want a quick way to make more nuanced coffee, a brewer like the Wave is ideal for you. If you’re willing to put in the time to get a really outstanding, clean cup of coffee, check out the v60 or Chemex.
Best for: All kinds of coffee drinkers.
While there’s just one type of AeroPress, there are many types of pour overs, and they all operate on (more or less) the same idea: gravity drawing the water down through the coffee.
So if you choose pour overs as your method of choice, you can have 3 different brewers and get 3 different cups with similar techniques.
However, pour overs aren’t ideal for getting really full-bodied, robust cups of coffee. Pour overs bring out the lightness in a coffee, so if you love thick, substantial coffee, pour overs probably aren’t for you.
One last caveat––for best results, you’ll want a gooseneck kettle.
These are considerably more expensive than basic kettles, but they give you unparalleled control of the water, which is vital for extracting a pour over evenly.
In the end, a pour over setup will cost you a bit more than an AeroPress setup.
Best for: People who want versatility in brewing devices and clean cups of coffee (and don’t mind spending a bit).
It’s difficult to recommend just one of these coffee brewers.
Heck, you might even want to get both! It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a cup of coffee.
We hope you can use this guide to find out which brewer is right for you.