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Using the same coffee beans with the same grind, I can definitely tell a difference between cups of coffee made by drip-machine, chemex, and french press. Chemex is my favorite, as it has more flavor the drip-machine, but without the grit of a french press. I want to purchase a pour over solution for home use, and can't decide between a traditional Chemex pot, or an Aerobie Aeropress. Aerobie claims that it's press method is far superior to a chemex pot, but of course they are going to say that.

Has anyone done a side-by-side comparison with the same coffee? And if so, is there a huge difference?

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I believe the Aerobie is essentially a french press with a filter added (to remove the "grit" you mentioned that can occur with a normal french press). I think that what matters is what tastes best to you and as you said "Chemex is my favorite" then that is what I recommend you go with. –  djmadscribbler May 18 '12 at 15:47
    
Thanks for the comment. Chemex is my favorite of the 3 methods that I've tried. The issue is, I've never tried an Aerobie - which claims to be superior to both french press and Chemex, so I don't know if I'd like aeropressed coffee better. Price is not a factor either, since an aeropress and chemex pot are both around $30. –  eterps May 18 '12 at 16:08
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What the heck is a Chemex? (Whatever it is, it doesn't sound appetizing. There's something about the combination of those two syllables that makes it sound like it would be a very, very bad idea to ingest the output of such a device.) –  Marti May 18 '12 at 16:51
    
Not sure where you're located, but in my neck of the woods (midwest, flyover country), there are 3 coffee houses I know of that have an Aeropress and Chemex (plus other devices) on hand. They'll easily brew a cup on each for your pleasure. –  Jacob G May 18 '12 at 18:13
    
Alas, I'm in Memphis. Haven't seen any coffee shops around here that use anything other than drip machines. –  eterps May 18 '12 at 21:34
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2 Answers

I'm guessing that there will be some difference in taste, depending mostly on the amount of time the water spends with the coffee grounds. Depending on how long you let the water sit with the grounds before the press part of the Aeropress will increase the bitterness of the coffee you pour off and drink. Similarly, the more water you pour over your grounds in the Chemex, the more bitter your coffee will be.

If you only use one cup of water in both methods, and don't let the Aeropress steep very long, the more similar the taste of the cups of coffee will be. But if you pour a second and third cup of water through the Chemex without changing the grounds, the third cup will be significantly more bitter than the first one. Similarly, if you let the water in the Aeropress sit in the water for 5 minutes before pressing the grounds down, your coffee will be more bitter than one that sat for only 1 minute.

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You are right to taste a difference! As Jennifer S says, time plays a big role in how the end result tastes. However, there are other factors: temperature (hotter = more bitter), pressure (time, temperature and pressure are all required in some combination, so for a particular technique, increasing the pressure can mean that the working temperature and/or time can be decreased), amount of coffee (Aeropress generally takes a lot more ground coffee compared to a French press, but you will get a much richer flavour IMO), and coarseness of grind.

You can vary all of the above for any method, but different methods will be better suited to different 'values' of these, or at least will give different results.

Finally, there's filtering, and how the grounds are removed from the end product. A French press will leave more sediment in the coffee than an Aeropress/drip, as the metal filter will let more grounds through than paper.

My advice would be to trust your taste, but also think about practicality. I like the taste of Aeropress best, so I use that if making 1-3 cups, and it's great for travelling. If making more, I'll probably use a French press, or if I want to make a lot of 'espresso', I have a huge moka pot.

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