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New aspiring coffee nerd here.

I'm looking to do a hand grinder + french press setup. Mostly for home use, but small enough for travel would be a wonderful bonus. Low budget (under $100 total)

I've narrowed my grinder options to the Hario Skerton or Porlex Mini.

For the press, I was thinking the $30 Aeropress kit. However, I figured I might as well ask this stackexchange for other options you would recommend, if any? I like to explore alternatives before purchasing.

I apologize if this has already been asked, I did a few searches for "aeropress alternatives" and did not find anything.

Cheers,

Jason

  • Hi Mobias. Actually, if you have some ground coffee and some warm water all you need is a cup. I remember -in extreme circumstances- that I use some napkins directly on top of my mug and carefully poured the boiled water. Being cheap is so easy for coffee. (You may even prefer not to filter. Grind finer, go Turkish.) – MTSan Oct 23 '17 at 7:37
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    You mentioned a french press setup and then said you're considering the Aeropress for the press. FYI: The french press and the aeropress are two completely different things. – Shiri Oct 23 '17 at 15:00
  • This is a good point! I did not realize that upon posting- I have since done more research. That being said, I'm still not completely sure what category of brewer the Aeropress and French Press fall into, do you? – MobiasTobias Nov 11 '17 at 5:25
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The Aeropress is the best choice for travel. I would get the Porlex Mini with it as it will fit inside the Aeropress.

I think the Hario V60 is also a great choice for starting out, but this is a bit more bulky and not as good for travel.

Note that although the Aeropress is durable, it can break if pressure is applied in the wrong direction. I had the plastic crack once after putting it in my checked bag. You might want to get a case for it or at least put it in your carry-on bag.

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I assume by now you came to a decision so maybe this comes to late, but I think that you were on the right track anyways.

  1. Let's clear up some misunderstandings first. The AeroPress as well as the French Press are full immersion brewers. That means that all the water is in contact with the ground coffee for all of the brewing process (not considering pre-infusion). They produce usually a full bodied brew with even extraction. They tend to be less delicate than your average pour-over. The difference between Aero- and French Press is that for the AeroPress the brew is filtered through a paper (or alternatively metal) filter. This filters better fines in your coffee resulting in a cleaner, more delicate cup. The French Press only uses a fine metal mesh as a filter that let's many fines pass. They are obviously in your cup, changing the texture plus they keep extracting, making the brew slightly bitter over time.
  2. The AeroPress is always a good choice, when it comes to brewing devices. It produces delicious, full bodied cups of coffee somewhere in between a pour over and a french press and is great for traveling. However depending on your ambitions you may want to consider a Hario V60 (or another drip method like Chemex, Kalita Wave etc.). Long term they grant you more control over your brew. Obviously traveling is more difficult as you may want to invest into a proper kettle with a gooseneck spout. It's also more expensive, because you will soon realize that you need the gooseneck kettle.
  3. For the grinder, the Porlex Mini has a slight edge over the Hario in my opinion. The grind is slightly more consistent and it fits in the plunger of the AeroPress, which is great for traveling. However it is also more expensive (not so much compared to the new Mini Mill). If it's within your budget, get it, otherwise the Mini Mill is great as well.

To sum it up, if your focus is versatility then AeroPress plus Porlex is the best option. If you are ambitious and portability is not that important than a pour over plus any of the grinders would long term be a better choice. However you will see that if you get hooked you won't have any problems investing in more equipment in a year or two and a AeroPress is a great way to start with specialty coffee.

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I would also recommend that you consider pour-over cones; they provide good quality and portability. You can have a nicer glass or ceramic one for home and a plastic one for travel. I carry a plastic cone and filters on nearly every trip I take. I settle for pre-ground or store-ground coffee when on the road, though I wish I had a truly portable hand grinder.

I personally find the Aeropress (or, separately, a French Press) too bulky for travel. I also find that clean-up is easier with a cone filter than those options.

If you are really interested in saving space or for outdoor packing, consider a collapsible cone filter holder (I have owned this one, Amazon link for years; for others search "collapsible coffee cone filter" or so). It works okay but not for everyday use at home. No matter what, ensure that you buy one with a compatible filter shape (Hario vs Melitta vs basket). See also this question for related discussion on outdoor and portable coffee making.

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