Love the AeroPress but worried about plastic exposure? You’re not being overly paranoid, there is ample evidence of plastic giving off harmful chemicals, particularly when heated. Unfortunately, the AeroPress is exclusively made from plastic. You cannot find a glass or stainless steel AeroPress, even from a knock-off brand. This is because the glass is too fragile to withstand the pressing motion and steel would get too hot to the touch. Luckily, you can still get a similar cup of coffee to the AeroPress with another methods.
What makes an AeroPress special?
The AeroPress uses a unique brew method. It allows you to cut down on brew time by having the coffee pressed with a plunger through the chamber, allowing the grinds to release flavor. In this way, it is similar to a french press, however since it uses a paper filter, it is free from the grinds and silt that do not typically get stopped by the french press’s metal filter. AeroPress cannot be made out of other materials as they just don’t work with the brewing method. Glass is far too fragile for the plunging action, and stainless steel or aluminum would get far too hot to touch. The AeroPress is truly unique in that it produces a very bright, sweet cup of coffee in very little time.
For what it’s worth, AeroPress states that the plastic material used (polypropylene) does not contain BPA or phthalates and is FDA and EU approved for use in contact with food. Even so, I understand wanting to limit contact with heated plastic, regardless of what the company claims.
The following plastic free AeroPress recommendations get fairly close to replicating the taste and speed of the original AeroPress, while being completely different to the AeroPress in form.
The Chemex is a classic for a reason. It’s a simple pour-over that uses a paper filter and a glass carafe. It takes longer than the AeroPress– probably around 3 to 5 minutes vs the under a minute time boasted by the AeroPress. But the Chemex is known to brew a fairly bright cup of coffee, likely because of the same paper filter. I would consider the taste of the Chemex coffee very similar to the AeroPress. The biggest difference is the time it takes to brew, as the AeroPress is faster due to the physical agitation of the coffee grounds. In all honesty, you do have to stand around a little waiting for the Chemex to manually drip, though I never find this to be too much of a problem.
This newer pour-over uses paper filters like the AeroPress and Chemex. It is like a slightly more refined Chemex in that it has guides so that you never have to measure the coffee amount or water. It also brews a slightly more full-bodied cup than the typical drip method does, yet it has a paper filter, so it is not quite like a french press cup. It is also more compact and much better for travel, similar to the AeroPress. Overall, I see the Fellow Stagg Pour-Over as a more refined and more hands-off pour-over than the Chemex. The Fellow Stagg Pour-Over produces a cup that is similar in taste to the AeroPress, but not as similar as the Chemex is. It also might be a little less time than the Chemex, though that difference may be negligible. Neither the Chemex nor the Fellow Stagg Pour-Over is as fast as the AeroPress, unfortunately.
In theory, the french press might seem the most similar to the AeroPress as it uses the same physical plunging motion to brew the coffee. But in reality, the french press is the least similar to an AeroPress because it does not have a paper filter–so you will get a dramatically different tasting cup. The coffee produced by the french press is much thicker and has all the oils that would be filtered by paper. However, you can make the cup significantly more similar in taste by using french press brewing bags, but unfortunately those are made of plastic, so we’re right back to the original problem. Ultimately, the french press is more similar to the AeroPress in speed and concept only, as they brew completely different tasting cups of coffee. The french press would be a good plastic free substitute if you just like the convenience of the AeroPress and you don’t care much about the specific taste.