Using it in the stock configuration and mimicking brewing parameters of a clover (time, temperature, grind dosage and coarseness), the aeropress produces a cup that is cleaner, yet inferior to a french press cup.
The problem has to do with uneven extraction due to seep thru that occurred as soon as you pour water thru the grinds. Using it in the inverted manner, the cup improves a bit as it allowed the coffee to extract more evenly at desirable temperature.
Despite improvements with the inverted method, the resulting cup is still inferior to a regular french press cup in both aroma and flavor; the stock paper filter, while capable of producing a very clean up, simply absorbed too much of the oil and aromatics.
Photo Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez
Several weeks passed and the buzz with AeroPress continued on CG. I noticed a new development with the inverted method. The stock paper filter is replaced with a polyester felt round that allows much of the aromatics and the oils to pass thru. A couple of email exchanges with Scott yielded a generous offer of samples of these poly-felt rounds for me to play with.
Following Scott's instructions, I was able to produce cups that retained the flavor and aroma, while being much cleaner than the french press. Using brewing parameters similar to a clover brew, the cup comes surprisingly close according to Jaime, and is sweeter than the french press cups. We concluded that, while being a bit clumsy and messy, this configuration (inverted + poly-felt) produces a satisfying cup that is good enough of a reason to keep this device in our array of coffee brewing apparatus.
However, after my recent visit to Taiwan, things changed a bit.
A vac pot is what I use, almost exclusively, for "brew coffee" now. The vac pot has all the advantages of my coffee brewing devices: near constant brewing temperatures, adjustable brew temperature and time, as well as a cake filtration that produces a very clean cup.
Upon learning the proper method and brewing parameters of the vac pot, I was able to produce cups that are the cleanest, most complex, and most aromatic among the three brewing methods. It also produces cups that have a long and lingering tail that stays in your mouth well after consumption. The brewing/clean-up is not much worse than the inverted poly-felt aeropress and it takes less than 5 min from grind to clean-up. The total cost of the setup is also comparable to the AeroPress.
Unfortunately, I am not aware of any US retailer selling the 2 cup version of the Hario Vac Pot. The larger vac pot units are not very desirable as you need to brew it at capacity in order to have a proper extraction. In fact, I had a 5 cup unit that I ended up gifting away due to that (there is no way in hell I can drink that much coffee without getting caffeine sickness).