Happy New Year! Time for some fresh brewed blog goodness. Before the end of last year I went on a bit of a shopping spree and picked up some new equipment from Alternative Brewing. It’s not as if I don’t have access to coffee making equipment at home or at work – I’ve owned an Aeropress for years, and the office has an effectively unlimited supply of both filter and espresso coffee (the joys of working in consulting). But I did feel like a bit of a change, and the machine at work is in dire need of a teardown and clean.
Added to that, for our office's Christmas tradition of Dirty Santa (here's a link for those of you who need that defined) I snaffled a bag of fresh roasted beans supplied by one of our Melbourne colleagues, so my brother bought me a lovely Porlex Mini grinder for Christmas so that I could actually use them. It’s not the first time we’ve won something in a competition and bought something more expensive in order to make use of it. Back in the early 90’s we once won a computer game in a raffle and eventually bought our first PC computer in order to be able to play it. Nowadays that’d be the equivalent of winning a $20 iTunes gift card and then buying an iPhone X in order to use it.
Anyways, this review isn’t about that, it’s about the first of the new coffee gadgets I bought, the Fellow Prismo.
In principle, it’s a simple gadget which you attach to the Aeropress in place of the usual paper filter and cap. It consists of a metal filter piece, and a cap with a valve mechanism. The idea behind it is that the metal filter is reusable, and the valve mechanism prevents premature brewing of the coffee, along with delivering a pressurised shot that is closer to a traditional espresso in flavour and texture. In their own words, it's "Superpowers for your Aeropress".
So does it deliver?
To be fair, I really wanted this to work. I like my Aeropress, especially with my existing setup using a (sadly now discontinued) Coava etched filter, but it’s always delivered something different to the espresso experience. Good, but different. So I had high hopes when trying out the Prismo that I would get espresso out of an Aeropress. But I had issues from the first attempt.
For starters, the thing doesn’t fit on the Aeropress properly. It might have been a manufacturing error, but the instructions clearly state that the cap needs to be locked fully in the Aeropress. Except that the cap won’t go further than halfway, no matter how much force you use. I nearly re-injured my shoulder trying. Perhaps you need superpowers to use it (see what I did there?). However, even turned halfway it provides a solid seal so it shouldn’t functionally affect performance. It’s just annoying.
The second problem comes from their claim that the cap is designed to fit over a standard espresso cup or shot glass. This way you can deliver the shot straight into the cup and not wreck the crema, just like a real espresso machine (for a regular Aeropress there’s a funnel for this but it’s fiddly). So does it fit over an espresso cup?
Spoiler, it doesn’t.
I tried four different espresso cups and only one fitted, and barely fitted at that. I had to jam it in. It’s zero from two so far.
But does it make an espresso with crema? I could overlook the first two faults if it made a good espresso.
I tried, I really tried. But I couldn’t get the rich crema from the photos. Just a brownish foam on top that dissipated quickly. After reading up on this I adjusted the grind settings to see if that changed things. Nope. A coarser grind made it watery, a finer grind made it gunky at the bottom. And neither made the magic crema. I changed the water amounts to see if that fixed it. Nope.
For comparison, I made a few shots using my existing Aeropress setup, and I couldn’t discern a difference in taste or texture. That is to say that the Fellow Prismo makes a good, flavourful shot of coffee, but it’s not the espresso I was promised.
It could be the beans (stupidly I forgot to take note of the coffee I was using, it was a small batch roaster from the Victorian Alps region, which amazingly does not narrow things down at all). So I’ll give it a try with some different roasters and blends but I’m not optimistic.
And frankly, when you follow their instructions for making the coffee it’s far too fiddly. Lots of weighing and temperature control. You have to remember that coffee machines have to be operated by people who may not have had coffee yet.
They need to be simple.
Thankfully I did get another gadget which against all odds delivers on their promise of a quality espresso shot, in fact it does it so well that it’s now my default espresso method at the office. But that’s for another review.
Okay, we’re not done with the review just yet. The marketing for the Prismo also went so far to say that the valve system enables easy cold brewing in the Aeropress that keeps the coffee from oxidising and stops dripping. I’ve previously made cold brew in the Aeropress, and it’s quite good but it is a somewhat messy process involving cling wrap and inverting the machine.
By contrast, the Prismo delivers on the promise of an easier cold brew experience. The valve stays sealed during the brewing process, no cling wrap required, you can keep it right way up, and pressing the coffee at the end of the brewing process is easy. Best of all, the resulting cold brew concentrate is very good quality.
So there’s that.
In short the Fellow Prismo failed on its promise of an espresso-like shot, but redeems itself in being a decent and easy cold brew accessory for the Aeropress. So I’m keeping it for now.
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