I have used the Aeropress and while it makes for a good cup of coffee, it does not make espresso comparable to a pump driven 15 bar espresso machine. I have used the Toddy Cold Brew System and it works great if you want to create coffee concentrate and store it in your refrigerator and use for Iced coffee or to make Cafe Au Lait (the cold brew system is also good for people with sensitive stomachs since it removes most of the acidity). The Chemex is also a good alternative to make coffee.
Personally I use the Saeco Vienna DeLuxe now replaced by the Saeco Spindarm to make my Cappuccinos and I have to say for the price and performance its the best there is out there.
I used to own two coffee shops years ago and I would say that in the end there are so many variables such as an individual's taste, type of coffee they like etc.
Over the years I've become an uber coffee snob and I love Aeropress coffee. The beauty of it is that you can experiment until you find the cup that is perfect for you. Different beans, different grinds, different amounts of water, different temperatures.
All coffee I drink now is measured against Aeropress coffee. I can no longer stomach anything else. If my Aeropress ever breaks and the company goes out of business, I'll be a very sad camper indeed. Fortunately, I bought a couple extras as back-ups -- just in case.
Why does this simple device blow everything else away, even Keurigs? Mostly it's the microfilters. Get the flavor, filter out the particles and their bitterness, and keep them a simple shape so they're a penny a piece instead of 10 cents or more for even a reusable K-cup system. Even better, you can use a very fine grind - it saves coffee and produces more flavor. Second, the limited but intensive coffee-water contact time is ideal. Too long releases bitterness. Depending just on gravity for filtering adds time. The human pressure minimizes the time. Third, you can brew immediately after grinding. No snap caps etc as for refillable K-cups. Delay and storage lets flavor fade. It's more labor intensive than a K-cup machine, but produces better coffee at much lower price, even compared to re-usable Kcups. This is a totally ingenious invention and the inventor rightfully deserves much and many years of profits!
A lot of the value of this product comes from how cheap it is. If it was $500, the reviews would not be any where near as good. Unless you are an uber coffee snob, this is a fantastic device. Simply put, max 2 minutes if you grind your own coffee and have hot water until finished product. Finished product is good, strong, and smooth and directly related to the quality of coffee you buy. My wallet and taste buds tell me that I do not miss Starbucks, Caribou, and other chains.
The Aeropress isn't my preferred method to make coffee. However, if you are on the road it makes a better cup of coffee than you can get most places. I have found, though, that I need to use more coffee per ounces of water to get a strong enough cup.
Assuming similar ground coffee, an Aeropress produces a brew that is most similar to pour-over machines like a Chemex or Vario. All of them use paper filters to produce an almost-sediment-free brew with a clean, bright flavor. Put the same coffee in a French press machine (with a somewhat coarser grind), and the flavor will be similar but the brew will be chewier, with more body, and there will be noticeable sediment at the bottom of your cup. Aeropress is least like an espresso, even though Aeropress and espresso machines both push hot water through coffee grounds quickly and under pressure. An espresso machine requires a very fine grind and is dependent on the quality of the equipment (grinder and espresso machine) and user skill in aligning the variables. It pumps very hot water thru the ground coffee, and, when all goes well, you get an intense brew with a creamy texture and a layer of crema (foam) on top. The Aeropress uses a lower temperature and the paper filter filters out some of the components that give an espresso its texture. I use Chemex and an espresso machine on a daily basis, because I like each for different reasons. I use a press machine occasionally, and I have an Aeropress that I never use because it's my least favorite. But coffee preferences are subjective and personal, and there are people who love the Aeropress.
I have had an Aeropress for over 5 years, and I keep coming back to it because I have yet to find a better cup of coffee. It also makes fantastic espresso with the right roast (it's not true espresso, since espresso is make with steam under pressure, but it's smoother tasting).
I find that grind is extremely important. I grind in a home grinder and make it extremely fine -- almost like powder. Nothing gets through the filter, and it increases the pressure required to force to water through the coffee. With French or espresso roast and a a very fine grind, you'll actually get a nice head of froth, just like an espresso machine.
I drink about 3 coffees a day (usually a 12 oz. black coffee) and make it with a 2 "shot" Aeropress serving. It's a strong, smooth cup of coffee. At this rate, I usually go through a 3 lb. bag of Costco coffee in 4-5 weeks. So if you do the math, that's about 30, 12 oz. cups of coffee per pound of beans. I have steam-driven espresso machine, and I end up using about the same amount of coffee using that as well.
Part of what makes this machine so great is its simplicity. No electricity required and no moving parts to break. You can make a great cup of coffee anywhere -- in your kitchen, in the breakroom at work, or even by the campfire.
Can't say enough about it. It's a wonderful invention.