Concerns about needing to replace the plunger on an AeroPress are common amongst newcomers to the world of AeroPress coffee.
The product doesn’t offer any instructions or guidance on how (or when) to replace the plunger, and when your AeroPress seems like it needs this crucial part replaced, it leaves many people scrambling for what to do.
Thankfully, we’ve got good news. In the vast majority of these cases, the plunger itself isn’t to blame and doesn’t actually need replacing.
What might, however, is the rubber seal at the end of it.
So in terms of how to replace an AeroPress plunger, the fortunate truth is that you most likely don’t actually need to.
Let’s dive into why not, and what exactly you do need to do in this situation.
Do I Need a New Plunger or Just a New AeroPress Seal?
The AeroPress plunger seal is made of silicone and should last about two to three years.
We’ve spoken to a lot of avid AeroPress users who are blissfully unaware of this standard lifespan because theirs hasn’t needed replacing in far, far longer.
In other cases, we encounter coffee lovers who’ve been using their AeroPress as intended for less than one year and seem to be convinced they need a new plunger.
So why is this?
The difference in those experiences can be attributed to a lot of different variables—too many to actually regress each one back to.
But suffice it to say that for some people in some environments—possibly just with worse luck than others—their seal seems to have an unfortunately short life span.
You’re far from alone if you first assumed the entire plunger was to blame.
After all, if you’ve lost that hiss sound when pressing it down, or it starts to slip easily, or your AeroPress is just making uncharacteristically awful coffee lately, you’d be on the right track to point your finger at the plunger.
After all those are all its responsibilities.
But the body of the AeroPress is extremely durable and long-lasting. It’s not delicate and doesn’t degrade over time.
Plenty of devoted users are still using the original AeroPress model from before 2010!
The seal, on the other hand, is a much more delicate component.
It may need replacing sooner than expected, and no matter what you do, it’s going to need a replacement eventually.
Why Does the Seal Seem to Fail on the AeroPress?
If you’ve used your AeroPress plunger a lot, chances are the seal is worn out.
This happens because the coffee oils will cause the rubber seal to become compressed and loosen.
Alternatively, if you’ve been storing your AeroPress fully assembled (i.e. with the plunger fully inserted into the body of the coffee maker), you could be inadvertently shortening the life of your rubber seal.
That’s because when the AeroPress is totally dry and the parts are fitted into one another for storage, the seal gets compressed and can start to harden.
When it’s pulled back out again in this state, the edges can start to warp. Once that happens, it’s inevitably unable to properly fill the gap in the AeroPress when you push it down.
That causes air to be able to escape instead of building pressure to force the near-boiling water through your coffee grounds as you brew.
The result is slippage in the body of the AeroPress and more than likely some quite disappointing coffee in the end.
If you repeat the process of making hundreds of cups of coffee even with perfect care and attention during use and storage, bit by bit that silicone is going to get rough, worn and warped around the edges.
How to Restore An AeroPress Seal
While replacement seals aren’t all that expensive (they tend to go for $4-10 including shipping), they can definitely rack up unexpected costs.
When you consider that your AeroPress may have only cost you $25-40 depending on where and when you bought it, that’s not such a small number anymore.
Life Hack: Mineral Oil Restoration
Luckily we’ve discovered a surprisingly effective means of returning some youth to a worn-out filter.
By submerging the seal in a small bowl of mineral oil, letting it soak and then applying some heat via your microwave, you can effectively get an old seal working just like a brand-new one.
It’s thought that in using the AeroPress, the oils from the coffee inadvertently extract some of the mineral oil that keeps the seal fit to brew with, so by submerging it in some in this way, you basically fix the annoying problem.
One thing to keep in mind when maintaining your AeroPress plunger is not to use cooking oil or other substances that could damage the rubber seal on the plunger.
This can cause the grounds to spill out and the resulting coffee to taste strange. Use food-grade mineral oil instead.
Here’s a helpful video on how to use mineral oil to restore a lot of peak function to your silicone seal.
How to Replace an AeroPress Plunger Seal
There will, however, come a time when you need to actually replace a seal that’s totally shot and no longer has the proper resistance when you press the device during the brewing process.
We’ve also been told that if you contact AeroPress’ manufacturing partner, Aerobie, directly, you may be able to get replacement seals for much cheaper—possibly with shipping included.
What if I really Need a Replacement Plunger Body?
If you’ve come this far and you’re sure it’s not just the seal, unfortunately, we don’t have a cost-effective workaround for replacing the plunger body rather than purchasing a brand new AeroPress.
Fortunately, they don’t carry too hefty a price tag, you can often find them at a discount, and when you purchase one you’ll also get a brand-new seal you can properly care for from day one.
Proper Care to Avoid Air Leakage and Seal Replacements
Be Sure to Clean Your AeroPress
Coffee with a dirty AeroPress plunger is not very pleasant to drink.
In order to remove this stubborn residue, you can clean the plunger with a solution of hot water and vinegar.
For more thorough cleaning, you can try using powdered Brewery Wash or Bar Keeper’s Friend.
Another easy method is to use a denture cleaning tablet. The tablets contain a mild abrasive that will break down the remaining coffee oils.
The acidity of the vinegar is lower than that of coffee, so it won’t harm the plunger or coffee maker. However, it might cause damage to the plunger’s rubber seal.
After cleaning the plunger, you can place the plunger into warm water. This will remove any stains that might be baked on.
You can also use a mild dish soap, although that may affect the taste of your next brew.
Pro Tip: Proper Storage is Key
As we mentioned, a lot of wear on AeroPress seals comes from storing the device dry and fully assembled.
While some people don’t have any trouble with this and continue to use their AeroPress for years without noticing any issues, many more seem to realize after they’ve already encountered a problem that this may have indeed sped up the demise of their seal.
If you notice less resistance when you press down your AeroPress during the brew process, the rubber seal—not the plunger itself—may be to blame.
Take care to store your AeroPress properly and lubricate the rubber seal from time to time using food-grade mineral oil, and you’ll get a lot more life out of it.