Hands up anyone who loves espresso, but also loves using a French press. Hands up espresso lovers who aren’t quite ready to invest in a dedicated espresso machine (or aren’t quite sure which one to buy). And hands up anyone who loves espresso, but only occasionally.
Great show of hands there. You’ll find plenty of people who believe that espresso vs French press is a contest, not a potential collaboration.
What if we told you that there’s a great “espresso in French press” method you can use? (And other devices too. We’ll guide you through a couple of other methods too.)
To begin with, however, be our guest on our coffee journey of the day. We’ll take you through the process, step by step. (Think of it like Chemistry 101, only with something you can safely drink at the end.)
Strong, Dark And Handsome: Espresso, King Of Coffees
Espresso doesn’t really refer to the type of coffee, but rather to the extraction method. The word “espresso” literally means “expressed”. It’s all to do with the fineness of the ground coffee beans and the speed at which water filters through, resulting in that lovely, rich-tasting beverage we call espresso.
It is perfectly possible to use a French press to make a good espresso. First, as with any recipe, you need to be prepared. Welcome, then, to our “make espresso with French press” mini masterclass.
How To Make Espresso With A French Press
How can you make an espresso in a French press, then? Well, the first ingredient is great coffee. The best you can get. Some coffee varieties lend themselves to better espressos than others – you’ll get the best results with freshly ground coffee beans.
You’ll need a measuring device of some kind, a stirrer or long-handled spoon, and fresh hot water. Hot, not boiling. The ideal coffee brewing temperature is between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, and if you’re at an altitude that’s more than about 2000 feet above sea level, you need to take that into account in both cooking and coffee brewing.
Back to the French press espresso method. Start by making sure the French press plunger is pulled up. Then remove the filter assembly and lid.
Coffee Anatomy 101 – How A French Press Functions
It’s a deceptively simple device, a French press coffee maker. You have the coffee container at the bottom, often made of glass; a plunger; and a lid. The plunger is usually incorporated into the lid. There’s also a mesh to filter the coffee.
Once you’ve added your water and coffee beans, allow them to soak for a little while. Then you press down on the plunger to prepare the coffee.
Making Espresso The French Press Way: All In The Grind
As with pretty much all coffee-making methods, the fresher the coffee, the better. Grinding the beans yourself? Set the grinder to “espresso” or “fine”. Why is the grind important? The finer the grind, the longer it takes water to filter through the coffee, and the more flavor extracted.
Wondering about grinders? Burr grinders and blade grinders are the most common. Burr grinders grind the beans between two burrs. They usually produce a powder with an even texture. They only grind a few beans at a time.
In the case of blade grinders, sharp propellers chop the beans into tiny pieces. The grind may be less consistent than with a burr grinder. Whichever method you choose, you want a fine powder for espresso, much finer than you’d use in a drip machine. You’re aiming, more or less, for the consistency of sand.
Buying your beans ready ground? Look for “espresso bean”. Although espresso beans don’t really exist, some commercial producers have methods of extraction that make their coffee especially suited to espresso.
French Press Espresso: A Warm Welcome
Add a little hot water to warm the coffee pot in advance. Swirl it around gently. This makes it much less likely you’ll have to cope with thermal shock when you add the boiling water for the coffee.
Now add your coffee. You need around 1.3 ounces of grounds in the press. Typical espresso machines use around 0.5 ounces to 0.75 ounces of ground coffee for every cup of water.
Espresso In French Press: Ratios And Coffee Beans
A French press coffee serving is considerably larger than that produced by a typical espresso machine. It’s about double, so bear that in mind when calculating proportions of coffee to water. Once you’ve added the grounds, pour a splash of almost boiling water over the coffee.
You’re now looking for a nice bloom – the stage at which gasses and natural oils are released from the ground coffee beans. This is achieved by adding just some of the water to the coffee grounds so that they’re moist, but not saturated. This helps ensure you get the best flavor.
Wait a few seconds, then add the rest of your two cups of water. Stir the coffee to make sure the grounds don’t clump together. Add the lid and plunger mechanism, and let it just rest on the top of the water.
Patience Is A Virtue
Now’s the time to practice that mantra about “good things come to those who wait”. We suggest you wait for around 3 to 4 minutes, letting the coffee steep until very dark. The longer you let the coffee soak, the stronger it will be. Beware, however, of letting it steep too long. Or, for that matter, not long enough.
If you don’t steep your coffee long enough, you might end up with a somewhat sour-tasting, under-extracted brew. Too long, it’ll taste bitter and over-extracted. (Making great coffee’s a lot like chemistry class. Half the fun is in the experimentation.)
Pushing The Envelope – Or Rather, The Plunger
Now hold the lid of the French press steady, and push the plunger down gently as far as it will go. On the subject of plungers, you know that lovely foam you get on really good espresso? Well, there’s a way you can create that crema, even using a French press.
You need to push the plunger down halfway. Then bring it back up before plunging it down again. You might need to do this a few times until you achieve just the result you want.
What other tips are there for making espresso in a French press? Let it settle a little before you pour it, but not too long, otherwise, it risks becoming bitter. Worried about the fine sediment from the beans?
Combat this by pouring it through clean muslin or cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Paper filters may, however, change the consistency and flavor of the drink slightly.
Voila! Your French press espresso coffee is ready to pour and enjoy. Not got a French press handy? There are a couple of other methods of making espresso without a dedicated espresso machine.
How To Make Espresso With A Moka Pot
You might know the Moka pot better as a stovetop espresso maker. Like the French press, they’re widely available and inexpensive. You do need to take a little more care with Moka pots. It’s perilously easy to over-extract and even burn your coffee. Still, practice makes perfect, as they say!
Measurements for a Moka pot espresso are around 4 to 4.5 teaspoons to a cup of water –about 0.7 to 0.8 of an ounce. Don’t add too much water to a Moka pot.
For this method, as well as the Moka pot itself, and your ground espresso beans, you’ll need cold filtered water, and a warm cup or mug. The cold water goes in the bottom chamber of the Moka pot. Add the ground beans to the filter basket. Place the basket in the bottom chamber, screw on the top chamber, and place the Moka pot over a heat source.
As with the French press method, you need to wait. In this case, you’re waiting until the water in the lower chamber boils. You’ll hear a distinctive sort of gurgling noise, telling you the upper chamber now contains delectable coffee.
Remove the Moka pot from the heat source at once. Pour the liquid from the upper chamber into your mug. Enjoy!
How To Make Espresso In An AeroPress
Then there’s the AeroPress method. We love the drama of an AeroPress. And its history. And the engineering behind it. And the fact that it, too, is capable of making a great espresso.
For a single espresso shot made in an AeroPress, you’ll need 4 fluid ounces of water and around 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. That’s about an ounce. (For double shots, just use twice the amounts of coffee and water.)
Add a filter to the AeroPress drain cap, and rinse it with a little hot water. Add the drain cap to the AeroPress. Place firmly on your mug or cup. Oh, and we’d not advise using your granny’s best bone china with an AeroPress. You need a vessel that can take a little pressure.
Add your ground coffee to the AeroPress and pat or “tamp” it down. You want a nice, firm “puck” of coffee. Add 4 fluid ounces of your heated water to the AeroPress and stir. Wait around 30 seconds before using the weight of your hand to push the plunger all the way down.
Now simply remove the press from your cup. And enjoy.
One of the great things about the AeroPress is that you can really play around with water temperatures. We also like the fact it’s easy to remove the grounds for composting or recycling. And, like the French press and the Moka pot, you don’t need a power source for anything but heating the water.
Why Would You Choose The French Press Method?
The question is, really, why wouldn’t you choose the French press method of making espresso? French presses can be found pretty much everywhere. Most hardware or department stores sell them. And we’re betting at least one of your friends or relatives will have one at the back of a cupboard somewhere.
They can be as simple or ornate as you like. They’re super-easy to clean, very cost-effective, and don’t require any electricity or special qualities on the part of the coffee-maker. Apart from a little patience.
You’re also absolutely in control with a French press. You decide what coffee you’d like. You make the decision about how finely you want the beans ground. You decide on the coffee to water ratio.
And you decide how many cups you’d like to make, minimizing waste. Many French presses are also plastic-free, so you don’t need to worry about those BPA nasties and their pals.
You also decide how long you’d like to steep the coffee before drinking. You can even decide on the water temperature – though if you want to be exact about it, you might like to invest in a kitchen thermometer.
Frills And Furbelows
Of course, you can drink your espresso “as is”, but you’re not limited to only drinking it black. Add cream, frothed milk, syrups, sugar, or any other ingredients that fit your mood.
Add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon or allspice, or a generous dollop of cream (dairy or plant-based). Or what about a few marshmallows or chocolate sprinkles?
Dedicated espresso machines will do all the work for you (or most of it, anyway) when it comes to creating a delicious, concentrated cup of the world’s favorite caffeinated beverage. They’re not, however, the only game in town.
Can you make espresso in a French press? Yes, absolutely.
Contrary to popular belief, you can make a perfectly decent espresso with nothing more complicated than a French press, good coffee beans, finely ground, and not-quite-boiling water. And on that note, the gorgeous aroma tells us that the coffee in our French press might just have steeped enough for one sitting…
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!