Q&A – Can You Make Espresso With A French Press?

Can You Make Espresso With A French Press Since I started working on this website not too long ago I’ve come across question after question relating to espresso and fine coffee making.

One such question has I’ve seen in many variations and it has to do with the preparation of espresso at home – you know, without going out to a store or buying a thousand dollar machine.

In this variant of the question the goal is home made espresso and often times the confusion has to do with the espresso roast coffee beans and grind found in the store.

To be brief I’ll say this:

You cannot make espresso in a french press although you can use espresso roast grind in the preparation of french press coffee.

To be long winded I’ll elaborate.

Espresso roasts are typically very dark. They are similar to French roasts and Italian roasts and in some cases they are simply charred beyond belief.

I personally don’t usually like using espresso roasts. I find they are often times over roasted and simply not tasty. In my opinion they are meant to provide a strong “espresso-like” flavor in drip machines which typically under-extract flavor compared to other high brow coffee brewing techniques.

An espresso is actually not a kind of roast but a coffee product made under high pressure. The grind is fine and the final product is rich and has a creme much like a good beer might have head.

French press coffee makers almost always make a highly exceptional cup of coffee – much better than drip coffee makers. The product might be better and more rich than a drip machine but it is not espresso; it’s merely really good coffee.

Now to answer the fundamental and unsaid question at hand. Ohh yeah, I did that already. It’s through the following link.

Can you make espresso at home without a fancy machine? Yep (kinda).

Feel free to click through for the whole post or simply read this. Espresso machines require fine coffee grind (the opposite of a french press) and they produce roughly 10 bars of pressure. Drip coffee or french press brews coffee with no extra pressure at all.

The only other way to make espresso at home without a wildly expensive machine is to use a stovetop espresso maker otherwise known as a Moka Pot. These produce coffee that is as close to espresso as you can get. They brew at around 2 bars of pressure and can slightly produce crema although not enough usually to make it all the way tot he cup.

I actually just posted instructions for using a moka pot in case you missed it.

Luckily these moka pots are very inexpensive so if you are in the market for DIY espresso and you are sophisticated enough to own a french press then maybe consider adding to your coffee making collection by buying a budget oriented Moka pot for all the espresso drinks you’d like to make at home on a moment’s notice.

But Can You Make Something Similar to Espresso in a French Press?

I am almost tempted to say plainly no, for the quickest answer. But hear me out and let’s dissect the question a little bit to see where we are going with this inquiry.

First, it is important to fully understand what an espresso is. Is it different from coffee?

What is espresso?

Espresso is also coffee. It comes from the coffee beans. However, not all coffee is espresso. The difference lies in the process of extracting espresso brew from the coffee beans.

When preparing espresso, three requirements are needed: the roast, grind and, pressure. The combination of these three elements allow for the extraction of that creamy, just-right-hot shot of espresso that coffee aficionados love

According to eHow, an espresso machine is needed to achieve this perfect balance.

Espresso is coffee that’s brewed by forcing a small amount of very hot pressurized water through finely ground espresso beans. This method creates a crema on top (a creamy, thick foam). It’s impossible to recreate that without an espresso machine.

What is a French press?

The French press came to existence in 1929 and was designed by an Italian named Attilio Calimani. Later, the design was enhanced and popularized by Faliero Bondanini in 1958.

The simplicity of the French press is undeniable and it allows for different kinds of brew, depending on one’s preference.

The type of coffee ground is essential in achieving the type of brew that you love.

To quote Coffee-Brewing-Methods.com:

The coffee grind should be adjusted to medium-coarse for a clear cup, or more fine for bolder, and denser brews.

Isn’t Espresso Just Super Strong Coffee?

Isn’t it lovely if you can make an espresso at the comforts of your own home? To achieve real, perfect espresso shot, you need an espresso machine. But that will surely break the bank since espresso machines cost hundreds of dollars. Not really an economical kitchen equipment if you think of practicality. But if you have money to spare, it’s really up to you to get one.

Now, if you want an espresso-like brew that is stronger, bolder and richer than regular brew, the French press can help you recreate that espresso feel.

How to recreate espresso brew with a French press?

Please note that this procedure will not taste exactly as your favorite espresso shot. But, it will give you a satisfying, almost-but-not-quite espresso drink.

Coffee experts seem to agree that a French press is a must-have at home if you love brewing a good cup of Joe. And if you have the time to spend, having a French press can help you achieve that homemade espresso drink.

Here are the things you will need, aside from your French press:

  • Freshly roasted coffee bean
  • Coffee grinder
  • Scale for coffee measuring (or a tablespoon)
  • Electric gooseneck kettle or stovetop kettle

Follow these steps to ensure a better-tasting shot of espresso.

  1. Grind your coffee very fine, using very dark roast beans or espresso beans. Two tablespoons of beans for every cup of water.
  2. Fill your kettle with water. Heat the water to boil and let it cool down for 30 seconds to achieve the perfect temperature before brewing.
  3. Add the coffee grounds to the French press. This amount is almost double the of what you normally use for French press. This allows you to create a darker and bolder brew, similar to the espresso, but without that creamy final note.
  4. Add some hot water from the kettle. Let it rest for a few seconds. This will help make the coffee bloom to release its oils and aroma.
  5. Add the remaining water. Avoid stirring. This will cause the grounds to fall out of suspension and potentially ruin the extraction of tasty coffee flavors and richness.
  6. Close the lid but don’t press yet. Let the coffee steep for about 4 minutes. If you prefer a stronger flavor, add a couple of minutes more.
  7. After steeping, press down the plunger halfway, with slow, steady and even pressure.
  8. Raise the plunger atop, then give it a good final plunge all the way down to finish the process.
  9. Transfer the pressed coffee in a serving pot to preserve the coffee flavor.
  10. Enjoy your “French press-o”

3 Important elements to create an espresso coffee

The key to a perfect espresso shot requires three elements: roast, grind and, pressure.

  • Espresso roast – There is a special way of preparing coffee beans for espresso. Often, these beans are roasted to a darker finish to create a stronger and bolder coffee taste than regular drip or brewed coffee. If you are planning to make espresso at home, opt for espresso beans and grind them on demand.
  • Espresso grind – Regular brew is coarse. But espresso beans need to be gronded to a fine powdery texture. This kind of grind slows down water penetration and requires pressure to extract the perfect espresso shot. It will be a good investment to have a burr grinder for your homemade espresso.
  • Espresso pressure – This is the third and most important element because pressure is what makes espresso so creamy and flavorful.

Espresso machines work by forcing extremely hot water through finely ground coffee at enormous pressure—ideally, nine times atmospheric pressure, or nine bars. That’s about 130 pounds of pressure per square inch, or roughly twice the pressure in your average truck tire.

No wonder, it is impossible to perfect an espresso shot without an espresso machine. But if you love the challenge, nothing should stop you from experimenting and exploring the capabilities of your French press to brew a homemade espresso.


Head blogger at "Top Off My Coffee Please" and lover of great coffee.

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