How to Make Espresso with a French Press

Ahhh yes, we all love the mighty little brewing device that’s called the French Press. It’s also a timeless brewing method that’s stood the test of time for generations now, yet still remains a delectable and affordable way to brew coffee at home. But honestly, could it be used for something more than just making coffee? Could it be that it can be used as an alternative brewing method to make espresso? We decided to go mess around with ratios, ground size and various brewing methods all involving a French press. What we found was impressive. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about using your French press to yield espresso.

The real question here is whether or not it can stand up against the real deal.

And before you decide to toss out your espresso maker just yet- we’ll also see if the taste is just as good for smooth and rich espresso.

The short answer is for sure, you can make espresso using a French Press. But is it really technically espresso? Is it worth all that effort? We took the high road and got a closer look at what it all boils down to.

Making Espresso with a French Press

Man Making Espresso with a French Press

For starters, you’ll need to adjust the grind for your coffee beans. They should be ground up into a fine (almost powdery) consistency. Espresso grounds are typically powdery because the water is forced through the portafilter to achieve the end results. You wouldn’t do this with a French Press, or so you’ve been led to think. But that’s where we decided to push the boundaries.

You want to start by heating up some water and letting it cool for a minute or two. You don’t want your water to be boiling hot, but just hot enough to start blooming in your coffee grounds.

After that, you’ll pour a small amount of the hot water into the French Press to heat up the glass. Then you need to put the lid on for 30 seconds. Now, you’re ready to add your coffee grounds so they become infused with the hot water. You’ll see that the grounds will swell and begins to get frothy as it blooms. Place the lid back on so you keep the heat inside and allow that to sit for another 30 seconds.

After this pause, you now add the rest of your water and give it a good stir before putting the lid back on. Now- If you’re using a standard style French Press, you’ll want to begin the plunge after 4 minutes. But if you happen to own a Korean-style French Press (these have finer mesh filters), then you can wait upwards of 6 minutes before plunging. Before you’ve done any plunging here’s a little word about blocking and filtering ‘fines’ from your plunger’s filter.

Wrap a brown coffee filter around the springy edge and pour hot water onto it so it washes out any papery taste. After this, you can carefully place this filter lid onto the glass carafe. This will allow the coffee to pass through the filter and keeps the finely ground coffee bits from slipping through. Once you’ve slowly pressed the plunger down, you should have rich and dark espresso coffee that’s ready to enjoy right away.

French Press Espresso VS Traditional Espresso

At this point, you might be wondering how well does it stack up against real espresso? Well, it’s not going to be as strong unless you’ve added more coffee grounds than usual. It may also not have that tell-tale crema that real espresso has on top. This is because real espresso is forced through a portafilter and has a reaction with the pressurized water. You’ll see this same reaction when the grounds are blooming which tells you that carbon dioxide is forming.

If you’re making espresso like this in a French Press, chances are you won’t get any crema at all. Yet the taste and texture of your coffee will be just as flavorful and satisfying.

Benefits of Making Espresso with a French Press

Cup of Espresso on table

If you’re looking to make espresso without all the hassle and expense involved with buying an espresso machine, then a French Press is clearly a cheaper alternative. There is an advantage that you’ll find if you’re looking for convincing espresso with just a few more simple steps. If you want to have a crema added on top, that’s solved easily. Take an ordinary shot glass and pour in half of your freshly-brewed espresso.

Add half a teaspoon of powdered creamer and mix it with a battery-powered whisk until it’s nice and frothy. Now -you can top this onto your espresso and enjoy the results. You might be surprised at how authentic your espresso turns out even if you didn’t spend much for your French Press.

Different Ways to Use Your French Press for Making Espresso

Real espresso has indeed long been hailed as some sort of magic elixir. After all, there’s a lot of appeal to it when it’s served in a tiny demitasse and often feels as if it’s part of some ritual. And despite a lack of pressure using the French Press method, you’ll still have impressive coffee that is full of flavor. The real secret is using your French Press to create espresso-like coffee that actually tends to be heavier than real espresso.

And even though you typically don’t put fine grounds into a French Press, you are getting the same burst of flavors that espresso is famous for. You do want to find a model that offers a good filter for keeping the fine bits out of your coffee cup. Unbleached paper filters are the best way to go since they’re cheap and easy to find.

Tips and Techniques for Brewing the Perfect Cup of Espresso with a French Press

Man Brewing Espresso with a French Press

With every coffee brewing method, there are many more tales from coffee gurus who are finding more innovative ways to brew something new. It wasn’t too long ago that espresso began to get a big comeback when capsule espresso machines started getting popular. Before that, if you wanted espresso at home, you had to have the right machine to brew a cup. And for some reason, coffee pods replaced the art of making espresso at home.

And now, there is a sense of nostalgia while making coffee from scratch and this is where the French Press became popular all over again. It also fits into this coffee revolution with an old-fashioned look that reminds us of old times when everyone did things by hand. To brew espresso with a French Press takes plenty of patience mixed with a little bit of skill. Following all the steps involved will give you better results too.

Rather than buying pre-ground espresso coffee, it would be a good idea to invest in a decent coffee grinder. This way your espresso coffee grounds will taste fresher rather than buying premade grounds that don’t taste as fresh. And if you want your espresso to taste even better, always use filtered water to brew your coffee. Ordinary tap water is never good for brewing coffee and you can actually taste the difference that filtered water makes.

What are better ways to make espresso without an espresso machine?


The Aeropress is another great way to make espresso-like coffee without the need for any expensive machines. It’s also very simple since it needs less attention to detail than other brewing methods. What it produces in return is a delicious cup of coffee that’s packed with amazing flavor. The good part when buying an Aeropress is that it’s very inexpensive compared to all the newer espresso machines.

It’s a suitable alternative for those who like making coffee that has surprisingly espresso-like qualities. Another point is that this device offers advantages over traditional espresso machines, especially in terms of cost and easy usage. Most people don’t know that an Aeropress uses pressure to extract more flavors from the beans than manual brewing. It further replaces any need for tamping your coffee grounds since pressure is forcing water through these grounds.

It’s easy to store in your kitchen or wherever you bring it and everything it comes with fits together so no spare parts are sitting around. Additionally, because you’re using hand pressure to extract the coffee, it also helps create the crema that you get on top of your freshly brewed espresso. It’s one of the fastest and easiest methods for making espresso-like coffee and is portable enough to take anywhere.

Moka Pot

The Moka Pot is another great device for making coffee that everyone’s grandparents likely had in their kitchen. It yields espresso-like results all thanks to its unique design. The pot has two separate chambers that include a lower boiler and an upper filter. You put water in the bottom chamber and heat it up until it boils and builds up pressure. This is when the hot water is forced through the top chamber and filters through the coffee grounds.

A lot like espresso machines, the pressure and heat help to extract coffee flavors and compounds. This is when the end result is a stronger and more flavorful cup of coffee than drip machines can produce. Another nice touch is the steam that’s created also helps to make the crema that you see on the brewed coffee.  This is why Moka Pot coffee has more of an espresso texture because the coffee is brewed using high pressure.

One last thing to consider when making espresso with a French Press is not to feel discouraged. Since you do need patience and some skill to master this brewing method, practice is going to give you the best results. It won’t entirely rival the real thing since you aren’t making espresso with a traditional machine, but what you can create will be just as impressive. This also gives you one more reason to use your French Press coffee maker differently.

And when it’s all said and done, you might have a bigger appreciation for making espresso coffee at home that you’ll enjoy much more.

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