How to Make Espresso with a French Press?

When we talk about coffee, espresso is one of the things that instantly come to mind. With various espresso-based drinks to choose from, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that there is a form of espresso that caters to every single coffee lover.

That being said, making espresso requires an espresso machine which could prove to be a big commitment. Due to being expensive for the most part and taking a decent amount of kitchen counter space, an espresso machine isn’t something that we are used to seeing in every home. Furthermore, operating an espresso machine often requires a certain level of knowledge which may further discourage those who are looking for an easy way of brewing coffee.

At this point, it becomes clear that you will have to make a run to the coffee shop to get your espresso fix, which may not be optimal at certain times. Furthermore, buying a cup of coffee from the coffee shop every day could prove to become costly in the long run. 

So, what if we told you that there was an easier way of making a shot of espresso without an espresso machine at home?

That’s right, with a French press that costs perhaps ten times less than an espresso machine, you will be able to brew a shot of espresso that will satisfy you whether you intend to drink it as it is or use it in your favorite espresso-based drink.

On the flip side, espresso is a specific brewing technique where the amount of pressure required could only be provided with an espresso machine, so it wouldn’t exactly be right to say that you can make espresso with a French press in the technical sense. That being said, the experience is close enough to a real espresso to the point that you won’t be noticing the difference, which is why we think that it’s worth a try if you’re looking for an alternative way of brewing espresso at home.

If we still have your attention, let’s get right into it.

Making Espresso with a French Press

Preparation

It’s a good idea to get everything you need before getting started with the brewing process. Fortunately, you won’t be needing a lot of equipment to make espresso with a french press, so gathering them should be straightforward.

While a French press and some coffee grounds are all you need to be able to brew, we recommend having a kitchen scale, kitchen thermometer, coffee grinder, coffee beans, and a spoon to ensure that your coffee turns out as good as possible. 

Since you may have problems with pre-ground coffee due to grind size, we specifically recommend grinding a fresh batch of coffee beans.

If you gathered your materials, let’s begin.

Grinding Your Coffee Beans

The first step for making espresso with a french press is to grind your coffee beans. While this step is usually pretty straightforward, it gets a bit trickier in our scenario. As you know, regular French press coffee is supposed to be brewed with a coarse grind as using a fine grind size can cause grounds to be stuck in the filter or even go through.

On the other hand, espresso is meant to be brewed with finely ground coffee, which is where the problems begin. Since coffee grounds getting into the drink will completely ruin the taste, you will have to adjust your grind size to be coarse enough to not go through the filter and fine enough to brew espresso.

Once you get it right, make sure to note the process you followed to be replicate it for further brews, as the difference between the perfect grind size and a grind size that is completely wrong can be very delicate. Keeping track of the process will help you to get your grind size right in a consistent manner.

As getting the grind size right may take a little practice to get down perfectly, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time, and keep experimenting!

Warming Your French Press Up

Next, you will be warming your french press up. This process will allow your French press to become warm enough to not cause a sudden spike in temperature when hot water gets added, meaning that you will have better control over the brewing temperature and also ensure that the sudden change in temperature doesn’t damage the glass.

Since you will need hot water for the brewing process anyway, feel free to start your kettle and put a small amount of water aside when it becomes warm enough while letting the rest of the water come to a full boil. 

While you won’t be using boiling water for your coffee, allowing the water to boil will give you time to continue to the next step while it cools down to the optimal temperature.

When your water is ready, remove the plunger, pour the warm water into your French press, and let it sit there. Giving the water a little swirl will help heat to be distributed more evenly, so it’s a good idea to do that now and then. 

Warm water will slowly cause your French press to warm up and get ready for brewing as we continue with the rest of the steps.

Measuring and Adding Coffee

Since it’s time to measure coffee, a kitchen scale will come in handy at this point. Depending on the strength you’re looking for, using a coffee to water between 10:1 and 8:1 is usually recommended. The reason why we use a higher coffee to water ratio than usual is to achieve the strength that is associated with espresso.

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can use a measurement of roughly 4 to 5 tablespoons for 1 cup of water, but we don’t encourage measuring with a tablespoon as it’s impossible to be consistent with it. That being said, a trick you can use to get a more accurate measurement with a tablespoon is to measure the coffee beans before you grind them.

By the time you’re done with measuring, your French press should be warm enough to brew. Start by getting rid of the water that you used to warm your French press up, and then place your coffee grounds inside.

Blooming the Coffee

Next up, you will be blooming the coffee. During blooming, coffee grounds release their aromatics and natural oils, allowing the flavor to go into your cup. Since blooming has an important role in ensuring that the brewing process is conducted optimally, make sure that you don’t skip this step.

To bloom the coffee, you should add hot water that is just enough to moisten all of the coffee grounds and let it sit for roughly 30 seconds. If you are unsure about how much water to use, try to stay on the side of using a smaller amount to avoid soaking the grounds completely.

Measuring Water Temperature and Adding Water

As water temperature plays an important role for coffee grounds to be extracted optimally, you need to ensure that the water temperature is right before adding the water to your French press.

Simply place your kitchen thermometer in your kettle, and see if your water has a temperature that is close to the optimal brewing temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius). While getting the measurement off by a few degrees isn’t a big problem, try not to stray too far from it.

When you are sure that your water is at the right temperature, add the water to your French press as you measure the amount you’re adding with a kitchen scale. It’s important to remember how much coffee you added and the coffee to water ratio you were planning to use to add the correct amount of water.

Using the wrong amount of water will cause under or over-extraction, making it crucial to get the ratio right.

Letting the Coffee Steep

Now, it’s time to close the lid and wait for your coffee to steep. Note that you’re only closing the lid and not plunging just yet. Even though all you have to do is to wait at this stage, this is still one of the trickiest steps to get right.

While a long steep time will cause your coffee to be over-extracted and bitter, a short time will cause your coffee to be under-extracted and weak. The recommended time for steeping is roughly 3 to 4 minutes, but feel free to experiment and find out what works best for you. 

This step is one of the easiest things to get wrong, especially on the side of over-steeping. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use your smartphone to set a timer to ensure that you don’t lose track of time.

Time to Plunge

With steeping done, we are getting to the final stages of the brewing process. Since your coffee is ready to drink at this point, it’s time to get rid of the coffee grounds by using the plunger.

Slowly push the plunger down with a steady motion. If you’re having trouble, it’s helpful to push the plunger halfway down, pull it back up, and then push it down again. Your goal is to collect all the coffee grounds in the filter, so ensure that you pushed the plunger all the way down before pulling it back up.

While it may seem like an easy step, it’s important to be careful. Pushing too hard may damage your French press, and there is absolutely no reason to do it. Using a steady amount of pressure is the best way to conduct this process. 

After pulling the plunger back up, there should be no coffee grounds remaining in your coffee. If there are, it means that your grind size was too fine to be able to be collected by the filter, so remember to make an adjustment for the next time. To get rid of the coffee grounds, for now, you can simply use a strainer and transfer your coffee to another container while leaving the coffee grounds behind.

Pour and Serve

Finally, it’s time for the fun part.

You can now go ahead and pour your coffee into your cup. An important thing to remember is that leaving coffee out for too long will slowly cause it to go bitter, which is why you should consume the coffee as soon as you conclude the brewing process.

If you brewed more than a single cup of coffee, pour the remaining coffee into a pot to be served later instead of leaving it in the French press. Remember to clean your French press as soon as you’re done with brewing.

Enjoy!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can I use milk in my French press?

While it’s fine to add milk to your French press, we recommend adding the milk to your cup when you’re done brewing your coffee instead.

Adding milk directly to your French press can throw the extraction process off by slowing it down, causing your coffee to turn out under-extracted.

Should I stir the grounds in my French Press?

Since coffee brewing is all about achieving an even extraction, there is no harm in gently stirring the grounds to ensure that they are all fully in contact with water. 

That being said, it’s a good idea to use a wooden chopstick to stir instead of a metal spoon to avoid damaging the glass.

Conclusion

While not technically espresso, it’s possible to brew an espresso-style coffee that won’t make you think twice about it with a French press.

If you’ve been looking for a way to make espresso at home without an espresso machine, we hope that you found our guide to be useful.

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!