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The AeroPress makes an incredible cup of coffee, but can it produce espresso too?
Spoiler: The answer is no, but it does get a lot closer than I expected.
Since I got my new AeroPress, I’ve been exploring a few claims about how to make espresso with an AeroPress. In this article, I’ll explain how a regular espresso differs from an espresso in AeroPress, but I’ll also give you the best AeroPress espresso recipe I could find.
What Is an AeroPress?
AeroPress is yet another way to brew coffee, much like the french press, percolators, and drip coffee makers.
Origin of the AeroPress
Since it was released in 2005, AeroPress is the new kid on the block, and it’s been making quite a splash over the past several years.
Alan Adler, the inventor of the AeroPress, did not work in the coffee industry. He is an inventor and engineer, whose other biggest claim to fame was the Aerobie, a flying disc that holds the Guinness world record for the longest throw.
Most importantly, Adler was a coffee lover. In 2004, he set out to understand and improve the brewing process, creating 40 prototypes of a new coffee brewing method along the way. In just about a year, he was ready to debut his new invention: an inexpensive, lightweight hand-press coffee maker that he called the AeroPress.
How does an AeroPress work?
With drip coffee makers, water is dripped above coffee grounds and allowed to flow through the grounds solely by the force of gravity. Espresso machines, on the other hand, water is forced through the grounds under high pressure.
The AeroPress exists somewhere between those extremes. The AeroPress is basically a large plunger that pushes down through an airtight seal into a heat-resistant plastic chamber. A filter is placed at the bottom of the chamber, with coffee grounds on top. The hot water is added directly to the chamber and allowed a brewing time of only a few seconds in contact with the grounds. Then, the plunger is pressed down, forcing the water quickly through the grounds and the filter into a container waiting below.
The process is fast, with the water maintaining contact with the grounds for seconds rather than the minutes required for drip coffee.
You may notice some similarities to how Keurigs work. In particular, they both borrow from the idea of espresso makers by using pressure to decrease the brew time.
What is AeroPress coffee like?
During a normal extraction, some of the most bitter chemicals such as quinic acid are largely left behind in the grounds. Over-extracting brings these chemicals into the coffee, resulting in an overall more bitter brew. This is what gives percolator coffee its reputation as being extra bitter.
AeroPress’s rapid extraction process makes it all-but-impossible to over-extract the grounds. The coffee you get will consistently be less bitter than what you’ll get from many more traditional methods. AeroPress coffee is, in many ways, like French press coffee without the extra oils and sludge.
Other advantages and disadvantages of AeroPress
The size of the AeroPress is perfect for those with limited counters pace. You can store it in a drawer when not in use, and it is tinier than even other single-serve coffee makers.
Because of its size and durability, the AeroPress is also very portable. You can’t easily lug around your favorite drip coffee maker or espresso machine, but this tiny device can easily go on a road trip or even in your carry-on luggage. Since you don’t need to plug it in, you can use it basically anywhere as long as you have a way to heat water.
The AeroPress Go goes even further with its even more compact design and built-in mug and lid. It’s one of the best travel coffee makers available.
Speed is another advantage of the AeroPress. Drip coffee takes several minutes to make your favorite morning beverage, but the entire AeroPress setup and brewing time is less than two minutes.
The AeroPress is much cheaper than a good drip coffee maker or budget espresso machine. Those machines can easily cost several times as much.
The biggest disadvantage of an AeroPress is its size. You can only make 1-3 cups of coffee at a time. This is by design, but it means that the AeroPress will never be a replacement for your carafe coffee maker.
Why Can’t You Make Espresso With AeroPress?
Espresso machines push pressurized water through the grounds. The AeroPress uses pressure to push water through the grounds.
So what’s the difference?
The exact pressure an AeroPress uses will vary from run to run and person to person, but the company claims the typical pressure is between 0.25 bars and 0.5 bars. This is dramatically less than the 9 bars that espresso machines must use and especially less than the 15 bars recommended for high-quality espresso.
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you try to produce 9 bars of pressure with your AeroPress. First, the human body is simply incapable of doing so. Second, that amount of pressure would break your AeroPress.
One other critical difference, and I’m sure you espresso lovers are already screaming this at the screen, is the crema. That dense layer of flavorful, aromatic froth that sits on top of quality espresso simply does not exist in AeroPress coffee. It’s just hard to call a drink espresso if it doesn’t have a good, thick crema.
How to Make Espresso With AeroPress
Enough with the negativity. Are you as tired of me pointing out the inefficiencies of AeroPress espresso as I am? Good, because it’s time that we get to the fun part. It’s time to start making the closest equivalent to espresso in your AeroPress.
This recipe is derived from a recipe by Michael Mcdonald. In fact, almost every AeroPress espresso recipe I’ve seen is based on his original work. Thanks, Michael, we all owe you one.
What equipment and supplies you’ll need
- An AeroPress or AeroPress Go
- A filter (preferably metal, see below)
- A coffee grinder (if coffee is not pre-ground)
- A coffee scale (or equivalent kitchen scale)
- A water kettle w/ temperature control
- 17 grams of coffee
- Filtered or bottled water
- Your favorite coffee mug
- A timer (like the one on your cell phone)
Why use a metal AeroPress filter?
Paper filters are better at blocking particulates. If you want a clean cup of coffee without the extra particulates and oils — resulting in less body and highlighting of the acidic flavors — they are the preferred option.
Metal filters don’t soak up oils like paper AeroPress filters do, and they also allow more micro-particulates into the brew. The result is a brew with a silkier body, more aromatics, and a lower apparent acidity. This is much closer to the characteristics of espresso, which is why I recommend a metal filter for this recipe.
I should also mention that, although you can reuse paper filters to some extent, metal filters are the better truly reusable AeroPress filters.
Whole bean or pre-ground coffee?
Whole bean coffee is always preferred. Grinding your own coffee beans gives you control over the size of the grounds, especially if you have a good burr coffee grinder. Even more importantly, whole beans maintain their freshness better. Pre-ground coffee goes stale very quickly, especially if it is a fine grind with a higher surface area.
If you are going to use pre-ground coffee, make sure it is a fine or espresso grind. That is not the standard AeroPress grind size, but it’s what you’ll need for good AeroPress espresso.
Fresh-roasted beans are better
Speaking of freshness, I highly suggest using fresh-roasted beans for this recipe. Even whole beans go stale over time, so the difference between beans that were roasted three days ago and beans that were roasted three weeks ago is huge. You can find sources of freshly-roasted coffee beans in our best espresso beans list.
Does the water quality matter?
Yes! You should certainly use filtered or bottled water, especially if your tap water is particularly hard (like mine is). The mineral content of your water affects both the flavor and its ability to extract coffee grounds. Some people go as far as using Third Wave Water, but unless you already have it I think filtered water is good enough for this process.
Espresso AeroPress recipe
- Rinse the filter with hot water, place it in the filter cap, and set it aside. Rinsing is especially important if you are using a paper filter and don’t want that hint of papery flavor in your brew.
- Place the plunger about halfway into the brewing chamber, flipping it so that the brew chamber is above the plunger.
- Bring at least half a cup of water to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly lower than you would typically use for AeroPress coffee.
- Grind your coffee until it is fine — almost like powdered sugar — and add it to the AeroPress brew chamber. Shake lightly to level the grounds.
- Place the AeroPress on the scale and tare (zero) the scale.
- Start your timer and pour 55 grams of water slowly into the brewing chamber. This should take about 10 seconds. DON’T STOP THE TIMER.
- Grab the AeroPress and swirl it by shaking in a circular motion for 15 seconds. Alternatively, you can stir using the paddle, but swirling is easier.
- When the timer reaches 25 seconds, attach the filter cap to the brewing chamber, flip the brewer onto your mug (plunger side up) and plunge it as quickly as you can, preferably finishing by the time the timer hits 30 seconds.
You did it! Your espresso is now ready to go. Of course, you can add water to turn it into an Aeropress Americano or you can steam some milk for an Aeropress latte or Aeropress cappuccino.
Timers not your thing? Prefer music? Well, I timed the recipe out to Bohemian Rhapsody, my second-favorite classic rock song. Check out the recipe in this handy Pinterest pin.
Just queue up the song and hit play right before you start pouring the water.
An Alternative: Using Prismo to Make Espresso in AeroPress
If this recipe didn’t make the quality espresso you were looking for or if the inverted method is just too complicated, there is still hope. I have one more option that you can try, but you’ll need to buy an AeroPress espresso attachment.
Specifically, you’ll need to buy the Prismo AeroPress attachment. Prismo uses a 150-micron stainless steel filter in place of the standard metal or paper filter Aeropress users are accustomed to.
The real key is Prismo’s pressure-actuated valve, which creates a build-up of pressure in the chamber, allowing you to brew an espresso-like beverage without needing to invert your Aeropress during the immersion process.
Could You Tell the Difference?
Espresso is a wholly unique coffee experience. If you were expecting AeroPress to reproduce it exactly, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But it does a much better job re-creating the beverage than I had ventured to hope.
This process is incredibly simple and cheap for the quality of coffee that you’ll get. But I’m always looking to make it better. Let me know if you’ve found a better AeroPress espresso recipe, a wholly different way to make espresso in an AeroPress, or other alternative ways to make espresso without an espresso machine. I’m excited to see what you come up with.