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How to Make Espresso with an Aeropress

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: September 03, 2022

The Aeropress is the small and spunky cousin of a traditional coffee maker and espresso machine. The portable design lets you take it while you travel or use it at the office. You can use different recipes to make everything from nutty coffees to ice drinks. With a little practice, you can adjust your technique to make a delicious espresso shot.

What Is an Aeropress?

An Aeropress is a small, portable device that offers an alternative to making drip coffee and espresso with a traditional coffee maker or espresso machine. It’s a pretty basic device made of a:

  • Plunger (piston)
  • Chamber (tube)
  • Filter cap
  • Funnel

The tube sits directly on the mug. The grounds go into the tube, where you then apply pressure to the plunger, forcing the water and grounds through a filter to make coffee, or in this case, espresso.

Some people consider an Aeropress an espresso maker, though technically speaking, it doesn’t make espresso exactly like a traditional machine. In comparison to coffee, espresso has a lower water-to-coffee ratio, giving it a thicker, fuller taste, and mouthfeel. While an Aeropress can come close, it relies on muscle power to apply the pressure to extract the espresso. The human body cannot apply the same pressure as an espresso machine. However, it does allow you to make a quick brew that packs a powerful espresso-like flavor even if it doesn’t taste exactly like the cup from your favorite coffee shop.

An Aeropress is an inexpensive option that still provides a variety of ways to make different coffee drinks. You can vary some of the factors, like the beans, grind, and water temperature, to create different flavors.

How to Make Espresso with an Aeropress

Your espresso will only be as good as your ingredients. We can tell you all the ins and outs of espresso-making, but if you use old, inexpensive beans and heavily chlorinated tap water, you’ll probably be disappointed. If your tap water tastes more like a pool than a fresh spring, try using bottled or filtered water. Balance the price of the beans with the quality. It’s worth a few more dollars to use beans roasted to perfection.

Speaking of beans, the coffee beans used for espresso are typically medium-dark to dark roast. A longer roast helps the beans release their oils and flavors in the short espresso brewing time.

Now it’s time to get to the espresso.

1. Heat the Water

The Aeropress doesn’t heat the water for you. You’ll need to warm the water in a kettle or microwave until it reaches 200 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the heat helps extract the maximum amount of the beans’ flavor.

Heat enough water to make your espresso and warm the Aeropress and mug. To preheat, pour some hot water into the Aeropress before brewing. Do the same for the mug. Espresso maintains its flavor only when kept at the optimum temperature. Preheating makes sure you get the full experience and flavor of the beans. Since a shot of true espresso is only one to two ounces, you want to enjoy the full flavor before it cools and the taste begins to fade.

If you don’t have a kettle with temperature control, you can use a thermometer to keep an eye on the water temperature. While you’re waiting for the water to heat, move to step two, and grind the beans.

2. Grind the Beans

The grind makes a big difference in the brew’s final flavor. Espresso only brews for 20 to 30 seconds. A fine grind maximizes the release of the bean’s oils in that short steep time. This is one area of espresso making that may take some practice. You may find that some beans work better with a finer ground while others deliver better flavor with a slightly coarser ground. With a little practice, you’ll figure out the grind that works best with your preferred beans and Aeropress.

3. Preheat the Aeropress and Mug

Pour hot water into the Aeropress and mug to preheat them. It’s all about maintaining that optimum temperature. Swirl the water around the chamber, using the plunger to push it through the filter. Preheating is especially important if you use paper filters because the water helps remove the paper flavor. If you’re using metal filters, the preheating process helps maintain the correct overall temperature once you start brewing the espresso.

4. Insert the Grounds and Stir

Place the Aeropress chamber on the mug. Dump the grounds directly in the chamber. Gently tap or shake it to level the grounds against the filter. Leveling the grounds may not seem like an important part of this step, but you want to maintain a consistent ground density. Consistent density allows the water to move through the grounds at an equally consistent rate, resulting in better flavor.

Pour in the hot water, slowly stirring it with a long-handled spoon. Unlike French Presses or traditional espresso machines, with an Aeropress, you let the grounds brew for 20 to 30 seconds while you stir. You’re not trying to create a froth but to expose all of the grounds to the hot water.

5. Press the Grounds Into a Puck

It’s time to press the plunger. This step takes some skill. You want to press the plunger straight down with even pressure. Consistent pressure makes sure the water moves through the fine grounds evenly, extracting the flavors consistently throughout the chamber.

An Aeropress gives you some control over this part of the process that other methods don’t.

You can try different plunging methods, such as releasing the plunger halfway through the extraction process, pulling up, and then reapplying pressure. The changes in pressure may extract different flavors and consistencies from different types of beans.

You won’t complete this step until you’ve pressed the plunger to the bottom of the chamber. When you’re done, you should have a tight, compact ball of grounds that resemble the puck used in an espresso machine.

6. Enjoy Your Drink

The espresso is hot. The mug is hot. There’s nothing left to do but enjoy your espresso. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you can also take a minute to analyze your espresso to fine-tune your brew next time.

Does the flavor seem bitter? If so, the grind may be too fine or the steep time too long. Is it sour? That usually comes from under extraction. In which case, try finer grounds and a longer steep time.

You can also add the shot to other drinks. Add espresso to steamed milk, or top the crema with whipped cream for an extra sweet treat.

How to Clean Your Aeropress

You’ll need to cleanup the Aeropress after each use. These devices are known for developing a sticky film around the plunger’s gasket. The film develops as oils from the coffee grounds seep into the rubber. It can partly be avoided by cleaning the plunger right away. Rinse and wipe down the plunger after every use. For a deeper clean, remove the gasket and soak the chamber, plunger, filter cap, and funnel in warm, soapy water. Rinse, and let them all air dry.

FAQs

How many shots of espresso can an Aeropress make?

Most Aeropresses can make a single or double shot of espresso, which equates to roughly one to two ounces.

How can I make a latte or cappuccino with an Aeropress?

You can make a latte or cappuccino with an Aeropress, but you’ll have to go a few steps beyond brewing espresso. A latte is eight ounces of steamed milk mixed with one shot of espresso. To make one, you’ll need to steam the milk before or while you’re heating the water for your espresso shot. You can use a steam wand or stovetop to make the steamed milk.

A cappuccino isn’t too different from a latte. All you do is add a layer of milk froth to the top of a latte. An espresso machine can froth milk for you. If you’re using an Aeropress, chances are you don’t have an espresso machine on hand. Thankfully, there are lots of methods to froth milk. You can do it with:

  • Hand mixing
  • A whisk
  • A blender
  • A frothing wand
  • An immersion blender
  • A pump frother

Keep in mind that frothing and steaming milk may be similar, but they are different. A cappuccino has both, while a latte only has steamed milk. You can look up Aeropress espresso recipes to learn about more delicious concoctions.

What do I do if my espresso tastes bitter or sour?

A bitter taste comes from over extracting the coffee beans. Fixing the problem can come from a few different places. The first is the ground of the beans. A bitter taste may mean they’re too fine for the particular type of bean you’re using. The other place to make an adjustment is the water temperature. If the water is too hot, it could over-extract the grounds. You can also reduce the steep time to change how much flavor gets extracted.

A sour taste comes from the opposite problem: under-extracting the grounds. You may need a finer grind to access more of the beans’ natural oils and flavors, or you may need to use hotter water to extract more flavor from the beans. Finally, you can try extending the steep time to give the water more time to release the flavor.

Conclusion

Your perfect cup of coffee may actually be espresso, which is basically a coffee concentrate. An Aeropress gives you a quick, simple way to make espresso at home, work, or while you’re on the road. From the boil to the heated brewing chamber, a number of factors can influence the taste of your espresso when made with an Aeropress. With the right beans, technique, and grind, you’ll get that perfect shot every morning.

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