May 9

3 Easy Steps to Making “Espresso” in a French Press

Written by: Dolly

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Espresso machines are crazy expensive – most home brewers purchase ones between $300-$700. 

Let’s be real: that price tag is not accessible for most people out there, myself included. 

Hence the need for alternatives like AeroPresses and today’s culprit: French press espresso, which you can make quite cheaply at home.

The only problem is that it’s not actually espresso. It’s French press-o, as I like to call it. 

Keep reading to find out more about French press espresso and how to brew your own at home! 

Can You Really Make Espresso in a French Press?



Espresso is the product of pressurized water and fine grounds – two things that French presses are not designed for or equipped to handle.

Notice any significant issues yet?

However, with a darker roast and a couple of tweaks, you can make a similar enough drink at home.

Remember, it’s espresso-strength coffee brewed in a French press, not espresso. 

But to be clear, the Instituto Espresso Italiano (IEI) would not approve of this espresso-style brew.  

What You’ll Need to Make Espresso in the French Press


To make your own French press-o, you’ll need: 

  • Hot water
  • Whole or ground beans
  • Kitchen scale
  • French press
  • Stirring stick/spoon
  • Optional: Grinder
  • While you don’t technically need a grinder for this method, I do recommend one.

    That way, you’ll be able to control your grind size and play around with your brews more.

    Most store-bought pre-ground coffee is pretty fine, which is the grind size I struggled with the most. More on that later. 

    5 Steps to Great Espresso in a French Press

    After a few failed batches (and a few that were actually decent), I’ve settled on a fairly simple French press-o recipe, largely inspired by Eleven Coffee’s more detailed method. 

    With these five steps, you can somewhat replicate mankind’s greatest creation without an espresso machine! 

    Total Time to Make French Press Espresso: 10-13 minutes, depending on what roast you’re working with. 

    Step 1: Prep


    Step 1 Total Time: 2 minutes, if grinding. Less, if not.

    If using whole beans, grind them on a medium-coarse setting. For this recipe, I set my Shardor to 10. 

    While your beans are grinding, boil your kettle or set it to 195-205°F, if you have a fancy one.

    Then pour and swirl a bit of hot water in your French press, especially if it’s glass.

    Pre-heating it can help prevent cracks as well as keep your French press-o nice and toasty! 

    Now, pour your ground beans into the carafe.

    I tested both 1:4 and 1:6 ratios and preferred the latter. So, for one shot, you’d measure 10 grams of ground beans for 60 grams of water.

    Top Tip

    Always at least double or triple your desired amount when making French press-o. With such little liquid, I couldn’t plunge my filter all the way down and used it as a sieve instead. If you would rather plunge it fully, I recommend at least tripling your recipe. 

    Step 2: Bloom 


    Step 2 Total Time: 1 minute and 45 seconds 

    Next, bloom the grounds by evenly pouring a small amount of hot water onto them.

    Try to use around ¼ of your hot water when blooming. 

    For example, if I’m making a 1:6 double shot of French press-o, I’d pour 30 out of 120 grams over the grounds to bloom. 

    Once completely damp, let it sit for 30-45 seconds. 

    And try not to skip blooming your grounds. It’s necessary for a smoother, less bitter cup. 

    Step 3: Pour in Remaining Water & Stir


    Step 3 Total Time: 30 seconds

    Add in the rest of your water.

    If you’re using the 1:6 ratio for a double shot, you should have around 90 grams of preheated water left after the bloom. 

    Then, gently stir the slurry with a (preferably wooden or plastic) spoon or stick.

    Aim for around 10 seconds of stirring, enough to completely swirl and dampen everything. 

    Step 4: Steep


    Step 4 Total Time: 6-8 minutes 

    Set a timer for 4 minutes and let the coffee steep. 

    Once four minutes have passed, gently stir the slurry once or twice. You do not need to stir it as vigorously as before.

    Then, place the lid on the carafe and plunge until the filter is sitting just above the surface of the coffee. 

    Set another timer for 2-4 minutes, depending on how strong you want your French press-o to be.

    I liked my brews best when I waited between 3-4 minutes on dark roasts, less for medium. 

    Step 5: Plunge & Enjoy


    Step 5 Total Time: 30 seconds

    You can either plunge all the way down or stop once the filter is just past the surface.

    For the latter, you’re using the filter as a sieve, instead of a compressing barrier. 

    Then, gently pour your French press-o into your preferred cup, keeping a finger on the lid to make sure it doesn’t pop off.

    It may take a while for everything to drip out. 

    Make sure to pour out all your French press espresso, either into your mug or a container.

    If left to sit on top of the grounds, your coffee will continue to steep and become extremely bitter. 

    Top Tip

    Unfortunately, only pressure can produce true crema, but who doesn’t love a good fake? Once your coffee’s done brewing, plunge the filter halfway down and then lift it back up. Repeat that at least two to three times vigorously, before stopping to check your mock crema. 


    What’s the Best French Press to Use for Espresso?

    When making espresso in a French press, your main concern – aside from the lack of true espresso – lies in the grounds.

    Fines are almost certain to pierce through the mesh filter and float around in the French press-o. 

    So, the best French presses for espresso-strength coffee have extremely fine mesh filters, ones that come with high reviews. 

    You can’t go wrong with an Espro French press, since they have dual micro-mesh filters.

    You can even throw a paper filter in there to eliminate any oiliness. 

    Of course, you also don’t want a giant French press – that’ll make plunging it extremely difficult. 

    Machine-Made Espresso vs French Press Espresso


    When it comes to brewing espresso, French presses, while amazing, are no match for an espresso machine. 

    They lack two key components: high pressure and extremely fine grounds. 

    Because French presses are an immersion brewing method, there’s no significant source of pressure.

    And definitely not the 9-10 bars of pressure (130-150 psi) required to make espresso. 

    Espresso machines push near-boiling water through a compacted puck of finely ground beans.

    As the water is forced through the grounds, the fat content of the beans mingles with the water and creates crema.

    Which is yet another major factor of espresso that French presses can’t replicate. 

    Now, let’s get scientific for a second. 

    Machine-made espresso should have an extraction yield between 18%-22%.

    That’s pretty intense considering coffee’s solubility is only around 30%.

    If you’re curious about how you can measure extraction yields, check out this brief experiment from Medium. 

    As you may have guessed, French presses don’t score nearly as high.  

    A study performed in 2012 evaluating extraction yields with different brewing mechanisms found that French presses extracted the most of all four methods.

    However, their biggest yield was still below 10% (1). 

    French press espresso simply isn’t espresso. 

    So, what’s the point of French press-o? 

    The immersion brew method eliminates much of the astringent flavors associated with darker roasts and intense coffee, and instead brings out those nutty, chocolatey notes.

    Espresso is similar – a very thick and dark flavor compressed into a tiny shot of coffee. 

    That’s what French press-os can replicate: flavor, not the espresso itself.

    A Deeper Dive into Espresso in the French Press

    Espresso is expensive – whether you’re purchasing it every day at a coffee shop or investing in an espresso machine.

    There’s nothing wrong with looking for an alternative, so long as you know it’s not actually espresso. 

    If you’re ready to up your French press-o game, watch out for the three most common errors and double-check you have the right roast on hand. 

    The Top 3 Ways to Mess up French Press Espresso


    Not to sound like a broken record, but French presses can’t make espresso, only espresso-strength coffee. 

    Which means one single accident can really wreck it. 

    My trials and tribulations revealed that there are three main culprits behind crappy French press-o: grind size, water temperature and proper ratio, and steeping time.

    Grind Size

    Espresso beans are usually ground extremely fine, but that won’t fly in a basic French press.


    Those fine grounds are 100% going to escape and land in the bottom of your cup. French presses usually call for coarse grounds, not fine. 

    So, we compromise!

    Aim for medium-coarse grind size, leaning towards medium.

    My experiments – AKA my failed batches of French press-o — revealed that extremely fine grounds are difficult for a number of reasons. 

    1. Sediment in your cup
    2. Extremely hard to pour once brewed
    3. Burned, astringent flavor and aftertaste

    There is a time and place for finely ground coffee beans, but unfortunately, French presses are not it. 

    Top Tip

    If you prefer to grind yours somewhere between medium and fine, consider pouring your finished brew over a cheesecloth or paper filter before sipping. That second filter should remove most of the fines and grit. 

    Water Temperature & Ratio

    Here’s the key to perfecting your water temperature: don’t use boiling water. The ideal temperature is 195°F, or a few degrees above.

    If your kettle isn’t programmed to reach certain temperatures, that’s okay.

    Simply boil your water and then wait 2-3 minutes before pouring. Once most of the steam has dispersed, your water is good to go. 

    There’s no “one size fits all” for French press-o ratios. 

    In general, try to stay between 1:2 and 1:6. My favorite within that range flavor-wise was 1:6. However, 1:2 - 1:4 most closely resembled espresso’s thick, velvety mouthfeel.

    Those of you that love dark, overpowering espresso may want to stay somewhere between 1:2 - 1:4. For the rest of us, 1:4 and above! 

    Steep Time

    There are tons of recipes out there that claim that 4 minutes of steeping is plenty for French press espresso. 

    My experiments proved them undeniably wrong.

    When I steeped mine for only four minutes, my cup tasted a lot more like normal, American coffee than the dark, bold espresso flavor I was aiming for. 

    But when I steeped it for too long, I ended up with one heck of a bitter mess.

    Steeping time is also affected by what kind of beans you use.

    If you’ve already got dark roast, you’re good to go. The recipe above is specifically tailored to them! 

    If you only have medium roasts, I recommend shaving a few minutes off the second round of steeping.

    Over-extracted medium roasts do not make good French press espresso.

    Trust me, I speak from bitter experience. 

    What Kind of Coffee is Best for French Press Espresso?


    There is not a bean specifically curated for espresso, which can make the “espresso bean” bags at grocery stores a little confusing, to say the least. 

    But they’re not actually beans made for espresso. They’re just blends or roasts that work well for high-pressure, rich-flavored espresso. 

    So, don’t let the “espresso bean” label control you!

    When shopping, look for high-quality beans that are still fresh (10-14 days post-roast), preferably leaning towards a dark roast.

    Dark Roast

    This is hands down the best roast for French press-o. 

    Dark roasts bring out the bold flavors we associate with espresso and can handle the lengthy steeping times required for the semi-velvety mouthfeel. 

    French press-o will never taste exactly like espresso. But with a dark roast, you can get sort of close. 

    Medium Roast

    Would I recommend a medium roast for French press espresso? Not if you have other options. 

    But will it work in a pinch? Sure, but it won’t resemble espresso all that much. 

    I used Peet’s Big Bang medium roast for my third batch of French press-o, and it didn’t wow me.

    To be frank, it tasted a lot more like regular coffee than espresso-strength coffee. 

    But if you’re going to doctor it or throw it in an iced caramel macchiato, it’s not a terrible choice. 

    Light Roast

    I left my Peet’s Costa Rica light roast for last, knowing it would probably be the worst.

    But still, some secret part of me was hoping for the best. 

    Honestly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    My cup was extremely sour.

    So much so, that I took my first sip and said, “That is some bad coffee.” I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. 

    Don’t waste your light roast on French press espresso. It’s just not worth it. 

    Single-Origin vs Blends


    Most espresso is made using a blend.

    This is because 90% of the time it’s going into a flavored mixed drink where you can’t appreciate the single origin flavor, and shops want consistent, repeatable espresso.

    I love single-origin coffee. Each bean is unique and incredibly distinct; some fruity, some floral, and none of them oily diner coffee. 

    But most espresso is made with a blend, and for good reason! 

    Single-origin beans can be inconsistent and are often unavailable.

    Even if you find a bean that you love, chances are in a few months’ time, it’ll be out of stock and you’ll have to shop around again. 

    Since most espresso winds up in a latte or cappuccino, coffee shops tend to use blends.

    They’re repeatable and consistently good.

    Once you have your recipe down pat, you won’t have to alter it again–most likely. 

    Blends are also more forgiving than single-origin. And they usually stay fresher for longer post-roast. 

    That being said, if you want to experiment and tinker with your coffee, try out some single-origin beans!

    But if you’re making French press-o with the intention to doctor it (which I highly recommend), I’d stick with a blend. 

    Making Coffee Shop Drinks w/ French Press Espresso


    Take it from me, you’ll enjoy your French press-o a lot more if you doctor it!

    Any of the following basic recipes will make French press espresso more appealing and distract from the fact that it’s not espresso. 

    Making Milk Froth/Foam at Home

    You can make milk froth/foam at home, but fair warning, it won’t be the same as what you’d get from an espresso machine. 

    A machine’s steam wand both heats the milk, vigorously whisks it, and introduces air into the liquid. There’s a lot going on at once!

    With at-home methods, you can only accomplish one or two of those at a time, and usually to a lesser extent.

    Without the powerful infusion of air by a steam wand, the froth’s texture will be far looser with bigger air bubbles – not ideal for latte art. 

    Steam wands are pretty amazing and make a huge difference.

    One relatively inexpensive option is the De’Longhi EC680M Espresso Machine.

    If you’d rather experiment with tools you already have at home, you can try one of these methods: 

    • Whisk
    • Hand Mixer
    • Blender (be careful!) 
    • Immersion Blender (be careful!) 
    • French Press
    • Stick Frother
    • Jar & Shake

    Let it be known that these are far less effective than an actual espresso machine and will not produce the same high-quality froth/foam. 

    Top Tip

    When heating your milk, aim for somewhere between 135-150°F. Any higher than 155°F and the milk will taste burnt and unpleasant. 

    Iced Drinks - The Best Option at Home

    Ready to make barista-level drinks at home? 

    All you need is ice! 

    Iced coffee drinks completely remove the froth/foam element and make the assembly a whole lot easier. 

    As it turns out, ice and foam are not a good combination.

    So, instead of steaming or frothing or vigorously whisking to no avail, you’ll just pour your milk straight in a glass over ice and rejoice in the simplicity. 

    Traditional Espresso Drinks


    The Latte

    Everybody loves a good latte! 

    The most important thing to remember is that they have more milk than espresso.

    Your ratio should look something like this: 

    ⅓ French Press Espresso
    ⅔ Steamed milk

    And then you’ll top it off with the foam produced by the steamed milk!

    You can also add in some flavored syrups (caramel, anyone?), if you’d like. 

    You’ll find that some coffee shops use more steamed milk than the given ratio, but to each their own. 

    To make an iced latte, pour your French press-o over ice, and then add milk (no steaming required).

    If you want to add a sweetener, pour your milk and syrup into a separate jar, shake it thoroughly, and then pour it over your French press espresso and ice. 

    The Cappuccino 

    Proper cappuccinos are only six ounces of heaven – anything over six ounces is technically a latte. 

    Your cappuccino ratio should have equal parts of all ingredients:

    ⅓ French Press Espresso
    ⅓ Foam
    ⅓ Steamed milk

    Cappuccinos are typically served hot, because foam and ice do not go well together. 

    The Macchiato

    Starbucks has ruined this term. Proper macchiato is espresso “marked with foam.” 

    There are now two types of macchiatos out there: traditional macchiato and Starbucks macchiato. We’ll cover the traditional one here. 

    This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy espresso.

    The foam adds a slight creaminess, without totally overpowering the flavor of the espresso.

    Cappuccinos and lattes, while delicious, do distract from the flavor of the beans. 

    A true macchiato is espresso “marked with foam.”

    So, you’ll pour your French press espresso into a 50-100ml cup and then top it with a dollop of foam. 

    Easy peasy!

    The Cortado

    AKA the Gilbraltar, which refers to the type of glass it is typically served in.

    This Spanish drink is all about the milk, and not about the foam. 

    Cortados are made with a 1:1 ratio of steamed milk to espresso.

    1 oz French Press Espresso
    1 oz Steamed Milk

    The 1:1 ratio preserves the flavor of the coffee without making it overly milky or creamy.

    Cortados are also referred to as Gibraltars in certain states in the U.S, though they’re slightly different. 

    The Flat White

    Most people don’t actually know the difference between a flat white and a latte, they just like to order a “flat white” because it's the new thing. 

    Most coffee shops have put this on the menu because it became so popular, but there is barely a discernible difference between how most shops make this and how they make a latte.

    This drink hails from Australia and New Zealand. While a flat white is very similar to a latte, they are not one and the same. 

    There are three main differences: ratio, milk, and foam. 

    Here’s a basic flat white ratio:

    1 Part French Press Espresso
    3-4 Parts Microfoam Milk

    Flat whites have to be made with microfoam milk, which is both steamed and aerated.

    Aerating milk makes it velvety and light, so it thickens up your drink.

    Microfoam milk is not great at producing foam, so you won’t see any latte art on top of a flat white. 

    Lattes are usually bigger than flat whites, as they need more milk.

    Flat whites will have a much stronger espresso flavor and a richer texture than lattes. It certainly won’t taste milky. 

    Specialty Espresso Drinks


    The Caramel Macchiato 

    Iced caramel macchiatos (Starbucks-style) are super easy to make at home, especially with French press-o! 

    All you need is: 

    • French Press Espresso
    • Milk
    • Vanilla Syrup
    • Caramel Sauce
    • Ice

    If you plan on making a hot iced caramel macchiato, check out this recipe. You’ll need to steam the milk for a hot one. 

    Iced caramel macchiatos are far easier to make and basically only require assembly.

    Read this recipe for a simple brew, or watch Hanbit Cho’s video for a step-by-step tutorial. 

    The Mocha

    All mochas require three main ingredients: 

    • French Press Espresso
    • Chocolate
    • Steamed milk

    To make one yourself, try Picky Eater’s homemade mocha recipe. 

    Depending on your recipe, the chocolate ingredient may vary between chocolate syrups, chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, or hot chocolate powder. 

    They’re easy to make iced too!

    Simply use chocolate syrup and mix all the liquid ingredients vigorously before adding ice.

    That way, your syrup will fully mingle with the other flavors and leave you with a smooth, cold mocha.

    The Dirty Chai Latte

     One of the most fun, popular, and quickest drinks to make. Chai concentrate is usually preferable to steeping tea.

    Dirty chai lattes are a personal favorite of mine, seeing as cinnamon is my lifelong obsession.

    Hot dirty chai lattes require more work, as you have to steam the milk, but iced ones are as simple as can be. 

    Your basic ingredients for a dirty chai latte are:

    • 1-2 Shots of French Press Espresso 
    • Chai Concentrate
    • Steamed Milk

    Chai concentrate takes away the need to steep tea, though there are plenty of recipes out there that include the tea bags too. 

    If you don’t have chai concentrate or syrup on hand, you can always make your own.

    Simply Whisked has a great recipe for homemade chai syrup that you can save for future drinks. 

    To make it iced, all you have to do is make your dirty chai latte with regular (not steamed) milk, and then pour over ice. 

    Frequently Asked Questions


    Can I Make French Press Espresso Ahead of Time?

    Sure thing! The key to making French press espresso ahead of time is simple: immediate storage. 

    While you’re brewing your French press-o, grab a mason jar, carafe, travel mug, or any other insulated container and set it to the side.

    The minute your French press espresso is ready, pour it all into your preferred container. 

    Try to be quick! If the espresso sits on top of the grounds post-brew, it’ll continue to steep and become deeply terrible. 

    And if you’re into iced drinks, brewing your French press-o ahead of time and keeping it in the fridge is the way to go.

    You can have your iced latte at any time of the day, with little to no work! 

    Can I Make Latte Art with French Press Espresso?

    Not really - The art is poured into the espresso crema and you need really velvety, steamed milk to do it well.

    To quote my colleague, a specialty coffee master, “Not really.” 


    To make latte art, you have to pour steamed milk into the espresso crema, which French presses can’t produce.

    That steamed milk has to be very velvety in order for it to hold its shape. And French presses can’t froth milk, at least not to that extent. 

    Since French press-o isn’t actually espresso, latte art is kind of out of the picture.

    You’ll need some special equipment to achieve that, French press not included. 


    Is French press espresso a good substitute for espresso? That depends on what you’re looking for. 

    If you’re craving the dark flavor of espresso but can’t break the bank for an espresso machine (relatable), French press-o is a great option for you. 

    If you want to practice making latte art at home, then I’m sorry to say it’s time to invest in an espresso machine. 

    Whether you drink it black or throw in some caramel syrup, I hope you enjoy your French press espresso!



    Zhang, Chen, et al. “Cafestol Extraction Yield from Different Coffee Brew Mechanisms.” Food Research International, vol. 49, no. 1, Nov. 2012, pp. 27–31,


    About the author

    Dolly is a student at Goldsmiths, University of London and an avid cook. After managing a miniature organic farm for a year, she fell in love with the art of cooking and the taste of homegrown greens. Dolly first became plant-based eight years ago, and she is now a full-blown vegan; her plant-based journey has made her creative and experimental in the kitchen. If she’s not writing or cooking, Dolly can be found on her front porch, strumming her guitar and singing for anyone who will listen.

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