A Brief History of Espresso
In 1884 Angelo Moriondo patented a coffee brewer that used pressurized steam to quickly brew coffee in large batches. Up to this point coffee was mostly made a single cup at a time with a French Press, as Turkish coffee, or as a pour over. This espresso machine was never made in significant numbers and none exist today.
In 1901 Luigi Bezzera, inspired by Moriondo’s work, designed a machine that rapidly made single serving coffees. He partnered in 1903 with Desiderio Pavoni and in 1905 began mass production of the “Tipo Gigante” espresso machine. Factory owners were impressed by how quickly this new machine could serve coffee, allowing workers to take a break and then get back to work. These early machines were heated by coal fire. There was no regulation of water temperature or brewing pressure and steam was still doing the brewing, not hot water.
In 1947, Achille Gaggia invented the lever and piston system that, for the first time, allowed the hot water to pass into the brewing chamber. Espresso could now be made with pressurized water instead of steam. Many consider this to be the first modern true espresso because it was the first time crema was produced on the shot of espresso.
AeroPress Coffee Makers & Espresso
Let’s talk about AeroPress coffee makers and espresso. There are limits to what this amazing coffee tool can do. Only an espresso machine will do what an espresso machine can do. But for the price, portability, and flex, nothing beats AeroPress coffee makers for great coffee. There are a few simple techniques you can adapt to make an espresso style coffee with an AeroPress coffee maker.
First, what determines an espresso? The Specialty Coffee Association defines a single espresso as “a 25-35 ml beverage prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water of 195°–205°F has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.” This describes the way an espresso is made, and not as much the qualities of what is produced.
Let’s look at it when using an AeroPress coffee maker. We can easily use 7-9 grams of coffee and add only enough water to brew 25-35 ml. Since we have control of the press time, we can easily hit the 20-30 second window. The pressure becomes problematic. 9-10 atmospheres (or 9-10 bar) is approximately 130 pounds of pressure per square inch. That is too much pressure for AeroPress coffee makers. Coffee will either leak from the filter cap or the plunger seal. Additionally, the inventor of AeroPress coffee makers, Alan Adler, calculated the pressure under normal use to be .25 - .5 bar.
But that is for an unmodified AeroPress coffee maker. Attaching an AeroPress Flow Control Filter Cap will allow us to get significantly more pressure during our press. While it won’t reach 9 bar, it will be enough to produce crema.
If AeroPress coffee makers don’t meet all of the technical process requirements as an espresso maker, can they make a beverage with similar characteristics? I think this is the true measure. When you drink an espresso or have a cappuccino, you don’t say “wow, I can really taste the 9 bars of pressure.” You will instead appreciate the thick body and the intensity of the flavors. Let’s list some of the traits of espresso. There are many variations, and it is safe to say that espresso should be:
- Strong in flavor.
- Small in size.
- Thick and viscous.
- Topped with crema.
Strong in flavor: To control strength, we can use just a small amount of water with a full dose of ground coffee. Strength is a function of how much water is used compared to the amount of ground coffee. Think about making orange juice from a frozen concentrate. The can recommends mixing 3 cans of water with the juice. If you mixed only 1 can or drank the thawed concentrate straight, those would be incredibly strong. This is like espresso. (For more on coffee strength, check out our coffee strength and caffeine blog post!)
Small in size: The beverage pressed out of an AeroPress coffee maker will be small simply because to get the strength, there won’t be very much water. It will be a small drink in size, but big in flavor. Think about it like a full size drink shrunk down.
Thick and viscous: Espresso is made up of fine coffee particles, flavor compounds and oils from the coffee grounds. This adds a lot of texture to an espresso. With the classic AeroPress paper micro-filter, the paper holds back much of these texture elements. To make an espresso style coffee, install an AeroPress metal filter to allow the micro fines and oils to pass through - much like when making a French Press style brew. This will give a thick and viscous mouthfeel.
Topped with crema: Crema is an interesting part of espresso. For many coffee lovers, crema is the sign of a real espresso. Crema is more contentious for others. (James Hoffmann produced a great video, Why Modern Espresso Is So Ugly, discussing the crema and espresso of today.) When the first espresso with crema was made in 1947, customers were suspicious of this new foam on top of their shot. Gaggia was a marketing genius and launched an ad campaign celebrating crema as a true sign of quality espresso. And it stuck. If you want crema from your AeroPress Original or AeroPress Go, it is possible. I recommend using the Flow Control Filter Cap and dark roasted coffee beans, recently roasted and fresh ground. Learn more under the AeroPress espresso recipe below.
So can AeroPress coffee makers make espresso? They meet the sensory requirements and come close on the technical side. Let’s agree to call it “espresso style” and leave the espresso machine cost and maintenance to a barista.
Check out the recipe card below for how to make espresso style coffee with an AeroPress coffee maker!
As always, enjoy exploring with your AeroPress coffee maker. Of all the rules in coffee the main one is to drink your coffee the way you like it.
FAQsWhat water temperature do you need for AeroPress espresso?
To make espresso style coffee with an AeroPress coffee maker, you can use water as cool as 170°F (77°C) and as hot as just-off-boil. Darker roasts do better with cool temperatures, and lighter roasts like hotter temperatures. The Specialty Coffee Association recommends brewing with water 195°F - 205°F (90°C - 96°C) for traditional coffee makers.
Can you make espresso with AeroPress without extra equipment?
AeroPress coffee makers cannot make true espresso, but you can make a very pleasant, highly concentrated, espresso-like shot of coffee. This can be enjoyed straight or used to make an Americano, latte, cappuccino, or other espresso based drinks.
Caffeine content is determined more by the beans you are using. One serving (17-20g or 4 Tbsp of ground beans) of hot-brewed coffee will have 80-100 mg of caffeine.
AeroPress espresso vs. espresso maker, pros and cons?
AeroPress coffee makers are portable, simple to use and clean, and do not need a specialized coffee grinder. We do make affordable AeroPress accessories that can help replicate an espresso. The only con is that it does not make true espresso or steam milk for lattes.
An espresso machine can make true espresso and steam milk for lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, etc. But espresso machines get expensive. They need very specific and technical cleaning, care, and maintenance. To get the best out of an espresso machine, you need a specialized coffee grinder and expensive espresso accessories. Espresso also requires a lot of skill to do right.
Can you do an iced espresso with AeroPress?
What is a good recipe for AeroPress espresso?
See the recipe card at the end of this post!
Absolutely! Just press your favorite AeroPress espresso recipe over some ice.
Can you make Affogato with AeroPress?
AeroPress Affogato is delicious! Simply make an espresso style coffee and pour it over your favorite ice cream or gelato.
The AeroPress Go is the ultimate backpacking or camping coffee maker.
What are the best beans for espresso in general? For AeroPress?
The best beans are the ones you like. Any bean can be used to make an AeroPress brewed coffee, a Moka pot brewed coffee, Japanese coffee, Cuban coffee or espresso. These are all just brew methods. Some roasters label their coffee as espresso beans. This just means that they think that particular roast and blend tastes good when brewed as espresso.
How to Make Espresso Style Coffee with an AeroPress Coffee Maker
Learn to make rich, delicious espresso style coffee with your AeroPress coffee maker!
18-22 grams (1 very generous scoop) coffee, fine grind
75-80 grams hot water (190° - 202°F / 86° - 95°C) (filled to the top of the “1”)
Place an AeroPress stainless steel filter into an AeroPress Flow Control Filter Cap.
Attach Flow Control Filter Cap to AeroPress chamber and place device on top of sturdy mug.
Pour in coffee and shake to level.
Pour in hot water, stir well, and let brew for 30 seconds.
Insert plunger and press with slow and smooth pressure. When you hear a hiss, accelerate to the bottom.
Use clean, fresh water (but never distilled).
For the best crema, select fresh, dark roasted coffee beans. Dark roasts hold more carbon dioxide gas which is a major part of crema.
Espresso is a way of making coffee and any bean will work.
Use a quality burr style coffee grinder whenever possible. This makes for a more uniform and predictable grind size than a whirly blade chop grinder.
For espresso style coffee, grind fine, but not as fine as espresso.
Espresso is both a beverage to enjoy on its own or an ingredient for another drink.
Use something round and flat to tamp the grounds in the brewing chamber. Add water slowly, skip the stir, and let it steep an extra 30 seconds.
Add a paper filter above the metal filter for a lighter bodied espresso and easier cleaning.
Americano: Add some hot water to your espresso to make it more like a brewed drip cup of coffee.
Combine with steamed milk for a latte or flat white.
If you like cold brew coffee but miss the acidity, press your espresso shot directly over a cup of ice for a refreshing iced espresso.
Press over ice cream for an affogato.