Brewing Using Pressure
The word ‘espresso’ may spring to mind when we talk about pressure brewed coffee, however, there's more ways to brew with pressure than the stock standard espresso machine.
this list – not instant coffee.
Pressure brewed coffee merely describes a cup of coffee that is extracted using…you guessed it…pressure, resulting in fast extraction times and a more intense brew (when compared with other brewing styles)
Let’s take a quick look at the three most common ways to brew coffee with a little pressure: The espresso machine, the Moka pot, and the AeroPress brewer.
1. Espresso Machine
Anyone who knows anything about coffee knows what an espresso machine is – they’ve been keeping us caffeinated since 1901.
Today they come in various shapes and sizes, with loads of features and gimmicks. Don't get confused by flash machines though because the basics are the same: pressurized water is pushed through a chamber/puck of finely ground coffee beans, through a filter, resulting in what we call a shot of espresso.
Are they expensive? Yes and no – you can spend as little or as much as you want. Warning: choosing one can be overwhelming. You need to decide what type of espresso machine you want – but luckily we've have buying guides for each. You have home based semi-automatic machines, fully automatic machines, manual lever machines, smaller, portable
espresso makers or if you're a cafe – commercial machines.
For the more artisanal inclined…or old fashioned….a lever espresso machine, that's pumped with your hand, is a great way to brew exceptional coffee. For those who like it all done for them (“I just want a damn coffee and I don't want to move”), super automatic espresso machines like these ones are a great option (although expensive)
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: It depends on your machine. A commercial machine may need 15-40 minutes to warm up, and a home-based machine may take only 3 minutes. Once warm, however, you’ll have your fix in 20-30 seconds.
Type of grind required: You’ll need a fine, consistent grind. Here’s a trick of the trade: (1) pinch your grind and observe what happens (it should clump in your fingertips). Too coarse and it won't clump at all, too fine and it will clump excessively.
Resulting brew: A shot of espresso, when done right, is strong, sharp and full of flavor. You can then add hot water to turn it into an Americano or froth some milk to make a milk based coffee.
Skill level required: It all depends on your machine – some will
make a great shot almost automatically, others (the more commercial, manual types) will require a high level or skill, hence the need for barista schools. Here's a guide to get you started: how to use an espresso machine. For best results; use a good tamper, and espresso beans.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you like a milky brew (e.g. a latte) or if you’re the type that likes a quick and sharp hit of caffeine. Espresso's are unique – no other machine can replicate a nice espresso shot.
NOT SO GREAT FOR: If you prefer a subtle tasting brew, if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a coffee maker, or don’t have space for a machine (perhaps you travel often?), an espresso machine will just be extra baggage in your life.
- Fast to brew (once warmed up)
- Range in price (and quality) from relatively cheap to super expensive
- Brew highly concentrated, sharp caffeine brew
- Cheaper machines tend to give you less than ideal results
- Take up kitchen counter space
- An absolute b**ch to clean
2. Moka Pot / Stovetop Espresso Brewing
Don’t have a few hundred bucks to spend on an espresso machine, but still looking for that espresso-shot-like-kick that comes from a pressurized brew? The stovetop espresso maker AKA the Moka pot is the next best thing.
The magic behind the Moka pot is in its 3 chambered brew process. Water in the bottom chamber boils, and the steam causes pressure that pushes water up through the coffee grounds into the top chamber.
Is the resulting shot the same as an espresso shot? No, not quite.
If you do it right (there is a little skill involved) you’re left with a bittersweet & super-strong concoction that will get you through the day. Heres a guide on brewing moka pot coffee. One bonus to the Moka pot: you can brew multiple cups of coffee (from four to 16) at once. It's a great way to caffeinate a crowd.
What To Expect
Time: from Bean > Brew: Super fast – Once you've heated your water it should take no more than 5 minutes (a little longer if you use an induction stove). For that reason, it's the go-to option for caffeine deprived people when in a morning rush.
Type of grind required: This is the tricky part. As a rule, you want it coarser than a fine, espresso like grind, and finer than a drip coffee grind. If that doesn't help – the best way to achieve the right grind is through trial and error – start coarse, and go finer until the texture & taste of the end result is right for you.
Rule of thumb: if your brew is too weak/watery, you’ve gone too course (under-extracted). Too bitter, and you’ve gone too fine (over-extracted)
Resulting brew: Not quite an espresso shot, but close to it (if you use the right grind and the right technique). Expect a sharp and strong tasting coffee.
Skill level required: You don’t need to be a barista of any kind –
once you have the right grind (which is the hardest part) it’s a relatively simple process – just fill the chambers, turn on the heat and keep a close eye on it.
BEST SUITED FOR YOU: If you’re on a budget, or want something super portable but are not a fan of the ‘clean and thin’ tasting brew from drip coffee. Here are our favourite moka pots.
NOT SO GREAT FOR YOU: If you love the taste and texture of a shot of espresso. The resulting brew is strong (even a little harsh) so if that’s not your style, keep looking.
- Super cheap coffee maker
- Quick to brew
- Very portable – you can even get mini pots that are perfect for traveling.
- Some say the brew tastes like ‘an espresso shot from 15 years ago’ (i.e. low quality)
- The risk of over and under extraction is high (depending on your grind finesse)