For many coffee lovers, an espresso shot is a perfect way to get the day started. Meanwhile, many of those same people also love the smooth flavor and low acidity of cold brew. This combination naturally leads to an idea – is there a way to make cold brew with espresso?
This guide explores that question, examining the options and revealing the best ways to give it a try. However, before we go in-depth on those areas, let’s take a closer look at some other questions to clear up any confusion.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
As the name suggests, cold brewing is a method that doesn’t use hot water at any stage of the brewing process. Typically, you’d make it by steeping your coarsely ground coffee in either cold or room temperature water for between 12 and 24 hours.
It is impossible to extract the coffee’s bitter and acidic compounds using water at a low temperature. Because of this, cold brew coffee is renowned for its smooth flavor, low acidity, and lack of bitterness.
Also, with water at such a low temperature, it takes longer to extract other flavor compounds, which is why it needs to steep for so long. However, on the plus side, you can brew a big batch in one go to last throughout the week.
What Is Espresso?
Espresso is a brewing method that produces an intense beverage quickly using high pressure.
Espresso coffee is a strong, robust drink that has a brown layer on top called crema. It forms the basis of many other coffee drinks, including cappuccino, flat white, and latte. Typically, a single shot is around one ounce, while double shots are around two ounces.
Common Misunderstandings About Espresso
If you’re new to espresso, you might think it is a type of bean or a roast level. Indeed, some readers wonder if you can make cold brew using a bag of espresso. However, the answer is that you can’t.
Despite the prevalence of “espresso beans” on supermarket shelves, espresso beans are neither a type of bean nor a roast level. Rather, this means that the coffee beans are suitable for brewing espresso. So, they will be a darker roast (sometimes referred to as espresso roast). However, you can use any bean and roast level for making espresso.
Can I Cold Brew Espresso?
Now you understand the fundamentals underpinning both cold brew coffee and espresso. To recap – both are brewing methods, with one using cold water and the other hot water. Meanwhile, we brew espresso using pressure and cold brew with the immersion method. Therefore, there are some conflicts with brewing cold brew espresso.
A standard espresso machine will not work using cold water and will always heat the water before pulling a shot. In contrast, cold brew involves steeping for a long time without applying any pressure.
So, how can you pull a one or two-ounce shot of espresso with its signature intense flavor and crema using cold water? It’s not easy, but we will look for a solution.
Steeping Method – It Makes Cold Brew Concentrate, Not Espresso
If you search for “cold brew espresso” on Google, you’ll find recipes that recommend using the immersion method – in other words, steeping espresso beans in room temperature or cold water for 12 to 24 hours.
However, this makes the mistake of assuming espresso is a type of coffee bean. In reality, you can’t steep espresso beans in cold water and call it an espresso.
Depending on your ratio of coffee to water, you can brew cold brew concentrate or ready-to-drink cold brew using espresso beans. So, with a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio, you can make concentrated coffee that will need diluting before you drink it. That’s how Starbucks and other coffee shops prepare their coffee.
If you drink it without diluting it, the coffee will be extremely strong and similar to espresso. As a result, it does not come as a shock that it is often suggested as the correct method. Another advantage is you don’t need expensive or fancy equipment to brew it, a French press or mason jar will work.
However, just because a coffee is bitter and strong, does that make it an espresso? Excellent espresso doesn’t have to be bitter and strong. It can also be spicy, floral, or fruity with a creamy mouthfeel and complex aftertaste.
Cold brew concentrate isn’t as complex as espresso but tastes smoother. Also, it doesn’t produce crema because there is no pressure in the brewing process. Therefore, we think that cold brew concentrate using espresso beans neither looks nor necessarily tastes like espresso.
So, is there a way to make cold brew espresso that leads to a more satisfying beverage? Let’s examine that question in the next section.
Cold Brew Espresso With Pressure And Cold Water – Or Cold Press Espresso
To pull a cold espresso shot, we think you can only use cold water and apply pressure. As we mentioned earlier, standard espresso machines won’t do this because they only work with hot water. However, you can use a manual espresso maker. You add cold water to the chamber and apply pressure manually for a beautiful cold brew espresso with just a few tweaks along the way.
The Flair espresso maker and Staresso are among the best machines for this. However, other manual espresso makers are suitable too.
Cold Brew Espresso With Staresso
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The Staresso is a portable espresso maker that is equipped with a pressurized filter basket. It can produce around 15-20 bars of pressure. With that amount of pressure, you can get a delicious coffee with a rich crema layer on top even with cold water.
- Grind your whole beans to a fine coffee grind. We suggest using dark roast beans as they offer a more flavorful and robust drink.
- Place 10 grams of the coffee grounds in the coffee filter and assemble the brewer.
- Place the brew chamber on your cup and pour water into the chamber.
- Attach the plunger and begin pumping.
- After pumping a few times, you’ll notice resistance. At this point, pre-infuse the coffee grounds for 30 seconds. This is a crucial step because cold water extracts the coffee compounds far more slowly, leading to a weak, unsatisfying coffee. If you saturate the grounds for a while, it should increase the extraction.
- Resume pumping until you have a cold brew espresso shot.
We were extremely impressed by the coffee. It has all the layers you’d expect of hot espresso and looks identical, including the crema.
Cold Brew Espresso With Flair Espresso Maker
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Flair espresso makers have become hugely popular in recent years. They can brew authentic hot espresso, and because they’re manual, you can make the necessary tweaks to make cold brew espresso. However, it’s more complex than brewing with the Staresso, and you will have to dial in. Therefore, you’ll also need a high-quality espresso grinder.
- Grind the coffee beans to an espresso grind. Aim for a slightly finer grind than you would typically use for a hot espresso. A finer grind will lead to better extraction when brewing with cold water.
- Add your coffee grounds to the filter basket, distribute them evenly and tamp.
- Pour room temperature water into the water chamber.
- Apply between two and three bars of pressure and allow the water to reach the coffee puck. Leave it to pre-infuse for two to three minutes. As with the Staresso, this is vital for proper extraction. The Flair 2 Pro’s pressure gauge offers a good guide.
- Pull the lever and consistently apply eight to 10 bars of pressure. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge.
- Let the coffee drip into your cup until you have enough.
Cold Brew Espresso With AeroPress
AeroPress is cheaper than the Staresso and Flair, making it a popular choice for domestic brewers.
So, can you make espresso with AeroPress? Not exactly. However, you can get an espresso-like drink with a lighter, thinner crema, than authentic espresso, although it won’t be as rich or satisfying as the coffee produced by the other brewers. The reason is that even if you plunge with plenty of force, you’ll only generate less than a bar of pressure. However, it is still preferable to the steeping method.
Using an AeroPress, the crucial step is stirring. Once you add your grounds and cold water to the brew chamber, you should stir the liquid for a minimum of a minute to aid extraction. Then press the plunger. If you don’t stir, you’ll get a weaker cup of coffee.
How Does Cold Brew Espresso Taste?
Cold brewed espresso isn’t as strong as regular espresso. Also, depending on your brewing method, the flavor will be different too.
If you use the steeping method, the flavor will be far removed from authentic espresso. Indeed, we’d say that you can’t really even call it a cold brew espresso – it’s actually cold brew concentrate that you should dilute with milk, cold water, or ice cubes to appreciate properly.
In contrast, the Staresso method makes nice cold brew espresso. The acidity, complexity, and mouthfeel are all akin to those of hot espresso. It isn’t as spicy or intense as hot espresso, but it is more palatable and smoother. In our opinion, using a Staresso is the best cold brew espresso method of the ones we tried.
The Flair manual espresso maker method makes palatable cold brew espresso, but it’s not as good as the hot espresso produced by the machine. In addition, several variables can alter the flavor, and it’s tricky finding the optimum method. In truth, the Flair is designed for pulling authentic espresso, not cold brew espresso.
Overall, we’re not hugely impressed with the idea of espresso cold brew, although the beverage we made with the Staresso was excellent.
Generally, though, we don’t prefer it over other cold coffee drinks, including iced lattes, iced Americano, and Japanese iced coffee (See recipe here). Indeed, another option is to brew hot espresso over ice cubes, which is as satisfying and far more straightforward.
Nevertheless, if you enjoy trying out new recipes and have at least one of the coffee makers we used for this guide, it’s worth a try. After all, as with any brewing method, whether you enjoy cold brew espresso is a matter of preference, so you might like the beverage more than we did.
However, we don’t recommend buying any of the machines simply for making espresso cold brew, as they’re not designed for that purpose, and, in our opinion, there are many more satisfying cold coffee drinks to enjoy.