How to Make Espresso with a Cold Press

The summer season is the time for tropical beverages and ice slushies. But that doesn’t mean coffee lovers have to keep themselves away from the fun of chilled summer beverages. While coffee is traditionally served hot, it can be brewed cold as well. And those who don’t like the mellowness of the cold brew can opt for a cold-press espresso, which is stronger.

To make espresso with a cold press, you need to get a hand press espresso machine, use fine coffee grounds and create a light puck. Then you should add cold water and let it sit for over 1.5 minutes and as long as you prefer. Finally, you should pull the lever to extract the cold espresso.

In this article, you will discover two ways to make cold press espresso, including a method that uses a french press as well as the standard method. We will go over the specific steps of the hand press method that include:

  • Grind the beans finer than usual 
  • Tamp the espresso for a mild puck
  • Pour cold water into the machine
  • Let the water sit for a while
  • Pull down the plunger at 8 bars of pressure
  • Extract the espresso within 30 to 50 seconds

For people who like cold brew, the steps above seem strange. So before we get into the nuances of each stage, let’s establish why this beverage is different from a cold brew.

Is the Cold Press Espresso the Same as Cold Brew?

Cold press espresso is not the same as cold brew, even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. For coffee to be considered a cold brew, it must be brewed at room temperature (or lower), while a cold press requires the coffee to be derived with a plunger.

All cold press coffee is cold brew, but not all cold brew coffee can be considered cold press. For the espresso to qualify as a cold-press variety, it has to be brewed at a cold brew temperature but must be finished with a french press style plunge to extract the most out of the grounds.

How to Make Espresso With a Cold Press?

Now that we have established that cold brew isn’t always a cold press coffee let’s explore the specific steps you can use to make espresso with a cold press. Many might dismiss it as a contradiction, but these steps really make the relatively difficult beverage easy to make.

Step 1 – Grind Coffee Beans Slightly Finer Than Your Regular Grind

Regardless of the type of coffee you’re making, the grind dictates the overall outcome. If you grind the coffee too thick for a specific method, it will come out weak. In contrast, if the grind is too fine, you will end up with bitter, over-extracted coffee. On average, you want to offset the grind to the coarser side, the hotter your brewing temperature is.

The opposite also applies. When making cold-pressed espresso, you want to grind the beans slightly finer than you usually do. This slight increase in the grind level will make up for the lack of heat in the brewing process. Because you’ll hand-press the coffee, the grounds can’t be too fine, or the coffee will be over-extracted despite being made with cold water.

This is also what sets the cold-pressed espresso apart from the regular cold brew. With cold brew, the goal is to get mellow cold coffee, so coarse grounds are used. With a cold-press espresso, you want an espresso that is every bit like your regular espresso except in temperature.

Step 2 – Create a Semi-taut Puck

The next step entails creating a puck by tamping the espresso. Here you can add too much espresso and choke the processor too lightly and create a light puck that doesn’t get evenly extracted. 

Given that you’ll hand-press after the pre-wet, you have to create a decent puck that is neither too tight nor too loose. Using your index finger to evenly distribute the grounds and gently pressing down until you feel resistance will help you create the kind of puck required at this stage.

Step 3 – Add Filtered Cold Water

Remember, over 90% of your beverage is water, so to get the best result, you must use filtered water. Mineral water might be more expensive but isn’t better for cold pressing espresso. The minerals make the water less capable of extraction. The water should be added to the hand press  espresso machine in its appropriate chamber just as if you were extracting a hot espresso. The only difference is that you’re using cold water straight out of the fridge.

Step 4 – Begin the Pre-wet

The pre-wet stage is an extra step in making cold press espresso because it accounts for the lack of heat in the pull. During this period, no pressure is applied on the grounds, and the water gets to work its magic on the ground. You can technically confine this stage to 1.5 minutes and still get a drinkable shot of espresso (that tastes more like diluted Americano).

To get a flavorful shot of cold press espresso, you can prewet for an hour (and even overnight). A one-hour pre-wet is better than the overnight soak simply because the espresso can get too bitter. But if you truly want a cold brew style pressed espresso, you can pre-wet for the whole night and simply pull at lower pressure to avoid getting the tail-end of the shot, which is quite acidic. 

Ultimately, the decision on the duration of this stage is entirely up to your taste and patience. As long as you don’t proceed towards the pull right away, the coffee will be drinkable. It is better to start with smaller pre-wet periods so you don’t waste an entire night before finding out that you don’t like over-extracted cold espresso.

Step 5 – Execute the Hand-Pull

If you’ve used a hand press espresso machine before, this step is quite straightforward. You need to pull the lever that pushes the water through the coffee grounds and drips an espresso straight into your cup. For those using the machine for the first time, here are the recommended pull specs:

  • Aim for 8 bars of pressure in a rapid pulling motion. 
  • Finish the pull in 30 to 40 seconds.

Here, it is critical to discuss the nuances of the pull. The quicker you pull, the higher the pressure is on the puck, which results in better extraction. But what is more important is that the pull also forces the coffee acids to come out. The longer you press, the more acidic oils get introduced to your coffee. 

Depending on how bitter you like your coffee to be, you can time the pull accordingly. The strongest aspects of the espresso come out in the initial 15 seconds, with 10 to 15 seconds more being required for the body of the shot. I don’t recommend pressing beyond that.

Step 6 – Cold Press Espresso Alternative

If you have a cold press juice maker and were wondering how you could use it to make espresso, you might be disappointed by the fact that the process requires you to use a hand press espresso maker. Don’t worry; you don’t have to buy the machine to get cold press espresso. You can simply use a french press, like the Bodum Chambord Coffee Maker, which is relatively cheap.

  • Grind coffee beans coarser than usual – The fineness of the grounds will result in espresso as opposed to regular cold brew. 
  • Add the coffee grounds to the french press – The coffee grounds need to sit in water, so it is efficient to soak them inside the press.
  • Pour cold water into the french press – You can also pour room temperature water because it will get refrigerated overnight anyway.
  • Let the cold press sit in the refrigerator overnight – This is essential to getting a high-quality shot. The grounds must sit in the water for at least 4 hours.
  • Push down the plunger with above-average force – You can stop the plunger once you have enough coffee to account for a single shot of espresso. This leaves behind the acidic contents. 

Step 7 – The Best Practices for Getting a Cold-Press Espresso Shot

The biggest challenge of making a cold espresso is to offset the consequences of using cold water without also overcorrecting and getting a bitter shot full of acids. These best practices will help you navigate the dilemma.

  • Use less water – The easiest way to switch from making an average cold brew to getting cold espresso is to use less water. This results in a more concentrated shot and doesn’t provide enough media for the grounds to release acidic oils. 
  • Push but don’t squish – Whether you use a french press plunger or a hand press espresso lever, remember that the coffee is extracted by the pressure but not by squishing the grounds.
  • Use the time instead of pressure – Finally, the best thing you can do to get the most out of the coffee grounds is to let them soak longer instead of using excessive pressure.

Final Thoughts

Making cold espresso sounds like a contradiction, but it is possible if you ignore the technicalities and use a machine with a plunger. The process is simple: you let fine grounds soak in cold water and after a while, press them to extract a shot of espresso.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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