Looking at a keurig machine and are wondering if it can make espresso as well as larger cups of coffee? Here’s what you want to know.
A Keurig machine is not capable of brewing espresso. The differences in brewing method and the size of the coffee grounds, means the Keurig is more suited for brewing larger cups (4-12 oz.) while an espresso machine brews 1 or 2 oz. cups. An espresso machine extracts grounds much faster.
You can find out why a Keurig doesn’t make espresso and how you can make something stronger with it.
Can a Keurig machine make espresso?
Espresso is a very concentrated small amount of coffee. It’s not possible to make this with a keurig machine because the coffee grounds and machine are not set up to do this. It’s possible to get very strong bitter coffee from a Keurig but it won’t be espresso.
K-cups and Kuerig machines are made to serve single cups of coffee but not nearly as strong and concentrated as espresso. An espresso is traditionally about 1 oz. in weight while most Keurig machines can make cups 4 oz. or larger. Even if you would only put 1 oz. of water through a K-cup, you don’t get espresso.
The Brewing method of an espresso machine and a Keurig machine are so different, you can’t get that thick concentrated liquid from a Keurig. The amount of coffee and how finely it’s ground in K-cups also plays a role.
You can do some things to make Keurig coffee stronger but at some point it’ll be so bitter, it’s not enjoyable anymore while still not being as strong as a real espresso. If you use a Keurig as intended, by brewing larger cups, you’ll get better results.
Why is espresso different than Keurig coffee?
The end result is different but what makes ‘real’ espresso different than coffee from a Keurig?
To understand why that’s the case, we should look into the different brewing methods a little. They are quite different and therefore result in different types of coffee.
Espresso is a very concentrated type of coffee which is why it’s so thick and strong tasting. Concentrated in this case means that a lot of the compounds in a coffee bean are being put into a tiny amount of liquid.
Coffee beans have a lot of compounds in them that dissolve in water which is what makes coffee. Getting those compounds into the water is called extraction. Extraction is a certain amount of work that has to be done by water to brew coffee. You want to extract a certain amount of the soluble compounds in coffee grounds to get a balanced tasting coffee. Extract too little and the coffee is weak and sour. Too much and it’s harsh, hollow and bitter.
In most coffee brewing methods you need quite a bit of water to do enough extraction but espresso does it in about 1 oz. of liquid. A standard recipe for espresso is 18 grams of coffee grounds for 36 grams of liquid in the cup. If you try to brew other types of coffee with that recipe, you’ll get something very weak and sour because that amount of water is not enough to extract the grounds properly.
To brew proper espresso you need a few things;
- High pressure (9 bar)
- Finely ground coffee
- Hot water
To speed up the extraction in an espresso machine, the coffee is ground very finely. This increases the surface area of the grounds so more water can touch it and more extraction can be done at the same moment.
Very finely ground coffee clogs up most other types of brew equipment and you’ll have nothing going through the filter. That’s why an espresso machine produces high pressures. The 9 bars of pressure help the water flow through the coffee bed. You’ll notice that even at 9 bars, it takes a while for the water to start flowing out of an espresso machine. That’s because the finely ground coffee produces resistance. The pressure squeezes out all the soluble compounds almost like you can squeeze liquid out of a sponge.
This makes extraction very fast and efficient and you can get all those delicious tastes from the coffee grounds into your cup with little water. That leaves you with a thick, concentrated coffee.
A Keurig machine uses plastic cups and a needle through which hot water is injected. The water gets to the coffee grounds, extracts them and is pushed out the other end.
There is some pressure in that process but nowhere near the 9 bars of an espresso machine. If you would put 9 bars of pressure in a K-cup, it would probably explode. The coffee grounds in a K-cup are also coarser so there is less surface area and the water can flow through relatively easily.
That means a certain amount can do less extraction than in an espresso machine. That means you need more water to get to the same level of extraction which is what you want to get good tasting coffee. More water means it’s not as concentrated.
K-cups are designed to replace drip filter coffee, not an espresso machine. The way the machine brews and the size of the coffee grounds means it’s impossible to get espresso from a Keurig. You can get a small cup of strong coffee but it’s not espresso.
How to get close to espresso with a Keurig
What if you want to get closer to espresso than you currently are with your Keurig? Is there anything you can do? As long as you accept that you won’t get espresso like in a coffee shop, there are some things you can do to get closer.
- Use a dark roast
- Select the smallest amount your Keurig can brew
- Use the ‘strong’ button
- Get a machine that can brew for latte
Dark roasted coffee is more porous and so it’s easier to extract. For dark roasts, most K-cup manufacturers also put a bit more grounds in the cup which helps. Easier extraction means you need less water to dissolve everything so you can use less water.
Of course you want to select the smallest cup size there is on your machine. Different machines have different presets. On most machines 4 oz. is the smallest possible. This is still 4x larger than a single shot of espresso but it’s the closest you’re going to get. Most people drink double espressos anyways so it’s not that far off.
If your machine has a ‘strong’ button, use it. This slows down the flow of water. This means the water has more time to extract the grounds and will make it stronger.
I’m not claiming the above method will yield good tasting espresso but it will be quite strong so it will be decent for things like lattes and cappuccinos. It will likely be very bitter for several reasons.
Some Keurig machines have an option to brew a smaller cup (2 oz.). Those are the machines that have a built in milk frother since those are meant to make latte. Lattes are usually made with espresso. The latte machines can brew a 2 oz. cup from a normal K-cup. Be aware that this coffee is meant to be used with milk and not drunk straight.
Recommended Keurig Equipment
- Simple and Cheap: Just want a Keurig machine that brews coffee and does it without a confusing amount of buttons or taking up a lot of space? The Keurig K-Slim (Amazon) is the one you’re looking for.
- Feature Rich: If you want more features like brewing more different sizes and over ice, the K-Elite (Amazon) is a better choice.
- K-cups: Good coffee is always important but tastes are different. Try this variety pack (Amazon) with tons of different K-cups so you can figure out what you like.
- Reusable K-cups: Prefer to use your own coffee? Filling reusable K-cups (amazon) with your own freshly ground coffee is the way to go and will likely brew even better coffee than pre-made cups.