Can you Make Espresso in a Keurig Coffee Maker?
Ahh yes, the most common question on the mind of those who are considering their first Keurig coffee maker – can you make espresso on a Keurig coffee maker?
In short, no, the Keurig 1.0 or 2.0 lineup doesn’t produce espresso shots – they produce coffee. The closest machine akin to producing espresso in the Keurig range is the K Café that can produce a concentrated shot of coffee.
To understand why this is, you first need a basic understanding of the difference between coffee and espresso. With that firm understanding, we can then take a look at how a Keurig produces coffee.
Coffee vs Espresso – Back to Basics
To set the foundation for this discussion – let’s first assume a coffee bean is a coffee bean. The coffee bean’s origin and roast are not important. This same bean is the same ingredient you need to produce high quality espresso or coffee through your Keurig or espresso machine.
The brew method defines the difference between coffee and espresso:
Espresso requires the use of finely ground coffee beans (with a consistent grind particle size), tightly compacted together. Espresso requires that you push hot water through the compact grinds at high pressure with a small measure of speed.
Coffee requires the use of a coarser grind where the particles are bigger (not requiring a consistent grind) and not tightly compacted together. Coffee doesn’t require high pressure to pass the water through, but simply allows hot water to filter through the grind.
The resulting difference between the two is the intensity of the flavor profile. The intensity of coffee can be likened to a blueberry tea, while espresso is likened to a teaspoon of blueberry jam. The basic flavor is the same, but the intensity differs.
Also see: Can You Put Milk in a Keurig?
Is the K Cup setup for Espresso?
We start our exploration with the good old K Cup. If you peel back the foil of any standard K Cup and take a close-up look at the 2 tablespoons of ground coffee, you’ll spot two give-aways that it only produces coffee.
First, the coffee grounds are not compacted together to form a coffee puck – required to pass the hot water through at high pressure – it is loosely sitting inside the K Cup.
Secondly, if you take a close up look at the coffee grind itself, you’ll notice the grind is not fine enough for quality espresso.
You do have the option of filing your own K Cup (My K Cup) with the coffee grind of your choice, but you are not advised to compact it in any way.
Is the Espresso K Cups different from a regular K Cup?
If you open up an espresso ladled K Cup, you’ll notice it’s the same on the inside. The coffee grind its self is the same as other K Cups and the grind itself is not compacted into the K Cup, but loose like a standard K Cup.
Can the Keurig its self-Brew Espresso?
Ok, we all know that you fill your water tank, pop in your K Cup, select your settings (brew size / strength) and let the machine do its thing. To expand on this, here is how Keurig brews coffee and not espresso (in a little more detail).
Water typically makes its way from the reservoir through an aluminum pipe that winds around a heating element. The heating element heats the water to around the 200 deg mark.
The heated water is passed to an air pressurized tube, which is in turn passed to the brew head. If you have a multi-stream technology, the pressurized hot water is passed evenly through 5 needles that puncture the top of the K-Cup.
If you don’t have multi-stream technology, the pressurized hot water is passed through a single needle that punctures the top of the K Cup.
The water is filtered through the K Cup to produce your coffee, with a noticeable kick by the pressure pump at the end. The higher pressure at this point simply clears out the machine for the next use.
As we know, the K Cup coffee grind isn’t compacted (nor is it fine enough) so the overall pressure throughout the process isn’t needed or strong enough to produce anything near espresso quality.
What about the K Café?
You will find a lot of people claiming you can make espresso through the K Café, followed up by a nice shiny buy it now button. The truth is that the using the shot button on the K Café will produce a more concentrated shot of coffee. If you look up the machine on Keurig’s website, they don’t state the machine produces espresso.
The pressure is the same and the coffee grounds are not compacted. The K Café extracts a stronger shot by filtering the water through the K Cup at a slower rate.
The other giveaways that Keurig only produce coffee
Making two shots of espresso will typically yield you about 3oz of espresso requiring the same amount of coffee grind (2 tablespoons). If you keep extracting past this point, your espresso becomes very bitter (the level depends on the bean used).
Given the Keurig allows you to brew anywhere between 4oz and 16oz of coffee, your finished product would be extremely bitter and become more and more watered down past the 3oz mark.
Another small giveaway is that there is no cream on the head of your coffee. The crema is a honey colored foam (before any milk / soy-like product is added) you see on top of the shot after extraction. It’s just plain old coffee!
So that just about wraps things up – if like me, you are an espresso lover then buying a Keurig for this task is out of the question. K Cup coffee grounds are not fine enough nor is the grind itsself compact. It is not set up for espresso.
If you could find the right K Cup to fit these requirements, the Keurig machine its self doesn’t produce sufficient pressure to pass hot water through the K Cup. The K Café comes closest with its shot button that produces a more concentrated shot.
If you’re considering an accompanying coffee maker to sneak in the occasional cup, the Keurig would make a fine addition to your kitchen counter.