stainless steel espresso machine brewing two espresso shots into espresso shot glasses

Can You Make Espresso in a Keurig? A Complete Guide

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Espresso is made from exactly the same kind of coffee beans as traditional brewed coffee. The only difference is they are just ground extremely fine and packed firmly. Since there’s no difference in the raw material, many coffee lovers have found themselves wondering – can you make espresso in a Keurig? 

While the coffee beans may be the same, the process makes all the difference. We’ve assembled your complete guide for all things espresso and its relationship with your favorite single-serve coffee brewer.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is a child of the Industrial Revolution, invented to caffeinate workers more quickly. 

Basically, espresso is a super-concentrated form of coffee that uses high heat and pressure to extract a thick, strong drink with a pleasant, light-brown foam called crema floating on top. 

Traditionally served in small portions called shots, espresso is the key ingredient in some of the world’s most beloved mixed coffee drinks – americanos, lattes, and cappuccinos, to name a few. 

How is Espresso Made?

Espresso can be made with any variety and roast of coffee bean, though darker roasts are typically preferred to counterbalance any bitterness. Many coffee bean blends specifically intended for espresso are available and are ground almost to a powder and called “espresso roast.” 

To make espresso, the coffee must be finely ground and tightly packed into an espresso machine. Then, filtered water is heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The espresso machine also has a pump that exerts pressure on the water, forcing it down through the ground beans.

The combination of high heat and high pressure create a strong cup of coffee. But espresso is more than that. The pressure also forces oils out of the coffee that make the final product thicker and create the light brown crema that floats on top of an espresso shot. 

For a proper shot of espresso, the process is everything.

What is a Keurig?

Wildly popular both in homes and offices, Keurigs are single-serve coffee brewers. 

Though there are infinite variations available on the market today, the essential Keurig has a water reservoir and a compartment for a single-serve cartridge (called a K-cup) containing ground coffee.

With the push of a button, water is quickly drawn up through the reservoir, heated, and forced through the coffee cartridge to brew. The process is a bit like making pour-over coffee.

Pros of a Keurig
  • It’s fresh – Let’s face it, we’ve all microwaved the leftover coffee from the communal Mr. Coffee at the office in desperation for a pre-meeting jolt of caffeine. The Keurig rescues you from that by only brewing one cup at a time, so you don’t have to make a whole pot that just gets wasted
  • It’s fast – Most brewing methods require some time and at least a bit of fuss. The Keurig literally requires nothing more than pushing a button
  • Customizable – You like blonde roast but your partner prefers dark? No problem, just have your own sets of pods
  • It’s Versatile – Keurig cartridges come in any kind of hot-water-dependent beverage you can imagine, including cider, tea, and hot chocolate
Cons of a Keurig
  • It tastes different – Traditionally brewed coffee usually filters through the grounds more slowly, giving it a different taste
  • Non-renewable – The plastic Keurig pods are not recyclable, though there are reusable K-cup options now

Can You Make Espresso in a Keurig?

If you can brew tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and cider in a Keurig, can you make espresso in a keurig? By now you may have seen this one coming, but the answer is unfortunately, not really. 

Since espresso technically relies on a specialized espresso machine that provides high heat and extreme pressure, you can’t make real, traditional espresso without using an espresso machine. 

No offense to our beloved Keurig, but the traditional single-serve coffee brewer just isn’t built to create the conditions you need to make a thick, frothy shot of espresso. 

Just because the official version of Italy’s favorite drink isn’t on the table doesn’t mean you can’t get pretty close, though. If you’re still wondering how to make espresso in a Keurig – or something closely resembling it – read on! 

Does Keurig Make Espresso K-Cups?

Yes! Keurig has a line of Lavazza K-Cups designed to be used with its now-discontinued Rivo (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Available in three flavors and decaf, the Lavazza cups can be used as espresso cups for Keurig to achieve a similar taste. 

Keurig Rivo

Keurig had a brief flirtation with an espresso maker to produce the Rivo Cappuccino and Latte System. Apparently, they fielded a lot of inquiries asking does Keurig make Espresso K-cups? This system can make espresso coffee the traditional way, using high pressure and heat, but with special Keurig espresso pods. It also has a special feature to steam milk, since most people enjoy their espresso with milk. 

Sadly, this is currently discontinued but the Lavazza K-Cups designed for it are still available and can achieve a similar flavor.

Making Espresso in a Keurig… As a Last Resort

We promised to offer you some creative options. So, we’re about to teach you how to make espresso in a Keurig that tastes relatively similar to the real thing. Since the Keurig does force water through ground coffee, we can get a pretty concentrated cup of coffee. So pull out your dark roast K-cups and fire up your machine.

How to Make Espresso in a Keurig

Step 1: Use a Small Amount of Water

A Keurig won’t brew if the reservoir is too empty, so try about 6 ounces and make sure to select your Keurig’s smallest size button. This will make sure that you get the strongest, thickest coffee possible with the Keurig since you’re not diluting the coffee with extra water

Step 2: Use the Strongest, Darkest K-Cups

A Keurig won’t brew if the reservoir is too empty, so try about 6 ounces and make sure to select your Keurig’s smallest size button. This will make sure that you get the strongest, thickest coffee possible with the Keurig since you’re not diluting the coffee with extra water

Step 3: Brew Your “Espresso”

Brew as usual and then use the resulting concentrated coffee to make your favorite blended coffee drinks, or pour it into individual espresso cups for the full experience. Don’t forget to sip slowly like you’re vacationing in Venice…

Although it won’t make real espresso, you can still get a pretty good drink with this method.

Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

Undaunted by the obstacles presented by making espresso in a Keurig, some of you are now probably asking “well, how do I make espresso without an espresso machine? 

If you’re feeling adventurous, then buckle up. We’ve got some ideas for you. 

Making espresso without any kind of machine uses the same ideas as how to make espresso in a Keurig: make a small amount of very strong, concentrated coffee. 

Though it is, ultimately, a substitute for real, pressure-extracted espresso, we think the result tastes pretty good, if we do say so ourselves. 

Get the right coffee

Look for coffee labeled “espresso roast.” It is ground extremely fine, to a powder-like consistency. Of course you can grind your own coffee for a fresher taste, but some home coffee grinders can’t get that fine of a grind. 

How to Make Espresso with a French Press

If you are a coffee nut, chances are you have a French press around somewhere. Many of us prefer using our Keurig for day-to-day brewing since the French press requires a little extra measuring and cleanup. To make espresso without a machine, though, it works pretty well.

Step 1: Measure the Coffee

Add more than you usually do, up to double the amount. This will give a stronger brew.

Step 2: Heat the Water

Add about half a cup of the hot water to the coffee and stir it to “bloom” the coffee and extract richer flavors.

Step 3: Bloom the Coffee

Add about half a cup of the hot water to the coffee and stir it to “bloom” the coffee and extract richer flavors.

Step 4: Add the Water

Add the rest of the water – Don’t fill the press up. We’re making espresso, remember! About two cups should do it

Step 5: Let it Steep

Between three and five minutes is usually good, depending on how strong you like it

Step 6: Plunge

Push the plunger down and serve!

This is an easy way to adapt your favorite French press to make espresso without a machine.

How to Make Espresso with a Moka Pot

Less common than the French press, the Moka Pot was quite stylish in the seventies and is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Though it may seem odd, this simple device might get you the closest to home-brewed espresso that you can get without an espresso machine. 

A Moka Pot features an upper and lower chamber with a filter separating them. The Moka Pot is designed to pressurize the water inside and use high heat and pressure to force water through ground coffee, creating a strong brew. Starting to sound familiar? 

Brewing coffee in a Moka Pot can sometimes produce crema, but uses much less pressure than an espresso machine and therefore is not true espresso. You can still make coffee strong enough to make your eyes pop or blend a killer latte. Here’s how:

Step 1: Grind the Coffee

You know where we’re going with this by now. Grind it fine, then add to the Moka Pot

Step 2: Add the Water

Just like with the French Press or Keurig methods, use about half as much as you would normally

Step 3: Boil

Place the Moka Pot on a burner and bring to a boil

Step 4: Listen

This part of the Moka Pot takes a bit of getting used to. It makes a characteristic hissing sound when it’s all done. Listen for that, since you can’t see inside of the device

Step 5: Pour & Enjoy

Be careful, since the Moka Pot gets hot!

Final Note

So, can you make espresso in a Keurig? At the end of the day, you can produce a thick, concentrated shot of coffee with your Keurig or even with a non-electronic method like a French press or Moka pot. It won’t be traditional espresso, though, as it lacks the expressed oils and crema on top. 

If you feel adventurous, though, and want to see just how versatile your Keurig can be, go for it! You might create a home-brew masterpiece that easily fills the spot of your coffee-shop indulgence.

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