How to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

For some of us avid coffee-lovers, a shot or two of hot, fresh espresso is a must before we can get on with the day. We’re coffee-holics and proud to admit that. A shot of rich, foaming espresso can do wonders for our mood, and improve productivity dramatically.

However, not all coffee-lovers may want to own an espresso machine. While the high price tags of decent quality espresso machines might be a barrier for some, others may find the process too arduous, or thorough maintenance may prove to be unappealing. 

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Those who live near a coffee shop might find it convenient to hop in for a quick shot of this energizing brew, but others might feel deprived of their morning cuppa if they do not have a coffeehouse near their home or workplace.

So, if you’re wondering…how to make espresso without an espresso machine, we have the comprehensive guide carved out for you right here.

While it may seem like an impossible mission at the outset, fret not – we’ve outlined not one, but five ways to perk yourself up with your favorite espresso shot every morning, sans an espresso machine.

But first, let’s take a closer look at this widely-loved little cup of god’s nectar that enables us to savor the true essence of coffee beans.

What is Espresso?

While espresso has aficionados all over the world, there is no strict definition of what it entails. However, some critical parameters need to be followed for an ideal espresso, like the bean quality, grinding and the coffee-making process.

Originating from Milan in Italy, espresso (pronounced ess-PRESS-oh) is a dark, rich and slightly bitter coffee drink that is prepared in a specific manner. Its rich and full-bodied profile makes it a favorite of millions of people. It can also act as a base for several beverages like cappuccino, lattes and most other coffee drinks you come across in a cafe.

This drink got its name from the unique pressing technique used to brew it. First, high-quality coffee beans are finely ground and tightly packed in a basket in the espresso machine. Then, hot water is pushed into the bin using very high pressure for a short period, wherein the essence of the ground coffee is extracted and poured into a cup. 

This process of extracting the essence of fine-ground coffee beans using high pressure, steam and water is referred to as ‘pulling a shot’. The result – a highly concentrated brew that makes the world go round for hundreds of millions of coffee enthusiasts all around the world.

Fun Fact About Espresso:

Although people very often mispronounce an espresso as ‘expresso’, there is no ‘x’ in the way it is spelled. A quick way to spot an amateur in the coffeehouse – watch out for that person who calls it the wrong way!

Difference Between Black Coffee and Espresso

A frequent question asked by coffee amateurs concerns the difference between black coffee and espresso. Espresso is a type of coffee that is made solely from water and coffee. So far, it’s the same case with black coffee as well. 

Difference Between Black Coffee and Espresso

However, an espresso shot is a highly concentrated form of coffee that is made in a precise manner using high pressure to pull the coffee extract from the coffee grounds. In contrast, black coffee can be made using different methods – sometimes it’s as simple as cutting open an instant coffee sachet and stirring it into a cup of hot water. In other words, espresso is a special method for making high-quality coffee, while black coffee is a general term for all sorts of beverages that are made with the help of various brewing techniques. 

What Makes a Great Espresso?

A great espresso shot possesses the trademark “crema”, or a reddish-brown froth that results from water coming in contact with the aromatic oils of finely ground coffee under very high pressure. A frothy, full-flavored and fragrant crema is a sign that the espresso had been prepared from high-quality beans, roasted and ground to perfection. It also indicates the grade of the espresso machine and skill of the barista.

Let’s take a closer look at the different methods to prepare espresso without an espresso machine:

Method 1: How to Make Espresso With a French Press

If you take your coffee seriously, chances are you’ve already invested in a French press. Perhaps you’re well-acquainted with its usage. For those who don’t know anything about this method, a French press is essentially a carafe or chamber made of glass, metal or even stoneware, together with a plunger and a filter screen. Its allure is in how inexpensive it is, and the great-tasting coffee you can easily make with it.

French press produces an immersion-style coffee, wherein typically coarse-ground coffee is ‘bloomed’ or steeped in hot water for a set duration, then plunged into coffee mugs.

However, you can use your handy French press for making espresso as well, albeit with some tweaks made to the procedure.

What you’ll Need:

  • French press carafe with the plunger assembly
  • Espresso beans
  • Burr grinder
  • Water
  • Timer
  • Kitchen scale for measurement (or a tablespoon)
  • A Kettle (electric/ stovetop)
  • Warm mug

Instructions:

  1. Grind your coffee beans in the burr grinder coarsely, as you would normally do with your French press.
  2. Heat the water for the French press. Make sure it is boiling and not tepid, to ensure the maximum extraction of coffee oils from the beans. 
  3. Pre-heating the French press by running it under warm water is ideal.
  4. Add ground coffee to the French press. Adding about 2 tablespoons of coffee will yield you 1 espresso shot.
  5. Pour a few splashes of hot water over the coffee grounds and allow it to bloom. This helps release the delicious oils from the ground beans to a fuller extent.
  6. Pour the rest of the water into the press. Ideally, the water should not be stirred in the press, to avoid disturbing the coffee extraction process.
  7. Place the plunger on top to cover the French press. Do not plunge yet.
  8. Let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. Failing to follow this step of the steeping process would mean an absolute waste of coffee and your effort, not to mention the rendering of a substandard brew. 
  9. Press the plunger gently all the way down. Pour your espresso shots into warm mugs immediately for the best flavor and to avoid bitterness.

While this method will not give you the signature espresso crema, it definitely will get you a rich, strong brew reminiscent of a great espresso shot. If you desire a better quality output, be sure to check out the other methods discussed in this article.

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Method 2: How to Make Espresso With an Aerobie AeroPress

Coffee connoisseurs who love the great outdoors simply don’t have use from a “static” espresso machine. Favored by backpackers, travelers, and trekkers, Aerobie AeroPress works in principle like a French press but it is way lighter, more portable, easier to use and clean, and more affordable. 

how to make espresso without an espresso machine

Making an espresso using AeroPress is easier, and what’s more, you will not need to steep the coffee grounds.

What you’ll need:

  • Aerobie AeroPress
  • 2 paper coffee filters
  • Freshly roasted Espresso coffee beans
  • Burr grinder
  • Water
  • Kitchen scale for measurement (or a tablespoon)
  • Kettle (electric or stovetop)
  • Warm mug

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 cup water in the kettle, ideally at a temperature of about 205°F.
  2. Grind the coffee beans until you get a fine grind consistency. You will need 2 tablespoons of coffee powder for 1 espresso shot.
  3. Unscrew the AeroPress cap and place a coffee filter inside. Rinse with hot water to remove the papery smell of the filter.
  4. Fill coffee grounds on the filter-lined Aeropress cap. Screw the cap back on.
  5. Place the AeroPress upside down on top of a warm mug.
  6. Now secure the coffee grounds with another rinsed filter on top. 
  7. Using a suitable device or plunger that fits comfortably inside the AeroPress chamber, tamp the coffee puck. The quality of your coffee will depend on how well you compress the coffee puck.
  8. Pour the desired amount of water on top of the filter and allow it to sit for 1 minute. 
  9. Now press the plunger to push the water through the filters, pulling a mighty espresso shot into the cup.

…And voila! You have a fresh espresso shot. While a rich crema layer may be missing, you will get a delicious, robust cup of nice java. 

However, note that the quality of the coffee brewed in an AeroPress largely depends on the tamping, so you might need to practice a few times to perfect this skill. 

Method 3: How to Make Espresso With a Moka Pot

An epitome of genius Italian engineering, the Moka Pot is a must-have for all coffee pundits, simply because it offers a classy brew that comes very close to a cup of espresso. If you are someone who just cannot start a day without a strong caffeine rush first thing in the morning, this method is just the right one for you.

The Moka pot uses a similar principle as an espresso machine – water pressure created via steam passes through a coffee filter basket, which is why the resulting brew offers a distinct rich flavor, just like an espresso.

What you’ll need:

  • Moka Pot
  • Freshly roasted Espresso coffee beans
  • Burr grinder
  • Coldwater
  • Kitchen scale for measurement (or a tablespoon)
  • A heat source (stovetop burner/ hot plate/ open fire, if outdoors)
  • A stirrer or spoon
  • Warm mug

Instructions:

  1. Grind the coffee beans to a fine consistency, similar to that needed for the AeroPress method.
  2. Fill the bottom compartment of the Moka pot with cold water to the indicated line. Do not overfill, as it can waterlog the filter basket.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to the filter basket. Place basket above the water compartment and assemble the Moka Pot.
  4. Place the Moka pot on the heat source. The water in the bottom chamber will boil and produce steam, thus creating pressure to push coffee extract up through the filter basket.
  5. Keep an ear out for the distinctive hissing sound, which indicates that delicious coffee is now available in the top chamber.
  6. Remove the Moka pot from the stove immediately to avoid bitterness or over-burning. Savor your delicious dose of caffeine.

While Moka pot coffee does not produce crema, it comes close to the full-bodied taste of a great espresso shot. However, if you use the freshest grade of roasted beans, you may sometimes find a crema layer in a freshly-brewed pot. 

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How to Make Espresso With a Hand Espresso Gadget

A hand espresso machine is the next best alternative for those constantly on the move, as it is lightweight, economical, compact, and has even fewer components than an AeroPress. It consists of a pod where coffee grounds are placed and an adjoining arm where you pour the hot water. The arm can be pumped to build pressure inside the pod, which will then pull up the espresso shot.

What you’ll need:

  • A hand espresso machine
  • Espresso coffee beans
  • Coldwater
  • Coffee Grinder
  • A kettle, electric or stovetop
  • A pre-heated mug

Instructions:

  1. Boil the water in the kettle.
  2. Grind the coffee beans to an excellent consistency.
  3. Detach the pod filter and pack it with fresh ground coffee powder so that it aligns with the indicated line at the top.
  4. Fill hot water in the cavity inside the arm.
  5. With a firm grip on the top portion of the hand machine, pump until the pressure level of 16 psi is reached.
  6. Hold the device onto a warm mug and extract the coffee.

Since this method utilizes pressure for the extraction of coffee, the espresso is rich and robust, closely resembling that from a full-fledged espresso machine. Good news – some hand espresso gadgets also yield a delightful crema layer on the top.

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How to Make Espresso With a Lever Machine

Compared to all the methods we’ve discussed so far, the lever machine is the most complex one and requires considerable skill to get right. However, once mastered, this machine can produce a remarkable cup of coffee, wherein you can adjust every single parameter, like the grind consistency, amount of coffee grounds, tamp pressure – you name it.

how to make espresso without an espresso machine

If you are someone who thinks that making a cup of coffee is an art and science rather than a simple push of a button, consider this method as your go-to for espresso shots, for it creates outstanding results. 

While an electric lever machine is far more convenient to use, mastering the manual variant can make you feel truly proud of having mastered the craft, science, and art of coffee-making, learning how to get impeccable, delicious coffee taste.

What you’ll need:

  • A lever machine, preferably manual (with the portafilter)
  • Freshly roasted espresso beans
  • Burr coffee grinder
  • Filtered water
  • A scale (or spoon) for measurement
  • Warm cup

Instructions:

  1. First, turn the machine on and warm it up.
  2. While the machine is getting warmer, fill the espresso beans in the grinder hopper and set to a fine grind consistency.
  3. Warm the portafilter by putting it under a stream of hot water. This ensures more efficient coffee extraction.
  4. Pack the portafilter basket with coffee grounds to the top. Run a finger across the surface to eliminate any gaps.
  5. Tamp the grounds tightly, with a firm hand. Make sure there are no stray grounds.
  6. Using the handle, insert the portafilter into the lever machine and lock it securely.
  7. Hold a warm cup under the portafilter, and lift the lever all the way up to collect the pulled shot.

Good news for all the hard work you just put in! Espresso shot from this method rewards you with a gorgeous crema layer along the rim of the cup! 

While brewing coffee using a manual lever machine demands a lot more time and proficiency, it is very much worth it! The satisfaction derived from a powerful espresso shot is directly proportionate to the amount of work you put in.

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5 Components for a Great Espresso

The Italians believe that five traditional components come together for a great espresso shot:

  • Bean – It is impossible to get a good espresso shot from a mediocre coffee blend. While the roasting, taste, and aroma notes are one’s personal preferences, coffee beans used must be of good quality and freshly roasted.
  • Grind – A good quality grinder with sharp blades will always ensure the best results in terms of grind consistency. If the blades are blunt, the espresso will be of substandard quality, as the coffee beans might get burnt while grinding.
  • Machine – While it is not necessary that you buy the most expensive machine available, choosing a reliable and consistent machine is the key to getting amazing espresso shots.
  • Hand – This refers to the expertise of the person making the coffee. If you’ve poured in a great deal of your time and resources into learning the skill of making good espresso, the results will be outstanding for sure.
  • Maintenance – Last but not least, the grinder and espresso machine should be thoroughly cleaned after every use, to ensure the best results over a prolonged time. Maintaining your machine will eliminate problems like buildup of stale grounds, and burnt coffee grounds, etc.

Final Thoughts

A great shot of hot espresso is as empowering and invigorating as it gets, and we have you covered. With this comprehensive set of resources on how to make yourself a nice cup of java, you’ll learn how to make impeccable caffeine beverages, even if you do not have an espresso machine at home. We have listed some of the easiest methods, that can produce a strong cup of coffee in no time, no matter where you are and how busy your day might be. 

We also threw light on other alternatives that require more skill or time but are far more rewarding in terms of taste, quality and how closely the output resembles the perfect coffee shot from an espresso machine

Armed with this guide, we make sure that you will never need to deprive yourself of a great-tasting espresso shot. Whether you are traveling with your handy AeroPress, or wish to become an expert barista by installing a lever machine at your home, we have it all covered. 

Ivan is a 24-year old graphic design and computer science student from Serbia who loves driving motorcycle in his free time and is absolutely obsessed with nature, sports and hanging out with friends.

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