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 be keen 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 the thorough maintenance may prove to be unappealing.

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 1, but 5 ways to perk yourself up with your favorite espresso shot every morning, sans an espresso machine.

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But first, let’s take a closer look at this widely-loved little cup of goodness 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, there are some critical parameters which need to be followed for an ideal espresso, like the bean quality, grinding and the process used for making it.

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 also forms the 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 span of time, 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 – the highly concentrated brew that makes the world go round for most coffee enthusiasts.

Fun Fact About Espresso:

Although people very often mispronounce an espresso as ‘expresso’, there is no ‘x’ present in the way it is spelled. 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 posed by coffee amateurs is regarding the difference between black coffee and espresso. Espresso is a type of coffee that constitutes exclusively of water and coffee. So far, it’s the same case with black coffee as well.

However, an espresso shot is a highly concentrated form of coffee which 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.

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 has been prepared from good-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 keen 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 and are well-acquainted with its usage. For those who are not aware, a French press is essentially a carafe or chamber made of glass, metal or even stoneware, complete 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 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, like you usually use for brewing your French press coffee.
  2. Heat water for the French press. Make sure it is boiling and not tepid, to ensure 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 the hot water over the coffee grounds and allow the 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. Not respecting 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 best flavor and to avoid bitterness.

While this method will not give you the signature crema of an espresso, it definitely will award 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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Last update on 2019-12-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 2: How to Make Espresso With an Aerobie AeroPress

Coffee connoisseurs who are outdoors most of the time find it difficult to maintain an espresso machine at home. Favored by backpackers, travelers, and trekkers, Aerobie AeroPress works on the same principle as a French press, but is way lighter, more portable, easier to use and clean, and more affordable.

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

What you’ll need:

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 cup water in the kettle, ideally at 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 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 from the espresso made using this method, you do get a delicious, robust cuppa.

However, do 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.

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Last update on 2019-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 3: How to Make Espresso With a Moka Pot

An epitome of genius Italian engineering, the Moka Pot is a must-have for several coffee pundits, for the simple reason that it offers a classy brew that comes very close to a cup of espresso. If you are someone who just cannot exist without a strong caffeine rush first thing in the morning, this method is right 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
  • Cold water
  • 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 AeroPress method.
  2. Fill the bottom compartment of the Moka pot with cold water till the indicated fill line. Do not overfill, as it can waterlog the filter basket.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons ground coffee to the filter basket. Place basket above the water compartment and assemble the Moka Pot.
  4. Place the Moka pot on the intended 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 the hearty dose of caffeine

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

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Last update on 2019-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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, economic, compact, and has even fewer components than an AeroPress. It consists of a pod where coffee grounds are placed, and an adjoining arm in which hot water is filled. The arm can be pumped in order 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
  • Cold water
  • 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 a fine 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 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 extraction of coffee, the espresso is rich and robust, closely resembling that from a full-fledged espresso machine. Good news – some machines 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, a 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 customize each tiny parameter, like the grind consistency, amount of coffee grounds, tamp pressure – you name it.

If you are someone who considers making a cup of coffee as an art and science rather than a simple push of 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 for having mastered an age-old skill, making your coffee taste all the more delicious.

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 allow it to warm up.
  2. Meanwhile, fill the espresso beans in the grinder hopper and set to a fine grind consistency.
  3. Warm the portafilter by running under hot water. This ensures more efficient coffee extraction from the grounds.
  4. Pack the portafilter basket with coffee grounds until the top. Run a finger through 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, the wait is very much worth the satisfaction derived from a powerful espresso shot.

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5 Components for a Great Espresso

The Italians believe that there are 5 traditional components that come together for a great espresso shot:

  • Bean – It is impossible to salvage a good espresso shot from a mediocre coffee blend. While the roasting, taste, aroma notes are one’s personal preference, it is imperative that coffee beans used are of good quality and freshly roasted.
  • Grind – A good quality grinder with sharp blades will always ensure 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 a 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, in order to ensure best results over prolonged time. A well-maintained machine will eliminate problems like buildup of stale grounds, and burnt coffee grounds etc.

Final Thoughts

A great shot of piping espresso is almost empowering, and we have you covered. with this comprehensive resource on how to make yourself a nice cuppa, even if you do not have an espresso machine. 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 you 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 ensure that you will never need to deprive yourself of a great-tasting espresso shot – whether you are traveling with your handy AeroPress, have a French press at work, or wish to call yourself an expert barista by installing a lever machine at your home.

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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