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How to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

How to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

If you’ve ever craved a good cup of espresso in the comfort of your own home, you’ve probably longed with envy at the glistening, stainless steel espresso machines online. And you’ve probably cringed when you saw the price tag. But there’s hope: it is possible make espresso at home without an espresso machine.

While using a traditional espresso machine is the best way to replicate a shot of espresso from your local barista, you can make a really strong shot of coffee that tastes very espresso-like. All you need is a few pieces of equipment (less than $30 each), the right technique, the proper ratios and a few simple recipes to make quality espresso without an espresso machine. So no need to shell out hundreds of dollars on an expensive espresso machine to enjoy an at-home latte or cappuccino.

What Is Espresso Coffee?

A shot of espresso has three important traits: the roast, the ground and the pressure used to brew the coffee. By focusing on these three qualities, you pull off a shot of espresso without an espresso machine.

  • The Espresso Roast: Espresso coffee is traditionally roasted very dark, which helps gives it a much stronger and more potent flavor. Science fact: dark roasted beans are broken down more at a molecular level than light roasted beans, making it easier to extract those tasty coffee solubles.
  • The Espresso Ground: After it’s roasted, espresso coffee is then ground into a very fine powder. The fine coffee grind helps increase the pressure required to push the water through the filter and create a good shot of espresso. But if the grind is too fine, it can block the coffee filter. If you’re grinding at home, you’ll get a finer more precise grind with an Automatic Burr Grinder. It is technically possible to hand-grind your beans to a fine consistency, but it’s really hard.
  • The Pressure: Espresso machines use very hot water that is pushed through the coffee with enormous pressure. But with the right coffee grind and the right equipment, you can mimic that pressurized process and get a high quality shot of strong coffee that tastes very close to espresso.

So if you don’t have an espresso machine, you aren’t out of luck. You just need these three qualities to brew a shot of espresso at home. Now that you know the science, here are a few ways to pull off making espresso without an espresso machine.

3 Ways to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

Here are our three favorite ways to make espresso at home: the Aeropress, the Moka Pot and the good ol’ French Press.

1. How to Make Espresso with an Aeropress

We love the Aeropress at Roasty. It’s the perfect way to make coffee on the road and, as we discovered, a great way to make a shot of espresso without an espresso machine. Here’s the step-by-step process for brewing a shot of espresso with the Aeropress. This recipe is for a double shot of espresso. For a single shot, just cut the amount of water and coffee in half.

What you’ll need:

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  1. Heat up the water. Heat some water to 185 degrees F (85 C), removing for 30 seconds after for roughly the ideal temperature. You’ll want to heat up more water than what’s called for in the recipe since you’ll end up measuring out 4 fl oz (or 1⁄2 cup/120 ml) of the heated water in a later step. Note: the perfect water temperature for brewing coffee is 205 degrees F (96 C), or almost boiling. However, with an Aeropress, you can play with any temperature between 185 – 205 degrees F (85 – 96 C).
  2. Grind your coffee beans. While the water’s heating, grind your beans to a fine consistency, until you have 2 tablespoons or 30 grams. An Automatic Burr Grinder is the most precise way to get fine, espresso ground coffee, but you can always have your beans ground at the coffee shop or store in advance (it just won’t be as fresh).
  3. Set up the Aeropress. Put a filter in the drain cap and rinse with hot water. Then put the drain cap on the AeroPress and place it directly onto a coffee mug or tumbler. Make sure it’s a sturdy container, because you’ll be putting pressure on it.
  4. Fill the Aeropress with the coffee grounds. Fill the Aeropress with your coffee and tamp down the grounds to make sure the grounds are nice and compact (you can use any cylinder shaped item to tamp down – whatever will fit in the Aeropress).
  5. Stir and steep. Measure out 4 fl oz (or 1⁄2 cup/120 ml) of the heated water, pour the water into the Aeropress and give it a quick stir.
  6. Plunge. Wait 30 seconds after stirring, then plunge with just the weight of your hand. You’ll feel a lot of resistance but keep pushing steadily! Once the plunger is fully depressed, remove the press.
  7. Serve your espresso. Transfer your drink to a fancy espresso cup and enjoy! For clean up, simply remove the drain cap and depress the plunger over your trash or compost to pop out the grounds. Rinse everything with hot water.

If you don’t already own the Aeropress, it’s a convenient and powerful tool to have in your coffee arsenal and a surprisingly effective way to make espresso without an espresso machine.

2. How to Make Espresso with a Moka Pot

One of the more classic ways to make espresso without an espresso machine is with the Moka Pot. This elegant, European device can truly make an impressive cup of an espresso thanks to the water pressure it generates (and as we know, pressure is a key ingredient to an espresso-like shot of coffee).

What you’ll need:

  1. Grind your coffee. You’ll want to grind your coffee into a very fine powder. Make sure you have 20-22 grams of coffee ready to go.
  2. Add water to the bottom of your Moka Pot.
  3. Place the ground coffee inside the filter basket of the Moka Pot.
  4. Attach the Moka Pot’s spouted top.
  5. Place the Moka Pot on top of the stove over medium heat.
  6. Check coffee levels and stir. When the water boils, the pressure will push a stream of coffee through the upper chamber. Listen for hissing to know when the process is complete. When the top of the pot is full of coffee, remove from stove. Hazel brown foam appears just seconds before the coffee is completely done. Before pouring coffee, stir it in the upper chamber with a small spoon.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and serve.

The Moka Pot is as much art as it is science, just as the Italians intended it, so it will probably take a little practice to get it just right. However, once you do, it’s a fantastic and classy way to make a delicious shot of espresso without an espresso machine.

3. How to Make Espresso with a French Press

If you’re a serious coffee lover, chances are you have a French Press in your kitchen. So why not use it to make your favorite espresso drink? To make espresso in your French Press, just follow the steps below:

What you’ll need:

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  1. Grind your coffee. Make sure your grind your coffee into a very fine ground and make sure you use very dark beans or espresso beans for the process. You’ll want to use 2 tablespoons of beans for every 1 cup of water.
  2. Heat your water. You’ll want your water to be around 195 degrees in a kettle on the stove. If you don’t have a method for telling the temperature, just boil the water and remove it from the heat for 30 seconds.
  3. Add your coffee grounds to your French Press. Double the amount of coffee you normally use for French Press coffee for an espresso-like quality. Again, 2 tablespoons of beans for every 1 cup of water.
  4. Add a few splashes of hot water to the French Press. This will allow the coffee to bloom and release its oils.
  5. Add the rest of your water.
  6. Stir your coffee.
  7. Close the lid without plunging and allow to steep for around 4 minutes. If you prefer your espresso stronger, let it steep for longer.
  8. Press the plunger on your French Press slowly but steadily. Plunge halfway and then raise the plunger before plunging all the way down.

The French Press is less effective than the other methods, so we consider it a last resort for making espresso at home. But if you don’t have any other equipment handy, it’s an easy way to brew a very strong shot of coffee.

Enjoy making espresso at home!

So there you have it! Simple, effective and affordable ways to make espresso without an espresso machine. No matter your budget, you can make a fantastic shot of espresso at home. Remember the three key ingredients: roast, ground and pressure.

Happy espresso making!

P.S. We’ve created cheat sheet for getting the perfect espresso grind. Check it out!

Coffee Grind Size

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