How to Make Espresso (Without a Machine)
Apr 06, 2020
Some mornings, you wake up with the sun streaming through your window and birds chirping. You meander to the kitchen and make a steaming cup of coffee, which you enjoy in peaceful solitude. Other mornings, you wake up with toddlers jumping on your bed and the dog running around the house with your shoe in his mouth. On these days, you need a potent coffee you can toss back to brace yourself for what comes next.
Whatever your mornings look like, they're incomplete without some kind of coffee. For those who prefer — or need — something stronger than an average drip, espresso is an excellent candidate. As a highly concentrated coffee drink made with high pressure, espresso packs flavor and caffeine into a small shot. You could pay for your espresso at a coffee shop or buy an overpriced piece of machinery to make it at home, but you don't have to. There are three fairly inexpensive ways to make espresso without a machine: a French press, an AeroPress, and a moka pot.
How to Make Espresso at Home with a French Press
If you use a French press to brew your coffee, you can also apply the equipment to make an espresso shot. Though a French press will make a strong cup of coffee, this method produces the weakest espresso of our non-machine line-up. If you don't mind a tame espresso or prefer less intensity, this can be an excellent brewing method for you.
The supplies you'll need include:
- A French press. The affordable device includes a glass cylinder, handle, and a lid with an attached plunger that has a mesh filter.
- Coffee beans. Either whole espresso beans or whole dark roast coffee beans will work.
- A burr grinder. Grinding whole coffee beans will give you the freshest espresso, and a burr grinder is the best tool for the job. If you don't own one and aren't interested in another piece of machinery, you can purchase finely ground coffee grounds instead.
- Water and a way to heat it. You can heat the water on the stovetop, in an electric kettle, or in a mug with the microwave. We won't judge.
- A thermometer. Espresso turns out best when you brew it around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A simple thermometer won't cost much, but it will be helpful for making espresso.
When you've gathered your supplies and are ready to make espresso, follow these steps:
- Grind coffee beans into a fine consistency with a fine setting on your burr grinder. If you're using pre-ground coffee, skip to step two.
- Heat one cup of water in a kettle or a microwave-safe mug.
- Remove the French press lid and place two tablespoons of ground coffee in the bottom of the glass cylinder.
- Use a thermometer to check that your water is just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Splash a small amount of hot water onto the coffee grounds in the press. This begins a process called "blooming," which allows the grounds to release their oils for optimal flavor.
- Let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds, then pour the rest of the hot water into the French press.
- Secure the French press lid onto the cylinder with the plunger all the way up.
- Allow your espresso to steep for four minutes. For a stronger brew, add one or two minutes.
- Slowly press the plunger down with even pressure. When you've pushed the plunger halfway down the cylinder, pull it to the top and plunge again all the way to the bottom.
- With the plunger in the bottom position, pour your espresso into a mug.
If you want less espresso, you can adjust the recipe to decrease both the amount of water and coffee grounds you use. After a few batches, you nail down your routine and enjoy stress-free espresso from the comfort of your kitchen.
How to Make Espresso Coffee with an AeroPress
An AeroPress is a simple way to make espresso without a machine that still has a rich and intense flavor. The AeroPress mechanism works similarly to a French press in that it uses a plunger to generate pressure. The equipment has the appearance of a large plastic syringe with a filter for coffee at the end.
In addition to the AeroPress itself, you'll need specific filters. Your AeroPress may come with a pack of filters upon purchase, but if it doesn't, you can buy a pack separately.
The supplies you'll need to make AeroPress espresso include:
- An AeroPress and two filters
- Dark roast or espresso beans
- A burr grinder or a finely ground mix
- A kettle or microwave-safe mug
- A thermometer
- A mug to catch your espresso
With your supplies ready, follow these steps to make espresso:
- Rinse your AeroPress filter and place it on the filter cap.
- Position the AeroPress plunger about halfway inside the main chamber.
- Heat approximately two ounces of water in a kettle or microwave until it reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the water heats, grind your coffee beans to a fine consistency with a burr grinder. You'll need about one and a half tablespoons of grounds.
- Place your grounds into the AeroPress chamber and check to see that your water is at the right temperature.
- Pour the hot water into the AeroPress slowly.
- Gently swirl the AeroPress for about 5 seconds to mix up the water and grounds.
- Attach the filter cap and invert the AeroPress over a mug.
- Plunge the espresso through the filter quickly.
- Enjoy your drink straight from the mug.
If you have the time and the desire, you can use a scale to weigh out your water and coffee grounds. The measurements for this recipe include 55 grams of water and 17 grams of ground coffee. Weighing your ingredients can help you get consistent results across different bean types, but it isn't mandatory. If you want coffee and don't want to fuss, skip the scale and use measurements.
How to Make Espresso on the Stove with a Moka Pot
If you're craving espresso that's as close to authentic as possible, the moka pot is probably the best brewing method for you. Moka pots are an Italian stovetop coffee mechanism that use steam pressure to make concentrated coffee. You may see a range of prices for moka pots, depending on how much liquid they hold.
A moka pot looks like a small metal pitcher and has several different parts, including:
- Lower chamber. This section holds the water while it heats up.
- Filter. The filter holds grounds while the water passes through them.
- Inner funnel. This mechanism provides a passageway for the hot water to travel upward, through the filter, and out a spout into the upper chamber.
- Upper chamber. This section collects the coffee after it passes through the inner funnel.
- Lid. The lid traps heat and pressure but can be removed when the brewing process is finished.
The supplies you need for moka pot espresso include:
- A moka pot
- A stovetop
- Dark roast coffee or espresso beans
- A burr grinder
With these items in hand, you can make your espresso with the following steps:
- Fill the lower chamber with cold water just below the valve.
- Grind coffee beans into a fine consistency or measure out pre-ground coffee. You'll need enough to fill the moka pot filter.
- Place the funnel into the moka pot and add your ground coffee to the filter.
- Wipe away any excess grounds on the edge of the funnel.
- Carefully screw the upper chamber into the lower chamber.
- Place the moka pot on a small stove burner and heat it slowly. If you have a gas stove, ensure the flames do not come up the sides of the pot.
- Allow the water to boil within the moka pot and wait until you hear a gurgling sound. This sound indicates the water is traveling up the funnel and into the upper chamber.
- Check for foam at the funnel spout by gently prying the moka pot lid up with a spoon. Be careful not to burn yourself with the escaping steam.
- When the upper chamber is full of coffee and foam comes out of the funnel spout, the espresso is finished. Remove the moka pot from the stove soon after you see foam to ensure it does not brew too long.
- Pour the espresso into a cup and enjoy.
It may take you a few tries to get a sense of when you should take the pot off the stove. When you feel comfortable with the procedure, a moka pot provides a simple way to make espresso coffee at home without a machine.
Now that you know how to make espresso without an espresso machine, you can dive into the topic further. Grab your mug, pour your drink, sit back, and browse a few commonly-asked espresso questions:
Can You Make Espresso in a Coffee Maker?
Not really. A crucial part of making espresso is brewing with high pressure and a bit of speed. Espresso made with a machine undergoes about nine bars of pressure, which is the equivalent of 130 pounds of force per square inch.
The three non-machine brewing methods we discussed cannot generate this amount of pressure. The different pumping and steam mechanisms provide a decent amount of pressure, but the espresso will not taste the same as what you'd get from a coffee shop. Coffee makers with a standard water tank work at a leisurely pace and are not designed to produce the kind of pressure you need for espresso.
What Is the Difference Between Coffee and Espresso?
The are three main differences that separate espresso from regular coffee:
- Bean type. Espresso is usually prepared from specific espresso beans, and coffee is prepared from roasted coffee beans. This isn't a strong distinction, though, as you can make espresso from the right coffee beans and coffee from espresso beans.
- Preparation method. The most significant difference between coffee and espresso is the way the drinks are made. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground and closely packed coffee grounds. This process brings out the strong flavor we're used to in espresso. Coffee usually involves letting hot water and grounds mingle for a longer time, and the brewing process moves slower.
- Crema. When made with expensive equipment, espresso has a signature layer of foam known as crema at the top. Standard coffee does not have any foam when brewed.
What Is the Best Grind for Espresso Coffee?
Espresso usually requires finely ground beans. This grind size affects the way water passes through the granules, which impacts how an espresso tastes. If you tinker with the fineness of your grind, you can hone your espresso to get a brew that perfectly showcases your coffee's flavor notes. If you just want tasty espresso, aim for a grind that mimics the consistency of table salt.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Shot of Espresso?
A shot of espresso typically refers to one fluid ounce of liquid. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this amount of espresso contains 62.8 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, one eight-ounce cup of coffee has 94.8 milligrams, and one eight-ounce cup of green or black tea has 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine.
Because espresso packs quite a bit of caffeine in just one ounce of liquid, you'll want to be cautious about making and drinking an entire French press full of espresso. Respect your caffeine limit while you enjoy your espresso to prevent a jittery feeling for the rest of the day.
What Is Espresso Powder?
Espresso powder is made from espresso that has been dehydrated into granules. The name sounds deceptively similar to instant coffee, but espresso powder is typically used more for baking. Making espresso from espresso power will leave you with a watered-down version that is nowhere near as tasty as classic espresso. Save your espresso powder for the oven and stick to a homemade shot instead.
Make Your Homemade Espresso with Real Good Coffee Co. Beans
You don't need a fancy machine or an overpriced cup of coffee to enjoy your morning, but you do have standards. At Real Good Coffee Company, we say no to common coffee frills and yes to all of the high-quality flavor you expect. Our whole coffee beans come in many roasts that are perfect for making espresso without a machine and achieving a robust flavor.
For your typical cup of joe, try our medium and light roasts in whole beans or the pods of your choice. However you enjoy your coffee, we have a product that can maximize its quality at the lowest price possible. Even better, when you order from Real Good Coffee Co., shipping is free and the coffee comes right to your door. To kick your espresso or morning coffee up a notch, browse our selection of whole beans today.