How To Make Espresso Without An Espresso Machine

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A smooth, tasty cup of coffee every morning helps you usher in a new day with vigor. Many of us depend on that cuppa to carry on with our daily tasks. It sounds like an addiction, but hell, who doesn’t love coffee?

Now let’s face it, even if you adore your daily beverage and wouldn’t want to miss it, the price tag on many of the best coffee makers can put you off. Not sure how to make espresso without an espresso machine?

No problem! We’re going to cover three different ways you can make espresso without the need of an espresso machine.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is an Italian name for “pressed out,” which is the essential aspect of espresso. This type of coffee is brewed under high pressure. The pressure comes from steam that is produced when water is heated in a chamber. When steam forms, water is forced out at high speed through an opening. The water then passes through the coffee grounds.

The quick brewing process results in a highly concentrated, tasty, and aromatic coffee with less water. This is what differentiates espresso from the other coffee drinks – the concentration of coffee.

In espresso, the balance between pressure and temperature is complex. That probably explains why machines designed specifically for espresso are costly. The basic features that constitute making a delicious cup of espresso are a dark roast (French or Italian works best) and finely ground coffee. 

When combined with water under high pressure (9 bars and above), these ingredients give you your delicious cup O’ Joe.

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Coffee beans that make espresso are roasted at degrees of up to 485℉. This temperature makes them almost black to give the brew a smoky and bitter flavor with more oils. When grinding your roast, make sure that it’s a fine grind. This will allow pressurized water to extract all the flavorful oils without leaving behind residue in your espresso. 

The rich crema and freshness of your espresso come from the pressurized extraction process.

Qualities that Make Espresso Special from Other Coffee Drinks

A dark, concentrated, or a lively shot of espresso – that is your preference. But when it’s about quality, these three characteristics harmoniously blend to make great espresso:

The Sweetness

The inherently sweet beans from ripe coffee are what makes espresso sweet. The tactful roast style also caramelizes the bean sugars instead of burning them. These, combined with excellent brewing technique, makes espresso taste sweet.

In espresso, sweetness takes various forms. It is a mild flavor that helps soften the other harsh qualities of the brew. 

The sensation is like a vibrant natural sweetness that shimmers around the other positive sensations – think about the flavor profiles of brown sugar, malt, white sugar, molasses, agave, caramel, butterscotch, or honey. Espresso’s sweetness can be presented in any of these ways.

The Acidity

The acidity of the espresso is what gives the brew its vitality. Many refer to it as brightness since it provides the drink with a lift on the tongue. It embodies a tart and crisp sensation like pineapple, berry, plum, or lemon.

The Bitterness

Bitterness is a characteristic that completes espresso’s profile, mostly when it balances with its sweetness and acidity. It is encouraged by the dark roasting of the beans. Espresso’s bitterness is a dominating sensation that is less localized on the palate. When balanced, it adds complexity and depth to the brew.

The Smoothness

The smoothness describes the way espresso can be enjoyed comfortably with very little sugar and no milk. This is coffee with a sweet sensation and heavy body.

These espresso characteristics complement each other, playing partners without competing for supremacy or masking each other. Instead, they work together and play off each other.

Is it Possible to Brew Espresso without an Espresso Machine?

Absolutely. You can brew your espresso right from your kitchen without a special espresso machine. There are plenty of ways to get your daily espresso, including the Moka Pot, French Press, and Aeropress methods.

Let’s delve into finding out how you can enjoy preparing your daily espresso with these three methods:

How To Make Espresso Using a Moka Pot

The Moka pot is an excellent espresso maker you should consider having at home or office. It brews such strong espresso that leaves you yearning for more. It has three chambers – the boiler that holds the water, the middle chamber that detains coffee grounds, and the top one that collects your ready-to-drink brew.

While it takes a while to make espresso, you’ll never regret waiting the moment you feel its silky smooth flavor in your mouth. Here’s how to perfect your espresso with a Moka pot;

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What You Need

  •  Coffee beans
  • Coffee grinder
  •  Water
  • Moka pot
  •  Stovetop


1. Grind the Coffee Beans

The Moka pot requires a fine grind to allow the pressure to pass water through it without trouble. This will also ensure your espresso is strong, well-extracted, and full of rich flavor. For one brew, you need about 22 grams of coffee. If you don’t mind taking a couple of minutes of your time we strongly recommend using a manual coffee grinder to achieve the most uniform grind.

2. Add Water to the Lower Chamber

You can decide to pre-heat the water before pouring it in or not. Use fresh water, ideally filtered, and make sure you don’t overfill the chamber. The water must not pass the valve on the side of the chamber; otherwise, pressure build-up can cause your Moka pot to explode. You don’t want to get your espresso from the floor.

3. Add the Grounds into the Filter Basket

Fill the coffee basket with the grounds. Don’t overfill the basket and make sure the grounds are settled evenly. Avoid pushing the grind as it will prevent water from passing through, resulting in a weak, tasteless brew. Brush away any loose grounds on the edge of the basket and place it in the bottom chamber.

4. Screw the Pot Together and Place it on Low Heat

After adding the grounds, screw the bottom chamber and the top spout together. Don’t make it too tight. If you pre-heated your water, use hot pads to hold the bottom chamber.

Put your Moka pot on low to medium heat to prevent pressure from building up too quickly, making the spout spit the espresso all over your stove. You can estimate the heat with the flow of coffee out of the spout. Low heat makes the coffee flow slowly out of the spout while high heat makes it come out quickly. Make sure you control the heat accordingly. You can leave the lid open.

5. Take Your Pot from the Heat and Serve

Take your Moka pot from the stove before your brew rises and gurgles to prevent your espresso from getting bitter. The pressure build-up will push them out of the valve as soon as the bottom starts to boil. It will produce a puffing sound, making the stream color turn yellow, and this is how you’ll know your espresso is ready.

Now that you’ve successfully made your delicious espresso with a Moka pot, it’s time to taste it.

6. Clean Your Moka Pot

Cleaning and proper maintenance of your Moka pot help to increase its lifespan. The device is easy to clean; just use hot soapy water and soft cloth and rinse it thoroughly. Never put your Moka pot in a dishwasher because it can give it an unpleasant patina.

How To Make Espresso Using a French Press

A French Press resembles a thermos, and it has a piston that goes through its lid in the middle of the beaker. This machine brews excellent espresso and is not as costly as an espresso machine.

What You Need

For a fresh taste of espresso using the French Press method, all you need are fresh coffee grounds, hot water, and a French Press (we love the KONA French press, read our full review). If you want to enhance your favorite cup O’ Joe’s flavor, try topping your espresso with whipped cream or frothed milk, and you’ll love every sip.

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Here are steps to brewing your espresso with a French Press;

1. Prepare Your Grind

The best coffee for French Press is coarsely ground. Fine grounds will make your brew muddy. Also, the French Press’ piston cannot hold the fine grounds down. Coarse grounds are ideal because your coffee will steep longer and make your espresso strong. For two cups of French Press espresso, you’ll use four tablespoons of ground coffee.

2. Pre-Boil the Water

Boil hot water using a kettle. Swirl some of it into the glass container to make it warm enough to accommodate the temperature. Let the water be hot enough to initiate the coffee extraction. If it isn’t hot enough, the espresso will come out with a horrible taste.

The best water temperature should be 2000F for an excellent espresso brew from the French Press. If not, your under-extracted espresso will taste like tepid water with some coffee flavor.

3. Add Coffee Grounds into Your French Press

Add the coffee grounds into the French Press and pour a little hot water. If you boiled the water with an electric kettle, allow it to cool for about 25 minutes. When the water mixes with the grounds, you’ll smell the coffee’s fantastic aroma as the coffee starts blooming.

The grounds will release all the essential oils, nutrients, and substances they contain to give your brew its intense flavor. But don’t let the grounds bloom for a long time as it’ll make the espresso lose its natural, rich flavor and become bitter.

4. Add the Remaining Water and Stir

Pour the remaining water and stir the mixture gently to start the extraction process. Use a spoon with a long handle to prevent any clumps. Avoid stirring energetically as this will make a vortex in the French Press. Also, don’t plunge the filter down just yet, you want to allow the coffee steep for a while.

5. Let Your Brew Steep

Allow your brew to steep for about four minutes to make it stronger and tasty. Otherwise, if you let it steep longer, it will become bitter. If you don’t let it steep long enough the coffee will be under-extracted. Use a timer to determine the optimal brew duration, so you tailor subsequent brews for optimal results. Do not press the piston while the coffee grounds are steeping. 

6. Press the Plunger/Piston

Once your brew has steeped enough, press the piston gently and evenly while holding the lid to the steady until the piston reaches the bottom. If you want to experiment with plunging midway, take the piston a little bit backward, plunge it downward, and then pull it back when you reach the lowest point.

Your French Press espresso is now ready to serve, and you have to pour it right away to prevent the dregs from entering your brew and disrupting its taste.

How To Make Espresso Using an Aeropress

An Aeropress is an upgrade of the French Press that is more portable. It functions more like the French Press and also brews sweet and flavor-rich espresso. This machine is a favorite to many coffee shops owned by artisan coffee roasters.

The Aeropress has a filter at the lower end, and coffee grounds are placed at its bottom. It is very uncomplicated and efficient.

What You Need

  • Coffee grinder
  • Coffee beans
  • Water
  • An Aeropress

Here’s how to make a strong shot of espresso using an Aeropress:

1. Get the Grind Ready

The Aeropress machine uses fine grounds, the size of table salt. Coarse grounds will not give you your favorite espresso brew because water will flow freely through the grounds resulting in under extraction.

To get rich-flavored espresso from an Aeropress, you need 23 grams (about two tablespoons) of coffee. The size of the grounds is vital, regardless of whether you’re using an espresso machine or any other brewing method.

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2. Prepare Your Aeropress and Pour in the Grounds

To prep the Aeropress, place the filter in the lower cap and pour hot water on it. Hot water will also pre-heat the machine to rid it of any paper flavor. Throw in the coffee grounds and shake the tube just a little to allow the grounds to settle and even out. Place another paper filter on top of the grounds on the piston’s lower end and sprinkle warm water onto it. As you press the piston, the coffee will be pressed between the two filters and stay at the tube’s bottom.

3. Press the Piston/Plunger

To press the plunger, push it down to the bottom and pull it back to the top. If the grounds look like a hockey puck, it means you’ve pressed the correct way.

4. Add Hot Water and Press the Second Time

Your hot water should be about 2000F. An Aeropress has markings on its side to guide you on the right amount of water for your grounds. If you are using about 21 grams of grounds, your water should reach the “2” mark on your Aeropress, or just over the grounds’ puck.

Press the plunger a second time until you’ve squashed the puck, and your flavorful espresso is ready to serve. With the Aeropress, your coffee grounds don’t have to steep. You get your brew in no time.

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What Makes a Great Espresso

It’s not the machine you use that will guarantee you a delicious espresso, a lot of factors fall into play to give you your desired cup O’ Joe. Here’s how to make espresso that can compete with your local barista;

Espresso Roast

The best espresso starts with the best espresso beans. The roast of the coffee beans will determine your espresso’s taste. Dark roasts are recommended for strong espresso, but all will depend on your personal preference. There are plenty of roasts in the market to choose from, including French roasts, Italian roasts, or Vienna roasts.

Roasting the dark coffee produces beans with plenty of oils. It also releases the flavor and aroma within the beans. A darker roast also contains less acidity and will make the burnt taste stronger.

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Espresso Grind

When making your espresso, you need a fine, consistent grind. Let it not be too fine, or it will affect your espresso’s water flow and taste. Too fine of a grind also clogs the machine, making it hard for water to flow through the grounds. This will result in over-extraction, which makes the espresso bitter.

A coarse grind makes the water flow through the grounds fast, leading to under extraction. But when the grind size is fine, the water will flow at a steady pace and extract a concentrated, tasty espresso with fresh bean aroma.

Espresso Pressure

The pressure is what differentiates an espresso from a plain coffee drink. Any brew extracted under the 9 bar pressure cannot be an espresso. The brewing device should be able to build up pressure that will pull a strong espresso drink.

The Water Temperature

When brewing your espresso, the temperature of the water you’re using is crucial. Warm water cannot extract the grounds properly. The result will be just some coffee-colored water without any flavor or taste. Great espresso requires hot water to bloom the grounds and extract a slightly bitter brew with crema.

Can You Use Regular Coffee Beans To Make Espresso?

When making espresso, it is the roasting process of the beans that matters. That is why there’s a difference in the brewing method, taste, and flavor of espresso. 

But the coffee bean is the same; only that espresso comes from a coffee bean that has been roasted more, ground to a fine consistency, and brewed using a different method than regular coffee.

The dark roast used in espresso brewing is rich in natural oils. Their emulsification, with other compounds found in coffee, help to produce the crema in espresso. But you cannot use regular beans to brew espresso – they will not deliver the consistency, flavor, and aroma you expect in a perfect shot of espresso, however good they may be. Some bean varieties when roasted become too dark, charred, or too light.

Final Thoughts

Generally, making espresso is an art. You have to consider a lot of things when learning how to brew espresso. Once you do, and you achieve your perfect cup you’ll never go back. Fresh ground coffee beans, fine grind size, the right roast and pressure, water temperature, and brewing method are vital. 

On a positive and budget-friendly note, you can still make delicious espresso without investing in an espresso machine.

With these three devices, you have no excuse not to enjoy a fantastic fresh cup of espresso any time of day from the comfort of home. So go on, get your Moka pot, Aeropress, or French press and make quality espresso without breaking the bank. Happy brewing!