5 Ways to Easily Make Espresso Without a Machine

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Everyone is familiar with how to make their favorite cup of coffee in the mornings, but there is a whole world of coffee that you should definitely try. You never know if you are going to find something better to replace your old caffeine routine. 

Espresso shots are enjoyed by people around the globe and can be a strong, tasty alternative to your daily drip coffee. We will show you how to easily make espresso without a machine with 5 simple methods.

Espresso 101 - A Quick Introduction

There is a lot of debate in the coffee community about what makes a shot of espresso. The agreed-upon description is espresso is a concentrated coffee drink made with very strong coffee beans and water. 

Water is put through tightly packed coffee grounds at a high amount of pressure very quickly. This results in a small amount of strong coffee with a foam around the top called the crema. The crema is a signature of an espresso shot that is made correctly.

As a result of this, the oils from the coffee beans are extracted and concentrated. These oils make espresso rich and robust. The extraction process also causes espresso shots to have a much higher caffeine content than a standard coffee drink. 

Making these highly coveted shots of coffee goodness usually requires an espresso machine. These are made to maintain specific pressure and easily make consistent espresso shots. The downside is that these machines are very expensive.

How to Make Great Espresso

A lot goes into making a perfect espresso shot. You have to consider everything from the type of coffee beans you are using, the consistency of your ground beans, the pressure level of your machine, and the temperature of your water. 

If it tastes bitter or burnt, then something went wrong with the process. Try again, and don’t give up. It takes time and practice to consistently make good espresso shots, but it’s far from unachievable.

The first thing to consider is the level of roast your coffee beans have been through. If you are trying to make a robust espresso shot, you will want a dark roasted bean. The longer coffee beans roast, the more porous they become. This helps when making espresso since you are pulling highly pressurized water through your ground quickly. 

Grind texture is a major factor for the flavor of espresso. You want a fine grind when trying to make espresso. If the grounds are too coarse, then you won’t be able to build the right amount of pressure to pull the shot. If they are ground to a fine consistency, then it will block the water to build pressure and extract more flavor when it does go through. 

Espresso machines use boiling water that has been pressurized to make your espresso. It forces hot water through your coffee grounds quickly to extract the flavor and oils. It is an incredible amount of pressure, too. Nine bars is the minimum pressure required, and that is nine times the earth’s atmospheric pressure. 

This is the reason it requires a special machine to make. You can’t generate that kind of pressure by hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have espresso, or something similar, without an expensive espresso machine. There are a few ways to get as close as possible to espresso shots without a machine.

#1 The French Press Method

This method won’t get you top-notch espresso shots, but it can get you some strong espresso tasting coffee. A French Press uses an immersion method of brewing coffee, so it doesn’t have the necessary pressure to make an actual shot of espresso. You can make an almost espresso-like drink by double brewing using a specific method. 

To do this right, you will need to use espresso coffee beans that are dark roasted. Grind your coffee beans to a coarse grind just like you would when brewing a normal cup of French Press coffee. Boil your water in a separate container and then let it cool for 30 seconds. 

This should put it at the optimal brewing temperature, between 185 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait around four minutes, a little longer than average coffee through a French Press. After brewing, pour your coffee into a container and filter the used coffee grounds into a sieve. 

Immediately set up the French Press to brew another round of coffee, but instead of adding water, you should use the coffee you just made.

 This is called double brewing. It won’t produce the iconic crema that espresso is known for, but the taste will be just as strong. This is about as close as you can get using a French Press pot, and it can be used in cappuccinos and lattes without much of a taste difference.

#2 The Moka Pot Method

The moka pot is also lovingly referred to as a stovetop espresso maker. It can create the closest coffee-like drink you can get that isn’t from an espresso machine. It’s concentrated just like an espresso shot, but it won’t have that signature crema that a shot from a machine would have. 

To start, you are going to need espresso beans that are finely ground. Get yourself some cold filtered water and fill the bottom part of the moka pot with it. Put your espresso coffee grinds into the filter basket and place it into the water. Screw on the top part of the moka pot and make sure it is secure. 

You will need a heat source for this to work. Luckily it’s flexible since you can use a stovetop or even make espresso while camping with an open fire. Bring the water in the bottom to a boil and wait for the unmistakable gurgling sound that a moka pot makes. This sound means the upper part is now full of coffee. Just pour it into a mug and enjoy.

#3 The AeroPress Method

The AeroPress was originally designed for backpackers who wanted a device to make great coffee that was lightweight and required no electricity. It uses pressure just like an espresso machine would but at a fraction of the cost. It takes a bit of know-how to get great espresso-like coffee out of the AeroPress. 

This will require two coffee filters instead of one. Put the first coffee filter in like you normally would when making plain coffee. You will want to use espresso beans that are finely ground for this to work properly, so either prepare ahead or bring along your grinder. Add the coffee grounds into your Aeropress, and the tamp them until they are tightly packed. 

After tamping the grounds, add another coffee filter on top of them. Boil your water in a separate container, then pour it into your AeroPress. Slowly press down until you have a delicious and strong espresso.

#4 The Hand Espresso Gadget Method

Hand espresso machines are another option that was originally designed for campers and outdoorsmen in mind. They are lightweight and very portable. Most have a pod for the coffee grounds to go into, and an arm that is filled with hot water. You pump the arm to build up the pressure required to pull a shot of espresso similar to a manual air pump you might use to inflate a ball.

Like other methods we have tried, this one requires finely ground espresso beans of your choice. Fill the pod of the hand machine up until the grounds are in line with the top of it. You want them packed but not too tight. While you are grinding your coffee beans to do this, you can be boiling your water in a separate container using a fire or stove.

Add the hot water into the water reservoir until it is completely full. Make sure everything is sealed back uptight, and you are firmly holding it in place before you start to pump the arm. You want to get the pressure to 16psi. After that, just hold it over your mug and press the extraction button.

#5 The Lever Machine Method

Manual lever espresso machines are a great choice if you want at home espresso shots without buying an expensive machine. They are similar to the higher end machines in the amount of control they give you. These manual machines take some practice to get a perfect pull, but once you learn how you will be making espresso in no time. 

These machines give you control over every step of making delicious espresso, from the grind size of your beans to the tamp pressure. It turns simply making coffee into an artisan process; you feel like you can truly master. 

First, you will always want to heat up your manual lever espresso maker first. Turn it on, then go grind your coffee beans while you wait. Use a burr grinder to get your espresso beans to a fine consistency then spoon the appropriate amount into the portafilter. Apply pressure using the tamp. I’ve found 30 pounds of pressure is a happy level for good espresso. 

Place the portafilter into your machine, then grab a mug and put it below. The pull is a tricky part. You want to be slow, steady, and firm when you move the lever. Bring the lever up to the top and wait for about ten seconds, then lower the lever back down. 

You want to aim for a 20-second pull and about 45 pounds of pressure. It’s not easy to do the first time, but after a few tries, you will get the hang of it.

What is so Special About Espresso

If you have never had espresso before, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. The first espresso machines were created in Italy in 1884. These popularized espressos and highlighted the unique qualities it has over other standard methods of making coffee. 

The bold rich taste is one of the major differences between coffee and espresso shots. Since it is so concentrated, the flavors are strong if the espresso shot is made right. It will have a brown aerated foam on top of the shot that is made from the oils of the ground coffee beans. This “crema” has become the signature of great espresso.

Espresso shots aren’t your normal cup of coffee when it comes to caffeine, either. An average cup of drip coffee contains 80 to 200 mg of caffeine, depending on the coffee beans that are used.

An espresso shot has a much higher caffeine content per ounce at 29 to 100 mg in each shot and up to 180mg in a double shot. It’s perfect if you need a quick kick to get you started in the mornings or get you through a long study session. 

Espresso shots are now a popular addition to other coffee drinks to up their caffeine content and give them more kick. They are added to steamed milk to make cappuccinos or caffe lattes. If you add a shot to hot water, you create a popular coffeehouse drink called a Caffe americano. 

Like most coffee, espresso also has great health benefits if consumed in moderation. Studies have shown It can help prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It can help decrease the chance of cognitive decline. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of a liver disease caused by heavy alcohol use called cirrhosis.

Simple Ways to Grind Coffee​

Extracting the goodies trapped inside the coffee beans by grinding them into tiny particles that are bursting with flavor and aroma is the only way to ensure a proper brew. 

But what if your power runs out or your beloved coffee grinder starts malfunctioning? Should you go without your morning kick? Or are you supposed to make an annoying trip to your favorite coffee shop? 

Nonsense! Even though coffee grinders are designed to granulate smoothly and effortlessly, you can do this task just as efficiently without one. Read on and learn how to grind coffee beans without a coffee grinder.

granite stone mortar and pestle

Mortar and Pestle

If your mortar and pestle have been sitting forgotten on the kitchen shelf because you are not an experienced cook, it is time to blow the dust off. Just as you can crush spices and herbs, you can also use this versatile appliance to grind your Java.

Although it requires some extra time and effort, mashing your coffee beans with this ancient tool gives you an immerse control of the grind and texture.

In a pinch, the process is pretty straightforward:

  1.  Add up to two tablespoons of coffee beans (not more) into your mortar.
  2. Place one of your hands over the top of the mortar to prevent chasing the beans all over the kitchen.
  3. Take the pestle with your dominant hand, and start swirling it vigorously, pressing and crushing the beans.
  4. Do this until you’ve achieved your desired grind. The trick here is not to get carried away as you can easily go from a coarse grind to a fine powder in a matter of seconds.
  5. If you need more coffee, transfer the ground coffee to your coffee maker, and repeat the process.

Tip: Using a ceramic set of mortar and pestle is preferred because it will be more resistant to the oils that will get extracted from the beans.

Ninja 400-Watt Blender & Food Processor

Food Blender

If you are looking for a more sophisticated way to grind your coffee, then perhaps your smoothie machine can come to the rescue. Your food blender is not just for drinks; it can also help you turn your beans into powder.

Resembling a blade grinder (thanks to its blades, obviously), grinding coffee in a kitchen blender is a simple 5-step process:

  1. Add small scoops of coffee beans to your thoroughly-cleaned blender, and put the lid on.
  2. Set your blender to medium-high speed, or if it has a “grinder” setting, even better.
  3. Pressing the lid with your hand, grind the coffee by utilizing short and quick bursts.
  4. If your blender does not have a “grinder” setting, tilt it side-to-side halfway through to assure a uniform grind.
  5. When your coffee is ground to your preference, it can go straight to your coffee machine.
Fox Run Polished Marble Rolling Pin with Wooden Cradle

Rolling Pin

In for some real coffee experience? With this old-school technique and some elbow grease, you will learn how to grind coffee without a grinder in no time! All you need to enjoy your morning dose of energy are a rolling pin and a Ziploc bag.

  1. Place the desired amount of beans inside a thick Ziploc bag, but do not overfill it. Make sure that you close the bag well, so you have no clean-up afterward.
  2. Place the bag on a cutting board, your kitchen counter, or another flat surface. Make sure that the coffee beans are in a single layer.
  3. Starting from the bottom of the bag, start applying gentle pressure with the rolling pin.
  4. Roll the pin across the bag, making sure there are no chunky fragments left.
  5. When the desired grind is reached, transfer to your coffee machine.

Tip: If you do not have a Ziploc bag, place the coffee between two pieces of parchment paper. Just make sure to fold the edges to enclose, to avoid the beans from jumping around your kitchen.

Fletchers' Mill Federal Cherry Pepper Mill

Pepper Mill

Pepper meal grinding is another straightforward method. And you don’t even need to have a fancy and expensive mill; a cheap plastic one from the grocery store will do the job just fine.

You will need a bit more effort to mill your coffee this way, but you will be rewarded with a consistent grind at the end.

It is quite simple, actually – just empty the mill, add your beans, and grind away. Keep in mind that some of these grinders come in smaller sizes and cannot handle the large chunky beans. You might need to smash them with a hammer a bit before adding them to the mill.

Okay, so this may turn out to be a two-step grind, but the fine consistent texture will be so worth it.

Non-slip Handle Double Sides Stainless Steel Meat Tenderizer

Hammer or Meat Tenderizer

Speaking of smashing the beans, the best tool for the job may be hiding in your garage. In combination with a pepper mill, your hammer will help you get more consistent grinds, that’s true, but even on its own, this utensil can be pretty handy.

If you are not a tool person, you can also use a meat tenderizer for this grinding technique. Here is how you can do it:

  1. Place your coffee beans in a thick Ziploc bag, close it, and place onto a sturdy cutting board – do not do this on your kitchen counter as you do not want to risk damaging the top.
  2. Take your hammer or meat tenderizer, and press down on your beans firmly for as long as it takes to reach your desired texture. Do NOT beat them!
  3. Transfer to your coffee maker and enjoy your morning brew!

But that’s not even the best part. If you have some bottled-up anger you wish to release, this grinding technique can work as a free therapy session as well. Give it a try!

Tip: To prevent the hammer from tearing the bag, place a kitchen cloth on top of it when grinding.

stainless steel sharp kitchen knife

Kitchen Knife

If you know your way around the kitchen, then you are probably familiar with crushing garlic cloves with your knife. But what if I tell you that you can use this same technique for cracking your coffee as well?

Obviously, this will be pretty tiring if you are grinding coffee for a crowd, but if you need no more than a scoop of beans to get your morning dose of energy, then this is probably the simplest grinding technique.

  1. Place your coffee beans onto a large and sturdy cutting board.
  2. The best knife for this job is a large butcher knife – lay it on top of the beans, with the blade against them. To prevent the beans from flying away from the surface, place a kitchen towel on top of the knife.
  3. Place your hand on the flat top of the knife, applying pressure to crush the coffee beans.
  4. Gently stir the beans and slide the knife back and forth carefully, to ensure even grinding.

Tip: This method is perfect if you are a medium-grind kind of coffee addict.

Breville BFP800XL Sous Chef 16 Pro Stainless Steel Food Processor

Food Processor

Not quite like your good, old burr grinder, but if you are left without your dependable way of powdering Java beans, then your food processor should do the job just fine.

The process is almost the same as that of grinding in your food blender:

  1. Put a couple of scoops of beans inside your thoroughly cleaned food processor and top with the lid.
  2. Grind the coffee in short and quick bursts by using the “pulse” setting. Make sure to shake your processor in between pulsing, to make sure that all of the beans will reach the blades and get ground.
  3. If needed, scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give it a few more pulses.
  4. Transfer to your coffee machine, and enjoy it.
KitchenAid KHB1231CU Contour Silver 2-Speed Hand Blender

Immersion Blender

Although you probably don’t think of your hand blender as a coffee grinding tool, when you are stuck in survival mode without your grinder, your creamy-soup-making best friend can surely help you out.

Once you have your immersion blender attached and ready, add about two tablespoons of coffee beans to the chopper bowl attachment of the mixer (if it has any). 

Alternatively, you can just place the beans in a cup/bowl that the blender can fit into, and that is sturdy enough to endure the blades.

Turn the blender on and start mixing. You might want to shake the bowl a couple of times throughout the process, to ensure uniform consistency.

T-fal Dishwasher Safe Cookware Hard Anodized Titanium Fry Pan with Lid

Frying Pan

When all else fails, you can just take your frying pan and give the coffee beans a good smashing. Although you probably shouldn’t beat them but apply firm pressure, this method will help you grind for the whole family in a jiffy.

A frying pan is a good option when trying to brew for a group, as it has a large surface area and can handle way more than just a couple of scoops at a time.

  1. Lay the coffee beans onto a bigger chopping board and make sure that they are arranged in a single layer.
  2. Grab your frying pan, hold it with your hands on the opposite sides (not the handle!), and start applying pressure to crush the coffee. Holding it this way will provide consistent pressure and will grind the beans quickly.

Tips for Perfect Coffee Grind

Even if your mornings are chaotic, you’re usually in a pinch, and can basically take an energy fix of any kind, that doesn’t mean that your brew shouldn’t be pleasant to your tongue and enjoyable. Although grinding coffee isn’t rocket science, there is a secret formula in taking delight in your cup of coffee.

Choosing the Right Grind

The grinding methods above may seem simple and straightforward, but unless you hit the perfect texture and know exactly when to stop, you can lose the grind quality, literally, in a second.

There are 7 different grind sizes, and they are all suited for different types of coffee:

Extra Coarse – This grind is the chunkiest one and has a similar texture like that of peppercorns. The extra course is best suited for cowboy coffee and a cold brew.

Coarse – Resembles heavy kosher salt. If you check the texture with your hands, you should be able to feel chunks. Best for cupping, French press, and percolator.

Medium-Coarse – Looks like really coarse beach sand. Best suited for clever dripper, conical drip makers, Chemex.

Medium Grind – Has the same texture of regular beach sand. Perfect for flat-bottomed drip makers, Aeropress, conical pour-over brewers.

Medium-Fine – Smaller grains than those of regular beach sand, similar to table salt. Best for Aeropress and conical pour-over brewers.

Fine Grind – The same texture of most store-bought pre-ground coffee, finer than table salt. Perfect for Espresso, Aeropress, Stovetop espresso makers.

Extra Fine – Fine powder – has the same texture of powdered sugar and flour. Perfect for making Turkish coffee.

Grind Consistency

Having a consistent texture and fineness of the grinding is what gives every brew the same flavor, aroma, and degree of kick, making every morning cup as enjoyable as the previous one.

The key to making your grinds consistent is crushing only small amounts of coffee at a time. Adding a couple of tablespoons of beans per grind is a good rule of thumb. That increases the power you have over the control and measure, allowing you to produce the uniform texture every single time.

Coffee Grinding Tips You Need to Know

Check – Even if you know it takes you about 15 seconds to reach your desired texture, do not rely on the time. Make sure to take periodical peeks and check if you are satisfied with the fineness of the grind and if the consistency is even.

When in Doubt, go for Medium – When you are not sure what level of grind your coffee should have, go for the medium or medium-fine texture. Sandy and salt-like coffee are known to be the most versatile, so the chances of destroying your brew are pretty low.

Do NOT Pre-Grind. Although your busy schedule may tempt you to stack yourself up with a fine grind to last you throughout the week, if you care for the aftertaste of your morning brew – do not do it. Ground coffee starts turning stale even 30 minutes after the beans have been crushed, so stick to the one-brew-at-a-time-grind for best results.

Measure. Make it a habit to always measure the beans before crushing them to ensure a uniform consistency. The 2-tablespoons rule is a good start, but be more accurate and use a kitchen scale for top-notch results.

FAQ

How long does the grinding process take?

It all depends on the type of method and if you are grinding automatically or manually. For instance, most electrical appliances (blender, food processor, immersion blender) shouldn’t take longer than half a minute. 

Of course, this also depends on the type and strength of the tool you are using, but most blender-like appliances should give you a coarse grind in 10 seconds, and finer, Espresso powder in under 20 seconds or so.

If using a manual method, it boils down to your strength of pressing, speed, working surface, etc.

Can I freeze ground coffee?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Freezing involves thawing, and thawing comes with extra humidity. And since moisture is the biggest coffee’s enemy, you can see why you should rethink the urge to skip the morning grind.

Can I ground coffee in a NutriBullet?

Definitely! Your NutriBullet can grind your coffee beans with the same (if not even higher) precision as your food blender or food processor. Just pulse with quick bursts for as long as it takes to reach your desired texture, and voila! The perfect brew awaits!

Conclusion

As you can see, espresso is attainable even without an expensive machine to make it for you. You just need a little ingenuity, and you can enjoy the rich taste of espresso in a homemade cappuccino or even in the middle of the forest beside a roaring fire.

It’s good to occasionally try new things since you never know if you will like it better than a regular cup of java. With its rich taste and history, espresso is a great place to start.

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