make-espresso-without-a-machine

How to Easily Make Espresso Without a Machine

Make Espresso Without a Machine

Unlike drip coffee, espresso comes from steaming finely ground beans. The result is a sweet and strong, concentrated beverage. Often mixed with water or milk, but you can also enjoy it straight. Not everyone has the budget—or let’s be honest, the counter space—for a full espresso machine. If you’ve always wanted to enjoy espresso drinks from the comfort of your own home, this easy guide is for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know about how to make espresso without a machine.

Easy Ways to Make Espresso Without a Machine

You may have seen stovetop espresso makers before. Often called Moka pots. We’ll go over in-depth on how to use those, plus two other methods! These options might be more affordable than traditional espresso machines, but they don’t come with frothing wands. You can purchase small milk frothers separately if that’s a must for you. 

Technically, none of these methods make true espresso. Espresso comes from passing steam through super fine ground espresso beans at 130 PSI. A Moka pot works by pressurizing water into steam that then travels up through the coffee grounds. Both produce a strong, concentrated coffee drink, but they aren’t the same. 

Similarly, an Aeropress uses pressure to brew. But whereas that espresso machine uses between 8 and 10 bars of pressure, the Aeropress can only produce 0.35-0.75. You just can’t generate the same strength (even if you work out regularly) that a machine can. And even if you could, the Aeropress couldn’t handle it!

Last, but certainly not least, the humble French press. This method of immersion brewing is important to monitor as it’s very easy to over-extract the grounds. When you push the plunger down it does produce pressure, but that’s mostly to prevent the coffee grounds from slipping down the sides and into your cup of coffee

Mueller French Press Double Insulated 310 Stainless Steel Dishwasher Safe Coffee Maker

Make Espresso in a French Press

Got a French press? You can use it to achieve a concentrated espresso-like brew, but it will be more oily than other options. You’ll also want to use a bit more coffee than you think, for richness. The French press also won’t make the coffee as frothy as the Aeropress or the Moka pot will. This isn’t super tragic, but I do enjoy a bit of froth honestly…the natural coffee oils make up for the lack of froth though. 

What I like most about a French press (besides its good looks, of course) is the ease of use. Though it’s important to follow all steps carefully to get the best tasting results. Make sure you wash the French press well between uses and “preheat” the pitcher with hot water before you brew.

To brew a stronger beaker of French press, measure and grind more coffee beans. For instance, if you’re using an 8-cup French press and you want a mild pot you’d use about 9 Tablespoons of coffee. For medium, bump it to 11 Tablespoons. Want to go full-strength? Measure out 15 Tablespoons. Get wired! 

What you’ll need:

  • A scale to measure the grounds or just a tablespoon
  • A French press 
  • Kettle
  • Finely ground coffee
  • A mug
  • Optional: a timer

Directions:

  1. If not already ground, grind your coffee beans. An espresso roast is best, but you can use any coffee you like best. You will want at least 50 grams or, if not using a scale, 2 Tablespoons. Use a fine setting for the grind.
  2. Heat some water and pour into the beaker of your French press to warm it up. 
  3. Now add a cup of water to your kettle and heat until just under boiling (~200 degrees).
  4. Measure the coffee grounds into your French press.
  5. Add a splash of hot water to the grounds and allow to saturate for a full 30 seconds.
  6. Pour the rest of the water on top, close the lid and let steep for at least 4 minutes. (Maybe start a timer!)
  7. Optional: Remove the lid of your French press and break up the “crust” of coffee that has formed on top. Stir briefly before replacing the lid. 
  8. Using steady pressure, slowly press the plunger down halfway.
  9. Bring it back to the top before pushing it all the way down to the bottom. 
  10. Pour in a mug, add water or cream as desired, and enjoy!

It’s not the fastest method and you do need to be careful of following all the steps—but the result is a full-bodied cup of joe. I further recommend you use a timer. Every time you brew French press coffee. An unattended French press can quickly over-extract your coffee grounds and you’ll be stuck sipping on a thin, bitter cup of java. Nobody wants that!

Bialetti Moka Express Aluminium Stovetop Coffee Maker

Make Espresso in a Moka Pot

This is probably the more well-known method of making stovetop espresso at home. A Moka pot is a small cute kettle. While it produces a concentrated coffee like espresso, it lacks the creaminess of machine espresso. 

Moka pots have been around since the 1930s. An Italian engineer by the name of Alfonso Bialetti came up with these awesomely handy and potent little brewers. They’re most often found in aluminum with bakelite handles. The handle may get pretty hot on the stove, so have a hot pad at the ready. 

For best results, use the freshest beans available. You want to achieve a grind that’s finer than what you use for drip coffee, but not as fine as what you’d put in an espresso machine

What you’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Grind and measure your beans. Again, you want a grind that falls in between the coarse grind of filtered coffee and the fine grind of espressos. You’ll want at least 2 Tablespoons or ~22 grams of coffee.
  2. Pour 3.5 ounces of water into the base of your Moka pot. Add the coffee grounds to the filter, shake to settle. 
  3. Screw on the top of the Moka pot and place over a burner on medium heat. 
  4. When the coffee has made it into the upper chamber of the Moka pot—it’s ready!
  5. Pour into a mug, add water if you like, and enjoy some pep in your step.

You may find little tweaks to this process that make a cup of coffee you enjoy even more. This is just a basic guideline to use your Moka pot, but have fun experimenting with different ratios or coffee blends. 

AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press

Make Espresso in an Aeropress

What do I love about an Aeropress? It’s small and lightweight. Easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to store! Practically unbreakable, too. It saved my caffeine-loving self when I lived on a boat and the rough waves kept shattering my glass coffee carafes to bits. 

If you haven’t heard of it before, that’s probably because the Aeropress is relatively new to the coffee scene. Invented by Alan Adler in 2005, the company updated its products to be 100% BPA-free in 2009. If you have an original model though—no worries! Testing by the company showed zero leakage of BPA into brewed coffee. 

With an Aeropress, you end up with a cup of coffee remarkably close to espresso. Both in flavor and in caffeine content! Maybe not so much in texture, but it still makes a satisfying americano. For best results, pick a nice espresso roast and grind the beans fresh. It makes a world of difference!

What You’ll Need:

  • An Aeropress
  • A mug
  • Coffee beans
  • A tablespoon or scale
  • Grinder
  • Hot water

Directions:

  1. Grind your beans on a fine setting. You’ll need 2 Tablespoons (or 50 grams).
  2. Heat water to just below boiling (~195 degrees).
  3. Prepare your Aeropress. Place a paper filter in the drain cap. Lightly rinse the filter and set aside.
  4. Put the plunger piece into the brewing chamber about halfway down. Place the entire thing upside down on a stable surface.
  5. Add at least 2 Tablespoons of coffee grounds to the brewing chamber. A little more is okay to guarantee you get a concentrated shot. 
  6. Set your Aeropress on a scale (if using), slowly pour in 2.5-3.5 fluid ounces of hot water. 
  7. Stir gently. Attach the filter cap and screw it on tightly. Flip the brewer onto your mug, make sure it’s still on a stable surface and push that plunger down.

Troubleshooting: Over time, the seal of your plunger in the brewing chamber of your Aeropress may not be as tight. If this happens, and you don’t want to replace it yet, do not flip your Aeropress upside down for the brewing process. Simply skip step 4, and place the brewing chamber with drain cap and filter attached over your mug of coffee. Fill with coffee, slowly pour in water, stir, plunge, enjoy. 

espresso in a white ceramic cup on a blue saucer

Tips for Making Great Espresso

The tips have been sprinkled all throughout the separate method instructions, but here they are collected into one place as a refresher!

  • Purchase fresh beans that are espresso or dark roast.
  • Grind your beans fresh for every cup. Choose the recommended grind for your brew method.
  • Use hot not boiling water.
  • Use a scale for flawless accuracy.
  • Set a timer for the perfect brew.
  • Double-check your water to coffee ratios.
  • Optional: Invest in a milk frother to take your espresso drinks to the next level!

Espresso FAQ

Q: What is the difference between regular coffee and espresso?

A: Drip or “pour-over” coffee is what most of us are used to drinking. This method pours water directly over coarsely-ground coffee beans to produce a strongly caffeinated beverage with most of the natural oils filtered out. 

With espresso, a small amount of steam is forced through finely-ground coffee beans. The result is a small amount of heavy-bodied brew with a nice sweetness to balance out any bitterness. About 6-10x more concentrated than drip coffee. Because of the smaller volume of an espresso shot compared to a cup of brewed coffee, espresso is lower in caffeine

Q: What about when it comes to the coffee beans? How are other coffee blends different from a bag marked “espresso roast”?

A: A good espresso roast starts with selecting green coffee beans that have lower acidity and more body. They’re roasted hotter and slightly longer than roasts intended for filters. This roast makes them more soluble which is important when you’re working with smaller amounts and super short “brew” times such as the 20-40 seconds it takes to pull a shot of espresso. 

Q: Can I use a non-espresso roast to make my stovetop coffee? And what about using an espresso roast to make filter coffee?

A: Absolutely. I would recommend a dark roast that’s rated to be low acidity if you don’t want to purchase a specific espresso roast. 

Absolutely again for the 2nd part of the question! A lot of people prefer using espresso roast beans in their filtered coffee. Why? Because it gives you a cup with more body yet less acidity than regular coffees. 

A Full-Bodied Conclusion

Making delicious espresso drinks at home is possible through the power of your friend—the stove. Whichever method you choose, be prepared to sip and smile at the rich, full-flavored flavor of your concentrated brew. 

I recommend purchasing some whole bean espresso roast to use with your Moka pot (or a French press or Aeropress). Have a reliable burr grinder at home to get that coveted fine grind.

Take your time with it. Enjoy your coffee-making ritual. Put your heart into it and you can’t go wrong.

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