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How to Make Espresso Without An Espresso Machine

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: May 11, 2022

A coffee shop or espresso machine aren’t the only ways to get great espresso. There are actually several ways to make espresso without an espresso machine. Some alternatives are affordable, while others are expensive, but most are simple to use once you familiarize yourself with the steps. Be patient and prepared for a bit of a learning curve. It takes time to develop the skill to make that perfect brew.

Below, we’ll detail three ways you can make an espresso without an espresso machine:

  • Moka Pot Brewing Method
  • Aeropress Method
  • French Press Method

Moka Pot Brewing Method

The Moka pot brewing method is also called the stovetop espresso method. A Moka pot’s distinct eight-sided, three-chambered design is easy to spot. The lower chamber holds the water, while the middle chamber holds the grounds. The upper chamber collects the brewed espresso. Like other brewing methods, it takes some practice to perfect your espresso with a Moka pot.

1. Grind the Beans

A typical Moka pot requires 20 to 22 grams of grounds (just under two tablespoons) to make a shot. To extract the best flavor, the beans must be finely ground. A fine ground allows the water to pass through the grounds and extract as much flavor as possible in a short amount of time.

2. Boil Water

Always start with fresh water, and only fill the lower chamber halfway. Overfilling the lower chamber can cause too much pressure to build.  If there’s too much pressure, the pressure can’t evacuate through the valve, which can cause an explosion. This step can be dangerous, so keep a watchful eye when filling the lower chamber.

Unlike some other brewing methods, you don’t necessarily have to preheat the water before adding it to the bottom chamber. In the end, you’ll heat the water on the stove anyway. You may want to experiment and try both ways. Your Moka pot may produce better results with preheated water, or you may prefer the flavor.

3. Add Coffee Grounds to the Filter Basket

Now, it’s time to put the coffee grounds in the filter basket. The grounds should have a slight mound that you level off by gently shaking them. Don’t press down on the grounds, or the water may not pass through the grounds as it should. Brush off any extra grounds from the edge of the filter basket.

4. Assemble the Pot

Assemble the top spout, and screw it onto the lower chamber. It should fit snugly but shouldn’t be overtightened. If you use preheated water, the bottom chamber will be hot, so you’ll need hot pads.

5. Place the Pot on the Stove at Medium Heat

Place the fully assembled pot on the stove at medium heat. With a little practice, you learn the right temperature for your pot using your stove. Adjust the heat to get a steady, even flow. If the temperature is too low, the espresso will come out slowly. Higher temperatures cause the espresso to come out quickly.

The top lid should remain open during this step, and the handle should not be over the heat source. If the handle gets heated, it will be too hot for you to pour your espresso.

6. Remove the Pot When the Steam Turns the Right Color

The water in the lower chamber will slowly heat until it reaches a boil. The pressure from the temperature change will gradually press the espresso out of the valve. It produces steam that gets noticeably darker in color until it reaches a honey yellow shade. That’s when it’s time to remove the Moka pot from the heat source and close the top lid.

7. Drink Your Espresso

The espresso is now ready to drink.

Be sure to clean your Moka pot with hot soap and water when you’re done. It will last longer and work better if residue doesn’t collect in the valve or chambers.

Aeropress Method

Like a Moka pot, an Aeropress is a small and relatively portable device that creates sweet, flavorful brews. The design contains a cylinder, plunger, and a filter, making it simple and easy to use and maintain.

1. Grind the Coffee Beans

It takes about two tablespoons or 23 grams of ground coffee beans to make a shot of espresso with an Aeropress. The grounds should be fine, almost like table salt, to allow the water to access as much of the beans’ oils and flavor as possible.

2. Prep the Aeropress

Place a filter in the lower basket of the Aeropress. Pour preheated water through the filter to warm up the Aeropress. This eliminates any paper flavoring from the filter. Then, pour out this water, and attach the basket to the bottom chamber.

Next, it’s time to put the coffee grounds in the basket. You may have to shake the Aeropress a little to evenly settle the grounds. However, you don’t want to press them because it can make it difficult for the water to pass through the grounds later. Afterward, place a second filter on top of the grounds, wetting it slightly with warm water to start the process and keep it in place before the following step.

3. Press the Plunger

Press the plunger, sometimes called the piston, down all the way to the bottom. Then let it back up to the starting position. The grounds should look similar to a puck at this point in the process.

4. Add Hot Water (200 to 208 degrees)

Now you’re ready to add to the hot water. For the best results, the water should be at about 200 to 208°F. Pour the water over the grounds. You can adjust the level according to your taste. If you’re new to an Aeropress and making your espresso, fill it to the level marked “2.” That’s a good middle of the road flavor for 20 to 23 grams of grounds. You can adjust the water level as you learn how you like your espresso.

5. Press the Plunger Again

Slowly press the plunger again. While you need to press firmly, you don’t want to force the plunger because it can cause a burst of espresso that covers your kitchen counters.

6. Drink the Espresso

The espresso is now ready to drink. This Aeropress method doesn’t require a long steep time as with the French Press method. If you’re often short on time, an Aeropress might be a good option for you.

French Press Method

You’re probably more familiar with a French Press than either a Moka pot or Aeropress. A French Press is another inexpensive option to make espresso at home. It’s about the size of a thermos with a piston through the lid and middle.

1. Grind the Beans

Grind four tablespoons, about 51 grams, of coffee or espresso beans into coarse grounds. A French Press differs from other espresso brewing methods in that fine grounds don’t produce the best results. The espresso beans need a coarse ground. Otherwise, the piston can’t hold down the grounds, and the final result is a muddy cup of coffee.

You’re going to let the grounds steep longer than with either an Aeropress or Moka pot. This gives the French Press time to extract the distinct espresso flavor from the larger grounds.

2. Stir Hot Water in the Glass Container

You need to preheat the French Press’s glass container. Pour in warm or hot tap water, and stir it around. This prevents extreme temperature changes from cracking the glass.

3. Boil the Water

Boil water in a kettle until it reaches about 200°F. If the water is too hot, it can over-extract the grounds, leaving the espresso bitter. If it’s too cold, you’ll end up with weak coffee. You might have to do some testing to find the perfect temperature for your French Press and personal taste. Let the water cool for 20 to 25 seconds before pouring it into the press.

4. Add the Grounds

Add the coffee grounds to the preheated French Press, and pour in the hot water. As soon as the water touches the coffee grounds, it will start to bloom, releasing the beans’ natural oils. Only let the grounds bloom for 15 to 20 seconds before moving on to the next step.

5. Add More Water and Stir

Pour in the rest of your hot water and use a long-handled spoon to gently stir. The stirring isn’t meant to create a flurry but to prevent clumps.

6. Steep the Brew

The steeping process is key to the espresso’s final taste—the longer it brews, the stronger the flavor. Everyone has their own tastes, but a good place to start is five minutes. You can adjust that time based on the ground of your beans and personal preferences. Just a note—do not press the piston until after the grounds have steeped.

7. Press the Piston

Once you’ve hit that five-minute mark, press the piston in a slow, even movement. Gently press until it reaches the bottom. You can try different plunging methods, like plunging halfway, pulling up, and then plunging fully. Again, it’s about finding what produces a French Press coffee you love.

8. Pour and Drink

Once the espresso is done, pour it out. Leaving it in the French Press can cause it to develop a bitter flavor. Be sure to pour the espresso through a coffee filter to remove any last grounds.

FAQs

Do I need to preheat my mug?

That’s a personal choice. Espresso, and coffee in general, tastes better when kept between 200 to 208°F. Preheating your mug will help maintain that optimal temperature and taste.

How many cups of espresso can I make with a French Press?

That, in part, depends on the French Press’s size and model. The general ratio is two tablespoons of beans for every cup of water. You can determine how much you can make using that formula. The owner’s manual will tell you the French Press’s maximum capacity.

How much caffeine is in a shot of espresso?

A single shot of espresso is usually 1 ounce, the equivalent of 30 g. There’s typically 64 mg of caffeine in that much espresso.

Conclusion

Brewing your own espresso saves you money and lets you develop the perfect brew for your tastebuds.

A delicious cup always starts with high-quality beans and a beautifully dark roast. Coffee lovers will enjoy the flexibility and customization of brewing their own espresso.

You can change the flavor by using different beans, grinds, and additional ingredients. Add frothed milk to create a latte or whip cream for a sweet treat. With a little knowledge, you can become your own best espresso maker.

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