Making Espressos at Home: You Don’t Need a Fancy Espresso Machine to Enjoy Your Delicious Beverage

Coffee Geek Lab / Making Espressos at Home: You Don’t Need a Fancy Espresso Machine to Enjoy Your Delicious Beverage
Yurii Brown

Certified Barista

June 16, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I personally believe that espresso is the king of coffee.

And I am ready to drink it anytime, anywhere.

If you’re anything like me, you are definitely going to love today’s guide. I am going to teach you how to make espressos at home. And yes, you don’t even need a special machine for that. Are you excited to learn about 4 great homemade espresso recipes? Let’s get started then!

Making Espresso at Home
What Is Espresso Exactly? To define what espresso is, we need to look at the way it is made. You see, this beverage is brewed by forcing hot water through the grounds. Not steeping the coffee, not pouring hot water over it (or through it), but forcing it through the grounds under a lot of pressure. That’s what makes espressos so rich, flavorful, and full-bodied. Interestingly enough, there is no specific definition or guidelines of what a “correct” espresso should be like. However, there are certain features that espresso has to possess and that all the baristas and coffee experts agree on. For instance, everyone realizes that all espresso recipes should only include coffee grounds and water, no extra components. It is also known that a good espresso has to have a rich crema. And, of course, espresso has to be strong. But when it comes to the roast level, grind, and pressure (which is used to force the water through the grounds), there’s no certain rule. Different baristas experiment with coffee grinds, bean mixes, different roasts, and so on. This means that when making espresso at home, you are also free to try different combos and variations. Here’s the thing, though: Because an espresso recipe requires a specific way of brewing, the beverage you make at home without a special espresso machine will not technically be a “real” espresso. However, this doesn’t mean that your homemade espresso will taste bad. In fact, certain methods allow for making coffee that is very close to the coffee shop quality. So, try them out and see for yourself!

The first espresso machine was invented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo. People were fascinated by the richness and the strength of the beverage made with that machine. To this day, we love the bold flavor and the rich crema of espressos.

Method 1: For My Lovely Lazy Bums (Fast, Simple, but Rich Anyway)

The first way to make espresso without an espresso machine involves a different little piece of equipment – a Moka pot. I know, it also requires some expenses. But here’s the thing: Moka pots are very affordable and have the potential to deliver that rich, bold taste so that your cup of coffee would be as close to espresso as possible. So, I highly recommend testing this method. What you will need:
  • coffee beans;
  • a grinder;
  • a Moka pot;
  • clean water;
  • a spoon;
  • your favorite mug.
Preparation time: 10-12 minutes.

When it comes to Moka pots, the most common materials used for this kitchen utensil are aluminum and stainless steel. Stainless steel is more popular since it is more durable.

Step-by-step guide:
  • Measure 20-22 grams of coffee. You can use kitchen scales (which I highly recommend) or simply take around 4-4.5 teaspoons of coffee.
  • Grind your beans finely. There isn’t one specific espresso grind, but for a Moka pot, you want your coffee to be as fine as, for instance, caster sugar.
  • Add some clean water to the bottom section of your Moka pot. Three and a half ounces would be enough (or simply reach the fill line).
  • Add your coffee grounds to the filter basket. Place it on top of the water chamber and screw the parts together tightly.
  • Put your Moka pot onto the stove. Make sure the heat is medium.
  • Now you need to wait and be extra attentive. The water will boil and rise up from the lower section, pushing through the coffee grounds and brewing a nice, rich beverage. Once you hear a hissing sound or notice a brown foam appearing in the spout of your pot, it means the coffee is almost done. Wait for a few seconds until the top section of the Moka pot is full of coffee.
  • Remove the pot from the stove, give the coffee a quick stir, and pour it into your favorite mug. Enjoy!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • Brewing coffee in a Moka pot is a rather precise art, especially if you want to make espresso without an espresso machine (and want it to taste great). Therefore, I suggest you buy kitchen scales. They don’t cost that much but will help you immensely. Once you measure your coffee correctly, you can figure out the perfect beans + water ratio and brew beverages of excellent quality. Besides, you will also be able to use your brand new kitchen scales for cooking too (baking, for instance, often requires exact measurements).
  • Make sure not to overfill the water section of your Moka pot. If you add too much water, it will overflow the coffee and affect the flavor greatly (not in a good way, I’m afraid).
  • One of the great things about Moka pot is that you can use them pretty much anywhere. I mean, you can enjoy a strong, rich coffee beverage even when camping, because your Moka pot can be used even with an open fire!

Method 2: For Espresso Lovers (Fast but More Expensive)

In my experience, brewing coffee using an AeroPress is the only way to make espresso without an espresso machine and receive a beverage as close to the coffee shop quality as possible. Espressos made with an AeroPress taste almost the same as the ones brewed using a special machine.

And it gets better:

AeroPresses aren’t that expensive. Yes, they cost more than Moka pots or, let’s say, French presses, but still aren’t as pricey as espresso machines.

Interestingly enough, an AeroPress is considered to be a newer, more portable version of a French press. The construction and the brewing method of both devices are similar, that’s true. However, the coffee taste is different.

What you will need:
  • an AeroPress;
  • clean water;
  • fresh coffee beans;
  • a coffee grinder;
  • a spoon or kitchen scales;
  • a kettle;
  • your favorite mug.
Preparation time: 8-10 minutes
Step-by-step guide:
  • Heat up some water. If you have an electric temperature-control kettle – great. With an AeroPress, an optimal temperature is 185 F, but you can experiment with it a bit (just don’t heat it more than to 205 F). If you have a regular kettle, boil the water and leave it to cool down a bit for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, you can move to the next step…
  • Take around 25-28 grams of coffee beans (roughly 2 tablespoons, if you don’t have kitchen scales) and grind them finely.
  • Place one of the filters in the filter cap of your AeroPress and rinse it with hot water. This is a simple pre-infusion step that will prep the system and enhance your beverage flavor.
  • Screw the filter cap to the bottom part of the AeroPress chamber.
  • Add your coffee grounds.
  • Pre-infuse your second filter by damping it with warm water as well. Stick it to the bottom of your AeroPress tamp section.
  • Now, press the tamp part into the top of the grinds. This process actually mimics the real tamping, which you would do with a regular espresso machine.
  • The next step is to pour some water in. Make sure you don’t use too much and pour quite slowly. If you don’t really know how much water you need, use the AeroPress’s hints: there are numbers on the tube. Usually, users are recommended to fill the chamber up to the “2” mark, which results in rich beverages. I myself agree that using such an amount of water is an ideal way to make espresso without an espresso machine and preserve its flavor and strength.
  • Once you’ve done pouring the water, place the AeroPress on top of your mug. Using both of your hands (this way is easier, trust me), push the plunger down. You will feel resistance, but that’s the beauty of this method. Just like hot water is forced through the grounds in espresso machines, you force the water through by pressing onto the plunger.
  • Take the AeroPress off your mug and enjoy your freshly brewed beverage!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • Because this method is so close to the regular espresso making process, you need to make sure you are using properly ground coffee. This method requires an even, fine grind. In my humble opinion, only a good burr grinder can offer you that even grind. So, you might want to consider investing in one of those.
  • If you are trying to push the plunger down but feel too much resistance, take a pause. And don’t be too rough on your AeroPress! You might end up with your coffee splashed all around the kitchen. Instead, try pulling the plunger up a bit and then moving it down slowly again.
  • Using a pre-warmed mug is always a great idea, especially when it comes to espressos made with an AeroPress. You can fill your mug with hot water and empty it right before brewing your coffee into it.

Method 3: Minimal Efforts, Maximum Flavor

The next thing I want to share with you is how to make espresso with a French press. What’s great about this method is its simplicity. Also, it isn’t time-consuming at all and does not require much effort from you. Still, when making espresso with a French press, you get a rich, strong beverage with a bold flavor. And if you manage to get the ratios right, it will be very close to the real espresso.

What you will need:

  • clean water;
  • fresh coffee beans;
  • a grinder;
  • a French press;
  • a spoon;
  • kitchen scales (if you have one);
  • a kettle;
  • your favorite mug.

Preparation time: 8-12 minutes.

Step-by-step guide:
  • Take at least 28 grams (or roughly 2 tablespoons) of coffee and grind it very finely. You might even need more coffee to get a stronger, more flavorful brew, so feel free to experiment with different quantities to find the one that works for you.
  • Heat 1 cup of water in your kettle. The ideal brewing temperature for this method is 195 F. However, if you don’t have a thermometer (or a temperature-control electric kettle), let the water boil and then let it cool down for around a minute.
  • Place your coffee grounds into the French press.
  • Add a splash of hot water to the grounds and let them soak for around 30 seconds. This step is like a pre-infusion for the beans. It makes them release their special flavor notes, oils, and aroma.
  • Add the rest of the water and cover the plunger lid (without pressing the plunger down). Let your beverage steep for 4 minutes or so. If you prefer your coffee stronger, allow it to steep a couple of minutes more.
  • Once you’ve waited enough, press the plunger down. Don’t move it too fast, though.
  • Pour your beverage into a coffee mug and enjoy!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • When pressing the plunger down, stop halfway and pull it up for a second, then push it down again to the bottom. This way, you will stir the steeped coffee, mixing the oils from the beans and ensuring a smooth, balanced taste.
  • Keep in mind that the longer you let your coffee steep in the French press, the stronger it will be. You need to be careful here. If you leave it for too long, the grounds might oversteep and your beverage will end up tasting too bitter.
  • I advise that you don’t stir your coffee right after you have added the hot water. It’s better to wait for it to steep first. You see, if you decide to stir the grounds after adding water to them, this may ruin the extraction process and reduce the richness and the flavor of your beverage.

Method 4: Getting the Most Out of Your Coffee Maker

If you thought that making espresso with a coffee maker is impossible, you were right. However, you can brew a beverage close to espresso. If you use the right coffee + water ratio and stick to certain guidelines, you will be able to brew a small cup of strong, rich coffee, which might even remind you of a real espresso.  

What you will need:

  • freshly roasted beans;
  • a grinder;
  • a coffee maker;
  • a coffee filter;
  • clean water;
  • a kettle;
  • your favorite mug.

Preparation time: 5-8 minutes.

Espresso serves as a base for many other coffee beverages. For example, it is used to make cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, Americanos, and so on.

Step-by-step guide:
  • Grind your beans. 2 tablespoons will be enough if you use no more than 2 ounces of water for each beverage. The grind needs to be very fine so that the beans manage to steep faster.
  • Place a coffee filter into your coffee maker and add the grounds.
  • When making espresso with a coffee maker, forget about your machine’s water reservoir. You are going to pour the water manually, so leave the reservoir empty.
  • Heat up the water. Again, the optimal brewing temperature is around 195 F, so you either need to measure it with a thermometer or leave the water to cool down a bit after boiling it.
  • Place your favorite coffee mug under the dispenser and get ready to brew your delicious beverage.
  • Pour some water over the coffee grounds (just enough to cover them) and let them steep for 30 seconds. This will pre-infuse the ground beans and release their oils, which will then enhance the flavor.
  • Pour the rest of the water and let your mug catch the dispensed beverage.
  • Voila! You have your espresso-like beverage made by using your handy little coffee maker. Enjoy!

Tips and tricks from Yurii Brown:

  • To get the most out of your coffee maker, experiment with the amount of coffee that you use. This way, you will vary the strength of your beverages and will have more chances to find that perfect ratio to meet your specific preferences.
  • Some online tutorials and YouTube videos advise people pour their brewed coffee back through the used ground coffee and kind of brew the beverage again. I hope you realize how terrible this idea is. First of all, your coffee will lose its freshness. And second of all, when brewing it twice, you will only increase its bitterness.

Pieces of Advice from Lola Peterson

Now that you are familiar with multiple ways to make espresso without an actual espresso machine, you might be wondering, “Is it everything that I need to know? Or are there any secrets I haven’t discovered yet?”

Well, there’s still a lot for you to learn. For all of us, to be honest. Coffee brewing is a very versatile process that hides numerous pitfalls and pleasant surprises. So, your coffee journey will be long and exciting.

However, if you want to learn something extra today, I am happy to share some of my favorite coffee brewing tips and tricks. For instance:

  • The quality of your beverage will directly depend on the beans that you are using. So, don’t be greedy here and prepare to spend more on good quality beans. Try to find a roaster in your town/city or inquire around your local coffee shops. If there’s someone roasting coffee where you live, you will have access to the freshest beans. And this means you will enjoy the most delicious coffee.
  • Don’t forget that the water temperature is crucial when it comes to brewing coffee. You don’t need boiling water since it will burn the grounds and the coffee will be too bitter. At the same time, when the water is not hot enough, the grounds will not release all of their oils and flavors. And this means flat-tasting beverages.
  • Mind the roast of your beans. The darker the roast, the most acidic your coffee will taste. Additionally, darker roasts tend to be less caffeinated than lighter ones.

What makes espressos so great is the way they are brewed. The hot water is forced through the grounds using high pressure levels. This can be achieved by using a special machine. However, you can try to make a strong espresso-like beverage using available equipment at your home.

  • Adding a tiny pinch of salt to your coffee might seem a bit crazy, but this trick is pure magic, in my opinion. Firstly, it enhances the flavors of the coffee, making the beverage more intense and richer. Secondly, this little trick can help you get rid of the excess bitterness (in case you don’t like it).
  • When making coffee using a French press or a Moka pot, you can spice your homemade espresso up by adding some flavorings or spices to the coffee grounds before brewing.
  • With a French press, you can also make espresso-based beverages like cappuccinos or lattes. How? By simply foaming the hot milk when moving the French press plunger up and down multiple times.
  • You should definitely try the cold brew method. Even though it has nothing to do with espressos (remember, espresso requires high pressure to be brewed), it is worth trying anyway. The cold brew method delivers a rich, super strong beverage, which you might even want to dilute with water a bit.

Common Coffee Brewing Mistakes You Should Try to Avoid

Alright, you know what to do. But do you want to know what not to do? I thought so. Here are the most common brewing mistakes that almost everyone makes. Try to avoid them, and your coffee game will always be on top:
  • Using tap water to brew coffee. Ah, this one is my personal “favorite”. Tap water may taste clean to you, but it contains lots of stuff that can ruin the flavor of your coffee (like minerals or chlorine). Therefore, it’s better to use bottled or filtered water to brew your beverages.
  • Buying pre-ground coffee or using old beans. This one is a real no-no. Old beans (or the ones that were ground god knows when) taste like crap. Period.
  • Using dirty equipment. I mean, we can all be lazy sometimes. But when it comes to coffee brewing, using dirty equipment is a real crime. You compromise the flavor of your beverages and shorten the lifespan of your equipment when doing so.
  • Storing your coffee beans in the fridge (or freezer). This won’t keep them fresh, just cool. In fact, this will actually make your beans lose their flavor. The best way to store them is in an airtight container somewhere in a dark, dry place away from any heat sources (like a cupboard, for example).
  • Eyeballing your measurements. This mistake is very common, so don’t worry if you’ve made it too. Measuring by eye is not the best solution simply because it cannot guarantee a good taste of your coffee. But when you know the precise measurements, you can brew a perfect cup of coffee every time without fail.
So, are you ready to head to the kitchen and brew yourself a cup of your favorite beverage? Which method are you going to try? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Yurii Brown

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