The process of how to make espresso is as much an art as it is a science. In fact, I feel that it’s this art-science blend that makes espresso so enjoyable and widely loved throughout the world.
Even though espresso started out in Italy, it’s now enjoyed everywhere  by people of all ages (except perhaps children who should not be drinking coffee yet!)
But what if you have a craving for some strong espresso-style coffee but don’t have an espresso machine?
We’ll show you 3 ways to make espresso at home without an espresso maker.
So how do you make good espresso at home? An espresso machine uses 9 bars of pressure to extract a strong shot of coffee, so the goal with brewing an espresso shot without a machine is to try and replicate as much of that pressure as possible.
It’s very difficult to replicate anywhere near that much pressure without an espresso machine, but we can try some alternative methods that still gets you a nice, strong shot of espresso-like coffee.
How to make espresso without a machine:
- Use an Aeropress
- Use a Moka Pot
- Use a French Press
1. AeroPress Method
The Aeropress is an amazing little device that’s deceptively simple but brews superb coffee.
It’s my top method for making espresso without an espresso maker, there’s no doubt about it.
Originally invented by a frisbee manufacturer  who wanted a better, quicker solution for good coffee (I kid you not), it has fast become one of the most popular ways to brew really good coffee.
It’s also overtaken the french press as my preferred way of making coffee since it is much quicker and brews far better coffee.
The Aeropress is one of the best ways to make espresso without an espresso machine. It’s quick, makes a great shot of espresso (almost), and is also really easy to clean up.
Are you convinced, and wondering how to make espresso at home with an Aeropress?
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- An Aeropress
- Coffee beans
- A grinder
- Hot water
- Something to stir with
Step 1: Measure and grind
Measure out 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of coffee beans and grind them to a fine-medium consistency. On your grinder, this will be a couple of clicks above what you’d normally use for espresso.
Step 2: Heat up water
First off, get some hot water going in your favorite kettle. Bonus points to you if you’re using a gooseneck kettle, since this will make it easier to pour :).
Heat the water up to between 175 – 205 degrees F (80-95 degrees C). This is the ideal brewing temperature for Aeropress.
If your kettle only goes up to full boil, then leave the top open after it’s finished boiling for about 30 seconds to a minute to let the hot water cool down some.
Step 3: Set up your Aeropress
Place a paper filter in the filter tray of the Aeropress, and fasten it to the bottom half of the device.
Place the bottom half of the Aeropress on a sturdy mug(you’ll be applying pressure to it soon, so make sure it’s not delicate) and drop in your coffee.
Step 4: Add water
Fill water just up to the 1 mark on the Aeropress – this will be around 2 ounces. If you’re using a scale, it’s 70 grams of water. Make sure all the grounds get wet!
For bonus points, pour in a circular motion to wet the grounds as evenly as possible.
Give the mixture a very gentle stir and insert the plunger on top. Inserting the plunger creates a pressure difference that will prevent the shot from dripping all the way through.
Let it sit for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Plunge
Insert the plunger and start steadily pushing down – once most of the hot water(now coffee) has passed through the filter, you’ll hear a hissing sound, but keep going until you reach the grounds and you can’t push any further.
This last step helps to extract some crema which will taste delicious on top of an espresso.
Enjoy your quick-brewed espresso!
If you prefer Americano, dilute your shot with some more water.
Cleaning up is a cinch – with the plunger all the way down, just remove the filter holder, hold the Aeropress over a garbage can and push the plunger all the way out, ejecting the puck of coffee and the filter.
Rinse off the rubber, separate the two parts and you’re good to go.
To level up your Aeropress game even further, consider picking up an attachment like the Fellow Prismo which increases the pressure even more.
2. Moka Pot Method
The Moka Pot or a stovetop espresso maker is a brilliantly engineered gadget that use the pressure of steam to brew great coffee.
Moka pots produce some of the closest shots to actual espresso without need a machine.
The main difference between the Aeropress and the moka pot is that the Aeropress uses manually generated pressure, whereas the moka pot uses steam-generated pressure.
They’re also known as percolators, and are one of the original ways to make coffee.
While it’s not exactly going to be an espresso, it’ll have the distinctly rich taste you love of espresso, minus the crema. Also, moka pots are best used to brew a full cup, not just a shot, though you can add less water for a more concentrated brew.
The moka pot is really simple, cheap, and a quick brewing solution for really good coffee. It’s ideal for camping and traveling, too.
What you’ll need
- A moka pot
- Coffee beans
- A grinder
Step 1: Measure and grind coffee
Grind yourself about 15 grams of coffee to a pour-over consistency of medium fine. On a grinder, get to the halfway point you’d use for drip coffee, and go a couple of clicks finer.
Step 2: Add coffee to the filter
Unscrew the bottom of the moka pot and you’ll see that there is a little chamber in the bottom and a filter device where you add your coffee grounds.
A small stovetop espresso maker will have a filter basket that’s just big enough for 15 grams of coffee.
Use your finger and level off the top of the filter to get the grounds nice and even. You don’t need to tamp down here, just leveling off is fine.
Step 3: Heat up water
Use your favorite kettle to get some water to a boil. This step is very important! Even though you’ll put the moka pot on the stove, you need to use hot water, otherwise the latent steam from warming water will brew a tasteless cup.
By using hot water, you’ll be able to generate sufficient pressure with water hot enough to extract all the flavors you need for a makeshift espresso at home.
Step 4: Add water to the moka pot and assemble
Add the boiling water to the bottom chamber of the moka pot. There is a safety valve in the bottom chamber of the moka pot which you’ll use as a guide for how much water to fill.
Fill right below the safety valve. For a stronger shot, leave a few more millimeters of space between the water level and the valve.
Now place the filter with the coffee grounds on the bottom chamber. Using a towel, grab the bottom chamber firmly and screw on the top chamber.
The bottom chamber will be very hot! It’s made of metal and is full of boiling water, so use a towel and protect yourself!
Step 5: Place the moka pot on the stove
Turn the stove up to medium-high heat and place your moka pot on the stove. You can leave the lid open to see the coffee flow out!
Since you used hot water, it’ll just be a short time before you see coffee bubbling up through the spout. The water is turns into steam, gets pressurized, rises through the bed of coffee, up the spout, and into the top chamber.
You’ll know all the coffee has brewed when you hear a distinct gurgling sound. This sound indicates that all the water has flowed into the top reservoir of the moka pot and only a few of the last bubbles are left.
Step 6: Pour out and enjoy
Turn off the heat and remove the moka pot from the stove. Pour your homemade espresso into a mug and enjoy!
You can drink this coffee straight or froth some milk and add it to make a cappuccino or latte.
In case the coffee does not flow out after a minute or so, remove the moka pot from the heat. Grip the bottom chamber with a towel and unscrew the top very slowly. Then screw it closed again, and place it back on the heat.
The coffee should now start flowing.
3. French Press Method
Of all the ways you can brew espresso at home without any coffee makers, the French Press is the last one you should try.
For best results, stick to Aeropress or Moka pot espresso. However, french presses are very common and if you don’t have anything else, coffee is better than no coffee.
French presses make the least authentic espresso, mainly because they’re not designed to generate much pressure at all. The only pressure applied to the brew is from the plunger, and that too is quite negligible!
Instead of pressure, we’re taking advantage of the fact that french press brews an intense and acidic coffee, and it’s the intensity and acidity that is mimicking the espresso flavor we all love.
Another thing we’ll do is double the coffee ratio for an even stronger jolt of flavor.
What you’ll need:
- A grinder
- 28 grams of coffee beans (use a dark roast for extra intensity)
- A hot water kettle
- A french press
Step 1: Measure and grind coffee
Measure out 28 grams of your favorite coffee beans. Don’t use anything less than a medium roast, as you just can’t get the level of intensity you need otherwise.
Normally, we’d use a coarse grind for the french press. For maximum extraction, we’re going to use a finer grind, so stick to a medium grind for this method.
Step 2: Heat and pour water
Heat up 200 grams of water to a boil. You can just straight boiling water if you like. If you’re using a darker roast, stick to using slightly cooler water at around 195 degrees F (90 degrees C).
Add the coffee grounds to your french press and add 50 grams of water to the grounds. Try to wet them as evenly as possible: don’t leave any dry patches.
Step 3: Bloom the coffee
As you add the water, you may notice the grounds start to expand and bubble up. This is called the coffee bloom, and it will help improve the flavor of your final brew.
Let the coffee bloom for 20 seconds.
Step 4: Add the remaining water
Add the remaining water to your makeshift espresso slurry and give it a very gentle stir once or twice.
Step 5: Steep for 4 minutes
Add the plunger to the top of the french press (don’t push down), and let the brew steep for 4 minutes.
It’s important to use a timer or watch the clock because every second counts!
You’re already making extra-strong coffee to mimic espresso, so any over-extraction will ruin the flavor.
Step 6: Plunge and pour out
After 4 minutes are up, plunge down, pour out, and enjoy.
The finer grind that we used will help improve the mouthfeel of the french press espresso brew.
Here’s the caveat: french press is the least effective method, since there is minimal pressure, and all we’re doing here is attempting to mimic the flavor of an espresso using extra coffee.
Making Espresso: The Basics
To make espresso at home or anywhere else requires three factors: the roast of the coffee beans, the grind of the beans, and the pressure used to brew.
Using the right kind of roast
Espresso roasts are generally medium-dark and dark roasts. Dark roasts have very intense flavor and the brewing method of espresso really helps extract all that flavor.
When coffee beans are roasted to a dark color, more and more pores open up in the beans. When the beans are ground, the flavor compounds and aromatic compounds mix into the water even more easily.
You could experiment with using medium or light roasts if you want. I firmly maintain that coffee is about your personal preference. So if you find that dark roasts are too strong for you, go for the medium roast.
But you should definitely try the authentic way first, and modify as you go along. There is a reason it’s the authentic way, after all.
Check out some of our favorite espresso beans here.
Grind to the correct consistency
Grind is absolutely critical for brewing good espresso. Since a shot of espresso is brewed so quickly, the grounds need to be very, very fine in order to extend the surface area as much as possible.
If you were using an espresso machine, you’d be grinding very fine. However, these methods that don’t use an espresso machine use varying grinds.
To recap, use fine-medium for Aeropress and Moka pot, and medium for French Press espresso.
The best kind of grinder is a burr grinder. Most good burr grinders will have automatic settings that will grind the beans to your desired consistency.
You can pick up an electric grinder or a manual grinder, whatever works for your budget.
Espresso machines use pressure to force hot water through the puck of coffee grounds. Most machines use a default pressure of 9 atmospheres, which means 9 times the pressure of the atmosphere(Note: that’s quite a lot).
It’s hard for non-Herculean people to generate that kind of pressure, which is why you need to use a specialized machine. Manual espresso machines like the Flair have a special system to help you generate enough pressure.
However, since we’re not using an espresso machine, we’ll have to figure out alternate ways to come up with pressure.
It won’t be as much as what you could generate with a proper machine, but it will do the trick.
Once you have these three boxes crossed, you can experiment with the processes for how to make espresso.
You also need to use the right kind of water, which you can read about here.
Conclusion: Best Way To Make Espresso at Home?
These methods are my favorites for making good espresso without a machine. You don’t need to spend $$$$ just to enjoy good coffee.
Of course, a proper espresso machine will always produce superior coffee, and it will be more convenient to use, but these methods – especially the Aeropress and moka pot – will make some really good espresso as well.
You can also experiment using a french press, but it won’t have as good of a result.
Finally, if you try any of these at home or you have your own special method, please don’t hesitate to share it with us in the comments!
Frequently asked questions
Can you make espresso with a coffee maker?
It’s tough to make espresso with a drip coffee maker. The best thing you can do is to add 1.5 to 2 times the coffee grounds and brew a single cup to maximize extraction and try to mimic the boldness and intensity of espresso.
Can I use regular coffee beans to make espresso?
Absolutely! It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee beans you use, though medium-dark or dark roasted beans will result in a much more flavorful cup.
Are espresso machines expensive?
Espresso machines can be found in all price ranges, from less than $150ish all the way up to beyond $1000.