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How To Make Espresso Without An Espresso Maker

When you need an espresso but leaving your apartment just isn’t happening, how do you cope?

In truth, your mad scientist skills probably won’t invent the perfect espresso without proper equipment—it’s just the way the stroopwafel crumbles.

But there are a surprising number of ways you can craft a kinda-sorta espresso shot without once touching the lever of an espresso machine.
Before you start brewing, we recommend having a few basic tools in your ‘laboratory’ to help your experiments go smoothly:
  1. An electric kettle with temperature control
  2. A conical burr grinder for a consistent, even grind
  3. A scale with a timer, to remove all the guesswork (remember, you’re doing science)

Method #1: The AeroPress


We recommend this one
Unlike a regular cup of coffee, the perfect shot of espresso is all about pressure.

With the word “press” in its name, the AeroPress is an ideal candidate for approximating espresso. Though the texture may differ from what you’ll get with a fancy machine, the flavor and caffeine content of an AeroPress “espresso” impressively match the machine espresso.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED
  • AeroPress
  • Coffee beans
  • Tablespoon or scale
  • Grinder
Make coffee with an AeroPress

Step 1

Stack your AeroPress. Place a filter inside the drain cap—if you can, use more than one to slow the flow of water when pressing. Lightly rinse the filter and place the drain cap and filter inside the compartment of the press. Place the press on a stable cup or mug.

Step 2

Prepare about 2 tablespoons of coffee by grinding the beans to a fine, table salt-like consistency. Drop them into the filter. Note that adding more coffee than normal during these makeshift brewing sessions might work in your favor—it will create a more reliably concentrated shot.

Step 3

Add approximately 3 ½ fluid ounces of water, heated to about 200 degrees. Stir with the coffee. Then, press down on the plunger—hard. Remember, espresso depends on pressure! Transfer your espresso (or coffee shot) into a demitasse and enjoy!

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Pouring turkish coffee

Method #2: The Moka Pot


We recommend this one
Ah, the trusty Moka pot. The utility knife of coffee brewing. This handy-dandy, teeny-tiny kettle produces an espresso-like pour that soothes the soul and puts a little pep in your step. You’ll get a taste that is assuredly neither coffee nor espresso, but satisfying all the same.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED
  • Moka pot
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tablespoon or scale
Turkish coffee method materials

Step 1

Measure out about 2 tablespoons of coffee, or 20-22 grams. Grind your beans as finely as possible.

Step 2

Pour 3 ½ fluid ounces of water into the bottom of the pot. Pour the coffee grounds into the built-in filter, shaking to settle the grounds. Screw on the spouted top of the moka pot tightly and place the pot on a burner set to medium heat.

Step 3

The rest of this process is a lot like listening for a tea kettle to whistle. Wait until the coffee begins to expand and foam in the upper level of the pot—the hot water will create the pressure needed to produce a concentrated coffee, as well as a bit of foam. When the top is filled with coffee, pour into a demitasse and enjoy!
Remember that the Moka Pot is an inexact art, so it may take you a few tries before you find the perfect process!

Method #3: The French Press


We recommend this one
One of the most commonly owned coffee materials, the French press will certainly give you a brew that’s concentrated (if prepared correctly), though we only recommend this as the last-resort option.

The French press will get you where you’re going, but without the concentrated punch of the other two methods. Your coffee shot will also come out a smidge more oily, and this method also puts a few more steps between you and your caffeine.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED
  • French press
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tablespoon or scale
  • Kettle
Bag it method materials

Step 1

Grind at least two tablespoons of coffee on a fine setting. You’ll need more coffee than you might think to add some richness to the brew, since it won’t come out as frothy as with a Moka pot or AeroPress.

Step 2

In your kettle, heat 1 cup of water to just below 200 degrees. Meanwhile, add the coffee grounds to the French press.

Step 3

Bloom your coffee—that is, release the flavor notes of your particular beans—by adding a splash of hot water. Let the grounds soak for about 30 seconds.

Step 4

Pour the rest of the water over the grounds. Close the lid and allow the coffee to steep for about 4 minutes.

Step 5

Press the plunger down halfway using slow, steady pressure. Raise it all the way to the top and then plunge all the way down using the same even pressure. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Top 5 Espresso Makers (Under $250)

espresso cup on blue table

Top 5 Espresso Makers (Under $250)

Want to start making incredible espresso at home without breaking the bank on an expensive machine? You're in luck!

Top 5 Espresso Machines

The Scientific (Coffee) Method

As a coffee chemist, you’ll want to experiment with water temperature, coffee to water ratio, grind size, and even little things like the type of filter you use. Soon you’ll find the brew that’s perfect for you—no special machines required.

Espresso: Knowledge to seem more worldly at your next cocktail party

What we can all agree on: Coffee-brewing is not a quick process. Unless we’re settling for K-cups, it’s a methodical process that takes attention and occasionally some fast-acting reflexes.

Realizing this, the Europeans – Italians, specifically – invented the espresso machine at the height of the steam-powered industrial era in the second half of the 1800s – just when cafes were taking the continent by storm.

What they did, in essence, was discover that high pressure applied to water and coffee creates a quickly produced coffee-like drink called espresso. With 9 bars of pressure applied per square inch (“PSI” – you’ve surely heard the acronym), totaling 130.5 PSI, you have the bite-sized cup of caffeine gloriousness so many of us are now familiar with.

That pressure is why we have espresso machines to begin with. “It’s pretty hard to create that pressure by hand, which is why most espresso machines have pumps that build that pressure,” says Andy Pickle, TK ROASTER. “But they do now have lever machines where you manually apply the pressure, where the lever doesn't require the full nine bars.”

Moreover, though we associate espresso with the darker Italian coffee roasts, there is no such thing as a true “espresso roast.” Remember that espresso is a brewing method, not coffee type.

“Historically, espresso beans have been a darker roast, but this is a misnomer,” Pickle says. “You can make espresso with any type of coffee or roast but to brew it in the correct amount of time and with the appropriate amount of pressure, it needs to be very fine -- not quite like a powder, but finer than table salt, for sure.”


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