Making an Espresso Without a Machine | Step-by-Step Guide

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Last Updated on June 3, 2021

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,

passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

how to make espresso without a machine

Are you one of those people that can’t function in the morning without your cup of joe? If your day starts with an espresso or latte, and you’re looking for alternatives to hitting the coffee shop every day, you’re probably considering how you make a delicious espresso at home

While there are plenty of great espresso makers on the market, if saving money is a factor in your need to espresso at home, investing in an espresso maker may not be part of your immediate money plans. So, what are your options? Believe it or not, there are some great ways to make espresso without an espresso machine.

The other great thing about knowing how to make espresso without an espresso machine is you can enjoy an espresso when you’re on the go. There are great portable options that make an amazing espresso, and are small enough to fit in your camping gear, backpack or suitcase.

3 Tools for Making Espresso Without a Machine

pouring a coffee

So before we give you step-by-step instructions on making espresso like Starbucks without an espresso machine, we’ll lay out the options that are the most reliable, and easy to use.

1. Moka Pot/Stovetop Method

The Moka Pot was invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti. It is an ingenious invention that uses steam pressure to push hot water through coffee grounds, from the bottom up. The Moka Pot is very affordable, and there are stove top options and countertop options that plug into a wall outlet. 

The general operation of these is that water is placed in the bottom reservoir, coffee grounds are placed in the basket above the water. When the water boils, the steam pressure forces the water through the basket, into the coffee grounds, and the brewed coffee is pushed into the top reservoir. Essentially the Moka Pot is a type of pressure cooker.

2. Aeropress

The Aeropress is a lot like a French press, but it is a single serve option, and is much more portable than the French Press.

The Aeropress sits on the top of your coffee mug, so it is very convenient. Like the French press, the Aeropress starts with ground coffee, and then hot water is poured over the top. A plunger is used to force the hot water through the grounds and through a small paper filter.

Many people like the aeropress for travel or camping. And it actually makes a more robust espresso, because it does require a good amount of pressure to push the coffee through the filter and into the cup. 

After pressing, the grounds are in puck form and cleaning up is super easy.

3. French Press

The French press doesn’t really make espresso, but it is really close. Many people prefer the French press to drip coffee because it is more robust and there is more control over the results. You can get a more espresso like coffee with a French press by double brewing or altering the ground to water ratio.

The French press works like the Aeropress, but on a larger scale, and it doesn’t need a cup beneath to catch the finished coffee.


Step-by-Step Guide

French Press

Now we’ll give you step by step instructions on how to make a delicious espresso, without using an espresso machine.

Step 1: Grind your coffee

For making espresso, you will need to grind around 20 grams of coffee. This is the ideal amount for your Moka Pot or your Aeropress. For both the Aeropress and Moka Pot, fine ground coffee is ideal. The French press requires a more coarse grind.

Step 2: Heat Water

If you are using the Aeropress or French Press, you’ll want to use an electric or stove top kettle. For the Moka Pot, you’ll add the water directly to the bottom reservoir of the device.

You can safely begin to heat, almost to a boil, water for your Aeropress or French Press. For the Moka Pot, you will want to heat just enough to warm the water.

Step 3A: Add coffee grounds

While the water is warming in your Moka Pot reservoir or in your kettle for your French Press or Aeropress, place the coffee grounds in the press or basket. For all of these options, do not compact the grounds. This will make it harder to pass the water through the grounds.

You will want to weigh the grounds for your Moka Pot or Aeropress. Using volume doesn’t lend to consistent results. The Aeropress does have markings on the cylinder, but they are only so helpful.

Step 3B: Assemble your Moka Pot

If you are using a Moka pot, once the water has warmed a bit, and your grounds have been measured into the basket, you will need to assemble the pot. Insert the basket onto the water reservoir, and screw on the top. 

Make sure that the pot is screwed together tightly, so that pressure can build within the pot. Gaps or a misalignment will not allow pressure to build, and the Moka Pot won’t work.

Return the Moka Pot to the stove top and continue to allow the water to heat to boiling.

Step 4: Add Water

This step will happen automatically with the Moka Pot. As the water in the base reservoir will push into the grounds basket.

For the Aeropress and the French Press, you’ll need to pour hot water over the grounds. It is helpful at this point to stir the grounds to ensure that the grounds are well distributed within the water column. This makes a more robust espresso or coffee.

Step 5: Press the Coffee

This step isn’t necessary with the Moka Pot. The coffee will push through the grounds using the steam pressure generated in the pot, the brewed coffee will then travel through the tube into the top reservoir where it will stay warm, and can be held until you are ready to drink.

The French Press and Aeropress will require physical pressing to push the brewed coffee through the grounds and filter. You will want to let the water and grounds steep for around 5 minutes. Any more than this and your coffee will be bitter. 

After the coffee has steeped, slowly depress the plunger on your Aeropress or French press. The coffee will pass through the filter into your cup with the Aeropress. With the French press, grounds will be pushed to the bottom of the carafe, with the brewed coffee on top, waiting to be poured.

Step 7: Pour your coffee

Your coffee is now ready to drink. Remove the Moka Pot from the stove, and pour the coffee into cups. The same can now be done with your French press. Distribute the brewed coffee into your preferred coffee cup or mug. 

Your Aeropress coffee is already in your cup, ready to be enjoyed.

Step 8: Clean up

The last step in making espresso without an espresso machine is the clean-up. Do make sure that you are thoroughly washing all the parts of your espresso maker. 

Use soap and water and when able, don’t be afraid to throw your French press, Aeropress or stove-top Moka Pot into your dishwasher. Do make sure that they are disassembled first and throw your used grounds in the trash or compost.


What You Need to Know About Double Brewing?

Double brewing is a technique used to make a stronger coffee when using a French press. To double brew, start with a regular brew of French press coffee. 

Transfer this coffee into a container, and remove the used coffee grounds. Rinse the press, and set it up for a second brew. However, instead of using water, you will use the coffee you just brewed.

The result of this process is a more robust coffee, that is more like espresso than a normal French press brew.


Jim Bob

Author: Jim Bob

Final Thoughts

Sure, the simplest way to get a perfect cup of espresso is to use an espresso machine. However, that isn’t always possible. It is good to know that there are other options out there, for making a great cup of espresso. 

The Aeropress, Moka Pot and French Press are all great options, whether you’re on a budget or just want a great cup of espresso while traveling or on the go.