how to make espresso without a machine

How to Make Espresso without an Espresso Machine?

February 4, 2021

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We all love excellent quality coffee, don’t we? The strong coffee flavor and syrupy feel that we get with an Espresso is a firm favorite for most.

I’m sorry to say that you can’t make a real espresso without an espresso machine or without some way of reaching the required extraction pressure!

OK Steve, then why lead with the bullshit title of ‘How to Make Espresso without Espresso Machine’? Unfortunately, you often see many other sites say something like this in their posts. I just wanted to present the correct information. If anyone says you can make espresso without some way of achieving the required extraction pressure, then they don’t know what they are talking about.

The posts on other sites may qualify their statement by saying that you can prepare coffee like an espresso. The articles that don’t qualify their statement either don’t understand espresso coffee or they are just lazy. But then what is meant by ‘like an espresso’? Is it the flavor and viscosity of the coffee, is it that hot water and pressure are used, or or both?

Read on to learn more.

What is an Espresso?

An espresso is a small, concentrated, syrupy, coffee. Typically made with an espresso machine, a small amount of nearly boiling water is pressurized through finely-ground coffee at 7 to 10 atmospheres (this can also be measured as 7 to 10 Bar, 709 to 1013 kPa, or 103 to 147 pounds per square inch).

This is a lot of pressure. Can you imagine how it would feel to have 147 pounds per square inch pressure on your foot? That is like having a Sumo wrestler balancing on one square inch of your foot. Ouch! (I have no idea how a Sumo wrestler would be able to balance on one square inch of your foot, but it is just for the analogy – OK?).

Why is pressure used to make an espresso? Pressure and hot water (i.e. about 95 C or 203 F) are used to extract the flavors, oils, and solids from the ground coffee. Pressure and hot water alone can speed extraction. However, pressure and hot water together are a perfect combination to speed extraction and extract all the necessary components to make a flavorsome coffee.  Simply letting the water infuse through the coffee grounds by gravity will not produce an espresso coffee.

The resulting espresso coffee tends to be strong tasting and delivered in a small volume (about 1 oz or 30 ml). The final taste of the coffee depends upon the Barista’s skills and the roasted coffee beans used to make the espresso.

Are there any brewing techniques that can be used to make an espresso coffee without a machine? No! Any equipment used to brew coffee can be thought of as a machine, so a machine is needed.

Are there any brewing techniques that can be used to make an espresso coffee with a machine, but not with the usual espresso machine? Yes! It is possible for a machine other than the usual espresso machine to brew an espresso coffee provided it can produce an extraction pressure of 7 to 10 atmospheres. However, we have not yet seen any machine that can do this other than the usual espresso machines.

Can a Moka pot, percolator, or an Aeropress be used to make espresso because they all use pressure to make coffee? The short answer is no! These methods simply can’t achieve the necessary 7 to 10 atmospheres of pressure to make espresso coffee.

However, these methods can produce something like an espresso if you think of espresso as ‘small, concentrated, syrupy, coffee’. A new product on the market (or will be soon) is the Orb One which is something like a Moka pot and makes “an intense, viscous coffee, akin to espresso.

Espresso with an AeroPress

The Aeropress is a portable coffee brewer developed by Alan Alda. It uses a combination of immersion brewing (like a French Press) and pressure to extract the coffee from coffee grounds.

However, an Aeropress can only generate a pressure of about 0.35 to 0.75 bars, which is only 25-50 pounds per square inch (a very small Sumo wrestler).

This is nowhere near the 7 to 10 Bar extraction pressure needed to make an espresso. You just can’t create e 640 pounds of pressure with an Aeropress. Even if you could, the brewer isn’t designed to withstand that kind of pressure.

To use, you place coffee grounds in the bottom and add hot water. The plunger is pushed to create pressure and filter the coffee into the cup.

An Aeropress is straightforward to use and often an affordable purchase to make. Let’s look at how we can use this to make an espresso.

  1. Grind your coffee. For this method, you will need finely ground coffee to ensure the water does not just flow freely through the coffee.
  2. Before putting your ground coffee into your Aeropress, you will need to place a filter into the lower cap. Adding a little hot water will remove any taste of the paper from your coffee.
  3. Once the filter is in place, add the grounds. You can shake the tube to ensure the ground is even. Next, place a second filter on the lower end of the plunger. The coffee will be stuck between two filters as you press the piston.
  4. Next, press the plunger. The filters will ensure the coffee stays at the bottom of the tube. Once the plunger has reached the bottom, you can retract to the top of the tube. Your ground coffee should look similar to a hockey puck at this point.
  5. The final step is to add your hot water. The water should be around the boiling mark to ensure the coffee taste is not compromised. Your Aeropress will have markings on the side. Fill the Aeropress to the level you see fit. The more water you add, the weaker the coffee will taste. Here you can adjust based on personal preference. Once at the desired level, press the water again.
  6. Once pressed, you can serve and enjoy your espresso!

French Press

A French press doesn’t use pressure for extraction. You only press down on the filter to remove the larger coffee grounds. You could brew a strong, viscous, coffee, like an espresso, but it certainly wouldn’t have the same flavor characteristics as an espresso.

Moka Pot

A Moka pot uses hot pressured water to brew coffee from a bed of ground coffee. However, the pressure is only about 1 to 2 Bar and it doesn’t have the same flavor characteristics as an espresso.

Percolator

A percolator recycles hot water to brew coffee from a bed of ground coffee but is not pressurized. Consequently, it doesn’t have the same flavor characteristics as an espresso. Is there a difference between a percolator and a Moka pot? Yes, and you can find the explanation here.

Orb One

Final Word

Can you make espresso without an espresso machine? No! Can you make coffee like an espresso? Yes, but it depends on what you mean by ‘like’. If you consider a syrupy strong concentrated coffee then you can use almost any coffee brewing method. If you also want to add pressure to the technique then you can use a Moka pot, Aeropress, or Orb One.

If you want an authentic espresso then you can’t go past a dedicated espresso machine. See some of the following posts for a variety of good espresso machines…

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