how to make espresso without a machine

Created in 1884 in Italy, espresso machines are a useful kitchen appliance designed to provide a quick pick-me-up in the morning or middle of the day. These machines have become more popular over the years—especially in offices—but that doesn’t mean everyone has access to one.

If you want to relish in the bold, rich taste that espresso shots offer, you still can without an espresso maker. In today’s article, we’re sharing our top recommended methods on how to make espresso without a machine.

Making Espresso Without an Expensive Machine – 4 Ways

There are plenty of ways to make espresso at home without an expensive espresso machine, and, best of all, these tools are much cheaper to purchase.

Method 1: Aeropress Espresso

You might encounter a slightly different texture when brewing espresso with this tool than an espresso maker, but it’s a much more cost-effective and portable alternative.

Step 1: Stack Your Aeropress

Begin by placing a filter inside the drain cap (you can use more than one filter if you’d prefer). Rinse the filter and put the cap inside the press. Place the Aeropress over a mug, ensuring that the mug is at least the same diameter, if not bigger.

Step 2: Add Coffee Grounds

Next, add your grounds to the Aeropress. At this point, you should have already ground your coffee beans yourself or purchased pre-ground coffee. For the best results, use the fresh ground coffee that you’ve prepared. Either way, drop your finely ground coffee into the filter. Adding more finely ground beans than your usual amount will typically work in your favour as it’ll create a more concentrated flavouring.

Step 3: Add Water

The final step is to add water to the press. Then, heat it to around 150 degrees Celius and stir the coffee. Press down on the plunger, applying firm pressure to capture all the fine grounds. Transfer the espresso beans to your preferred mug.

Method 2: Manual Lever Machine

Using a manual lever machine is another effective way to enjoy espresso at home without an espresso machine. Inexpensive and user-friendly, these machines give you an abundance of control. While they might take some practice for first-timers, manual lever machines allow you to make and enjoy espresso in no time.

Above all, a manual lever machine gives you ample control over every step of the espresso-making process, from the grind size to the pressure. 

Step 1: Heat the Manual Lever Machine

Firstly, heat the manual lever machine by turning it on. Check the manual to see how long it takes, but usually, it’s no longer than around 10 minutes.

Step 2: Grind Your Coffee Beans

While waiting for the machine to warm up, you can grind your coffee beans. To do so, use a burr grinder to ensure that the espresso beans go to a fine texture. Once ground, pour out the required quantity into a portafilter. Then, apply some pressure (usually around 30 pounds is enough for tasty, smooth espresso).

Step 3: Add the Portafilter to the Machine

Grab the portafilter and connect it to the machine. Then take your favourite mug and place it underneath. You’ll need a steady, firm hand to move the lever, bringing it up to the top and waiting several seconds, then bringing the lever down again. It is best that for every 45 pounds of pressure, opt for a 20-second pull. It might take several attempts than some get used to, but it’s also an arm workout at the same time.

Method 3: French Press

French press coffee is a cheap and effective way to make espresso at home without spending a fortune. A typical French press costs around £30, depending on the size and quality of the materials.  

Brewing a delicious shot with a French press has never been simpler; you need coffee grounds and hot water. There’s not a lot extra to make smooth espresso in your kitchen that tastes like shop-bought.

Step 1: Use Freshly Ground Beans

The first step to making homemade espresso without an espresso machine is grinding the coffee beans. Following this step ensures that you won’t have muddy coffee. Ensure that you buy coarse coffee grounds for a smoother taste. Add the coffee grounds to the French press and press the piston to the bottom.

Generally speaking, you’ll need four tablespoons of coffee for every two cups of espresso.

Step 2: Add Boiling or Hot Water

Next, add boiling or hot water to the French press, ensuring that the temperature is hot enough to create a delectable taste. Cold or lukewarm water won’t result in thorough extraction of the coffee, resulting in the taste of warm water with a slight hint of coffee. Ensure that the kettle boils and allow it to cool for several seconds before adding to the French press.

Step 3: Add Coffee Grounds to the Pot

Next, add the coffee grounds to the French press and pour in some of the hot water. It’s important not to add the entire hot water just yet to encourage the essential oils to release a wonderful coffee aroma that also results in a rich taste.

Step 4: Fill With the Remaining Water

After several minutes, add the remaining hot water to the French press and stir the grounds to thoroughly mix them with water, ensuring that you don’t stir too vigorously. Stirring gently begins the extracting process without damaging the delicate coffee grounds.

Step 5: Allow the Coffee to Steep

Let your coffee steep, which is vital in creating a rich flavour that isn’t bitter. Ideally, wait for five minutes, not extending time any more than this to prevent an unpleasant taste. Most significantly, ensure that you don’t press the plunger onto the coffee grounds while they’re steeping for the best results.

Step 6: Press the Plunger

Once this time is up, you’ll need to press down the plunger, using gentle motions, going up and down to make sure that the plunger gets right down to the bottom. At this point, retract the plunger.

Method 4: Moka Pot

A Moka pot is a tiny kettle that creates an espresso-like pour for a satisfying coffee taste.

Step 1: Measure Out Your Espresso Beans

For the first step, you’ll need to measure the number of beans you need and grind them into a fine grind using a burr grinder or any other grinding method. The idea is to grind your beans as fine as you.

Step 2: Pour Water Into the Pot

Pour water into the bottom of the Moka pot. Then, add the ground coffee into the filter (which is already built into the Moka pot) and shake it to mix up the grounds. Put the lid back on the pot and place it on a medium heat setting.

Step 3: Wait for the Moka Pot to Boil

brewing on Moka pot

Next, it’s time to wait for the Moka pot to whistle. This step is about the patience of waiting for the coffee to expand in the upper layer of the Moka pot.

The whistling sound indicates that the hot water has created pressure to create a delicious, concentrated coffee. Once the top is filled with coffee, pour it into a mug and enjoy a great-tasting cup of Joe.

What Are Some Vital Elements of Great-Tasting Espresso?

Overall, what makes the difference between a delectable and bitter-tasting shot? Below are some of the most important elements of making a great-tasting espresso.

Coffee Beans

The most important aspect of an espresso is the beans. Although you can purchase pre-powdered espresso beans, it’s not worth doing so because you won’t get the same great flavour. This is because you need to use fresh regular coffee beans that have been ground around 10 minutes before use. In fact, the sooner that you use the beans after grinding, the fresher and better the results.


Espresso needs some pressure to make it unique to plain coffee since they’re not the same types of coffee. 

Coffee Roast

In addition to the freshness of the coffee beans you choose to use, you’ll always want to consider the beans’ roast, as this plays a part in the overall taste. If you prefer a weaker espresso, consider dark roasted beans. But if a richer, more intense flavour is more desirable, don’t use dark roast coffee beans. 

Grind Size

Another critical element of an espresso shot is the grind size. Ideally, the coffee beans should be broken down into minuscule particles to increase flavour extraction. The coarse grind also ensures that water can flow through the coffee grind quicker, releasing flavours along the way.

Alternatively, a grind that’s too fine can result in over-extraction, which causes the water to draw in too much coffee, resulting in a dry, bitter taste. 

Water Temperature and Quality

Since water is the most prominent ingredient in espresso, it’s essential that you use the freshest possible water. So if you’re able to use filtered water over tap, then make that choice. 

Moreover, the water should be hot enough for the coffee bean’s essential oils to release. This is what enhances the flavour and gives espresso its mouthwatering taste. However, never pour instant boiling water onto the beans because this can cause the grounds to burn, resulting in an unwanted bitter taste.

Using the Correct Amounts

You don’t want to use incorrect portions when making homemade espresso. In particular, a single shot should be around 7–10 grams with 1–1.5 oz. of coffee. On the other hand, a double shot will be between 14–20 grams with 2–2.5 oz. of coffee. Try to remember a ratio of 1:2.

Using too few doses might be tempting if you’re looking for a slightly weaker espresso taste, but this isn’t the way to go. Instead, using too little a dose will reduce the contact between the coffee grinds and the hot water, resulting in under extraction. This creates a weak and watery espresso that has hardly any flavour.

Alternatively, using too high limits the speed that water can flow through the puck, increasing extraction time and resulting in a bitter and dry taste (it’s a similar result to adding instant boiling water immediately onto the coffee ground).

For the absolute best results, we recommend using a scale or a scoop to avoid any errors—especially if you’re new to making espresso at home. Fortunately, there are scoops easily available on online websites for perfectly accurate results with ease. Plus, some grinders have a built-in scale to assist you.

Owning an Espresso Machine: Pros and Cons

Not sure if an espresso machine is for you? You’re not the only one, which is why we have an abundance of pros and cons to help you decide if it’s worth buying a fancy machine to use at home.

The Pros of Owning an Espresso Machine

Enjoy instant coffee or the perfect espresso with a machine. Below are some of the reasons to purchase an appliance to help you make brewed coffee with ease.

Coffee Made Quickly

One of the best benefits of using espresso machines is how quickly they create espresso. Grinding coffee in a pot can take a while (and require some elbow grease), which is why these devices are preferred for some people. All the while, you’ll get to enjoy tasty espresso-style coffee at home.

Included Timer

Moreover, most espresso machines include a timer that switches off on its own. Therefore, you can leave your espresso shot to brew itself while you get on with other chores. The espresso machine will handle all of the work and alert you once your espresso shot is ready. As a result, these machines can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Above all, some espresso machines include a time programming feature that allows you to schedule when your espresso coffee is made. So you can schedule the machine to make espresso in the morning for when you rise or have it waiting for you in the middle of the day. Adapt it to your life and routine.

Experiment With Espresso Making

Cup of expresso

You don’t want your espressos to taste bland and lifeless, and, fortunately, an espresso maker allows you always to try something new for an exciting taste. Having a piece of machinery at home that can open up this world of new coffee flavours allows you to choose new favourites and, best of all, experiment along the way.

Additionally, an espresso machine encourages you to feel more connected and close to coffee since you’ll be making it yourself rather than asking a barista to whip up an espresso for you. In particular, you’ll be free to experiment with coffee beans from all around the world, leaving you with more in-depth knowledge of coffee than you ever had before.

Plus, you’ll be freer to make adjustments to the amount of coffee, time brewed, size of the grinds and much more. Being free to make these choices yourself allows you to explore the coffee industry and get a wealth of skills and experience under your belt. 

Become More in Control of Making Espresso Coffee

Similar to the point above, an espresso machine gives you maximum control over making espresso at home to suit your taste buds. This means that you have all of the power to turn up the temperature, add more foam, create a fine consistency, strengthen the caffeine amount, and so much more to create a delicious brew.

Having the option to play around with coffee makes the drink-making process so much more fun and beneficial in the long run. And espresso machines can keep up with the challenge and demands. 

The Cons of Owning an Espresso Machine

But what about enjoying caffeine without an espresso machine to rely on? That’s not such a bad thing because here are some of the disadvantages of owning an espresso maker at home.

Commitment to Espresso Pods

It might appear effortless and not time-consuming to own and operate an espresso maker, but that’s not the complete story. While purchasing a coffee maker might reduce the money you spend on trips to a local coffee shop, it can get experience purchasing ground beans every so often. And these coffee machines need a lot of care and attention with the espresso pods or capsules

Before you take the plunge of investing in an espresso machine, consider if you’re willing to spend a small fortune on coffee pods and regularly replace them. Not to mention that some appliances are only compatible with the same-brand espresso pods, meaning that you’ll actually end up making your coffee drinks more limited than before. 

Lots of Cleaning Required

An espresso machine won’t clean itself, and it’s your responsibility to keep the appliance in top shape. This means that after every time you’ve enjoyed a delicious coffee at home, you’ll need to wipe down the machine and the built-in components after use. Otherwise, you risk a buildup of residue and germs forming on the espresso machine. 

If you’re not willing to make this commitment to keeping the appliance clean and hygienic, it’s not worth investing in one in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a messy machine and the potential to drink germs.

Required Space

Finally, to make espresso with a machine, you need plenty of room on your countertops or desk to accommodate the size. And let’s face it, not all appliances are small, which means that you’ll have to declutter the kitchen beforehand.

Bear in mind that you’ll also want your appliance in a convenient place in your home or office with easy access. Otherwise, you’re less likely to use it as often. The last thing you want is to store it away in a cupboard and have to bring it out for every use.

Enjoy Great Espresso Without a Machine

There are several methods to get your caffeine on without requiring an expensive machine. There are tools to help you brew delicious espresso without an espresso maker, such as using a French press, an Aeropress, and many more. During the process, make sure to use a fine espresso grind and choose your espresso roast with the intention of enjoying a delicious cup.

And now that you know how to make espresso without a machine, what’s your go-to brewing method when you don’t have access to an espresso maker? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments. 

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