If you love espresso, you may yearn for your very own espresso maker.
But with three and even four figure prices for bean to cup machines, is it worth it?
What if you could get an espresso with an ordinary coffee maker?
The truth is that an espresso has a very specific meaning. It’s a style of brewing, rather than a coffee. The industry standard is that espresso must be brewed at a minimum of 9 bars of pressure.
It’s that pressure of steam through coffee grounds that extracts the flavors and aromas of an espresso. And creating that amount of pressure is the purpose of an espresso machine.
But whilst you won’t be able to replicate that precisely with another brewing method, you can get pretty close. And you can do it without breaking the bank.
We’re going to show you three methods to get almost the same results without an espresso machine. So whether you have a drip coffee maker, an Aeropress or a Moka pot, read on! You’ll soon be enjoying a delicious espresso in the comfort of your own home.
What you will need to follow this tutorial
We’ll show you how to get an espresso-like coffee with any of these. The results, though, will vary.
If you have a drip coffee maker, you’ll get a drink that’s more intense than your regular drip coffee. It won’t, though, be as light as an authentic espresso.
If you have an AeroPress or a Moka pot, you’ll get a result that’s closer to the real thing. In fact, the Moka pot produces coffee that’s so similar it’s sometimes known as a stovetop espresso maker.
Neither of these are anything like as expensive as a good espresso maker. An AeroPress costs around $30 from Amazon. The 3-cup version of the iconic Bialetti Moka pot is about $35 from the same website.
With an espresso there’s no added milk or syrup to mask the taste of the coffee. Good quality, freshly roasted beans are a must.
There’s no such thing as an espresso bean - you can choose whatever coffee you like best. You’ll want Arabica rather than Robusta though.
The rumor that espressos should be made with dark roasts is untrue. Many Italians like their espressos that way, but there’s no law that says you have to! In fact, a well-prepared espresso is a great way to showcase the acidity of lighter roasts.
Always grind your beans only when you’re ready to brew. Many of the flavors and aromatics disappear soon afterwards.
For evenly extracted coffee you need grounds that are the same size. Metal bladed grinders can’t achieve this, so go for a burr grinder instead. They’re a little more expensive, but will give a much better result.
If you’re using a drip coffee maker, use the appropriate filter for your machine.
For an AeroPress, use AeroPress filters. You’ll need two of them for this recipe.
Ordinary espresso tamps won’t fit the AeroPress, so you’ll need something cylindrical with a bit of weight. Try a rolling pin or spice jar.
How to Make Espresso With a Coffee Maker
Step by step instructions
Step 1: Grind the beans
Whichever brewing method you use, start by grinding your coffee.
If you’re using a drip coffee maker, the grind you want depends on the kind of filter you’re using.
If your machine has a permanent filter or one with a flat bottom, use a medium grind – that’s about the same consistency as sea salt.
If your filter is cone shaped, grind a little finer. You want your grounds to be medium-fine. That’s slightly smaller than grains of granulated sugar.
For a Moka pot, it’s the same medium-fine grind. And for an AeroPress, you’ll need to go one level finer again. You’re aiming for the appearance of table salt here.
Drip coffee maker method
Step 2: Add the coffee to the machine and add hot water
Weigh out 6 to 8g of coffee per cup of espresso and place it in the filter.
Now add just enough hot water to cover the grounds. Wait for 30 seconds. This will give the coffee time to absorb the water.
Then pour on more hot water. As soon as 1 to 2 ounces of coffee have dripped through, remove the carafe. Pour the contents into a demitasse cup. Your espresso is ready!
As we say, this isn’t the same as an authentic espresso. It is, though, much more like espresso than your standard cup of drip coffee.
Pro tip: To vary the strength of your drink, change the amount of coffee grounds and water you use. The lower the ratio of coffee to water, the stronger your coffee will be.
Whatever you do, don’t follow the advice of some online videos and pour brewed coffee back through the used grounds! The coffee will be over-extracted and bitter. Instead increase the amount of coffee grounds or reduce the amount of water.
Step 2: Prepare your filter and warm your cup
Because the AeroPress uses pressure in extraction, it can create a far more espresso-like drink than a drip coffee maker.
Start by placing a filter in the basket and pouring hot water over it. Take care not to burn your fingers! The water will help the filter stick the basket as well as getting rid of any papery taste.
Pro tip: Hold the basket over your cup as you pour. That way you can use it to warm up the cup at the same time.
Step 3: Add the coffee and tamp it down
Screw the lid onto the bottom of the AeroPress and add the coffee grounds. Tamp them down firmly.
Take a second paper filter and, holding it over the sink, rinse it with hot water. Place it on one end of your improvised tamper, then lower it onto the grounds. Press down, twist and remove the tamper, leaving the second filter on top of the coffee.
Step 4: Add hot water
Boil a kettle. You want the water to be around 205 degrees Fahrenheit – you can use a kitchen thermometer if you want to be exact.
Pour the water over the grounds until it reaches level 2 on the AeroPress gauge. Now place the AeroPress over your cup and insert the plunger. Press down slowly and steadily.
Pro tip: The plunger should move down steadily as you press on it. If there’s too little resistance, your coffee has been ground too coarse. Too much, and it’s too fine. Adjust the grind size for your next brew.
Moka pot method
Step 2: Add hot water
Pour water up to the fill line in the bottom chamber of your Moka pot. If there’s no line, fill it to the bottom of the pressure valve. (The valve is the thing that looks like a little golden bolt on the side.)
Pro tip: For the best results, use water just below boiling point to extract the flavor more quickly. You won’t have to keep the Moka pot on the stovetop for ages, and you’ll avoid scalding the coffee.
Step 3: Add coffee grounds
Place the coffee grounds in the basket (the thing that looks a bit like a funnel). As with the AeroPress method, you want between 6 and 8 grams of coffee per serving of espresso.
Pro tip: Don’t put the basket in the bottom chamber of the Moka pot until after you’ve added the coffee. That way, if you spill any grounds they won’t get into the thread around the outside of the pot. Trapped grounds can prevent the pot from being screwed together tightly, allowing boiling coffee to escape through the gaps.
Use your finger or a spoon to gently level off the surface of the grounds for even extraction.
Don’t press down on the grounds! If you tamp them, they’ll stop the brewed coffee from flowing into the top chamber. The pressure in the bottom of the Moka pot will get too high, and a blow-out could occur.
Step 4: Heat it up
Screw the top back on the Moka pot and set it on the stove on a low to medium heat.
After about 3 minutes the coffee will begin to flow into the top chamber. Keep brewing until you have enough for your chosen number of espressos – you need about 1.5 ounces per serving.
Pour into demitasse cups and enjoy!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tutorial. As you can see, you can make a drink that’s pretty close to an espresso with anything from a drip coffee maker to an AeroPress or Moka pot.
You’ll be able to enjoy your drink without spending a fortune on an espresso machine. And if you’re using an AeroPress or Moka pot, we think you’ll struggle to tell the difference.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends. And comment if you have any questions – we’d love to hear from you!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.