Many individuals can't function properly or do the simplest tasks before having an espresso shot first thing in the morning. However, though everyone loves the brew, not everybody loves the price tags attached to the intricate espresso machines used to make it. Unless you have a coffee shop nearby, you'll need to wait until you get to work to get your hands on your morning fix to get through the day. Fortunately, you can learn how to make espresso at home or anywhere in the world as long as you have the patience, equipment, and quality espresso coffee grounds.
There are plenty of ways you can make espresso, ranging from using an affordable espresso machine, French press to an old school Moka pot—you'll be ready to 'caffeinate' at minimal costs and in the convenience of your home. However, when you begin to learn how to create espresso, especially if you have no prior experience, it can get frustrating fast. Many give up and settle for mediocre coffee from coffee shops because of this.
However, brewing espresso doesn't need to be as complicated as you may think, as with the right equipment, patience, and great coffee grounds by your side, you'll soon be pulling perfect espresso in the convenience of your home kitchen. You don’t have to place an order at a coffee bar to get your espresso.
An espresso is not just a drink in a small cup. It is the basis for a whole family of drinks that include latte, cappuccino, Americano, and others. The espresso may be an Italian coffee but it has been adopted worldwide and new drinks created from it. There are variants that have different ingredients, including steamed milk, frothed milk, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and more. Espresso coffee brewing has resulted in a plenty of hot, cold and iced coffee varieties.
To help you make good espresso with or without a machine, here are the different espresso brewing techniques you can explore to make good coffee at home.
How to Make Espresso at Home
When you need to indulge in great espresso but don't want to leave your house, how can you cope? By learning how to make espresso at home. Although you probably won't pull a perfect shot of espresso right away, with the right espresso machine, coffee roast type, and right grind size, you'll be making rich-tasting espresso coffee at home in no time.
To help you whip up homemade espresso the right way, here's what you need to do:
- Select the 'Right' Coffee
Even if you use the best commercial espresso machine or the most expensive ones, you can't pull a decent espresso shot if you don't use quality coffee. Although traditional espressos are made with a darker roast, using coffee beans labeled 'espresso' isn't necessary. You can settle for a medium to dark coffee roasts, depending on your specific tastes. However, whatever roast you choose, keep in mind that freshness matters, so make sure you're choosing coffee at its prime.
But that doesn't mean you should grind your beans straight out of your roaster since coffee usually needs to 'rest' for a couple of days for it to bloom or 'degas' to reach its peak flavor. But that will depend on how the coffee beans' packaging. For instance, if it got roasted a few weeks before, you need to use it for this step immediately.
- Grind Coffee Beans and Measuring Coffee
If you want to ensure you have a rich-tasting espresso, use a scale to confirm you're 'dosing' each shot, which means measuring the espresso grounds correctly. That's at least until you're confident enough you're performing each step the same way every time. You need to use 7 to 9 grams of coffee for a single shot of espresso and around 14 to 18 grams for a double shot. However, since every espresso maker is different, you can experiment to see which one is the 'perfect' dose for you.
- Once you settle on how much coffee grounds you want to use and start pulling the espresso shots, you'll need to dial in the correct grind size, usually finely ground coffee. Doing this ensures the water used saturates the coffee properly, optimizing flavor extraction.
- Pulling A Shot of Espresso
Once you've decided on how much coffee you're going to use, fill the portafilter with the right dose. Ensure you evenly distribute the coffee grounds to ensure the portafilter doesn't have any gaps for water to seep in. Run your machine briefly before placing the portafilter to purge its group head. When it stops, lock it into the espresso maker, bring out your favorite glass, and pull out the coffee.
- Time Your Brewing
Although this step isn't required, timing your shots can help you get the brew ratio or the ground coffee to hot water ratio, giving you a more vibrant and creamy coffee. Generally, the ideal 'brewing ratio' for espresso is 1:2 since it's naturally a concentrated drink, requiring a 'pull time' of around 24 to 30 seconds.
If you're looking to refine your coffee-making techniques, reading the barista's handbook by Scott Rao is a great way to spruce up your skills—helping you transform yourself as a mere coffee drinker into a skilled home barista.
How to Brew Espresso
Whipping up a cup of great espresso can be challenging, as it requires several factors, including delicious espresso beans, the best super-automatic espresso machine, and a quality coffee grinder. Moreover, you also need to familiarize yourself with the best brewing practices in pulling a perfect shot. Whether you're a professional barista or a simple coffee lover, anybody in the world can learn how to brew espresso the right way.
Whether you're using the best espresso machine under $1000 or an old espresso maker, here's how you can brew espresso like a professional barista:
- Clean the Portafilter
Before dosing your preferred coffee grounds to the machine's portafilter, you need to ensure it's clean. That's because moisture and leftover grounds can make your future brew taste incredibly bitter due to over-extraction.
- Dose Your Grounds Correctly
Dosing the coffee is simple thanks to on-demand burr grinders, allowing you to program the ideal doses. However, you can also do it manually using a scale before you distribute and tamp the grounds. Your coffee grinder will likely dose the coffee grounds to the portafilter's basket to a triangular shape. When this happens, it means you have an uneven distribution of coffee. That's why you need to do the next step avoid over- or under-extracted coffee.
- Tamp the Coffee Grounds Evenly
When tamping the ground beans, ensure you exert 20 kgs (44 lbs) of pressure. However, this can be challenging to do, so you can also use other methods such as tamping it the modern way. You can do this by tamping it long and 'hard' until you feel the puck is fully compressed or doesn't go down anymore.
- Place the Portafilter Inside the Machine and Brew Immediately
When you've tamped the coffee grounds in the portafilter evenly, place it inside the machine's group head and start brewing immediately. You need to do this fast because if you don't, the heat emitting from the group head may burn the coffee's surface, leading to bitter flavor notings or taste in the final cup.
- Keep Track of Yield and Brew Time
When brewing your espresso, it's ideal if you monitor the brew time. That's because when you pull it too fast, it can lead to under-extraction, leaving you with sour coffee, while prolonging the process can lead to over-extraction and bitter coffee. However, you can always add table salt for bitter brews to make it somewhat drinkable.
- Discard the Puck and Clean the Filter Basket and Group Head
After making espresso, ensure you clean its basket with water to free it from any old coffee and moisture. Doing this task makes it easier for you to brew faster next time for all coffee lovers to enjoy.
How to Make Espresso Without An Espresso Machine
When making espressos, there are likely several questions running through your head, such as how much caffeine is in espresso? Or do you need an espresso machine to make espresso? Although most prefer to make the brew using espresso machines, a great thing about the drink is that you don't always need a fancy coffee machine to make great brews. You can make the same quality brews using other methods, including French Press, Aeropress, and a Moka pot. If any of these processes are ideal for you, here's how to make espresso without an espresso machine.
Before brewing a cup of espresso, ensure you use quality dark roast coffee from your preferred roasters or subscribe to a roast plan from the Atlas coffee club to make coffee and espresso correctly every time. Additionally, it's best if you grind your espresso beans using a quality burr grinder to ensure you only get the freshest brews whenever you're making this specialty coffee.
Although you can whip up this specialty coffee using a portable espresso or lever machine, the most popular alternatives include using the Moka pot, Aeropress, and the French Press—and we're going to show how you can do each process properly.
The Aeropress Method
Unlike your regular coffee, the perfect cup of espresso is all about the right pressure. The Aeropress is an ideal coffee brewing alternative for this. Though the texture you get from the device is different from what you'd get in traditional espresso machines, the taste and caffeine content of an Aeropress 'espresso' easily matches machine-brewed espressos.
Here's how you can make espresso using an Aeropress:
- Stack the Aeropress by placing a filter inside its drain cap, and if possible, use more than one to effectively slow the flow of water more when pressing its plunger.
- Rinse the coffee filter and place it alongside the drain cap inside the body chamber of the Aeropress.
- Place the brewer on a stable cup or mug.
- Prepare around 2 tablespoons of coffee by grinding the coffee beans to a fine (sand-like) consistency.
- Drop the coffee into the filter. When you use more coffee, when brewing using an Aeropress, it can create a more concentrated brew.
- Add half a cup of water heated to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (the ideal water temperature) and stir the grounds lightly.
- After that, press down its plunger—hard. Keep in mind that espresso needs a lot of pressure, so ensure you do it hard enough.
- After brewing, transfer the brew from the Aeropress into a cup.
The Moka Pot Method
The Moka pot or the stovetop pot is a European espresso maker that requires a heating source such as a stove when brewing. It can whip up great-tasting espresso-like coffee in just a couple of minutes. The brewing equipment comes in three pieces and can make around four shots of espresso in one session. Although it can't produce a lot of pressure like an Aeropress, it can still make a great cup of 'espresso-like' brews.
Here's what you need to do to create espressos using a Moka pot—make sure you follow each step for the best results!
- Measure around two tablespoons (20 to 22 grams) of your preferred espresso beans.
- Grind your beans as finely as possible to get authentic espressos from the Moka pot.
- Pour three and a half fluid ounces of water into the bottom of the Moka pot and pour the fresh grounds into its built-in filter. Shake the device to allow the coffee grounds to settle evenly.
- Screw on the Moka pot's spouted top securely and place it on a stovetop or burner set under medium heat.
- The rest of the Moka pot brewing method is waiting for it to whistle, which indicates the coffee is starting to expand and foam in the upper level. When this happens, the hot water creates enough pressure to produce concentrated coffee.
- Once the pressure settles down and the drink reaches the top of the Moka pot, pour the beverage into a serving vessel and enjoy.
Unlike the Aeropress, using the Moka pot can be challenging, especially reaching the right pressure to produce a concentrated drink. That's why you may need to try this method a couple of times before you perfect the process.
Although these methods don't produce the same pressure as traditional brewers, even if you do each step right, it can create great coffee resembling authentic espressos with crema on top. If you're looking to add more flavor to your brews, you can add something like milk or sweeteners to let it 'pop out' more.
How to Make Espresso in a French Press
According to recent surveys made by the National Coffee Association (NCA), over 2% of Americans liked making coffee and espresso with a French press thanks to its robust results. So chances are, you may have a French press in your kitchen. However, if you don't have one—you may be confused about the French press process. Before finding out how to make espresso in a French press, it pays to know a little bit of the French press's background.
In essence, a French Press is a thermos-sized glass beaker with a piston (pump) that runs through its lid to the middle of the beaker. French presses are among the most popular and affordable brewing methods for espresso. However, if convenience is what you're looking for, settling for the best espresso machines is still better than using a French press. But if you don't mind the extra brewing time, when using French presses, all you'll need are a fresh espresso roast, burr grinders, and hot water to make delicious, robust coffee resembling your favorite espresso.
If you're ready to brew espresso using a French press coffee maker, grab your favorite coffee beans and follow these steps:
- Grind Your Preferred Coffee Beans
Although this step isn't required, grinding fresh coffee beans is one of the best ways you can transform coffee into a perfectly pulled espresso, exhibiting delicious crema and a strong kick. So, grab a coffee grinder and start grinding your beans until they're coarse enough for the French Press. Although espresso requires sand-like grounds, you can't use it for this method since it needs coarse coffee grounds to work. Grind your coffee beans until you make at least 2 tablespoons of coffee for a cup of espresso. You can subscribe to the Atlas coffee club for a roast plan to get the best roasts around.
- Boil Water
For this step, you can use whatever method is convenient for you. When boiling the water, swirl some hot water to the French press's body chamber to make it hot enough, so once you pour your boiling water in it later, it won't crack. When heating water, ensure it reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit to brew authentic 'espresso-like' coffee using a French press. Additionally, if the water isn't hot enough, you'll end up with espressos that taste like tepid water with diluted coffee.
- Add the Coffee Grounds to the Pre-warmed French Press
When the water finishes boiling, place the ground beans in the pre-warmed French press and pour the hot water. As the water touches the grounds and you start smelling the unique aroma, this means it's beginning to 'bloom' or 'degas,' allowing it to release the natural oil and flavor of the coffee for a great cup. However, don't let it bloom too long as it can lose its rich taste.
- Pour the Remaining Hot Water
After blooming, slowly pour the remaining water and stir it gently using a long-handled spoon to avoid the formation of clumps and begin its extraction process. Never exert too much force or pressure when mixing as it can ruin the brew. Don't plunge the filter down yet as you'll need to let the coffee steep for a bit.
- Steep Your Brew
Before plunging the filter, let your coffee steep to extract all its flavor. Generally, the longer you steep, the more robust the coffee will be. However, never let it steep over 5 minutes as it can leave a sour taste in your mouth.
- Press the Piston/Plunger
Once the coffee grounds get steeped enough, hold its drain cap steadily and plunge the plunger or piston using even pressure until it reaches the bottom chamber. Additionally, ensure you plunger the filter down in one swift motion while exerting steady pressure and force. You can experiment to see how you can achieve delicious coffee easier by plunging the piston halfway towards its bottom chamber with steady pressure.
- Pour the Coffee
Never leave the coffee in too long the chamber to prevent it from getting bitter. So, grab your favorite serving vessel and pour your drink through a coffee filter to avoid a grainy getting a 'grainy' drink.
Finally, if you're looking to enhance its flavor, you can top off the espresso with milk foam or whipped cream. However, if you'd like to enjoy the drink for itself, pour yourself a cup and enjoy!
If you're ready to say goodbye to the world of drip coffee or regular coffee, try any of the espresso brewing methods featured in this article to help you enjoy authentic espresso drinks at home with ease. No matter your budget, experience, or skills, you can learn how to make espresso without breaking the bank using affordable espresso machines or standard everyday brewing equipment alongside quality espresso beans and ground coffee. Just make sure to use the right roast, grind, and even pressure, and you'll be brewing up delicious espressos in no time.