How to Make Espresso Without a Machine: Top 5 Alternative Ways

Preparing your favorite coffee shop drinks at home may seem a bit challenging, especially if you can’t afford investing in costly equipment.

So it’s natural to ask yourself whether you can, and most importantly – how to actually make espresso without a machine at home.

There are ways to enjoy great homemade espresso beverages even if you can’t pull the shots in a high-end coffee maker.

So if you want to make a DIY cappuccino, latte, or a mocha, in this post, you’ll find some great affordable tips on what to use instead of espresso.

Essential Disclaimer

Before we start I need to make an important disclaimer:

Espresso is a particular drink that’s prepared through the use of a particular brewing method.

By definition, it is made by running hot water (190°F – 201°F / 88° C – 96° C) under pressure (9 bars) through a puck of finely ground coffee beans.

The pressure forces gases out of the grounds, and the extraction style results in a concentrated shot with an intense flavor. On top of each espresso lays a nice crema layer, emulsified with coffee proteins and oils.
A photo of a double espresso shot made with La Marzocco espresso machine.

It’s impossible to achieve that type of extraction without the needed equipment.

So if we are to be precise, it’s safe to say that you can’t actually make a true espresso without an espresso machine.

In advertising campaigns, some popular coffee makers, such as Nespresso, AeroPress, and Keurig, it’s insinuated that you could use them to make espresso.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Making Espresso without an Espresso Machine: The Best Alternative Ways

With all being said, there are ways to make concentrated coffee that’s perfect for homemade espresso drinks without an espresso machine.

So here are the best espresso maker alternatives for those who wonder how to make espresso without a machine:

1. Use a Moka Pot (Brew Concentrated Espresso-like coffee on the stove!)

The best way to prepare espresso-style concentrated coffee without an espresso machine is to utilize a Moka Pot. This stove top coffee maker is affordable and easy to use. Furthermore, with it you get a concetrated cup with intense flavor that is the best alternative to espresso for homemade coffee drinks.

Because of the way it’s made, an espresso shot contains the most caffeine per fluid ounce. Moka pot coffee is the second most caffeinated type of coffee.

Therefore, if you want to have a homemade coffee drink with intense flavor that also gives you a strong caffeine kick, Moka pot coffee is the way to go.

Related Post: Which Coffee Has The Most Caffeine?

In the following illustration, you can see how a Moka pot coffee maker works:

For full directions, check out this detailed guide on how to use a Moka pot coffee maker.

This stovetop brewer is a staple in the majority of Italian households. You may even hear some Italians call their homemade Moka pot coffee “espresso”.

So if you’ve heard that you can make espresso on the stove, this maker is what you should be looking at.

Moka pot brewers are also quite affordable.

I have been using the Bialetti 6 cup Induction Moka Pot for quite a while and I have no complaints whatsoever (click the link to check it out on Amazon).

There are other smaller and even more affordable stovetop makers by Bialetti that are made of aluminium (Amazon link).

In conclusion, if you’re looking for the best way to make espresso without a machine, get yourself a Moka pot.

It’s the most adequate alternative that you can use to make delicious homemade espresso drinks, such as a Iced Caramel Mocha, Starbucks Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte, or an Iced Honey Vanilla Latte.

2. AeroPress (Pull a Concentrated Espresso-style Shot with the Popular Coffee Syringe)

The AeroPress is the second best alternative to espresso if you want to pull a shot without a machine.

With this popular coffee maker you can make concentrated coffee with intense flavor.

Furthermore, since you use a plunger to push the hot water through the grounds and the filter, you add pressure, which brings the drink closer to a true espresso.

With that being said, to make your AeroPress coffee more intense and concentrated, you need to tweak the original AeroPress recipe a bit.
Original AeroPress Recipe

You should grind the beans finer than usual (you can go for the finest setting on your burr grinder).

Using a higher coffee-to-water ratio and extending the steeping time is also necessary.

So here’s how pull an espresso-style shot in an AeroPress:

  1. Use the inverted method or the Fellow Prismo Attachment.

    Related Post: Best AeroPress Accessories
  2. Add 18 grams of fine ground coffee to the AeroPress brewing chamber.
  3. Add 90 milliliters (3 fl. oz.) of hot water.
  4. Steep for 4 minutes.
  5. Turn the AeroPress upside-down over a cup and gently press the plunger.

You can check out my AeroPress complete brew guide for more tips on how to improve your brew.

With that being said, with this method you can make a strong cup of concentrated coffee without an espresso machine.

So if you don’t have one, and you want to make a cappuccino at home, you can do that by using an AeroPress.

For the milk component of your DIY espresso drink, you can use a French Press or a milk frother like this one by FoodVille.

The good news is that the AeroPress coffee maker is rather inexpensive (click the link to check it out on Amazon).

Furthermore, it’s quite easy to use it, and depending on your precision, you could make the best coffee you’ve ever tasted with this coffee syringe.

Some people are quite happy with the mini portable espresso machine by WACACO.

Keep in mind that it’s designed to be used with a coarser grind than what you’d normally go for when you grind for an espresso shot.

Still, the pre-ground “espresso” bags of coffee that you can find in the supermarket will work well with the WACACO mini maker.

You can also make espresso-like coffee in the WACACO version that’s compatible with Nespresso Original Capsules.

With that being said, I’d recommend going for the AeroPress instead of the WACACO, since the former gives you more flexibility in the preparation technique.

This means that you could experiment and make adjustments to extract the best coffee out of your beans.

3. Use a French Press Coffee Maker

If you have a French press at hand and you’re wondering how to make espresso without a machine, you could use your cafetiere to brew a concentrated cup of coffee.

It’s a bit challenging, even impossible for your French press brew to resemble a true espresso shot, but you can use a finer grind and a higher coffee-to-water ratio to prepare a concentrated coffee with intense taste.

This way you can utilize your French Press to make espresso-based coffee drinks, such as lattes, mochas, or a flat white.

There is one thing to keep in mind, though.

If you use a finer grind in a French press, the filter disc won’t be able to keep the fines out of your brew.

So you’d need to use another filter, such as cheesecloth, to get rid of the tiny coffee particles.

Of course, you could avoid making adjustments to the grind size and keep it coarser as per usual.

Nevertheless, you should definitely extend the steeping time and the amount of coffee you use.
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An advantage to using a French press for homemade espresso drinks, is that you can also make foamed milk with it.

After you warm up your milk, you can pour it into the brewing chamber and use the plunger to create nice texture and airy foam.

Even though a French press isn’t an ideal maker to use instead of an espresso machine, it works well enough for DIY coffee drinks.

With that being said, if you’re planning on using it for the purpose of making espresso beverages more often, it’s better to get an AeroPress or a Moka pot instead.

After all, to achieve the desired flavor intensity and overall strength, you’d need to use a much higher coffee dose with the French press. This may turn out to be too wasteful in the long run.

4. Use a Nespresso Coffee Maker (The Effortless Single-Serve Alternative)

Nespresso Coffee Makers offer ristretto, espresso and lungo capsules that you can use to make coffee drinks at home.

Related Post: Ristretto vs. Espresso vs. Lungo

Even though they aren’t capable of producing an espresso by the book, these single-serve machines are a great alternative.

After all, they’re much more affordable and easy to use.

Related Post: Best Nespresso Coffee Machines: Comparison & Reviews

Furhtermore, the Nespresso caffeine content per pod is pretty similar to the amount of caffeine you can find in a shot of espresso.

So if you aren’t that rigorous about espresso extraction and crema, and you don’t want to invest in a high quality espresso machine and a grinder, you can get a Nespresso Original or Vertuo machine for your homemade coffee drinks.

For example, this Nespresso Citiz maker also comes with a milk frother. The latter makes it the perfect solution for those who want to prepare homemade cappuccinos and lattes.

Author’s Note: There are also single-serve machines by Keurig that are advertised as espresso-based coffee drink makers.

One such is the Keurig K-Cafe Single-Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker.

It also comes with a milk frother.

Nevertheless, the technology that Nespresso machines use, result in a shot that resembles a real espresso better than a Keurig maker.

Nespresso coffee is somewhat more intense and has a thicker foamy crema layer.

5. Use Instant Coffee (Making Espresso Drinks Without any Coffee Maker)

If you’re not that passionate about coffee, but you want to make flavorful copycat espresso drinks, you can substitute the coffee component of your DIY beverage with instant coffee.

You should just dissolve a teaspoon or two in 1 to 2 fl. oz. (30 ml to 60 ml) of hot water.

Then you should add the frothed warm milk and flavored syrups or sauces.

I know that this brave suggestion will have some passionate coffee lovers roll their eyes.

Nevertheless, others would be more than satisfied with using instant coffee instead of espresso for homemade coffee drinks.

Author’s Note: If you’re a fan of iced lattes, mochas, and macchiatos, you can also have the espresso component of your drink substituted with cold brew concentrate.

You can check out this guide to find out how to make cold brew in a mason jar. With this brewing method you’ll get highly concentrated coffee that’s ideal for such iced coffee beverages.

Furthremore, you’ll get to have delicious espresso-based coffee drinks without using an espresso machine (or any coffee maker whatsoever).

Related Post: Iced White Chocolate Mocha Recipe

Final Words

I hope that you found some helpful tips on how to make your favorite coffee beverage without an espresso machine.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that there’s no better way to make espresso than using an espresso machine with a non-pressurized portafilter. You’d also need a high-quality burr grinder (such as the Rancilio Rocky or the Comandante manual grinder) to achieve the desired results.

If you’re truly passionate about coffee and you want to step up you coffee game, you could get an entry level espresso machine such as the Rancilio Silvia or a lever coffe machine, such as the NEO by Flair (click the links to check them out on Amazon).

If you’re not ready to invest much in your coffee equipment at home, you can take advantage of some of my recommendations and make espresso without a machine.

Leave me a comment below if you have further questions or simply share your experience!

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