A French Press: How to Make an Espresso without an Espresso Machine

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Enjoying a cup of espresso coffee is the best part of my morning time.

But, last week I went on a field trip for my research. As I could not find an espresso machine anywhere, I looked for the way on how to make an espresso without an espresso machine.

I think I was successful enough to prepare some cups of espresso for my team. When it comes to brewing espresso without an espresso machine, I know only three solutions, namely using a French Press, a Moka pot and an Aeropress. However, I had only tried using a French Press.

Make Espresso Using French Press : Step By Step

Using a French Press is one of the cheapest alternatives to make espresso

Yes, we got one during the field trip for less than $30. We did not need a big one, as there were only five members in team. It was a live saver for me, when it comes to coffee making.

I could enjoy my favorite espresso coffee despite being away from home. By the way, do you know what French Press is? It is a thermos-like container. A French Press has a piston that runs through the lid and the pot middle. Brewing delicious coffee using this efficient technology is hassle free.

What I need were only hot water and coffee grounds. The following are steps on how to make an espresso without an espresso machine.


1. Grinding the coffee

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I got some coarse coffee grounds and I think they went very well with the French Press. The coffee was not muddy, since the piston that went to the bottom of the French Press was good in holding the coarse grounds.

I think, it would not work that fine if the coffee was too fine, since the piston could not hold it well. I used about 10 tablespoons of coffee for 5 cups of espresso.

2. Boiling the Water

The key to making delicious espresso using a French Press is hot water. Make sure it is hot enough. Otherwise, the espresso will taste terrible. Tepid water is unable to initiate extraction of the coffee. I boiled the water well and let it cool off for no more than 25 seconds.

3. Adding the Coffee Grounds

After putting the coffee grounds into the French Press, I poured a little hot water first. I observed how the water hit the grounds closely. You know, I really love the smell. It was fantastic.

This step is not only about the geyser-like view when the coffee grounds begin to release the substances and essential oils. However, it is about the taste of espresso you will serve. The man in the glassware shop told me that I could not miss this step if I want to get espresso with rich taste. I think I have to thank the man one day.

4. Letting the Grounds to Steep

Stirring the grounds with a little water is important to stimulate extraction process. I did it gently. There is no need to stir it energetically. The next step is adding the water. Then, let the grounds to steep for 4 minutes. Do not do anything while the grounds are steeping. Just let them. I will tell you why this step is important to note.

5. Pressing the Piston

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This is the final step. Press the piston gently towards the bottom of the French Press. Once reaching the bottom, retract the piston once. So, what is the next? Pour the espresso immediately. Any delay means bitter espresso.


Make an espresso without an espresso machine can be done by using a French Press, right? I have to tell you one thing.

Make sure to avoid any delays at each step above. One day, I had to repeat the espresso making steps because of a delay. I let the coffee grounds to steep for 5 minutes.

I learnt one thing that even one-minute delay could lead to disaster. The espresso taste bitter due to the delay. The same thing applies for the phase after pressing the piston. Make sure to pour the espresso right away or the coffee will taste bitter.

How to Make an Espresso Without an Espresso Machine: the Bottom Line

Actually, a friend of mine (a Barista) once told me that there are two other ways to make espresso without using an espresso machine.

You can even make espresso with better taste by using Moka Pot or Aeropress. To be honest, I’ve never made espresso using either of the options.

That’s why I cannot compare and contrast them with the method I used during my field trip.

However, one thing is clear: the steps in making the espresso are more important than the devices you use are. Coffee lovers always agree that there are four keys to great espresso:

  • The coffee beans. You can always get some instant espresso beans from the supermarket. However, if you care much about the taste, you want waste your time. Instant coffee is never able to replace the freshness and taste of the original coffee beans.
  • There is no real espresso if you cannot get at least 9 bars of pressure. Some people say that a Moka pot works better when it comes to pressure in making espresso. However, my experience shows that a French Press can also do the job well.
  • Water temperature. As discussed above, you need hot water to release the oils and nutritious substances in the coffee beans. However, make sure it is not too hot or the grounds will be burned. If this is the case, the espresso will taste bitter.
  • The roast. Finally, the roast of the beans depends upon your personal preference. You choose a lighter roast for strong espresso. On the other hand, darker roast results in weak espresso. The decision is yours.

I will share my experience in using the other two ways on how to make an espresso without an espresso machine next time. My love for espresso encourages me to try them one time.

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