Here’s how to make espresso at home: with or without a machine! These methods make the best espresso shot to sip as is or add to drinks.
There’s nothing better than a bitter, rich espresso shot with a layer of foamy crema. This Italian method of coffee making is at the top of our coffee making methods. Even better, once you’ve mastered espresso you can make a whole host of espresso drinks just like your favorite coffeeshop: the latte, cappuccino, flat white, macchiato, and more. What’s the best way to make espresso? Can you make espresso without a machine? Here are all the best ways to make espresso, ranked in order of preference with pros and cons to each.
How to make espresso at home: top methods
Espresso is an Italian way of making coffee in highly concentrated shots. A single espresso shot is 1 ounce, and a double shot is 2 ounces. Espresso can be sipped in small cups, or used as the base for popular espresso drinks like the Americano, latte, cappuccino, and more. To make espresso, water is forced through finely ground coffee beans at very high pressure. A espresso shot has crema on top: a light brown foam that adds a rich flavor and frothy texture.
How to make espresso at home? If you want top quality espresso, a countertop espresso machine is where it’s at. The flavor is better than any method you’ll find! But there are a few other methods that can approximate a great espresso. Here’s an overview of the top espresso methods, then scroll down to read more about each method:
- Espresso machine
- Portable espresso maker
- French press
- Moka pot
The best way to make espresso? With an espresso machine! Here’s what to know:
A countertop espresso machine makes the best tasting espresso, bar none. It tastes even as good as a coffeeshop, with a rich layer of crema. This type of machine is similar to what you’d see a barista use: it sits on the countertop and grinds the coffee. Many espresso makers also have a steaming wand: it makes the best steamed milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
Pros and cons: Countertop espresso machines are the priciest option, starting about $300 to several thousand dollars. But if you’re a purist, it’s worth it for the high quality. This is the best choice for a coffee connoisseur who wants a premium in-home espresso experience.
Product recommendation: Here’s the Breville espresso machine we use: it works wonderfully and makes the best espresso we’ve had outside of Italy. It’s even better than many coffeeshops, in our opinion! It’s pricey, but worth it for coffee nerds.
Accessories: Make sure to get a knock box to use with your espresso machine. It’s helpful for tamping and discarding the used coffee grounds.
How to make espresso with an espresso machine
- Grind the coffee: Use espresso roast coffee, about 9 grams for a single espresso shot and 18 grams for a double shot. Grind the coffee until it’s very fine ground. Different roasts and brands of beans will require a different grind for your machine. You may need to do a few test runs to get it dialed in just right.
- Pack and tamp the coffee grounds: Add the coffee grounds to the espresso basket (portafilter) until it’s slightly heaping over the top. Use the tamper to press the grounds evenly into the portafilter, pressing very firmly until it is fully compressed. Place the portafilter on a folded towel before tamping, or the best tool is a knock box for tamping and discarding used grounds. It’s important for the coffee grounds to be as even and straight as possible to get the best espresso shot.
- Pull the shot: Place the portafilter in the espresso machine and press the button to pull the shot. Most home espresso machines have an automatic option for this. A well-pulled espresso shot will last around 25 to 30 seconds and have deep espresso flavor with a nice foamy crema.
- Consider any adjustments: It takes a while to dial in the fineness of the coffee grind and amount of coffee to use: practice makes perfect! If the shot is watery, use slightly more coffee grounds or a finer grind on the coffee. If a shot takes longer than 30 seconds, reduce the amount of coffee grounds or use a coarser grind on the coffee.
Portable espresso maker
Our second choice is much cheaper, but close to the espresso machine in quality: a manual portable espresso maker! Here’s what it is:
- A portable espresso maker is the best way to make espresso without a machine. This small device lets you manually push the water through the coffee into the cup. It’s small, portable, and easy to use for traveling or to take to an office.
- Pros and cons: The portable espresso maker makes slightly less quality espresso than the espresso machine: the flavor isn’t quite as tasty and the crema not as rich and abundant. However, the flavor is surprisingly decent and at $65, it’s a steal! It’s also small and easy to hide away in cabinets or take traveling.
- Product recommendation: We use this portable espresso maker and it works great.
- How to do it: Follow the package instructions for how to use this device.
French press espresso
The French press is a great way to make espresso: and it’s perfect if you already have one on hand! This is our top choice for how to make espresso without an espresso-specific tool, because the flavor is pretty comparable to the real thing.
- A French press is a device for brewing coffee in a small pitcher. It’s most often used for brewed coffee, but it works for espresso too.
- Pros and cons: The French press can’t achieve a foamy crema like the first two espresso making methods and you will end up with some sediment in your cup. But for a brewed coffee method, it gets pretty close to the flavor of a true espresso. It’s great for making espresso for coffee drinks or an affogato. Most French presses cost about $35 to $40, and you can use them for brewed coffee as well.
- Product recommendation: This Bodum French press is a high quality option.
- How to do it: Go to How to Make French Press Espresso.
Moka pot espresso
The Moka Pot is a great way to achieve a dark, rich flavored coffee. It’s not quite espresso, but it tastes so similar you can use it as a stand-in for espresso drinks. It’s more like an Americano than espresso. The Moka Pot is also known as a Bialetti, which is the brand name.
- The Moka Pot is a stovetop method for making strong coffee by forcing steam through coffee grounds. It makes a deliciously rich pot of coffee, and is popular in Europe and the US.
- Pros and cons: The flavor you can achieve with a Moka Pot is fantastic. But it’s actually very strong dark roast coffee, not technically espresso (it doesn’t achieve a crema and lacks some of the richness in flavor). It makes a cup that is 5 ounces, whereas a single espresso shot is 1 ounce and a double shot is 2 ounces. But it works well as an option for espresso drinks! At $35 for one pot, it’s a steal.
- Product recommendation: Here’s the 6 cup Moka Pot we use.
- How to do it: Go to How to Use a Moka Pot.
You can make espresso with an Aeropress, but it’s not our top choice for flavor. Only use this if it’s the only option you have on hand!
- An Aeropress is a plastic cylinder used to make a single cup of coffee. It’s portable, cheap and easy to clean, making it an accessible way to make coffee.
- Pros and cons: The Aeropress is very cheap at $30. But this method makes major sacrifices on flavor. Aeropress espresso tastes more bitter and flat than other methods, and has no signature crema. Only use this method if it’s your last resort.
- Product recommendation: Here’s the 1 to 3 cup Aeropress we use.
- How to do it: Go to How to Make Aeropress Espresso.
Here’s how to make espresso at home! Make 1 or 2 espresso shots with an espresso machine, or opt for one of the listed alternate methods.
*Note: The method below works for all countertop espresso machines. Or follow these alternative methods: 1. Use a Portable Espresso Machine per the package instructions. 2. Make French Press Espresso 3. Make Moka Pot Coffee. 4. Make Aeropress Espresso.
- Grind the coffee: Grind the coffee until it’s very fine ground. Different roasts and brands of beans will require a different grind for your machine. You may need to do a few test runs to get it dialed in just right.
- Pack and tamp the coffee grounds: Add the coffee grounds to the espresso basket (portafilter) until it’s slightly heaping over the top. Use the tamper to press the grounds evenly into the portafilter, pressing very firmly until it is fully compressed. It’s useful to have something to press onto for tamping so that you don’t damage the counter or filter. Place the portafilter on a folded towel before tamping, or the best tool is the ledge of a knock box (you can also use it to discard the used grounds). It’s important for the coffee grounds to be as even and straight as possible to get the best espresso shot.
- Pull the shot: Place the portafilter in the espresso machine and press the button to pull the shot. Most home espresso machines have an automatic option for this. A well-pulled shot will last around 25 to 30 seconds and have deep espresso flavor with a nice crema (foamy topping).
- Consider any adjustments: It takes a while to hone in the grind of the coffee and the tamping process. Don’t worry if it’s not exactly right the first time! If you find that the shot is watery, use slightly more coffee grounds or use a finer grind on the coffee. If the shot takes longer than 30 seconds, reduce the amount of coffee grounds or use a coarser grind on the coffee.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Espresso machine
- Cuisine: Coffee
Keywords: How to make espresso, how to make espresso at home
More espresso drinks
The best part about making espresso at home? You can use it to make all the best espresso drinks! Here are some of the top drinks to try:
- Go for our favorite, the Americano (espresso with water)
- Make a classic Latte, Cappuccino or Cafe con Leche
- Grab a deliciously balanced Cortado or Gibraltar
- Go foamy with a Macchiato
- Opt for a Flat White
- Add chocolate for a rich and creamy Mocha
- Make a cold Iced Latte, Iced Espresso, or Coffee Soda