Make Espresso with a Coffee Maker – Drip Coffee Brewer, Moka Pot, or French Press?

We all know that drinking coffee gives you a much-needed energy boost. A shot of espresso does a particularly good job of revitalizing your body.

While that boost of energy is great, if you need to buy an automatic espresso brewer, the fun will quickly be gone when you look at the price tag. Yet, can you make espresso with a coffee maker or do you really have to get one of those expensive machines?

Can you brew espresso in a drip coffee maker?

A lesser-known fact about espresso though is that it can be made in a variety of ways. You don’t need to have an espresso machine to enjoy your daily dose of caffeine-boost but instead, you can make espresso with a coffee maker. In this post, we’ll be answering one of the most commonly asked questions by espresso lovers, that is, can you make espresso in a drip coffee maker?

What is the Difference Between Drip Coffee and Espresso?

There are two main points that distinguish drip coffee from espresso namely: brewing duration and texture of the coffee grind. With espresso, the brewing time is fairly short.

Espresso Essentials

Thanks to the advancement in technology, we now have espresso machines that produce up to 15 atmospheres of pressure (ATM) to push water through the coffee.

To make a shot of espresso, at least 1.5 ounces of boiling water is forced through very finely ground espresso coffee. The result is a dark brown, somewhat thick liquid with a tiny amount of espresso crema on top.

Overall, there are several factors that go into making barista-quality espresso. These include water temperature and pressure, fineness of the ground coffee as well as how compact the coffee is packed.

A little background on espresso coffee is that it’s made up of several types of coffee beans from different countries. These coffee beans are then roasted to the point they turn dark and slightly oily.

This roast is often referred to as Espresso roast. It’s roasted to a very dark brown color. The extended roasting time makes the beans more porous which in turn allows more of the aroma of the coffee to be extracted. You end up with a richer taste for the coffee.

Besides that, the type of beans used for Espresso are the same beans you use for your drip coffee. Your typical roasting for brewing your regular coffee is a light or medium roast. The beans are less dark from the roast and are less oily compared to beans that have experienced an Espresso roast.

Another point you should keep in mind is that the beans are ground more finely than those for drip coffee. The consistency in the case of espresso can be likened to powdered sugar. The more finely ground the coffee beans, the slower the espresso pours out.

Usually, a great-tasting shot of espresso requires about 25 seconds to brew. However, you can always adjust the consistency of the grind to get better grips on the brewing duration.

What makes a Drip Coffee?

Drip coffee, on the other hand, is prepared by simply pouring boiling water over ground coffee. As you may have guessed, the coffee beans are ground more coarsely than espresso coffee. Water is passed through the coffee and pours into a pot.

The process of preparing drip coffee takes longer than that of making espresso. Also, hot water remains in contact with the ground coffee for a longer time. Interestingly, drip coffee has a higher content of caffeine than a shot of espresso.

The grind you use for a drip coffee maker (drip coffee vs percolator) is a lot more coarse compared to the powdery grind you use for Espresso. If you use a metal (reusable) filter for your drip coffee maker and use finely ground beans as you use for an Espresso machine, then you end up with a lot of small coffee grounds in your pot! Not a pleasant experience so you’re better off using a more coarse grind for your coffee beans.

Can You Make Espresso in a Drip Coffee Maker?

The short answer to this is a resounding yes. However, there are a couple of modifications you’ll need to incorporate to make quality espresso using a coffee machine. And while you won’t get the same espresso results, it will taste fairly similar.

Necessary Modifications

Here’s how to modify the brewing process:

Adjust the quantity of water used

Consider using a smaller amount of water than you usually would. As we mentioned earlier, brewing espresso requires about 1.5 to 2 ounces of filtered water per tablespoon of ground coffee. You can always brew several times till you find the ratio that works best for you.

Pay attention to the grind

Another feature that will determine the quality of your espresso is the texture of the coffee grind. It shouldn’t be too coarse as this means the water will percolate through the grounds too easily. As a result, the brew will have a rather weak flavor.

On the other end of the spectrum, a grind that is too fine means the brewing process will take longer. Due to this, the resulting flavor can be quite bitter. Ideally, the fine grind is perfect for making espresso. But when you’re using a coffee maker, it’s better to use a medium-fine grind.

Use warm water

You might want to start off with slightly warm water. This will enable it to reach the correct temperature during brewing. Unlike espresso machines, drip coffee makers fail to reach the required temperature for brewing espresso.

By using warm water right from the beginning, you’re guaranteed that the drip coffee machine will heat it more during brewing. The ideal temperature is between 190 and 210°F.

Brew for a shorter time

Another factor you should pay attention to is the time it takes to brew your espresso. The idea is to allow as little time as possible for the fusion between the coffee ground and water. This is why you should use a smaller amount of water. Since there won’t be as much water, the brewing time will be relatively shorter.

The Process

  • Run water through the machine as a way of warming it up
  • Add a tablespoon of medium-fine ground coffee into the filter, then press them down. Even though this isn’t the same as tamping, it will help build enough pressure for brewing.
  • Add two ounces of warm water into the water tank
  • Click on the “brew” function to start the process.

Can You Use Fine Ground Coffee in a Drip Coffee Maker?

No, it’s not advisable to use fine ground coffee when making espresso with a drip coffee maker. If you do, you’ll end up with espresso that tastes bitter. Instead, use a medium-fine grind.

Brewing Cafe Bustelo with a Regular Coffee Maker

If you miss the rich flavor of espresso but aren’t getting that from conventional coffee grounds, you might want to give Cafe Bustelo a shot. This is an espresso coffee grind with roots in Latin culture.

Once you brew this ground coffee, you will get the strong and concentrated taste you expect from true espresso. Better yet, it’s highly versatile and can be prepared using an array of equipment including a regular coffee maker.

At its core, Bustelo is not that different from the ground coffee you’re used to. As such, you’ll follow the same brewing instructions you’re familiar with.

The only thing you should keep in mind is that it’s pretty strong. As such, you should start with just one tablespoon of ground coffee. If it doesn’t taste as strong as you’d like, add another tablespoon the next time you brew. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Place a tablespoon of Bustelo in the coffee filter
  • Measure the amount of cold water you’ll use. The recommended ratio is 6 ounces of water per a tablespoon of Bustelo
  • Press the “brew” function and let the coffee maker do the rest. Brewing takes between 5 and 10 minutes

How to Make Espresso Without a Machine

Brewing with a French Press

Don’t let your financial problems stop you from enjoying the vibrant and natural sweetness that is espresso. There are cheaper alternatives to the pricey espresso machines like a French press, which you can get for as little as $30. But how do you make espresso with this appliance?

Step 1: Grind your coffee

Start by grinding your coffee to a coarse, even texture. Coarse coffee grounds are preferred to fine ones, which can make your espresso a little muddy. Also, you should grind at least two tablespoons of coffee for a rich flavor – Which is better: Burr vs Blade Coffee Grinder

Step 2: Heat the press

Unfortunately, a French press is not designed to heat water automatically as espresso or coffee machines do. So you’ll have to boil the water first in a pot/kettle. Meanwhile, you should be adding your preferred amount of coffee grounds.

Step 3: Bloom your coffee

Blooming coffee is a great way to release the flavor notes of the specific coffee beans you’re using. You achieve this by adding a splash of the hot water. Leave the grounds to soak for at least 30 seconds.

Step 4: Fill French press with remaining water and stir

Pour the remaining amount of water over the grounds and stir gently. Stirring not only helps the grounds to mix with the water but also kickstarts the extraction process.

Step 5: Allow the coffee to steep

After stirring, close the lid and let the coffee steep for exactly 4 minutes. Don’t steep it for longer as this can lead to bitter-tasting espresso.

Finally, press the plunger down gently then raise it to the top. Plunge it again using the same steady and slow pressure. Once you finish pressing the plunger, your espresso is ready!

Brewing with a Moka Pot

Step 1: Grind your coffee

Contrary to brewing with a French press, a Moka pot works better with finely ground coffee. In this case, the bottom chamber of the Moka Pot helps to filter the water through the powder easily. Thus, you’re guaranteed of getting a rich and well-extracted espresso.

You definitely want to use finely ground coffee that you’d also use if you were to use an espresso machine. The Moka pot is made to make espresso with powdery ground coffee beans.

Step 2. Fill the lower chamber with water

Once you’re done grinding, the next step is to add water to the lower chamber of the Moka pot. You can use pre-heated or non-preheated water. When adding water, be careful not to exceed the level of the valve inside the chamber of the Moka pot.

Step 3: Add grounds to the built-in filter

The next step involves pouring your coffee grounds into the built-in filter. Consider shaking this coffee basket slightly to allow the grounds to settle. Attach the spouted top of the Moka pot as tightly as you can. Lastly, place your Moka pot (aluminum or stainless steel) on a burner and set it to low or medium heat.

Now all you need to do is pay attention to the brewing process. Don’t remove the Moka pot from the burner until you start to see coffee foaming in the upper level.

Final Thoughts

If you love espresso but aren’t ready to fork over $500 for a quality espresso machine, there are cheaper alternatives. In fact, you can end up with the same great-tasting beverage when you make espresso with a coffee maker.

Although there are a couple of adjustments you’ll need to make, the brewing process is pretty simple. Other than a drip coffee maker, you can also make espresso using a Moka pot or French press.

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