How to Make Espresso Manually

Have you ever dreamed of crafting your own creamy espresso but were turned off by its heavy (and expensive) machines?
Fancy machines are probably designed for perfection. But, if your priority is travel (or the environment), then the taste won't be much of a compromise.
This article will explain how to make espresso without expensive machines (or electricity). We'll also share the ingredients and ratios of the coffee shop espresso staples to make sure you treat yourself anywhere.

Step 1: Understand Espresso

Espresso is a small concentrated coffee drink that doesn't require a specific roasting degree or coffee bean type. It's unique because of its traditional Italian method of brewing.
The method briefly forces water with a near-boiling temperature (around 90 °C/190 °F) under pressure through the ground coffee beans. The pressure requires using a machine (minimum 9 bars). We'll list a variety of options in the coming section.
The pressure preserves the aroma that is typically lost in other brewing methods giving more strength to the coffee flavor. Espresso has a viscous consistency similar to warm honey because of the suspended solids. The creamy feel in the mouth comes from the dispersed oil droplets.

Step 2: Buy Espresso Tools

Espresso needs high pressure. We don't expect you to do this physically, so you'll have to buy a device. You'll also need a coffee grinder to guarantee the perfect taste.

Handheld Devices for Espresso

We've picked the three most versatile and straightforward devices for brewing coffee under pressure. They differ in the amount of pressure applied, the time taken, and the fineness of the required coffee ground.

The Traditional Moka Pot

Compared to other manual brewing devices, the Moka pot produces the highest pressure. This will ensure the closest results to the traditional creamy consistency.

French press

The French press doesn't make espresso better than the Moka pot, but it's cheaper and faster.


Aeropress is the recent development of the French press. It uses the same technology, but it's faster because the coffee doesn't need time to steep.

Coffee Grinders: Manual Vs Electric

Pre-ground coffee beans lose flavor over time. Grinding on the spot gives you the desired "fresh" taste more than the type of coffee bean.
In terms of taste, the difference between manual and electric grinding is barely noticeable, even to professionals. However, manual grinders are cheaper, quieter, and more suitable for travelers because they're smaller and don't require electricity.
Due to their speed, electric grinders are more suitable for Espresso because the shots have to be pulled immediately after grinding. If you have to go for a manual, you'll compromise some of the coffee's aroma with slower grinding.

Kitchen Scale

Coffee experts work by weight to ensure consistency of taste. But, it's up to you if you don't want to get that technical (or carry more tools).

Step 3: Choose the Ingredients

The brewing method is all it takes to make espresso, so you've got the freedom to choose the ingredients. We've listed some of the factors that can help.


There are two primary coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta. The Arabica tastes sweeter but has less caffeine. On the other hand, Robusta has the bitter undesired taste and is generally cheaper.
Some brands can have a mix of both and added flavors. We recommend that you try several products and then determine your taste based on the ingredients on the package of your favorite coffee.
Make sure the coffee is freshly roasted and ground. Check a local farmer's market or a specialty roastery for fresh products.


The traditional Italian method used tap water, but use mineral water if yours has a recognizable taste.


Espresso is originally milk-free. But, if you're into espresso-based beverages like latte and cappuccino, whole milk is ideal. You can also go for a vegan option like oat milk.

Step 3: Brew the Coffee

This is the critical step for espresso. Here are the steps to satisfying coffee from our shortlisted manual machines.

Espresso with the Traditional Moka Pot

  • Grind your coffee to fine ground.
  • Fill the water chamber without passing the valve on the side.
  • Add the grounds to the coffee basket. Don't overfill the basket or forcibly level the grounds.
  • Tightly screw the pot.
  • Put the Moka pot on low-medium heat on the kitchen stove.
  • To avoid the bitter taste, remove the Moka pot from the stove before the coffee starts to rise and immediately pour it into cups.
  • Clean the Moka pot with hot water.

Espresso with French Press

  • For each cup, grind one tablespoon of coffee to coarse ground.
  • Boil the water, then give 20 to 25 seconds to cool off.
  • Add the coffee into the French press.
  • Pour some hot water and let the coffee "bloom."
  • Fill the French press with the rest of the boiled water.
  • Stir gently.
  • Let the grounds steep for precisely four minutes.
  • Gently press down the plunger (piston).
  • Pour your espresso immediately to avoid the bitter taste.

Espresso with Aeropress

  • Grind the coffee to fine ground.
  • Put a filter paper in the lower cap of the press.
  • Add the coffee grounds.
  • Put another filter on the lower end of the piston.
  • Push the piston (plunger) to tamp down the grounds.
  • Pull the piston (plunger) all the way up again.
  • Pour boiling water as needed.
  • Press the piston (plunger) again.

Step 4: Add Water or Milk

Espresso is the base for several staple beverages at coffee shops. They basically vary in the cup size and water or milk proportion. There are two basic categories of espresso:

Black Coffee

  • Single espresso/ Short Black: A single intense espresso shot with no water added. This is the base of all other espresso beverages.
  • Double espresso: Two espresso shots served in a larger cup.
  • Lungo: A longer and less intense espresso served with hot water to dilute as per desire.
  • Americano/ Long Black: A single espresso with added hot water. It's usually done in a taller cup.
  • Vienna: An americano served with whipped cream instead of sugar and milk.

Milk Coffee

  • Cappuccino: A single espresso plus foamed milk. The coffee to milk ratio equals 1:6.
  • Caffé Latte: A single espresso plus foamed milk. The coffee to milk ratio equals 1:14.
  • Flat White: A double espresso plus milk. The coffee to milk ratio equals 1:4.
  • Macchiato: The most petite milk espresso. The coffee to milk ratio is 1:2.
  • Cortado/ Gibraltar: Single espresso plus foamed milk. The coffee to milk ratio equals 1:4.


We've highlighted how to make espresso with three manual devices. If you nail the brewing method, you can use any coffee type in the comfort of your home or next to the campfire. This will ensure you get that caffeine dose regardless of the circumstances.