Jenna has been a barista for 2 years. She is a coffee and espresso enthusiast. She developed a passion for coffee after living in Italy.
An excellent cup of espresso is made by the perfect combination of high-quality coffee beans, the perfect grind (not too coarse and not too fine) and how tightly the beans are packed into the portafilter (the little cup where the coffee grinds are steeped to make the espresso).
After that, making espresso all comes down to pressure. When making regular drip coffee, the water is slowly allowed to steep and soak through the coffee grinds and drain through a filter. No pressure is necessary. With espresso, however, you need a high amount of pressure in order to create the strong shot of coffee in a small amount of liquid.
When a shot of espresso is drawn, there is a light, creamy layer of the espresso left on top. This is called the crema. Pulling a shot that creates the perfect amount of crema makes a delicious shot of espresso. High-quality espresso machines use a high amount of pressure to force hot water through the coffee grounds, creating a strong concentration of coffee in a little shot.
In order to make espresso or any espresso drinks at home, you need to recreate this high-pressure environment. Though an espresso machine will give you the best results, there are some tricks you can try to make your own espresso at home.
Ways to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Maker
The difference between regular drip coffee and espresso is the concentration of coffee due to the pressure created during the brewing process. Here are some alternatives to using an espresso machine to make espresso at home.
My preferred method of making espresso at home without an espresso machine is a Moka Pot. A Moka Pot is like a little mini-pressure cooker for coffee. This is how many families in Italy make espresso at home and let me tell you, it makes for an excellent cup of espresso at a fraction of the cost of a fancy espresso machine.
You can make a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso in about a minute by using an AeroPress. To make espresso with the AeroPress, you place the AeroPress on top of a sturdy mug, then place two scoops of coffee grounds in the press, followed by hot water. Give the coffee and water a gentle stir and then push down on the plunger about a quarter-inch and maintain this pressure for about 20–30 seconds.
For about $30 and one minute of your time, AeroPresso will give you a rich shot of espresso (or cup of coffee if you wish).
Handpresso is a handheld, portable espresso maker. What's nice about Handpresso is that you can take it anywhere and all you need is a coffee pod and boiling water. Because Handpresso uses coffee pods, it means no cleanup required. Simply throw the pod away after use. To use Handpresso, you pump the Handpresso until the needle indicator is in the green, add hot water and your coffee and then push the dispense button and voila, you have espresso! Though more expensive than a Moka Pot or the Aeropress, Handpresso is the only option that is portable with a no-mess cleanup.
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How to Froth Milk Without a Machine
So now that you have some ideas on how to make espresso without an espresso machine, all you need to do to make a latte without an espresso machine is to add hot milk. If you don't like foam on your lattes, then no need to read on.
However, if you enjoy cappuccinos or caramel macchiatos, you'll need to figure out how to create milk froth without a machine. Here are some simple tricks you can try to create milk froth for your special, homemade espresso drink.
How to Froth Milk on the Stove
You can froth milk by simply heating in the on the stove. When you're using this technique, you'll want to keep your eye on the milk and stir frequently to prevent the milk from boiling.
- To froth milk on the stove, simply heat the desired amount of milk in a pot over low heat. Be sure to leave enough room for the froth.
- Constantly whisk the milk. As the milk gets warmer and you continue whisking, more foam will be created.
- Continue to whisk the milk until the desired amount of milk froth is reached.
- Be careful to not let the milk boil, or this may change the flavor of the milk.
How to Forth Milk Using a Blender
This technique is quick and pretty simple. Heat a mug of milk in the microwave, on the beverage setting if your microwave has it. Be careful not to overheat the milk or you will get a layer of skin on the top. Pour the milk into a blender. I use a Magic Bullet. Blend for about 30 seconds. The air that is whipped into the milk during the blending will create milk froth.
How to Frothing Milk Using a Milk Frother
There are inexpensive and easy-to-use milk frothers available you can try. Some kinds of milk frothers have you put a frothing wand into your milk and then turn it on. It then whips air into your milk, creating froth. Other kinds of milk frothers have you pour the milk into the container, close the lid and then use the pump for about 20–30 seconds and then you have froth! Easy!
I've seen reviewers and baristas alike say that these frothers actually create a richer and longer-lasting foam that the commercial machines because they use air to create the foam, rather than steam.
Putting It All Together: How to Make a Latte or Cappuccino Without an Espresso Maker
Now that you have your homemade espresso and frothed milk, you are ready to make any espresso drink you desire! Here are simple directions to make any espresso drink you like:
- Latte: A latte is coffee, milk and little bit of foam on top (or no foam if you prefer). To make a flavored latte, simple add a couple tablespoons of flavored syrup to a mug. Pour the espresso into the mug and top with milk. You can hold back the foam with a spoon as your pour the milk, and then finish by scooping the foam on top. This way, you get the exact amount of foam you choose. You also may choose to add more or less syrup, depending on your personal preferences. You can buy flavored syrups at some grocery or specialty stores.
- Cappuccino: A "wet" cappuccino is half milk and half foam. A "dry" cappuccino is all foam. You can make a cappuccino by adding as much milk foam as you like to your espresso. You can also add flavor to your cappuccinos if desired.
- Americano: An americano is espresso and hot water. Though similar to drip coffee, it has a more distinctive flavor with less "burnt" taste. You can add cream, sugar, flavor or drink it black.
- Mocha: A mocha is a latte with chocolate. Similarly, a white mocha uses white chocolate. I personally prefer the Ghirardelli white chocolate powder for my white mochas. Any preferred chocolate syrup will do the trick, however. You simply mix your powder or syrup with the espresso and add your frothed milk. Top with whipped cream. Yum! You can also make a delicious espresso drink by using caramel sauce as the flavoring.
- Caramel Macchiato: A caramel macchiato is a vanilla latte with caramel drizzled on top. Make sure you have a rich froth on top to hold the caramel sauce.
- Espresso macchiato: Especially popular in Italy, an espresso macchiato is an espresso shot with just a smidgen of milk or cream.
- Latte Breve: A breve is made with half-and-half rather than milk. Likewise, a skinny latte is made with skim milk.
- Iced Espresso Drinks: Iced espresso drinks are made the same way as hot drinks, except the milk is cold and ice is added at the end. Adding the ice after the milk will prevent the ice from melting too quickly, creating a watery drink. Because iced drinks don't use steamed or frothed milk, iced cappuccinos don't exist. Use whipped cream to hold the caramel drizzle on top of an iced caramel macchiato.
© 2013 Jenna Estefan