Can you Make Espresso with Coffee Beans?

If you’re anything like me, mornings are rough, and sometimes that one cup of regular coffee doesn’t quite cut it. So what do I do? Go for that espresso. I usually don’t have time to go to the nearest coffee shop before work, so I need to make my espresso at home. But, can you make espresso with coffee beans? Great question!

Can you make espresso with coffee beans? Yes, espresso only has two ingredients. The main ingredient is water, and the other is coffee beans. However, it is not as simple as putting coffee beans into hot water. The only way to make espresso with coffee beans is to grind them first and then extract the espresso from them with some coffee brewing equipment.

So, how exactly do you do this? I’ve put together a quick guide that will explain what an espresso is and how to grind beans to make an espresso. I will also take you through how to make an espresso with a machine and whether it is possible to make it without a machine.

What is an Espresso?

Espresso is a small (usually between 36 – 60ml) coffee most coffee shops offer. It can be drunk without accompaniment as a short, strong, intense coffee, but is more often than not used as a base to make drinks such as cappuccinos, flat whites, and americanos.

Making espresso is more complicated than making a regular filter coffee. Rather than submerging ground coffee in hot water like in a French press, with an espresso hot water is forced through a bed of finely ground coffee in an espresso machine.

In cafes, espresso machines and grinders are expensive equipment that brews espresso precisely under high pressure. To create an espresso from coffee beans with an espresso machine, you first have to grind the coffee beans with a coffee grinder.

The reason for this is the coffee has to be ground into tiny grains so when the espresso machine forces the water through the coffee under pressure, there is resistance from the finely ground coffee. This is how the intense flavor (and that little tan-colored layer called Crema) are created. For tips on how to get great Crema with your espresso click here!

How do You Grind Coffee Beans to Make Espresso?

If you have a bag of coffee beans want to make them into an espresso, you can only grind them. Think of lemonade; if you had a bunch of lemons and just poured water over them, you would not get lemonade. It’s the same for coffee; only instead of squeezing the coffee beans, you have to grind them up to extract the flavor from them.

If you have a coffee grinder, great, you need to grind your coffee fine like salt (not as fine as a powder, and not as coarse as granulated sugar, just in the middle). Only grind as much as you need for the espresso you’re making now. Brewing espresso with freshly ground coffee is not necessary, but it tastes much better.

If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you can either ask a friend/family to grind it for you or you can purchase one. One of my favorites is the KitchenAid Coffee Grinder. It is extremely durable and powerful and will quickly grind your coffee beans.

If you have no way to access a grinder, don’t be tempted to put the beans in a blender. This will break down the coffee beans, but not enough to let you make something that resembles an espresso.

If you haven’t already bought the beans, buy ground coffee instead. Just look for “espresso ground” or “fine” on the bag, like these Illy Classico Espresso Beans. French Press or Coarse ground coffee will let the water through the coffee too quickly, and you’ll get a thin, grassy tasting brown liquid, not a tasty espresso.

How do You Make Espresso with an Espresso Machine?

If you’re lucky enough to have an espresso machine and finely ground your beans in the coffee grinder, you can then put them in your espresso machine and pull an espresso. To pull one double espresso, you want to take between 15 and 18 grams of the ground coffee (if it doesn’t hold that much, fill it till it’s full) and put it into the basket contained in the handle.

You then use the little tamp that you will have gotten with your espresso machine to compact the grounds in the basket. Once this is done, the handle goes back into the espresso machine, press the button, and outcomes the espresso.

Your espresso should take between 25 – 30 seconds to run through. If it comes out quicker than 25 seconds, grind your coffee beans a bit finer next time. If it’s too slow, grind your coffee a little coarser next time. If you’re still having trouble with the espresso running too slow and you’re compacting that coffee down with every muscle you got (go easy, don’t press down so hard)give the water a chance to get through the coffee and into your cup.

Our Top Picks For Espresso Machines

BEST For Value

De’Longhi Stilosa

BEST Overall

Breville Bambino Plus

How do You Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine?

If you’ve managed to get your coffee ground, but you don’t have an espresso machine, there are still options. Although it won’t exactly taste like an espresso you would get from your favorite coffee shop.

The closest things I’ve found to an espresso machine that I can use at home is a Moka pot or a Brikka. To learn more about which you would prefer, check out our article, Brikka vs. Moka: Which Unit Is Better for You? You can buy these on Amazon, and they’re around $20 to $50. Here is the Moka I use and love, and here is a great Brikka.

To make an espresso with a Moka pot, unscrew the bottom and fill it with water. I prefer to use hot water, but you can use cold and heat it on a cooktop.

In the middle of a Moka pot, you’ll find a little basket similar to the one you see in the handle of an espresso machine. Once the water is in the bottom and the coffee is in the middle, place the jug on the top and then on the cooktop. Again around 15 to 18 grams of ground coffee here is about right.

The heat from the water boiling forces the water up through the coffee grounds. You’ll start to see espresso come out of the top and into the jug. Once you have the quantity you’re looking for, take it off the heat, and you have your espresso (be careful not to burn yourself, it will be hot!).

What to do if You Don’t have Any Equipment and Want an Espresso?

So, you’ve got a bag of beans and no grinding or brewing equipment at all. Is there anything you can do with your beans? Well, you could try crushing them in a pestle and mortar or sticking them in a blender, then making some kind of filter coffee. But I wouldn’t recommend going that route. Your coffee is going to be pretty disgusting that you’re probably not going to want to drink it.

If you’re in this unfortunate situation, give your beans away to someone who you know will use them, and go to your favorite coffee shop. It’s best to spend your hard-earned cash on an espresso made in a costly espresso machine by an expert. It’ll be far less disappointing!

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