If you love drinking espresso, you’ve probably looked into buying an espresso machine at home so that you can save some money by making your own espresso. However, espresso machines, especially good ones, aren’t cheap, and you do need some practice and skill to operate the machine properly.
Espresso Maker vs. Regular Coffee Maker
At a glance, even occasional coffee drinkers will be able to see that espresso makers look completely different from regular coffee makers. Espresso makers have components and features that regular coffee makers don’t have, and they function in markedly different ways.
Espresso machines can vary in terms of the components of each machine, ranging from simple and easy to use to complex and difficult. In general, an espresso machine has a boiler system that produces heat and pressure, and the coffee grounds are placed in a portafilter. Coffee machines, on the other hand, have a boiler system that only produces heat, and the coffee grounds are placed in a basket.
Expensive espresso makers can also have programmable systems that allow you to customize the temperature and pressure produced by the machine. In contrast, a regular coffee maker will not have these features.
Many coffee makers have their own carafes, while many espresso makers do not have carafes because espresso makers are designed to produce smaller quantities.
How is the Coffee Extracted?
Heat and pressure are the heart of the espresso-making process. The espresso maker produces a pressurized stream of hot water that’s forced through the coffee grounds, maximizing the amount of flavor and aroma that’s extracted from the beans. The heat and pressure are necessary components to produce an authentic shot of espresso.
Coffee makers use gravity and contact time between the beans and hot water to extract flavor and aroma from the beans.
Types of Grounds Used
For espresso makers, it is recommended to use a dark roast, fine ground beans. The grind size and the roast are necessary to produce the correct taste of espresso. The fineness of the grounds produces resistance against the water pressure, and the dark roast extracts the optimal amount of oils from the beans.
For coffee makers, you can use virtually any grind size and roast you want. Coarse ground beans are even preferable for some brewing methods.
Skill Level Involved
Espresso machines generally require more skill to operate compared to coffee makers, mainly if you’re using manual or semi-automatic machines. While super-automatic espresso machines are just as easy and convenient to use as regular coffee makers, manual and semi-automatic espresso machines are different matters.
For semi-automatic machines, the machine will produce the required amount of heat and pressure. However, the operator will need to know how to tamp the espresso properly as well as operate the machine to pull the shot. For manual machines, yet, the operator must know how to do each step from tamping, to adjust the heat and pressure, to pulling the shot.
Espresso vs. Coffee – A Showdown
Let’s see how a regular coffee will stack up against a shot of espresso.
- Serving Size – A shot of espresso will always have less volume compared to a standard serving of regular coffee. In Europe, a shot of espresso is served as 1oz, while outside of Europe, espresso is usually served as 2 oz. For regular coffee, however, the standard serving size will be around 8oz.
- Taste – If done correctly, a shot of espresso will taste rich and somewhat smoky. The taste of espresso might change slightly depending on the origin of the beans used. But in general, espresso will taste the same whether it’s been brewed in a café in Italy or a coffee shop in the USA. For coffee makers, however, the taste of the final cup of coffee will change drastically depending on the type of roast used. Since there is no strict standard regarding the roast used for coffee makers, the variety of possible choices will result in different brews as well.
- Drinking Style – Just as with the type of roast and grind size, there is a particular drinking style associated with drinking espresso. Espresso is made to be sipped slowly so that the drinker can savor the taste of the drink and appreciate the mastery that goes into making the drink. For regular coffee, however, you can drink it anyway you prefer.
- Brewing Time – Espresso machines will take between 1-3 minutes to brew a shot of espresso from start to finish, depending on the power of the machine. For coffee makers, however, the brewing time can vary greatly depending on the brewing process. For drip coffee makers, the brewing time can be as short as 1-2 minutes. If you’re making a cold brew, however, the coffee needs to brew for up to 24 hours to fully extract the coffee from the grounds.
How Close Will It be to a “Real” Espresso?
If you do try making an espresso in a regular coffee machine, it will not have the same depth of flavor as an authentic shot of espresso. What’s more, it won’t have that all-important layer of rich crema that’s required for espresso. Here’s how to learn more about espressos.
Some Final Thoughts from the Earl
Here’s the bottom line: even if you use dark roast fine grounds in a coffee maker, it won’t be the same as espresso made with an actual espresso machine. So, if you’re asking, “can you make espresso in a regular coffee machine,” the answer is technically no. However, if you’re in a jam and you don’t have access to an espresso maker, a regular coffee machine can make an acceptable shot of espresso. Just be sure that you’re willing to forego the crema!
If you want beans that are really packed with that espresso flavor, you can also check out “Any Dark Roast” from the guys over at Perkolator Cafe. Find out more!