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All you have available is an espresso machine but you just want normal coffee. Can you brew normal coffee with an espresso machine? Here’s what you want to know.
An espresso machine brews in such a different way that brewing regular (drip) coffee with it is not possible. However, to approximate the taste and strength of regular coffee with an espresso machine you can make an Americano. An Americano is a single espresso combined with 8 Oz. of hot water.
What makes coffee from an espresso machine so different and how can you get close to regular coffee with one? Keep reading to find out.
Can An Espresso Machine Make Regular Coffee?
Of course an espresso machine makes espresso but is it also capable of making normal coffee?
What is regular coffee? There are so many types of coffee that “normal” doesn’t actually say much. However, most people regard coffee from a drip machine or pour over cone as normal coffee. That’s what most people drink at home and many other places. So is an espresso machine capable of brewing that kind of coffee?
No, an espresso machine is just made to brew espresso. This is quite a different brewing method from a drip machine and while you can change some things, you’ll never get the same type of coffee out of an espresso machine.
An espresso machine pushes hot water under high pressure through a metal basket filled with finely ground coffee. This high pressure and fine grounds means the coffee is extracted very quickly (usually around 30 seconds) and creates a small but strong and viscous cup of coffee. The amount of coffee grounds is about half of the amount of liquid in the cup. So for a 1 Oz. (28 ml) serving of espresso, about 14 grams of coffee is used.
A drip machine uses gravity to let the water flow through the coarser ground coffee. Brewing this way takes 3-5 minutes. Often a paper filter is used in this type of machine which filters out more oils and sediment than the metal filter in an espresso machine. The amount of water used for drip coffee is usually 15 times larger than the amount of coffee so the 14 grams of coffee from an espresso machine would brew about 210 ml in a drip machine, making this type of coffee much more diluted.
Extraction and serving size
So can’t you just let the espresso machine run for longer and brew to a 1:15 ratio? That would result in a very bad tasting cup of coffee. Here’s why:
Coffee beans consist of mostly cellulose which doesn’t add anything and doesn’t dissolve in water. However, there are also a lot of other compounds and oils in coffee. You want to dissolve most of those into the brew water to make good tasting coffee.
To brew good coffee, you want to extract around 18-22% of the coffee beans into the water. The problem is, not all the compounds dissolve at the same time. Some dissolve much quicker than others. All those different compounds give different tastes to your coffee and at about 20% you reach a sweet spot. If you don’t extract enough, many sour tasting compounds have been extracted but not the sweeter notes yet so your coffee can taste very acidic. On the other hand if you go too far, the coffee becomes very bitter.
So here’s why you can’t keep the espresso machine running until your big mug is full: An espresso machine extracts the grounds very quickly. So quick that you extract everything you want from the bean in only 1 Oz. of liquid. If you keep pushing more water through it, you get all the compounds that make coffee extremely bitter and harsh tasting.
However, extraction percentage is just a guideline where most coffees taste good. The specific bean, origin, roast and more factors actually decide when a certain coffee tastes best. You need specialist equipment to measure it anyways which most people don’t have access to. So the exact percentage of extraction doesn’t really matter, just knowing how it works so you know what to adjust.
How To Make Normal Coffee With An Espresso Machine
A dedicated espresso machine can’t be used to make anything like drip or pour over coffee. However, if espresso is a bit too strong for you, there are some ways to make something a little lighter and closer to regular coffee.
Of course the most common thing to do with an espresso besides drinking it straight is to make a cappuccino or latte. That’s a good way to soften the strong taste of espresso a little bit. Dairy always plays very nice with coffee. The bitter taste of coffee is complemented by the creamy taste and texture of dairy very well. But what if you just want black coffee without any dairy or other things added in?
The answer is Americano. Yes, Americans are known around the world for watering down their coffee. Americano is an espresso based drink but is much closer in strength to pour over or drip coffee. An Americano is a shot of espresso with about 8 Oz. (227 ml) of hot water added to it. You can pull the espresso shot into the hot water which looks really pretty if you do this in a glass or add the water after the espresso. Either way is fine.
Usually an Americano is made with a single shot of espresso and 8 Oz. of hot water. However, it’s also possible to use a double espresso with the same amount of water. That would be a double Americano. Of course the amount of caffeine in a double Americano is double that of a normal Americano.
Americano is really easy to make but if you want something else that is easy to use, compact and brews good, lighter coffee, check out a French press.
A pour over or drip coffee is usually brewed with a 1:15 ratio. That means one gram of grounds for every 15 grams of water. Espresso is brewed with a 1:2 ratio. So adding water to an espresso will actually get it much closer to the strength of pour over coffee. The taste and texture of an Americano is still different than from a pour over but the strength and intensity of the taste is pretty close.
An Americano doesn’t contain any more or less caffeine than a shot of espresso. That’s because it’s simply a shot of espresso with water added. Water doesn’t decrease the amount of caffeine in a cup. So while it’s served in much bigger quantities and the amount of caffeine per ml is lower, the caffeine content per serving is exactly the same.
In fact Americano/Espresso contains less caffeine per serving than a cup of brewed coffee. A single shot (1 Oz.) of espresso contains about 64 mg of caffeine. An 8 Oz. cup of pour over coffee contains about 93 mg of caffeine.
Recommended Espresso Equipment
Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:
- Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
- Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
- Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
- Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
- Grinder: To make the best of your fresh beans, a good grinder is necessary. Espresso requires a good grinder to get the best results. The Baratza Sette 30 (Amazon) is a good espresso grinder that can also be used for other brewing methods and while not cheap, is good value for money. If you prefer hand grinders, the 1ZPresso JX-PRO is one of the best options (Amazon)
- Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.