How to Make Espresso in a Pan: Learn This Coffee Hack

espresso in a pan

If you’re like us, you can’t start your morning without a cup of strong coffee or a shot of espresso. There’s something about the first sip of the day – it needs to be hot and dark. But what do you do if you don’t have access to a drip coffee machine or an espresso maker? What if you’re camping and only have a pan? Turns out, you’re still in luck. In this article, we’ll teach you how to make espresso in a pan!

That’s right, all you need is espresso coffee grounds, some water, a heating source, and a pan. Seem crazy? It’s not! Soon you’ll know how to make solid espresso in even the direst of circumstances. Besides teaching you how to make espresso in a pan, we’ll also cover some other unique techniques that will allow you to make coffee and espresso with minimal brewing tools at your disposal. It’s the best way to make unfiltered coffee. Let’s get to it!

How to Make Espresso in a Pan

Before we get into the actual steps on how to make espresso in a pan, we wanted to go over what you’ll need at a minimum. As you might have figured out, the three things you’ll absolutely still need are a pan, espresso grounds, and water. Without these three things, you’re out of luck!

We learned this technique due to wanting coffee on some of our most remote excursions. Just because you’re sailing, backpacking or camping without fire doesn’t mean you won’t still want coffee or espresso in the morning! That being said, we’ve also had to resort to making espresso in a pan several times at friends’ houses, and when our espresso machine broke (RIP). You can also make espresso this way if you need it for a dessert such as a tiramisu but don’t want to invest in an espresso machine. 

Author Note: We also learned that our friend’s dad still makes his morning espresso this way to this day! We think you should definitely upgrade to an espresso machine is you’re drinking espresso over drip coffee but to each their own.

Steps Required

Moka pot old coffee maker and coffee beans

Alright, after you’ve collected the above materials, follow these steps to make espresso in a pan.

  1. Pour one to two cups of water into your pan. You can add more or less depending on how much espresso you want to make. If you’re making it for several people, you might want to add two or three cups of water just to make sure.
  2. Next, put your pan over your heat source. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. After the water is boiling add your espresso coffee grounds. You should pick out coffee beans that are specifically made for espresso. What’s the difference between normal beans? Several things. First, the roast is typically darker – both French and Italian roasts are great. Second, we like to grind our espresso beans into a finer powder than we do for drip coffee. This allows you to extract more flavor from the beans and gives your espresso a more robust flavor profile. It also prevents your coffee from coming out sour. If you don’t buy your espresso grounds preground, we recommend using a burr grinder to get them as fine as possible.
  4. As soon as you add your espresso bean coffee grounds, turn the heat source off so the water stops boiling. You don’t want to over boil your coffee grounds! This will give your espresso a bitter flavor that most people don’t like. 
  5. Let your espresso coffee ground sit in the hot water for four to five minutes. 
  6. Once the 5 minutes are up and the grounds have settled to the bottom of your pan, simply pour the espresso into your mug or glass and you’re good to go! Enjoy your cup of delicious unfiltered coffee.
  7. If you want to ensure none of the grounds end up in your mug, we like to use a fine strainer to pour the coffee through. This isn’t necessary however as a few coffee grinds in your espresso won’t hurt you.

Does it Matter What Size Pan You Use?

The short answer is no it does not. The bigger pan you use will have a larger surface area which will allow your water to boil faster. But this doesn’t change the flavor of your espresso – it’ll just decrease the time it takes for you to make it

Author Note: We like using a relatively tall pan or pot for a different reason. Having a decently tall pan allows the coffee grinds to settle more effectively in the bottom of the pan, resulting in fewer grinds in your cup when you pour it out. If you have a ladle or a filter, however, this becomes a moot point.

Can You Use Instant Coffee?

Antique coffee pot On the gas stove for camping when the sun rises in the morning

Yes, you can use instant coffee when making espresso in a pan. The taste will much different, however, then if you use espresso grounds. Unlike espresso coffee grounds, instant coffee will completely dissolve in the water you use. This makes it convenient for having no grinds, but the flavor is not nearly as robust as actual espresso coffee beans. 

Instant coffee will also not have as much caffeine in it depending on the brand you use. Some brands are designed to have more caffeine per milligram while others are weak. We prefer to stick with using actual coffee grounds.

How to Make Espresso with a Moka Pot

Another very common way of making an espresso on your stovetop is to use a Moka pot. Moka pots are a type of metal tea kettle that was designed in Italy in the 1930s. You fill the bottom up with water and the top up with coffee grounds, then boil the water up through the coffee grounds to make the espresso. 

Moka pots are a very popular way to make a shot or two of strong espresso, however, they require you to clean them after each use. We prefer to either use an actual espresso machine or drip coffee, but that’s just us. 

Author Note: Moka pots are a very common appliance used to make espresso on your stove, but they require you to have a Moka pot. So if you have a Moka pot, you’re in luck. Here’s how to make espresso on your stove with a Moka Pot.

Steps Required

Here are the steps required to making espresso in a Moka pot.

  1. Begin by unscrewing the bottom of your Moka pot from the top portion. Fill the bottom of the pot to almost the top of the screw portion. Don’t fill it all the way to the brim otherwise, it will overflow when you try and screw it together!
  2. Place the coffee filter basket on top of the bottom portion. It’s now time to grind your espresso coffee beans!
  3. Grind your espresso coffee beans to a fine powder with a burr grinder. If you don’t have a burr grinder (we recommend getting one) you can use a normal grinder. Just allow it to grind for 15 or more seconds to ensure it grinds the beans finely.
  4. Now add your coffee grounds to the filter basket. As with the water, do not fill the filter basket all the way to the brim! Use enough coffee ground where the entire basket is covered, but leave several millimeters of space from the top. 
  5. Now screw the top portion of the Moka pot on. Ensure it is screwed all the way on, but don’t tighten it too much! If you tighten it too much it will become very hard to remove after heating it. This is because the metal will expand as it heats and make the screw portion extra tight. Pro tip: if you can’t unscrew your Moka pot, wait until it completely cools down. It should be much easier.

Heating Up Your Moka Pot

Stove Top Coffee Percolator

Now that you’ve assembled your Moka pot, it’s time to put it on your heating source.

  1. Turn on your stovetop (or whatever other heat sources you are using). If you’re camping, this could mean making a fire!
  2. Let your Moka pot heat up until espresso begins to come out of the top. Turn the heat down and wait until the espresso coming out of the top begins to turn a yellowish golden color. This means that your espresso is done!
  3. Once the espresso turns a golden color, take your Moka pot off the burner. If you leave the pot on the burner longer, the coffee might end up getting a bad-tasting metallic flavor. We don’t like it, and you probably won’t either. Remove it from the heat!
  4. Give your pot several minutes to cool down, then wrap a towel around it to get ready to pour. 
  5. Pour your espresso into a small mug being careful not to burn yourself on the hot bottom of the Moka pot.
  6. After you’ve enjoyed your espresso, be sure to clean your Moka pot of the used espresso grounds. Unscrew the bottom of the Moka pot and rinse with clean water. You can then dry the Moka pot and it will be ready for your next use!

Parting Thoughts

That’s it! You now know how to make espresso in a pan, as well as how to use a Moka pot (if you have one). We’ve always preferred making espresso in a pan when we’re someplace where we don’t have access to a proper espresso machine. Making it in a pan tends to result in extra-strong espresso, which we like for many reasons. 

We hope you found this article on how to make espresso in a pan useful! If you have additional thoughts or tips on how to make espresso in creative ways, let us know about them in the comments below.

As always, stay caffeinated, friends!

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