I love my espresso machine and use it nearly every day. However, a recent move to a smaller kitchen left my counter space crowded with gadgets.

This got me wondering if I really needed my drip coffee maker or if I could make regular coffee with an espresso machine.

I did some research and testing, and this is what I found out about the brewing process.

Yes, making regular coffee with an espresso machine is possible, depending on your definition of making coffee.

There are also coffee lovers out there who will tell you that espresso machines can absolutely not make coffee, so remember that it's all subjective!

There are technical differences between espresso and drip-brewed coffee.

Still, if you mean drinking espresso exactly as you would regular coffee, the Americano is the most straightforward solution.

You just dilute your espresso with hot water until it has a concentration comparable to regular coffee!

Alternatively, if you want to use regular coffee beans in an espresso machine, that is no problem. Just be sure to use the normal fine espresso grind.

That said, different coffee makers (and coffee beans of various types, roasts, and grinds) are marketed for usage that ensures optimal flavor.

So, going against the grain (or the bean) can change the taste a bit.


How Does This Method Compare To Regular Coffee?

Espresso machines perform rapid extraction under pressure, which creates a more concentrated coffee than drip brew coffee.

This stronger coffee lends itself to quick shots or use as an ingredient in milky drinks. Another plus is the layer of crema; coffee made by a drip machine does not have this textural element.

In contrast, drip coffee makers use water drawn by gravity through a filter to get something less concentrated–the traditional cup of coffee.

For pressure-brewed espresso to work, it is best to use a fine grind and dark roast beans because both lend themselves to faster extraction.

Drip brew coffee machines, in contrast, will work better with comparatively coarse coffee grounds; plus, for drip coffee, any coffee roast will work (but results might vary).


What About Dual-Use Coffee Machines?

Unfortunately, there is no standardized definition of a dual-use coffee machine. It could be either a carafe and single cup, or espresso and coffee.

The latter are often called combination, all-in-one, or dual-brew. It is not uncommon for such units to have relevant features: coffee grinder, milk steamer, and hot water.

Automatic Espresso Makers

Having perused espresso makers from basic to deluxe, I have noticed a dichotomy between features and flexibility. You do not need flexibility if the machine has all the features.

If you have a nice enough espresso machine, the question posed in this article is moot because the device can do it all anyway! I'll go into more specific machines in a moment.

Superautomatics have built-in grinders and an easy mechanism for steaming milk. They tend to all be higher-priced machines that have touch-button recipes.

While a superautomatic machine should get you closer to just putting beans in and taking a cup of coffee out, this is an area of ambiguity.

You still have to pull espresso shots and make frothed milk, but an automatic mechanism will help considerably.

A more automatic espresso machine does not necessarily make a better cup of coffee than its manual counterpart; plus, with more automation comes greater size/footprint and maintenance.[1]

The Role Of The Coffee Bean Grind

You might wonder why finely ground coffee beans are a definitive feature of espresso or why you might want multiple grind options.

The espresso grind is fine so that water goes slowly and evenly within a short brewing time.

Do not make it too fine, though, because then you get a sandbar-type effect where the water is dammed up and will not go through the filter at all.[2]

A consensus I see online is that if you use coarsely ground beans in an espresso machine, it does not make regular coffee.

Instead, it renders poor extraction, which produces weak, sour-tasting coffee.

You have possibly noticed that the best espresso makers have built-in burr grinders.

Burr grinders, compared to blade grinders, create a more even grind size, which ultimately facilitates even extraction–especially critical for top-notch espresso.[3]


Popular Espresso Machines: Can They Make Regular Coffee?

Delonghi Espresso Machines

This brand offers a couple of all-in-one automatic espresso makers that can simultaneously make a shot of espresso and a carafe of coffee; both include a milk frother.

Interestingly, at under $300, these are among Delonghi’s more affordable units.

Breville Espresso Machines

This more expensive brand specializes in espresso-only units, so it may not be the best for those who want an espresso machine that also can make regular.

That said, they give the user the freedom and/or options to facilitate creative espresso-making.

  • Breville BES870XL:
    This is the Barista Express, a manual espresso maker. Its 16 grind settings and manual milk frother give you maximum flexibility.
  • Breville Oracle:
    The Oracle is an automatic espresso machine with a whopping 45 grind options.
  • Breville Bambino:
    This is just a high-quality manual unit. Since it costs less and takes up less space, this is a great choice for those who already have a coffee maker and want to try making espresso.
  • Breville Barista Touch:
    Essentially, it is a feature-rich manual expresso maker with an automatic milk frother, 30-grind built-in burr grinder, and touchscreen controls.

Nespresso Machines

If you want to do both, get the Vertuo rather than the Original. Note that since Nespresso uses pods, it is convenient but does not give the user much control of the process.


What Are Some Alternatives To Making An Americano?

For Black Coffee Fans

I wondered whether you could customize the dilution of your Americano to make it stronger than standard.

I was not alone: People online have been wondering how they might order an Americano with less water at coffee shops.

A popular option in Australia is the long black, which is, in effect, a less-diluted Americano.

Then I thought, to what extent does diluted espresso taste like non-espresso coffee?

When you add water, does it mess up the crema? Is it still smoother or stronger, like freshly brewed espresso?

It turns out a benefit of the long black is that, yes, you get a stronger cup with more pronounced crema.

A long black coffee is the closest you can get to something that tastes like espresso but is consumed in the style of normal coffee.

For a runner-up espresso that resembles traditional coffee, Caffè crema is an Italian term for a long espresso served in the south-central European region.

It is longer than a lungo and requires more coarsely ground beans. Consequently, its volume is more like a regular cup and tastes more like regular coffee.

Incidentally, you could think (as I did) that cafe creme is French for caffe crema, but realize that this is just another term for café au lait (regular coffee with steamed milk).

For Milky Coffee Fans

If you just do not like strong espresso, the simplest fix is the café con leche, a Spanish drink with equal proportions of espresso and steamed or scalded milk.

A sweeter, milk-free variation is the café Cubano, which, strictly speaking, must use Cuban espresso and whole cane/Turbinado sugar.

Moreover, many popular drinks at your local coffee shop are espresso-based drinks: lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites, mochas, and macchiatos.

They are espresso mixed with steamed milk and/or frothed milk, along with flavored syrup, sweetener, and possibly spices. They come in a coffee mug or iced in a glass.

As a general rule, espresso drinks (and coffee drinks in general) are differentiated by proportions of hot milk– scalded, frothed, or steamed.

Knowing the difference allows you to order or make the texture you want. This is why espresso machine write-ups always make a point of describing the built-in milk steamer/frother.

For my fellow chocoholics: If mocha is what you want, consider a multi-use unit that specializes in hot chocolate and espresso; you can consume them either separately or combined as mocha.

Plus, these types of makers usually give hot water for tea, too.


Related Regular Coffee And Espresso Machine Questions

Is an espresso machine the same as a coffee machine?

No. Unlike regular coffee, espresso always involves forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

What happens if you put ground coffee in an espresso machine?

If you put pre-ground coffee from the grocery store in an espresso machine, you may end up with a weak cup, as the coarser grinds will mess up the infusion. If you don't have a grinder at home, purchase an espresso roast or "fine grind" option to achieve maximum flavor in your espresso machine.

Why would you want an espresso machine instead of a drip coffee machine?

Espresso has a distinctive taste and texture and is the defining ingredient of countless coffee drinks. There is such a thing as instant espresso. Still, most people agree that even the best instant is not quite the coffee experience of an espresso maker or coffee shop.

How do you convert espresso to coffee?

You cannot convert espresso to coffee perfectly, but you can dilute it for caffeine concentration or use different beans and/or grinds to make it come out more like regular coffee.

Can I drink espresso like coffee?

You should drink less undiluted espresso than a cup of coffee to ensure you watch your caffeine levels. Compared to a hot cup of coffee, the amount of espresso would amount to a double or triple shot.


Conclusion

You cannot make regular drip coffee with an espresso machine, but you can get pretty close with the Americano, depending on your personal preference.

Espresso is an entirely different brewing method that uses a distinctly different mechanism and creates an especially intense taste and soft texture.

Coffee in an espresso machine is better used for specialty drinks and espresso blends.

References:

  1. https://www.wired.com/story/automatic-espresso-machines/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/how-to-make-espresso/
  3. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/coffee-grind-size-chart

Karmy Widjaja

Author

Karmy Widjaja
Karmy Widjaja, holding a degree in Hospitality Administration, combines her academic background with a profound passion for the world of coffee. Her work is enriched with a wealth of insights, not only about the art of coffee making but also about the broader aspects of the coffee industry. Her quest for coffee perfection is a central theme in her engaging articles, as she continues to explore the vibrant coffee scene in Perth. And when it's time for a coffee break? Karmy's all about a laid-back flat white with almond milk – it's her go-to for a tasty coffee kick.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... flat white with almond milk.

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