When teamed up with an oscilloscope, this simple circuit provides a means of measuring capacitor ESR. A 555 timer (IC1) configured as a 2.3kHz free-running oscillator acts as the timebase. It provides narrow (7.7µs) pulses to the capacitor under test via a NAND Schmitt trigger (IC2) and transistor Q1. A 100Ω resistor in series with Q1 limits current flow to about 50mA. Therefore, an ESR of 1Ω will produce pulses across the test capacitor of 50mV, which means that an oscilloscope with a vertical sensitivity of 5mV can measure ESR down to 0.1Ω or less.
Oscilloscope ESR Tester – [Link]