Italian Stovetop Espresso Makers
If you’ve ever had stovetop espresso you know it rivals the espresso from machines that cost thousands of dollars. It’s not exactly true espresso but it is the coffee that Italians are known for and to the average person it’s the most cost effective way to make specialty coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes in the home.
What you may or may not know is that a stove top espresso maker (aka moka pot) costs approximately 1/20th the price of a low end espresso machine and most people couldn’t taste the difference in flavor. There are no moving parts in these moka pots and they tend to last for years so long as you regularly change the gasket seal every couple years or so.
To overly generalize most stovetop espresso makers are going to make equally good espresso right out of the box and it will take very little skill to “get it right”. Fancy espresso machines tend to take a lot of skill to get good tasting shots and even the automatic models as still challenging for beginners to use.
Moka pots however take only a few minutes to operate on a stove and are super easy to cleanup. They just rinse clean under water and air dry.
In general when buying a new stovetop espresso maker you will be paying more money for higher quality units. These units will be built to last longer and their replacement parts (gaskets / filter screens) are easier to come by.
Another main factor in price will have to do with style. Many high end product designers have produced their own stylized versions of moka pots. For those looking to add something attractive to their kitchen counter it’s worth look through the styles available. All moka pots work essentially the same but they don’t all necessarily look the same.
Finally pricing and function are also affected by size. Manufactures make stovetop espresso makers in 3 cup, 6 cup, 9 cup, and 12 cup sizes. Some makers (fewer) have sizes in 1-cup, 2 cup, 4-cup, and other alternative sizes. Cup of course refers to the standardized size of an espresso shot ~ approximately 1.5oz.
For American’s most drinks come with a double shot or 3oz. For this reason I’m fond of the 3-cup and 6-cup espresso makers as these make just enough for one or two people at a time.
The smaller sizes do tend to produce a better cup of espresso than the larger sizes but the difference is negligible. If you feel like you’re going to need more moka at any given time then opt for the slightly larger pot.
Keep in mind however that your Moka pot will make the cup size regardless of how much coffee you want. If you own a 12-cup stovetop espresso maker and want to make enough for yourself then you will have to brew the entire 12-cups. This can produce a bit of waste.
I recommend buying something large enough for a couple people (three cups or six cups) or (if the budget allows for it) two pots, one small servings and one for large.
Italian Moka has been around in this form for around 100 years. In the 1920’s Bialetti made the first stovetop espresso maker as we know it today. These days Bialetti still makes some of the best stovetop espresso makers. They are easily the bestselling units of them all and they are not the most expensive either.
Bialetti is known for extreme quality and ease of use. Their replacement parts are easy to come by and don’t cost a lot. If you want to spend more money on something more stylish you can find some excellent pots by other makers. They are worth it but you are really just shopping for different styles and a different material if you go for one of the other brands.
Bialetti mostly makes Aluminum moka pots. You can get stainless steel but your options are limited unlike if you were trying to buy the best espresso machine where there are literally hundreds of models to choose from..
There are also cheaper stovetop espresso makers for sale as well. They are not necessarily bad but they may not be built as well and they don’t have generations of happy customers touting their ability to make excellent espresso.
Use Instructions – How To Make Espresso On The Stove Top
Using a stovetop moka pot is extremely easy. Once you understand how it works then using it is fairly intuitive.
In short water starts in the bottom chamber and is forced through the inner funnel by steam pressure generated. You will fill the bottom chamber only as high as the pressure release valve. If you fill it lower or higher you will either get a poor cup of coffee or create an unsafe environment. Filling to the pressure valve every time is important.
The water is then forced up the inner funnel passing through the filter basket. In this basket you add your coffee grind. You can experiment to find out your favorite grind size for this but I tend to like medium fine grind best. It helps create a bit more pressure without slowing the brew cycle down much if at all.
When you brew it’s important to set the pot on low to medium heat. You want this to be a slow brew. Whipping the stovetop temperature up to high will simply burn the coffee ever so slightly and will wear down the rubber gasket faster. It’s better to just make your coffee slow and on low.
To better demonstrate how to use a moka pot take a look at this video below.
Which Moka Pot Should You Buy?
I’ve done a lot of research on stovetop espresso makers prior to writing this up. A lot of my research came from diving into forums, reviews and other places people have posted their personal experiences with these machines as well as buying a few different ones and trying them all myself.
On this page I’ve tried to give you a good primer for buying your first stovetop espresso pot. See below for a short list of the best stovetop espresso makers sold today along with my brief comments on each unit.