The stovetop espresso maker was once a top choice for home coffee brewers but has lost popularity as automatic espresso makers entered the field. For true coffee aficionados, the stovetop makers are still a must-have tool. Here is all you need to know about how to find the best stovetop espresso maker.
The stovetop espresso maker is more commonly known as a Moka pot and was made popular by Alfonso Bialetti, an Italian engineer, in 1933. It is no surprise that Bialetti is still and always was the leading brand for these devices. That should mean that you can simply buy a Bialetti Moka pot and be done with it right?
Not exactly, since there are many factors to consider when buying a Moka pot and even if you are set on choosing the best brand, there are various features of each model that you should consider.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about stovetop espresso makers.
What Is a Stovetop Espresso Maker “Moka Pot”?
A stovetop espresso maker or Moka pot is a device used to brew ground coffee on the stove that results in an espresso-like coffee. While there is no way to make a true espresso using anything but an espresso machine, this method comes close.
A Moka pot, French press, and Aeropress are the three most common ways to make espresso-like drinks without an espresso machine. Each device uses a similar principle of forcing high-pressured steam or water through ground coffee. This high-pressure technique makes espresso the strong drink that it is.
While none of these methods can generate as much pressure as an espresso machine (nine bars of pressure), they can get quite close. Since the Moka pot is the only one out of these three methods that are made on a stovetop, this is the one we are looking at here.
A Moka pot brews coffee by creating steam which forces boiling water from the bottom chamber up through the ground coffee and into the top chamber. This creates the strong coffee taste that we liken to a shot of espresso.
Moka pots usually come in a two-cup size but you can look for bigger models which make up to 12 cups at a time. These cups are two-ounce demitasse cups and not regular eight-ounce cups.
Why Choose This Method of Brewing?
The popularity of the Moka pot is decreasing due to the simplicity of automatic espresso makers. However, home coffee brewers still enjoy the control that a Moka pot gives them. You can pick the right coffee bean, roast level, grind size, and even the brewing time.
Every true coffee drinker knows that coffee is a personal choice and coffee can be enjoyed in many different ways. If you decide to use a Moka pot stovetop espresso maker, you will give yourself the control you need to craft a brew based on your likes.
With a Moka pot, you can:
- Alter the grind size
- Adjust the amount of ground coffee
- Control the water temperature
All of these will determine how strong and weak the coffee will be. You can only control these aspects to a certain extent with a super-automatic espresso machine. Another reason to use a Moka pot is the price difference compared to buying an espresso machine. While a semi-automatic machine will give you control over your drink, it is on the more expensive side of espresso machines.
A Moka pot is affordable and lasts long, you will simply need an electric or manual coffee grinder to go with it. A manual coffee grinder is affordable and a great coffee tool to have at home. A Moka pot is also convenient for blackouts or to travel with. If you want good hand-crafted coffee wherever you go, a Moka pot is easy to take with you.
Moka pots will also be a great addition to your camping gear. Despite these devices been known as stovetop makers, they can easily be used on a fire or gas camping stove. Portable, affordable, and provides control, what more could you want in a coffee maker?
Where to Buy a Stovetop Espresso Maker?
Stovetop espresso makers can be bought from most specialty coffee shops, shops that sell home appliances, and online stores. You can look on Amazon for a wide range of Moka pots or go directly to various brands if you already know what you want.
What Makes a Good Stovetop Espresso Maker?
Moka pots may look similar across brands, but they do differ in terms of quality, design, and price. Here are a few elements that make a good stovetop espresso maker. Keep an eye out for these details when purchasing your Moka pot.
- High-quality materials to prevent corrosion
- Decent size to brew the right amount of coffee
- Good handle shape and material to prevent burning
- Aesthetically pleasing design to add to your kitchen
Buying Guide for Stovetop Espresso Makers
While stovetop espresso makers may seem fairly simple, some key features can help you make the right decision. While the materials and size should be your main considerations, other features will improve your experience with your stovetop espresso maker.
Moka pots tend to have a similar look across brands and models as the pot needs to do what it is designed for. Thus, brands won’t be able to adjust the look too much. Although, some designers get creative and produce unique-looking Moka pots.
Choose a design that will add to the current aesthetic of your kitchen, just make sure the Moka pot sticks to the basics.
- Your Moka pot should have a steady bottom chamber that is made of durable materials. The size of the chamber will determine how many cups you can brew at a time.
- A sturdy filter plate is another necessity as this will filter out the coffee grounds to prevent them from ending up in your coffee cup. Unless you are making a cowboy brew, there is no reason to drink a gritty cup of coffee.
- A gasket is necessary to prevent the water from spilling as it moves up to the top chamber. This gasket is usually made of rubber or silicone.
- A safety valve is also a necessity and if you find a Moka pot without this feature then stay away. As the Moka pot generates high-pressure steam, it needs an outlet to release some of the excess steam.
- The pouring spout is not as important as the other design elements but it can improve your experience. A thin spout will slow down the pouring so choose a bigger one if you would like to speed up the pouring process.
The material is another important aspect of your Moka pot and should help you make your decision. The two main materials used on a Moka pot are aluminum and stainless steel. Traditionally, aluminum was used to create the Bialetti Moka pots as stainless steel was not available in Italy at the time. These aluminum pots are lighter and generally cost less than stainless steel.
Stainless steel models were later created and coffee drinkers appreciated the sturdier material which didn’t add a slight metallic taste to the coffee. Stainless steel pots heat up slower than aluminum and have a higher price tag. When buying your Moka pot either of these two materials is acceptable. You should choose between the two based on your preferences.
Moka pots offer a range of different sizes and this will determine how many cups of coffee the pot will produce. Moka pots usually produce anywhere between one cup to 12 cups per brew.
It is important to note that a Moka pot “cup” is not the same as a regular cup of coffee. Moka pots are designed to mimic an espresso drink. Since espresso is measured in shots, Moka pots follow the same principles.
The shot is traditionally combined with steamed milk for a cappuccino or mixed with hot water for an Americano. This means that one “cup” from a Moka pot is actually a demitasse-sized cup that holds a two-ounce shot of espresso. Whereas, a regular cup of coffee is eight ounces. Whether you want to refer to the capacity of Moka pots in shots or cups, you should decide how much you will be brewing at a time.
If you are brewing for large groups of people, a 12 cup Moka pot will work, while a one-cup Moka pot is best for brewing for yourself. You won’t be able to just brew one cup with a 12 cup pot, so be sure to choose this wisely.
It is always good to set a budget before you look for a new gadget to buy. While it is important to stay within your means, you should also be careful to not buy something that isn’t up to standard. Your new Moka pot should be made of the right material; either aluminum or stainless steel, and it should have a safety valve.
If you spend a bit extra while buying your Moka pot, you can save in the long run as you won’t need to replace a high-quality pot as soon as a cheaper model that isn’t made of quality materials. Be sure to set a realistic price before looking through the options of a Moka pot. Generally, Moka pots range between $15 to $60. I would advise looking at options above $20 to ensure you are buying a quality Moka pot.
How to Use a Stovetop Espresso Maker
Stovetop espresso makers are quite easy to use. Simply fill the chamber with water, add your ground coffee, close it up, and place it on the heat source. Once you master the basics, you can alter the process to your preferences. While these steps seem simple enough, you will need to be careful of certain aspects to brew a good-tasting coffee. If your grind size, water type, or temperature is incorrect your coffee won’t be as delicious as it could be.
To brew an espresso-like coffee using a Moka pot follow these steps.
Start by taking your Moka pot apart to prepare it for brewing. You should have three pieces:
- The bottom chamber where the water will be poured
- The filter funnel where your coffee grounds are placed
- The top chamber where your brewed coffee ends up
Next, heat your water. You should use filtered water rather than tap water as the taste will be noticeably different. Your water should not be boiling once when you pour it into the chamber.
You can either stop the kettle just before it boils, or let the water cool down for a minute or two after it boils fully.
Some people may prefer to add cool water to the Moka pot. However, this could end up burning your coffee as it will sit on the stove for too long.
Grind up your coffee using a manual or electric grinder. While you could use store-bought ground coffee it is not advised. Pre-ground coffee will be a lot less fresh than grinding your beans right before brewing.
Since roasted coffee beans will last two or three months if stored in a good coffee canister, you can keep enough at home for brewing. Ground coffee, on the other hand, loses freshness within a few minutes of grinding.
Pour your prepared water into the bottom chamber before placing the grounds filter into this chamber. Then add your freshly ground coffee into the filter. You can either fill it or place three tablespoons in the filter for a six-cup Moka pot.
Once your ground coffee is added, place the top chamber on top of the bottom chamber to close the Moka pot. Make sure to screw the top on properly to prevent any water from spilling out while the coffee brews.
Use a kitchen towel to hold the bottom chamber as it will be hot from the pre-heated water. Screw the top chamber on by holding the chamber itself. Don’t hold the handle to twist it on as you could weaken the handle over time.
When the chambers are secured in place, place your Moka pot on the stovetop, whether it is a gas or electric stove. Turn the stove plate on medium heat and let your coffee brew.
You don’t want to over-extract and burn your coffee, so be sure to keep an eye on the Moka pot during brewing. The coffee should slowly trickle out into the top chamber and if it is spluttering or not coming out, you may need to adjust the heat.
The pot will make a gentle whistling sound when the coffee is fully brewed. Remove the pot from the stove immediately and hold a damp cloth to the bottom chamber. This will cool the chamber down to stop the extraction process.
The only thing left for you to do is pour your shots of coffee, add some frothed milk from a good-quality milk frother or hot water if you want an Americano, and enjoy!
What Grind Size and Beans to Use
Generally, espresso is made using a fine grind and this is the same for a Moka pot. Since the brewing process is quite short for a Moka pot it requires small particles of coffee to extract enough flavor.
If your Moka pot takes long to brew due to the design or water temperature, then you could end up with over-extracted coffee. Over-extracted coffee will taste bitter and possibly burnt. In this case, you should set your grinder to create coarser grounds.
You can also adjust the grind size based on preference. Although if you end up with sour-tasting coffee, then your grind size is likely too coarse as the coffee will be under-extracted.
Any type of beans can be used in a Moka pot, although a medium to dark roast works well. The quick brewing time is enough to extract the bold and rich flavors of these beans. A light roast can work but it is likely to taste weaker than darker roasts.
You may find beans labeled as “Espresso Beans” in the store. Technically there is no bean grown specifically for espresso. These beans are a darker roast with bold flavors that are extracted nicely when using the espresso brew method. These beans will work in your Moka pot.
How to Clean a Stovetop Espresso Maker
Your Moka pot will need to be cleaned regularly to prevent old coffee from contaminating your freshly brewed coffee. However, cleaning a Moka pot is very simple and will only take you a few minutes.
- Wait for the Moka pot to cool down fully before cleaning. Then take the pot apart by unscrewing the upper chamber and removing the filter. Empty the used coffee grounds into the bin or the compost.
- Use warm water to rinse all three parts of the Moka pot, giving them a wipe to remove any coffee buildup.
- Dry all the parts with a dishtowel.
You shouldn’t use any soap or chemicals to clean your Moka pot as this will affect the taste of your next coffee. While you may think you can rinse all the soap off, it will seep into your pot. A soapy-tasting coffee will not be pleasant the next morning.
The 3 Best Stovetop Espresso Makers
Here are 3 of the best stovetop espresso makers. All these models are sturdy, reliable, and offer you the chance to brew up Italian-style coffee at home.
Bialetti – Moka Express: Iconic Stovetop Espresso Maker (Best Overall)
The Bialetti Moka Express has made number one on the list as the original Moka pot brand. While other brands have produced creative designs and sturdy Moka pots, there is nothing like the original design.
- Ergonomic handle
- Various sizes available
- Patented safety valve
- Trusted brand
- Aluminum may affect the taste
The Bialetti Moka Express offers buyers an authentic experience with the unique Bialetti logo displayed across the body. The Moka pot is designed with an ergonomic handle to reduce pain on your wrist while pouring. The handle is made with heat-proof material to prevent burns while pouring.
The Bialetti Moka Express is available in various sizes from one cup to 12 cups. These cups are measured in espresso cups and not regular eight-ounce coffee cups. You can choose the right size for your individual needs whether you are making it at home for yourself or brewing coffee for larger groups of people.
The Bialetti Moka Express is equipped with the patented safety valve standard on all Bialetti models. This feature keeps you safe while brewing up your coffee as it releases excess steam to prevent a dangerous build-up in the chamber.
The Bialetti is a trusted brand offering coffee lovers a reliable and quality experience. If you are looking for a true Moka experience, then what better brand to use than the creators of the Moka pot.
GROSCHE Milano Stovetop Espresso Maker Moka Pot (Best Budget)
The GROSCHE Milano Stovetop Espresso Maker is a stylishly designed coffee maker that can add a unique element to your kitchen setup.
- Heat resistant knob and handle
- Color options
- Certified safety valve
- Size options
- The handle is not real wood
- The spout is a little small
The GROSCHE Milano pot is made of food-grade anodized aluminum to offer a lighter body and a more affordable Moka pot. The aluminum creates a clean look if you are looking for a traditional-looking Moka pot.
The brand offers various color options including red, blue, black, and white. The colored Moka pots are coated in lead-free enamel to prevent the pot from leaching harmful chemicals.
The Moka pot is designed with a heat-resistant handle to prevent finger burns while pouring. The knob to open the lid of the top chamber is made of the same material. This material lets users handle the pot with care without needing gloves or a dishcloth.
Buyers can choose from a range of one-cup to 12 cup espresso makers. This gives you the option to brew for multiple people at a time or just yourself, depending on your needs.
The handle does have a wooden look, but it is not made of real wood, which may put some buyers off. The spout may be a bit small when pouring too, so you may need to wait longer while pouring your coffee.
The GROSCHE Milano pot is a good budget-friendly Moka pot that is of high quality.
Cuisinox Roma Stainless Steel Stovetop Moka Espresso Maker (Best Versatile)
The Cuisinox Roma Stainless Steel Stovetop Moka Espresso Maker is a good option if you are looking for versatility.
- Stainless steel
- Induction base
- Extra gasket included
- A reducer included
- Three size options
- Handle heats up
The Cuisinox Moka pot is a good choice if you are looking for a stainless steel pot. This material is sturdier to give coffee drinkers a long-lasting pot. The material does raise the price but you won’t need to replace it any time soon.
The Moka pot is designed with an induction base, allowing brewers to use any type of stovetop when brewing their coffee. When using it on an induction oven you won’t need an extra induction plate.
The pot comes in various sizes with four-cup, 6-cup, and 10-cup options to choose from. This lets you choose the right one for you. Each pot comes with a reducer which allows you to brew up half the amount of coffee when you are making for fewer people.
The pot also comes with an extra gasket to use if the main one breaks. The handle is made of stainless steel so it will get hot after brewing. You must take care when holding the handle by using a damp cloth or oven gloves.
If you would like a pot made of stainless steel that doesn’t look like a traditional Moka pot, then this one is a good choice for you.
Time to Get Brewing
Brewing coffee using a stovetop espresso maker is a fun and interesting method of brewing coffee. It lets you learn more about the process of making delicious coffee as you will be choosing the right beans, grinding the beans, and intently brewing your coffee.
This method of making coffee may take longer than an espresso maker but it is affordable and gives you full control over the taste of your brew.
Remember to consider the materials whether you want traditional aluminum or newer stainless steel. Choose the right design and capacity that suits your needs. Lastly, keep your purchase within your budget while remembering how long these pots generally last.
Rich and flavorful home-brewed coffee is just a few minutes away when you have a stovetop espresso maker.
Our best choice is the Bialetti – Moka Express: Iconic Stovetop Espresso Maker
Now check out the best insulated glass coffee mugs to make a homemade Moka coffee to go.