In this article, I’ll introduce you to moka pots and the way in which they work. You‘ll find a user’s guide and tips on which models to buy online.

They’re a classic and elegant method of coffee preparation, creating the perfect ambience in large part due to the gurgling and suction sounds they produce.

espresso maker comparison

Do Stovetop Espresso Makers Deserve Their Name?

Stovetop espresso makers don’t actually make espresso, only real Italian espresso machines can do that.

Espresso is produced in a portafilter under high pressure of about 9 bar (approx. 130 psi), whereas a stovetop espresso maker only reaches 1.5 bar (approx. 22 psi). The result is therefore not an espresso, but instead a beverage produced by a coffee percolator.

This also means that classic espresso drinks such as a cappuccino can’t be made with this coffee.

A stovetop espresso maker coffee with frothed milk is absolutely delicious, so don’t worry!

You can even top up the coffee from the stovetop espresso maker with hot milk, then you have what’s called a caffe misto.

Espresso Maker User’s Guide

Freshly ground coffee with a coarseness that isn’t too fine is always recommended.

Many coffee merchants simply take the word ESPRESSO in espresso maker and automatically set the mill to espresso grind, but this grind can destroy the espresso coffee pot and also burn the coffee.

This results in a bitter coffee, which is also particularly unpalatable.

espresso maker 8

Espresso Maker - Step by Step Instructions

  • Fill the boiler base of the espresso maker with warm water. Please don’t use boiling water, as then you can’t screw the pot together and will burn yourself. Only fill with water up to the mark; if no marking can be seen, then fill it about halfway or up to the level of the valve.
  • Grind the fresh coffee beans as described.
  • Place the filter funnel into the base and fill it to the brim with the ground coffee. The coffee grounds should be evenly distributed, but please don’t compress them as this will cause too much pressure to build during brewing.
  • If the coffee is too strong, you can reduce the amount of grounds used. Remember to always start with a full filter.
  • Now tightly screw on the top and make sure that no coffee grounds clog the thread.
  • Turn on the stove – not at full power, but rather at 50% output.
  • As soon as you hear gurgling sound you can look into the top to see the coffee rising. When you no longer see liquid rising to the top, turn the espresso maker off and pour cold water over the boiler base.
NOTE: Preparation times vary according to the size of the espresso maker and the set temperature.

Try to heat the water slowly in order to avoid burning the coffee, especially on gas stoves since they heat up quite quickly.

Advantages of Stovetop Espresso Makers

  • Espresso makers are light, especially the aluminum models.
  • Cheap to purchase.
  • They look great.
  • Easy to clean and easy to learn how to use.
  • They make your kitchen smell like coffee.
  • Their size and weight makes them ideal for camping and outdoor trips. They’re also suitable for use with a gas stove.

Disadvantages of Stovetop Espresso Makers

  • Often, too fine of coffee grounds are used.
  • It’s easy to forget the espresso maker on the stove or briefly leave it unattended. This can ruin not only the coffee, but also the espresso maker.
  • The aluminum versions are controversial.

Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Makers

Italian caffettieras were originally made of aluminum. This material was favored for both its low cost and low weight.

Nowadays, there are also many models made without aluminum, but they’re usually more expensive. Aluminum espresso makers aren’t suitable for use with induction cooktops, whereas the stainless steel ones can be used on all types of stoves.

Stainless steel espresso makers are longer lasting, but they’re often less classic in their design.

An Espresso Maker’s Parts

An espresso coffee pot is made up of several individual components

  • Filter funnel
  • Boiler base
  • Coffee collector pot
  • Gasket Ring
  • Filter plate

When a Stovetop espresso maker is used correctly, the rubber gasket is the only part that may need to be replaced.

The life of the gasket ring can be extended if you never put it into the dishwasher and don’t leave it lying in direct sunlight.

The gaskets come in different diameters, depending on the individual espresso maker’s make and model.

Assembly is quite straightforward – the filter goes in first, then the rubber gasket.

 

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When assembling your stovetop espresso maker, ensure that the flat side of the filter plate fits into the bottom of the coffee collector. Looking at the photo, you would place the gasket ring over the filter plate as it lies and then insert the side of the filter, which is against the table, into the top edge of the collector pot.

Bialetti Espresso Maker Review

There are many brands and patents of stovetop espresso makers – the stainless steel or aluminum varieties are most common. Some are electrically operated while others are designed for use directly on the stove. There are also models made especially for induction cooktops.
The best-known manufacturer is Bialetti with their Moka Express espresso maker. These are available in different sizes: the 4 cup model or the 6 and 10 cup versions.
Bialetti also manufactures stainless steel espresso makers for induction cooktops.

The electric “Cloer 5928” espresso maker is also quite popular.

I use a classic Bialetti 4-cup model for the stovetop. Mostly, however, I use a French Press or a pour-over filter.

Bialetti Moka Express

The Moka Express is a classic aluminum espresso maker that is very light-weight.

I have already extensively reviewed this most famous espresso maker: Bialetti Moka Express.

This model does also have some disadvantages – the boiler base can’t be washed in the dishwasher nor can it be descaled with citric acid.

Those of you with induction cooktops or gas stoves should use the stainless steel version instead. I’ll introduce that to you next. But in terms of design, I feel there’s no better espresso maker than the Bialetti Moka Express.

 Bialetti Espresso Maker

Bialetti Venus

A detailed review of the Bialetti Venus can be found here: Stainless Steel Espresso Makers.

This espresso coffee pot works in exactly the same way as the others made of aluminum.

espresso_maker_bialetti_stainless_steel

It can, however, go into the dishwasher and is more robust. It is also suitable for all cooktops. The Venus can also be easily descaled with citric acid.

Overall, it’s definitely the more practical stovetop espresso maker.

Bialetti Brikka

I haven’t tested the Bialetti Brikka. The Brikka has a so-called crema valve, which generates additional pressure and froths some of the coffee as it rises. In any stovetop espresso maker, the grounds come into contact with very hot water – which can quickly scald the coffee, turning it smoky and bitter.

bialetti_brikka

The Bialetti Brikka’s design further increases the pressure and thus the temperature inside the espresso maker. This will give you something that looks like crema, but is still a far cry from real espresso.

Do Stovetop Espresso Makers Produce Crema?

No, unfortunately not. There isn’t enough pressure generated by this form of preparation. Some frothy bubbles appear, similar to those you get when using a French press, but you can’t speak of a true fully-developed crema.

As I mentioned previously, coffee from a stovetop espresso maker is not real espresso.

Some models contain a so-called “crema valve” which somewhat froths the coffee as it collects in the top. It may look a bit like crema, but it still can’t remotely be compared to espresso coffee made with a portafilter.

If you’ve been told you can replicate real portafilter espressos with a stovetop espresso maker, don’t listen, you will be disappointed.

Here is a YouTube video of an espresso maker with a “crema valve” by Bialetti (not my own making).

 

Electric Espresso Makers

I’ve tested Cloer’s stovetop espresso maker model 5928. It’s an example of an electric moka pot.

These use electricity and function like an electric kettle. Because of this they’re not suitable for camping, but are great to use at home.

The Cloer stovetop espresso maker is a rather simple yet modern design and is made of stainless steel.

It heats up within about 5 minutes. Like a kettle, this espresso maker is fully rotatable, so it can easily be taken off the element from any side.

electric_espresso_maker

This espresso coffee pot is just as easy to clean as a Bialetti, but as with the aluminum version, it shouldn’t be put in the dishwasher.

There are different filter inserts for different amounts of coffee grounds. It should, however, be regularly descaled. A more detailed review of the Cloer espresso maker can be found here: electric espresso makers.

What Does Espresso Maker Coffee Taste Like?

Using good quality coffee or espresso grounds and following my instructions will result in a strong and flavorsome coffee. However, this kind of coffee is less full-bodied than that from a French press.

When using beans from Kenya or other African countries, you run the risk of the coffee from the espresso maker tasting sour. In this case, I would try grinding the coffee a bit coarser.

Bialetti Moka Express

 

If the coffee tastes burnt or too bitter, I’d recommend taking the pot off the stove sooner and grinding the coffee coarser.

Since the coffee comes into contact with very hot water by this method of preparation, there is greater risk of scalding the coffee. The result is then an ashy note, making the coffee unpalatable. For this reason you should always keep a close eye on the temperature.

Cleaning - Can Stovetop Espresso Makers Be Put in the Dishwasher?

That’s a matter of personal preference. In any case, I would avoid putting the rubber gasket ring in the dishwasher. Stainless steel models are often designated as dishwasher safe, but even these models can easily be cleaned by hand.

The most important thing is to always clean espresso makers in a timely manner, otherwise mold can develop.

Aluminum models suffer considerably when washed in the dishwasher. You’ll find the material will wear faster and the aluminum can also tarnish.

I wash my stovetop espresso coffee pot by hand and dry it with a towel so nothing oxidizes.

Descaling Espresso Makers

How often a stovetop espresso maker needs to be descaled depends on the type of water you use in it and the amount of calcification that bothers you.

Most of the deposits can be found at the bottom of the boiler. I would remove these with a citric acid solution: 2-3 tablespoons per 1L (34-ounces) of water is usually sufficient.

I always separately soak the filter funnel and the filter plate in citric acid too. You can do this in the same solution, but don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly afterwards.

ATTENTION: Never soak the rubber gasket or stovetop espresso makers made of aluminum in citric acid!

Further Questions Regarding Espresso Makers

My stovetop espresso maker is leaking, what can I do?

It could be that the rubber gasket is defective. After a while it will become porous. The gasket ring can be replaced, which is probably the easiest and fastest solution. If the espresso maker no longer unscrews, it could be due to oxidation or burnt coffee grounds. In this case, light tapping around the pot at the level of the thread may help, but be cautious as dents can easily be made.

Is the coffee from espresso makers unhealthy?

I’ve read quite a few reports in which people say that they have trouble tolerating the coffee from stovetop espresso makers. I think that this is mostly due to improper preparation, using too fine of coffee grounds, or burnt coffee.

Help, my stovetop espresso maker keeps boiling over!

Filling the boiler with less water and bringing the water to a boil more slowly at a lower temperature should solve the problem. This way the coffee pot can’t easily overheat and burn.

Can a stovetop espresso maker replace a portafilter?

No, an espresso machine makes espresso, a stovetop espresso maker makes coffee. That’s why none of the espresso coffee pots outlined here are alternatives to the French press or the pour-over filter.

I would say that any of these methods are better than “making coffee” with capsules (Nespresso) or other instant coffees.

What should I consider before using my stovetop espresso maker for the first time?

Always rinse a new espresso coffee pot thoroughly with hot water first.

What if water isn’t rising into the coffee collector properly?

Try a coarser ground or a smaller amount of coffee. The coffee is probably too compacted – note that the coffee grounds shouldn’t be tapped down nor firmly compressed.

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