Do you love espresso?
I crave a shot of espresso when I know my day is getting too long and busy. I love that extra kick and adrenaline rush I get from it. But I don’t have an espresso machine at home. Instead, I typically get my espresso from a coffee shop.
Since I don’t always drink espresso I didn’t bother getting a home machine. However, it made me think about coffee machines that brew coffee similar to an espresso.
I came across two popular choices: Aeropress and stovetop espresso.
Let’s take a look at these espresso makers and find out the pros and cons of owning any of the machines.
What is an Aeropress?
When Alan Adler created the Aeropress, he came up with one recipe and one brewing style. Now there are hundreds of recipes and two very distinct styles of brewing.
The Standard Method is how Adler originally envisioned the Aeropress being used, and the other method, Inverted, literally flips the Aeropress on its head.
The Standard Method starts with the Aeropress sitting on top of a cup with the filter cap and paper filter in place. Ground coffee is poured in through the top, followed by hot water. The barista then inserts the plunger and presses the contents through the filter and into the cup below.
An Aeropress looks like something out of a sci-fi movie and it makes good coffee, too. Many users of Aeropress compare its brew to espresso. The coffee grounds are immersed in hot water and then a high level of pressure extracts the pure coffee flavor.
- Extremely portable
- Easy and oddly satisfying cleanup
- Because of the intensity of the pressure, brew time is less than two minutes.
- Can be used to make espresso, too.
- The resulting brew is delicious.
- You need specific filters for the Aeropress.
- It makes a single cup of coffee and not a big one.
Do you wonder why Aeropress coffee tastes good? Total immersion, temperature, and air pressure play an important role.
- Total immersion of the grounds in the water results in rapid, yet robust, extraction of flavor.
- Total immersion permits extraction at a moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.
- Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20 seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long processes such as drip brewing.
- The air pressure also gently squeezes the last goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.
- Because of the lower temperature and short brew time, the acid level of the brew is much lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory pH testing measured Aeropress brew’s acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee lovers who report that Aeropress brew is friendlier to their stomachs.
What is Stovetop Espresso?
One of the oldest and most trusted type of stovetop espresso is the Bialetti Moka Express. It’s been around since the 1930s. This is why stovetop espresso makers are also known as moka pots.
Moka pots are humble coffee machines. Nothing fancy like the Aeropress or the Keurig. However, they will not disappoint you because they can give you a strong and delicious cup of coffee anytime you need it.
The moka pot, or macchinetta del caffè, which literally translates to “small coffee machine,” is a stovetop machine that moves boiling water, pressurized by steam, through ground coffee to make a delicious brew.
Back in 1933, an Italian inventor named Luigi De Ponti patented the design for Alfonso Bialetti, and the company is still making stovetop espresso makers with the same basic design. Bialetti’s classic moka pot is so reliable that it remains the best stovetop espresso maker you can buy. Before we get into our top picks, here are some key facts you need to know about stovetop espresso makers.
Although moka pots don’t technically make espresso, the coffee you get is very rich and strong. Some machines will even produce a bit of crema, just like high-end espresso machines. If you’re using this to make cappuccinos or lattes at home, you’ll be more than satisfied, but if you want shots of thick, creamy espresso, you’ll need a real espresso machine.
Moka pots can last years — decades, even — so long as you don’t burn the handle or otherwise harm it. The only thing you’ll need to replace periodically is the rubber gasket and filter that prevent the grounds from infiltrating your coffee.
Stovetop Espresso Pros
- Very affordable
- Comes in different colors and sizes
- Makes great tasting coffee
- Easy to clean
Stovetop Espresso Cons
- You need to be attentive so you don’t continue heating the pot after the water reservoir has emptied
- Depending on the brand you will buy, durability and warranty can be the major setback
What’s the difference?
Coffee experts looked into the similarities and differences of Aeropress and stovetop espresso.
The Water Heating Method
The stovetop needs a stove to heat water, while the Aeropress needs only a kettle with hot water. Out of convenience, the Aeropress is easier to use because you can easily ask for hot water if you are in an office or a hotel room.
The Pressure Brew
While both the Aeropress and the stovetops use pressure to extract the flavor from the grind, the Aeropress needs you to do that manually, whereas the stovetops use steam from the heated water to do the job. The Aeropress is a bit more work than the stovetops here and it’s something you’ll need to learn to do with good timing to get the best results.
The Aeropress filters the coffee, unlike the stovetop espresso makers, which has an impact on the coffee it produces in two ways, affecting the taste and the texture. Filtering the coffee means that the Aeropress makes a milder cup than the stovetop espresso makers, and the coffee produced is less similar to espresso in taste. The filtration process also prevents the oils from the beans getting to the cup. It is these oils which give the drink the body and flavor which is so much more similar to the dark roasted and oily espresso we all know and love.
Which is better?
We can look at three things here: convenience, price and taste.
Aeropress is very convenient to use. You can take it anywhere and hot water will not be an issue, unlike with stovetop, where you really need a stove to get it going. If you plan to drink coffee anywhere and you want to have a good cup using freshly ground beans, then Aeropress is your best choice. If you are a home buddy and want a good old-fashioned cup of joe, own a stovetop espresso.
Price is also a huge deciding factor. The Aeropress is more expensive than a stovetop maker. You are actually putting a premium on the convenience of using an Aeropress. If money is not an issue, you can have both.
Again, we come to taste preference. No one can really force you to like one brew over the other. It’s the type of brew that appeals to your taste. If you want a smoother and cleaner blend, go for the Aeropress. If you want a stronger tasting coffee, the kind that gives you a boost during the first hours of the morning, stovetop espresso is the runaway winner.
Which one will you likely buy if you get the chance?
Is There a Difference Between Aeropress and Stovetop Espresso Makers?
Do you ever wake up so tired that you feel like an IV of coffee is the only thing that could get you out of bed? Warning, that might not be the safest route.
Luckily there are some other effective technologies worth exploring.
Alan Alder, the inventor of the Aerobie, a disc that outflies the frisbee by miles, gifted humanity with the Aeropress. An Aeropress, which looks a lot like a syringe meets a french press, is a relatively new invention in the coffee world. It’s what you might imagine Einstein or Tesla making coffee with.
So you’re probably wondering: how exactly does this differ from the stovetop espresso maker I’ve banished to the laundry room closet?
The Aeropress is essentially the same thing as a stovetop espresso maker, both use low pressure to force water through the coffee grounds, making coffee that resembles espresso. However the aeropress comes at a fraction of the cost you’d spend an espresso machine, and slightly cheaper than the stovetop version.
While the Aeropress and the stovetops have the same basic principles, there are some fairly significant differences, which have an effect on the taste and texture you’ll get from the coffee they produce.
Both Make Espresso Like Coffee Under Pressure
While both the Aeropress and the stovetops use pressure to extract the flavor from the grind, the Aeropress needs you to do that manually whereas the stovetops use steam from the heated water to do the job. Still, you’ll want to keep an eye on the stovetop maker as it can boil over and cause a mess.
That’s not to say you can’t make a mess with the Aeropress either. But the ease of cleaning up after the aeropress is second to none. Once the coffee is pressed, one is left with a literal puck of grounds that can go right into your trash or compost. Then rinse and the process is done.
There are differences between the stovetops and the Aeropress, and whether you appreciate these is a matter of taste, the Aeropress gives a smoother, cleaner cup than the more traditional stovetop methods, but it loses some of the kick in the process.
Still the Aeropress can be adjusted with practice whereas the stovetop maker is pretty limited. You can really only brew one way.
You’ll find some stovetop espresso makers selling for a very low price while others can be quite steep in price. On the high end you are paying for quality and designer style and labels. In the mid-range you are buying manufacturing quality alone, and on the low end you are buying an inexpensive unit that will do the job just fine but may not hold up as well over time.
How Moka Pots Are Different
Certain materials can impart flavors in your brew and the research shows that aluminum is the perfect medium. This is due to the lack of flavor it imparts but also the rapid temperature increase that makes for a greater ease of use in the long run. Especially if you’re in a hurry.
It’s important to note that the Stovetop unit is composed of three parts:
- The bottom compartment, where your water will sit, features a safety valve and sits on the stove or heating element.
- There is a central filter funnel which allows the heated water flow up and into the connected basket where your grounds are.
- Then the top compartment which stores the brewed coffee for dispensing.
To get a quality pot of stovetop espresso isn’t such a difficult task:
- 1. Remove the top part of the espresso maker and the filter funnel insert.
- 2. Fill the lower part of the espresso maker with cold fresh water, but not past the safety valve.
- 3. Fill the filter funnel with coarse espresso grounds. Be sure not to use fine ground.
- 4. Put the filter funnel and top compartment back onto espresso maker and secure.
- 5. Place espresso maker onto your heat source. Be certain that you don’t burn the handle which might be made of plastic or rubber.
- 6. Once the top compartment is filled with coffee, carefully remove the espresso maker from heat source.
- 7. Enjoy your freshly brewed espresso.
Make sure to dry your stovetop unit after use, and don’t air dry. Always brew the amount of coffee that your unit is meant for or there is sure to be disappointing results. Not so difficult is it? Even a morning fog won’t hinder you.
The Aeropress is Filtered Unlike Stovetop Espresso
The Aeropress filters the coffee, unlike the stovetop espresso makers, which has an impact on the coffee it produces in two important ways:
- Taste, and
Filtering the coffee means that the Aeropress makes a milder cup than the stovetop espresso makers, and the coffee produced is less similar to espresso in taste. The filtration process prevents the oils from the beans getting to the cup also. It is these oils which give the drink the body and flavor which is so much more similar to the dark roasted and oily espresso we all know and love.
The consistency is affected as well, an Aeropress makes a much cleaner cup for the lack of residue in the bottom of the cup.
Be aware, your stovetop coffee makers can have a bit of sediment meaning that the bottom of your cup is wasted, the Aeropress makes coffee that is clean all the way down.
The Aeropress is Also More Convenient
The stovetop coffee makers require a stove to heat the water, whereas the Aeropress requires a kettle or some source of hot water. Maybe you’re looking forward to some simplicity, let’s say you’re on the go constantly, or staying in hotel room. However, theres going to be a lot of work involved if you want more than one cup of joe from the Aeropress.
Stovetop Espresso makers come in many different sizes, so if you’re prepping for company the Aeropress might not be a realistic option.
The aeropress might just be your best bet here:
Keep in mind that the stovetop unit is going to be an easy setup before bed or early in the morning before that 30 hour shift you’ve been dreading.
The Aeropress is Easy to Use
To make a cup of coffee you simply follow some quick instruction:
First, you’ll need the following
- An Aeropress.
- An AeroPress Disk Coffee Filter (Typically the Aeropress comes with a paper film filter disk. Although this can and should be upgraded to a metal disk filter).
- A spouted kettle or something you’d feel comfortable pouring hot water out of, with control.
- Kitchen thermometer, which can read around 205 degrees.
- Digital Scale should be accurate to the gram.
- 20 gram freshly ground coffee (within thirty minutes is desirable)
- Your favorite mug (So long as the Aeropress can sit on top)
The Standard method begins with the Aeropress sitting on top of a cup with the filter cap and your chosen filter in place. Ground coffee (about fifteen grams) is poured in through the top, followed by hot water at 210 degrees fahrenheit. Just off the boil and with a ration of about sixteen grams of water to 1 gram of coffee. Stir this mixture, then insert the plunger and press the contents through the filter and into the cup below.
Some pressure should be felt when plunging the brew. If not, then a finer grind of coffee is needed.
This should take about 45 seconds. Then you’ve got an Aeropress brew in the standard method. Enjoy.
Some Like the Inverted Method Better
So what’s the best way to use the space age tech of the Aeropress? Strangely the consensus is
The inverted method is widely regarded as superior to the method described in the instructions that come with your new Aeropress. Some say those instructions belong in the trash.
Here’s the rundown:
- Wet the rubber seal and insert it into the chamber about 1/4 of the length of the shaft
- Stand the brewer upside down (the numbers on the side should be upside down).
- Place the black funnel over the opening, now upside down
- Pour the ground coffee into the funnel and remove.
- Start the timer, and slowly add hot water sure to cover grounds then fill to the top.
- Slowly stir clockwise for about 10 seconds. Then place the filter disk onto the top of the brewer
- Once you’ve reach one minute flip the brewer upright and set on your favorite mug.
- Apply slow, steady pressure on the piston syringe (push straight down carefully)
- As it reaches the bottom an audible hiss of pressure release should be apparent so remove the brewer from your mug. Use a second mug to finish pressing out the rest of the air and liquid.
- Remove the filter cover and filter disk
- Eject the spent coffee grounds into the second container for your compost.
- Rinse the rubber piston with water before pulling it back through the brewer, and then rinse the Aeropress unit.
Can You Double Press an Aeropress?
There’s some contention among experts as to whether double pressing your aeropress coffee will actually have any effect on taste or saturation of caffeine. It’s possible that one could over extract the oils and leave one with a too bitter product.
Caffeine content comes from the duration of water over the beans. So it’s easy to see why some would experiment with a double press for a stronger result.
If you’re doing your own lab work here and want to give it a shot, it’s important to know what too strong is, even for the boldest coffee drinkers among us.
How to Tell If Your Brew Is Up To Par
Whether you’ve been trying the inverted style or or double pressing or experimenting with a new technique, there is a solid way to know what’s going on in that cup of joe. The refractometer makes things much more scientific than the brew-taste-repeat method. You can acquire one at your local mercantile or home beer brewing store.
You’re also going to waste much less coffee this way.
The refractometer is a simple tool that measures what is referred to as (TDS): Total Dissolved Solids. These are the total weight of all solids that are dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in units of mg per unit volume of water (mg/L), also referred to as parts per million (PPM).
Some experts hail this as the dawn of a new era of coffee making and enjoying, others think this is merely a distraction from the real issues at hand (mold, micro-fungi). Regardless, TDS is an easy metric to measure, so if you’re feeling like exploring the coffee cosmos then perhaps this will be a worthwhile and affordable venture.
When measuring the TDS our aim is to achieve the highest percentage extraction at which the coffee still tastes good. This tends to be between 18-22% extraction. Keep in mind each coffee is different, but now you’re on the path to finding a good taste profile without burning out your palate or wasting excessive beans.
Take some notes, and try to find a golden range with different coffees.
Applying the refractometer to your coffee practice will bring interesting results:
- Measure your brewtime
- Try different techniques (standard, inverted, double press)
- Overextract and underextract to understand the difference in flavor profiles
- Have patience
So Which is Better: The Aeropress or the Moka Pot?
In closing, you’re looking at two very different processes with quite differing results. Overall, the Aeropress is going to leave you with no grinds or dust in the final cup. The resulting cup of coffee will be filtered with a lot less of the oils that a press pot or stovetop espresso pot pass on to the cup. It’s going to be similar to the French press but lack many of the aromatic oils that so many coffee enthusiasts find crucial.
Whereas the stovetop makes a brew that is the next best thing to true espresso, complete with oils, potency, aromatics, and a hint of crema but with a gritty texture.
These are both great ways to go beyond the average drip coffee maker and really up your morning routine. Beyond that, they are both quite affordable and have their place in every coffee enthusiasts arsenal.
For a more substantial review of the Aeropress please head over to this page, and enjoy your future coffee brewing ventures.