If you like espresso straight up, a perfectly balanced Americano, or if you like to make quality after dinner coffee drinks, then you need a good espresso maker.
Sure, you could spend a fortune on a fancy espresso/cappuccino machine but I would prefer you spend as little as possible on a simple item that will make you excellent espresso for decades.
Espresso makers for the stovetop are some of the oldest tools of the trade and one of the primary ways many people across the world make their espresso. In America we sometimes go crazy with fancy gadgets while overlooking the simple solution.
The Best Moka Pots Don’t Cost Very Much
Here are some of the best stove top espresso pots money can buy.
Please note than the most expensive of these listed below is still priced under $50, this is less than the cheapest counter-top espresso machine. Can you say bargain?
With that out of the way let’s learn a bit about moka pots and how they work and then briefly review some of the more popular models out there.
A Crash Course On Stove Top Espresso
The reason stovetop espresso is so simple (and tasty) is that it relies on boiling water to create the steam and pressure needed to make a good espresso equivalent.
Instead of a machine crating the pressure the burner creates the steam which rises through the grind. The processes is completely natural.
So long as you use grind that is slightly more coarse than traditional espresso ground coffee beans (and so long as you don’t pack the grind to tightly) the natural rise of steam through the grind will produce espresso just as good or better than any fancy machine you come across.
These little pots will often make better espresso than some local coffee bars.
These Coffee Makers Are Old-School
Stovetop espresso makers, or moka pots, are an uptake of the old-school brewing method.
Your grandmother may find it super fancy but the principles of basic coffee making remain the same.
Water is set to the boiling point to create pressure that will force the water up in a series of chambers and extract the liquid from fine ground coffee.
Espresso style coffee in just a few minutes.
Still, not all stovetop espresso makers are created equal so let’s learn a bit about what sets them all apart.
Factors to consider when buying a stovetop espresso maker
Scouting various experts I’ve rounded up a handy checklist to use when choosing a stovetop espresso maker.
- Check the manufacturer. European know their coffee well. And if you will make a background check, the Italians are the perfect litmus test for espresso machines. Choosing an espresso maker made from Italy will give you an idea that you can have quality espresso style coffee every time. If you choose otherwise, at least you have been warned.
- Know the capacity. Check the volume of coffee that the stovetop can yield. Some models can make single serving, which is good enough if you are leaving alone or you are the only person in the house who loves coffee and espresso. But if you have a partner, entertaining guests frequently or a medium-sized family, get a stovetop maker that can accommodate at least 4 cups of coffee. This will be good enough for a small group. There are larger size stovetop espresso makers when really needed.
- Know Your Heat Source Requirement. Some stovetop makers require electric or induction stove. Always check this because it will be frustrating to take home a stovetop maker that will never work on your stove.
- Materials used for the kettle body. Do you prefer aluminum or stainless steel? Aluminum is not as shiny and elegant as stainless steel, but it is more affordable and slower conductor of heat. Stainless steel is eye-catching but conducts heat fast so be careful when touching the handle.
- Reviews Matter. If you really want honest to goodness feedback, read reviews of the product you want and check praises and complaints about the stovetop espresso maker you are planning to buy.
Beyond those basic rules to follow when shopping I’ve got a few notes to add.
-A Note on Pricing-
All of these espresso pots are quite inexpensive compared to counter-top machines. The lower end stove top units tend to be a little smaller. They produce less espresso than the bigger pots.
The cheaper units also tend to be a little less durable. In most cases the plastic gasket on the inside of the kettle will slowly wear down over time.
The more expensive moka pots will tend to have higher quality gaskets that hold up better over time and they are easier to replace if need be.
-A Note on Sizing-
The way stove top espresso pots work you can’t just make half a batch. You have to use a full pot of water for the espresso to come out good on the other side.
If you buy a 12-cup espresso pot thinking this will be big enough for parties even though you plan on only brewing 3-cups most mornings then your morning espresso will not turn out well.
A stove top espresso maker needs the water chamber full to create the pressure needed to brew properly.
Likewise it needs a full size dose of grind too.
It’s best to buy a stovetop espresso pot that is sized to the amount of espresso you are most frequently going to be making at a time.
If you need multiple sizes then consider buying two different size kettles instead of trying to make one size work for you.
A Few Brief Reviews of the Best Stovetop Espresso Makers
Here is a round up of the best stovetop espresso makers out there in my opinion. I’ve included brief reviews of each model for your benefit.
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker
It’s top features:
- Comes in different sizes – 1, 3, 6 and 9 cups
- Authentic Italian made moka pot
- Trusted brand
- Makes coffee in as fast as 4 minutes
The Bialetti brand is a worldwide favorite. Italians love using this coffee maker brand so you know you are buying a good one. This moka pot model serves espresso fast without sacrificing quality. The unique octagonal shape distributes heat evenly , making a perfect brew to perk up your morning. But not all is perfect. Some users say it does not work well with electric stoves. It prefers induction. It is made from aluminum.
Bialetti Elegance Venus Induction 6 Cup
- Portable design
- Compact, lightweight and sleek looking
- Very durable
- Makes great tasting coffee in an instant
This model is perfect if you love coffee in the outdoors. It has an indicator in the pot so you can regulate heat easily. The handle is made from heat resistant technology so you can use the unit without burning your hands. The caveat is that it can only make 6 cups of coffee. Just enough for a small group who has a fine taste for coffee.
Cuisinox Roma Coffeemaker
- Elegance and functionality combined in one model
- Screen filter to control the number of coffee cups
- Easy to clean
- Has a spare gasket for repair and replacement
This high-end unit takes pride in its beautiful design and ease of use. It can make up to 10 cups of coffee, perfect for a large family or a meeting with your colleagues. It has an indication base that can be used in any cooking area. Some users complain that the handle may heat up at times. Be careful when handling it. Also, it is on the pricey side of the spectrum.
Rapid Brew Stovetop Coffee Percolator
- Wood grain handle helps reduce heat
- Makes consistent coffee taste
- Easy to clean
- Sleek design
This coffee percolator can make up to 9 cups of coffee. It has a distinct flavor that is mixed with the coffee. Your mom and grandmother will love it elegant, traditional look.
There Are Also a Few Other Ways to Brew Super Strong Coffee at Home
The stovetop espresso maker is a favorite brewing method for most home users. It’s easy to use, easy to clean and requires minimal supervision. But there are other effective methods of brewing great coffee at home. I hope you’ll give these a try too!
- French press – This little device requires no stove. If you have a French press, brewing coffee is as easy as counting 1 to 3. With three easy steps, you can get your coffee in as fast as 3 minutes.
- Automatic drip machine – This is the most common home brewing method after stovetop. The beauty lies in the fact that you can just press the brew button, leave it, and when you get back, you have perfectly brewed coffee that remains warm, thanks to the hot plate where the carafe sits on.
- Pour over coffee – Chemex and Hario are known brands that make coffee aficionados fall in love with pour over.
- Cold brew – This process requires up to 24 hours of steeping in cold water. It highly caffeinated but sweet and light tasting.