Many coffee drinkers enjoy the actual process of making coffee, rather than rushing through the steps.
While Keurig and other K-cup coffee makers are quite the rage today for their convenience, they definitely do take away from of the relaxation and enjoyment that many people associate with their morning brew.
And, there is a bit of historic charm in making coffee on your stovetop, just like what our grandparents used to make.
Otherwise known as moka pots, these stovetops units brew under pressure and makes the coffee with an extraction ratio that is not much different than today’s more modernized espresso machines.
And, depending on the variety of bean used, and the selection of grounds, moka pots can deliver that very same foam emulsion that so many espresso connoisseurs expect from their hot beverage of choice.
But how long do moka pots take to make coffee anyway?
In short, they can take just a few minutes for a small pot on high and as long as 15 to 20 minutes for a large pot on low.
I think low and slow makes a better brew but this is very subjective so let’s discuss how stovetop espresso makers work a bit more to understand why the time to brew can vary so much then we’ll compare the high vs low heat approaches.
How Do Stovetop Espresso Makers Work?
The bottom chamber of the espresso pot holds the water, and the middle chamber consists of a filter-basket that holds the ground coffee. The top chamber has a metal filter, and screws onto the bottom chamber.
When the pot is heated on a stove, the pressure from the steam in the bottom chamber pushes the water through a tube into the filter-basket, through the ground coffee, the metal filter, and it then funnels into the top chamber where the coffee is then ready to serve.
How Heat Affects the Process
If the stovetop is set really high then the heat from the burner spreads up to the grounds basket potentially giving it a burnt-like taste and a very fast cup of coffee.
Low Heat Takes Longer But It Tastes Better
For low and slow devotees the heat of the burner will cause steam to form in the lower chamber while keeping the upper grind basket and collection cup at the top cool enough to not burn the coffee.
The steam pressure will also build slowly causing the water to grounds contact time to increase. This will help the brew extract in a more balanced manner capturing the brightness, sweetness, an bitters in harmony with each other.
Moka Pot Size is a Major Variable
Imagine setting a small pot of water to boil on the stove at the same time you set a large pot of water to boil. The small pot will always boil first because it doesn’t take as long for the burner to heat it up.
With moka pots it works exactly the same way.
You’re at the mercy of your burner and the amount of water you are heating up.
Larger pots will simply take longer to brew than smaller pots will no matter if you choose to brew over a high temp or a low temp.
Stovetop Espresso on High Versus Low Heat: The Differences
Stovetop espresso, using a moka pot or similar brewing machine, simply is one of the cheapest alternatives to brewing espresso using an espresso machine.
However, the stove top espresso brewing process can be harder to master, for a lot of the tasks the espresso machine regulates and manages are now left to the individual to decide upon and complete.
One of these tasks is creating a supply of heat that will brew the espresso perfectly. Now, lucky for those brewing espresso on their stove top, any modern stove has regulated temperature dials which, once again if you are lucky, provides heat at a consistent temperature.
However, is it best to use low heat or high heat?
High Heat Stove Top Espresso
Brewing espresso by turning your stove to high may seem like the obvious choice, for it is well known that espresso machines normally brew their beverages at a higher temperature than drip coffee machines. Though, the temperature range for proper espresso brewing ranges from 190 to 196 degrees Fahrenheit.
The high function on any stove normally heats to an excess of 300 degrees Fahrenheit in under five minutes.
Therefore, brewing stove top espresso using high heat can often lead to over extraction or worse burnt coffee.
Low Heat Stove Top Espresso
At first brewing coffee using your stove top set to low heat may at first seem like a beginner’s mistake because it takes so much longer. But, as we know that traditional espresso is normally brewed at a much lower temperature than stoves operate at, we quickly realize that even using a stove on low heat could quickly burn the espresso.
A rule of thumb for low heat stovetops is that full temperature is still around 275 when a stovetop is set to low. This is still high enough to burn grounds that are left in the filter basket too long or to boil the final brew if left on the burner after the moka is done.
Although low heat will burn and boil your grounds and coffee it will take a lot longer time to do it so it is less likely to occur on any given day.
A high heat stovetop can reach 375 usually meaning the scorching of your coffee can happen much faster and of course the high heat will also be harder on your gaskets too.
A standard espresso machine regulates the brewing temperature to brew at a more reasonable 200 degrees or so which will never burn the coffee. It can do it quick too, consistently brewing full shots in 25-45 seconds.
The stove top is not regulated and provides a much hotter temperature to the brewing process. Therefore, while brewing espresso with the stove top, it is important to continue to monitor your espresso even while using low heat.
Even Still, Your Stovetop Espresso Will be Ready in Less Time Than You Think
Overall, it really doesn’t take all that much time to make stovetop espresso especially considering how easy setup and cleanup can be.
Depending on whether or not you want to grind your own beans, or use pre-ground beans will influence the setup time.
Once that step is completed, a smaller espresso maker can make your coffee in not much more than five minutes. So, the time will really depend on the type of stove-top you are using and how long it takes for the unit to heat up.
And of course, the size of your espresso maker and the amount of coffee you are making will also be a contributing factor.
When selecting your coffee beans for your stovetop espresso, you will likely find that a slightly finer grind than regular medium will work best. However, regular grounds typically used in drip coffee makers will usually work just fine.
Fine tuning the grind size is simply a matter of preference.
If you care to read more about this then check out my personal moka pot brewing guide published a while back.
This Method of Making Coffee is All About the Experience!
Really, people who use stovetop espresso machines enjoy them for the experience itself, as it creates a bit of a slowed-down feeling to the day, which can be a welcome retreat from our typical hustle and bustle of daily life.
While coffee absolutely helps to give us an energy boost to get through the day, taking the time to savor the aroma in the morning, or even as a post-meal delight, can help to heighten the senses and create a lasting memory through the sight and smell of the coffee.
If you would like to learn how to make your own stovetop espresso, this video from the Whittard of Chelsea walks you through the steps to make your stovetop espresso and is very enjoyable to watch.