Last Updated: 6th July 2021
Stove-top espresso makers (also referred to as espresso or moka pots) are a simple and affordable way to brew espresso style coffee at home or on your travels.
A stove-top uses steam pressure to brew a strong coffee with some of the characteristics of espresso, such as: added texture, viscosity and flavour. Therefore they make a great alternative if you don’t want the expense of, or don’t have the space for, a genuine espresso machine.
Preheat the cups by filling them with hot water.
|Tip – Small volumes of liquid lose heat quickly. To keep your espresso hot you should serve it in pre-heated cups.|
Fill the water tank with freshly drawn cold water to just below the level of the pressure safety valve.
|Tip – It’s worth investing in a water filter such as a Britta jug. It will rid your water of alkalines which can make your water taste funny and reduce the taste of your coffee|
Place the filter funnel on top of the water tank and fill with ground coffee until it’s level with the top of the filter basket. The coffee should be ground medium-fine (like demerara sugar) with the largest particles approximately 1mm in length.
Be careful when filling to ensuring that no coffee grounds get on the rim or screw thread of the water tank. Do not tamp (pack) the coffee as it needs room to expand during the brewing process.
|Tip – A useful measure for the correct coarseness is the holes found in filter basket. The majority of the grounds should be larger in diameter than one of these holes.|
Screw the upper part to the water tank as tightly as you can without using the handle for extra leverage.
Put the stove-top espresso maker on a medium heat source. If using gas, make sure the flames do not exceed the base of the water tank. If using electric, make sure the handle isn’t directly over the hob.
It should take between 3-4 minutes from the moment you turn on the heat until the coffee starts pouring into the upper part. If the coffee comes through quicker, try lowering the heat next time. If the coffee comes through slower, try raising the heat.
If you have an electric hob that takes a while to warm up, you made need to turn on the hob for a few minutes prior to putting the espresso maker on it.
|Tip – Small stove-top espresso makers can be unstable on gas rings, as they are too small for the pan supports. This can easily be resolved by using a gas ring reducer.|
As soon as the coffee starts pouring through at a steady flow, remove from the heat.
Once the flow of coffee has stopped, serve immediately. Don’t leave it in the pot, as it will continue to heat the coffee turning it bitter.
Feel free to steam some milk separately, for a slightly more decadent and less strong flavour.
|Tip – If you’re sharing the coffee, you may wish to stir it before serving. This is because the final few drops of coffee when brewing will be weaker than the first few drips.|
A study done by the University of Newcastle shows that a 30 ml shot of moka pot espresso averages 65-73 mg of caffeine per 30 ml. In contrast, the USDA’s average amount of caffeine for a 30 ml shot of espresso is 64 mg.
A serving of moka pot espresso can potentially have more caffeine than standard espresso. This is because of the longer brewing time from a moka pot allows for more caffeine extraction from the coffee.
Since espresso is brewed fast and with intense pressure, the coffee needs to be ground fine. The grounds also need to be laid out evenly. This gives the water less room to escape without touching the grounds, allowing for better extraction.
It’s important to note that the amount of caffeine in coffee varies widely. The numbers we mentioned are averages, as individual results will differ.
Our top pick for the best moka pot is the Bialetti Moka Express Espresso Maker.
Starting at an affordable £20, the Moka Express comes in multiple sizes (ranging from 1 to 9-cup) and works with any stovetop. It has an easy-grip handle and makes great tasting coffee comparable to more expensive moka pots.
Some moka pots are made of aluminium while others are stainless steel. Aluminium pots are usually cheaper and more lightweight, but the metal will slightly discolour with continuous use. Stainless steel pots are more durable and the metal does not discolour.
The Moka Express, for example, is made of aluminium and has the traditional octagonal design. This was originated by Bialetti, a pioneer in the design and manufacturing of moka pots.
Size is another important factor to consider. If you’re brewing for one person, a 2-cup moka pot will work (1 cup = 45 ml, or half a serving of espresso). For 2 or more people, you’ll want 2 cups or higher.
Before you use your brand new moka pot, you should season it. This cleaning process helps wash away manufacturing residue and tightens the seal between the upper and lower chambers.
This process also works great as a deep cleaning method for used moka pots.
Here’s how it’s done:
While espresso machines create pressure using a pump mechanism, a moka pot relies on a vacuum to generate pressure. This vacuum occurs naturally from the air trapped inside the water tank, combined with heat from the stove.
This heat causes the water and air to expand in the bottom chamber. This causes pressure to build up. Eventually, this pressure pushes the hot water up, through the filter basket into the upper chamber.
Keep in mind that a moka pot can only generate around 1 bar of pressure. In contrast, standard espresso makers brew using 7-9 bars of pressure. The pressure generated in a Moka pot is still enough to create espresso, which is great in flavour and texture.