Stove-top espresso makers are probably the closest way to enjoy espresso at home on a budget. Whilst they don’t produce true espresso, as they brew coffee under much lower pressure, they do make a strong, thick and rich coffee that has many similarities to espresso.
Unlike espresso machines, stove-top espresso makers are simple to use. The inventor of the first espresso maker, an Italian called Alfonso Bialetti, said of his invention that: “without requiring any ability whatsoever one could enjoy an espresso in the home just like in a bar”.
Stove-top espresso makers are also now known as espresso pots and Moka pots.
Stove-Top Espresso Makers vs Percolators
Stove-top espresso makers are often confused with percolators, with their names frequently being used interchangeably. This is quite understandable, as they’re both used on a stove and from the outside they look quite similar. However, they are in fact two separate ways of brewing coffee and the results are noticeably different.
There are two key differences between these two types of coffee maker. Firstly, whilst they both use steam pressure, only an espresso maker uses this pressure to extract flavour from the coffee. In an espresso maker, water is pushed through a bed of coffee grounds, whereas in a percolator water simply drips through. Secondly, in an espresso maker water only passes through the bed of grounds once. Whilst with most variations of the percolator the liquid (which starts off as water then changes to a coffee solution) is re-circulated; passed through the grounds several times. Because of this re-circulation, percolators usually over-extract from the coffee and this is why percolator coffee tastes very strong, flat and bitter.