For the true coffee fan, the brewing process is just as important as the ground beans used or the temperature of the water, that's the reason why choosing the correct device that adapts to your particular taste and needs is just as important as choosing the beans themselves.

In this article, we will discuss two very under rated coffee brewing devices: the stove-top coffee maker (also known as moka pot) and the Chemex pour over coffee maker. Typically, they both produce very strong beverages, but they have their differences and, as everything, their pros and cons.

The Moka Pot

Firstly, we have the stove-top coffee maker. The coffee it brews is known as Stovetop Espresso, but it is important to clarify that it is not espresso at all. This resulting drink is, like traditional Italian Espresso, very strong and often carries a little sediment, but unlike the European style, has no crema on top. Like every other coffee brewer available, the strength and amount of flavor present in a stove-top brewed cup greatly depends on bean variety, roast level, grind size and level of heat used, but as a general rule, this type of coffee will be stronger than that obtained by drip brewing.

This pot works by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee beans. Because of how this particular brewing process works, the resulting beverage will be very strong, highly caffeinated and will leave some sediment in the cup. Because the pressure used is not as high as that of an espresso machine, crema is most often than not, not there.

Design wise, the pot has a very iconic look, and while they come in various sizes, most of them are made of aluminum with bakelite handles. Moka pots are also sometimes made by high end designers to be both functional and attractive. This pot for instance was designed by Richard Sapper. It could easily be left on the counter even when not in use as it is gorgeous.

The moka pot is most popular in Europe and Latin America and the bigger brands are Italy based. Italian manufacturer Bialetti makes the most popular model to date, the Moka Express in a few different sizes.

The main disadvantage of this device is that its complicated and complex design is often found hard to maintain, since hygiene is primordial both health and taste wise. The rubber seals and the filters must be replaced periodically, and the valve must be checked for blockage every once in a while.

The Chemex Coffee Dripper

On the other hand, we encounter the Chemex. It is a brand name, since it was created in the early ‘40s by the Chemex Corporation, based in Massachusetts and they have continued to do so ever since. This device has been praised as being one of the best designed products of our time, but that’s not the only good thing about the Chemex. The coffee it brews is very distinctive and has many advocates among coffee aficionados.

The peculiarity of the Chemex lies, in my opinion, in the filters it uses. They are made of paper, but they have a thickness to them that prevents coffee oils from filtering into the beverage itself, hence separating Chemex-brewed coffee from standard drip-method coffee makers. Also because of the filters, no sediment is found in this particular type of coffee. The flask is made of glass, which not only makes for a pretty object but also prevents the liquid to absorb any metallic flavors, like it can happen with a moka pot.

While the stove-top coffee is achieved by applying pressure to the mixture, the Chemex is a drip based system. The filter and the ground beans are placed in the neck of the flask and water must be heated separately. Afterwards comes what is known as “blooming”, or the process of moistening the beans before pouring the desired amount of water on top of the mix. All it is left to do is to wait until the dripping ends or the wanted amount of coffee is reached before removing the filter with all its contents. It is advised to keep another vessel at hand, simply to be able to place the used filter there and avoid making a mess.

Which Is Better

As always is when it comes to coffee, the key is being aware of what you are looking for and knowing your personal tastes. Both devices produce a strong beverage that can stand on its own, but there are subtle characteristics that set them apart that can make a whole difference.

When it comes to maintenance, the Chemex definitely wins. It is only a glass flask, so it is much easier to keep clean and in good shape than the moka pot, with its sophisticated valve system. On the other hand, the stove-top does everything on its own: heats the water and filters the beans, while on the Chemex water must be heated separately and there is a need to add a disposable filter. Not only that but the filter is Chemex exclusive, meaning regular, store-bought filters will not work the same.

If it comes down to it and the beverage each of them produces must be compared, the main difference resides in the filtering: the moka pot allows sediment and oils to reach the final liquid, while the Chemex does not. It has been said that coffee oils are what makes a batch of coffee go sour so quickly, since they go rancid within four hours of being brewed, so if you brew your coffee in the morning but still enjoy a cup in the afternoon, maybe the Chemex is what you are looking for. On the other hand, coffee oils and sediment add taste and a special bite to your morning cup of Joe, so if you appreciate this characteristics and a more complex beverage, you may be after a moka pot.

As we always say, when it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee the main secret is to make an informed decision and be aware of what the shortcomings of your chosen device are, as well as the areas where it shines the most.

Both of these contraptions are great and as we were able to observe here, have arguments for and against them. If you would like a piece of advice, here’s one: do not close yourself. Open your mind and allow yourself to be amazed by how versatile, different and rich coffee can be when given the chance and under the right circumstances.

Also, have you even considered the Aeropress? It's also a great filtered alternative to the stovetop espresso maker. You can see our comparison of the two devices here.

For nearly a full year I've been drinking stovetop moka made from my Bialetti Moka Express. It was purchased on a whim back in June of last year when I noticed my local grocery store had one on clearance for less than $10. I had recently been talking to a friend about his when I saw him making coffee out of it one night and he said it was the best coffee he had ever had. His was a bigger unit and ran him around $50 or so but this one was less than $10 so I nabbed it.

Moka pots tend to sell between about $15 and $100 depending on style and size. You can see some bestsellers in the space here.

Ever since then I've been a raving fave of the stuff. I even started a website back in August last year called Stovpreso to cover my findings on the device. Maybe you've heard of the site. ;)

I'm not going to lie. I don't always make my morning coffee with a stovetop moka pot. I do make it about 3-4 times a week these days though. On the days I don't make moka I tend to use my super cheap french press but I do on occasion use my regular old drip coffee maker - you know, on those days I'm in a bind for time or just feeling exceptionally lazy.

Back in November of last year a different friend of mine invited me over for a cup of coffee in the morning. He is a coffee snob in the most pleasant of ways possible. The guys great really. He was telling me about how he roasts his own coffee beans and that he didn't think the moka pot made the best coffee possible. He didn't even think a french press made the best coffee. His weapon of choice was the Aeropress, something I'd heard of but never seen in person or used before.

I was very interested to head over to this guys house to see his setup and learn his secrets. So needless to say my son and I headed over there at the first opportunity we could get and we did a miniature cupping.

First we learned the super simple process of roasting your own beans in a saute pan then we tried coffee from those freshly roasted beans from a french press, a moka pot, and his Aeropress.

As one would expect the french press made exceptionally great coffee but it is just coffee.

Both the moka pot and the Areopress brew the coffee under low pressure to create a drink that is similar to machine espresso but just not quite there. I loved the french press version of the stuff. It's standard coffee meant to be consumed in larger quantities but both the stovetop espresso maker and the Aeropress made very similar espresso like drinks that were hard to tel apart.

From my own sampling I thought the moka pot made coffee that was a bit more potent - more like espresso. I also felt the Aeropress made coffee a bit more like a super thick and robust french press coffee brew. I actually preferred the Moka Express better at first. What I found after getting to the end of my cup however was that the Aeropress made a far cleaner cup than my moka pot and you could actually drink the last little bit of coffee in the cup. With the moka pot (as with a press pot) there is usally a bit of "mud" in the bottom of the cup preventing you from drinking it all the way gone.

Why you might ask?

Because the Aeropress uses a filter kind of like a Chemex or a drip coffee maker. The filter ensures no grind or dust makes it into the cup. Sure it also filters out a lot more of the oils that a press pot or stovetop espresso pot pass on to the cup but it is a cleaner cup.

Unlike drip coffee the Aeropress makes a far more potent and rich coffee. It's similar to the French press but it lacks many of the aeromatic oils that so many coffee snobs love. Plus it's not quite as potent as a moka pot.

My good old Bialetti moka pot (one of the best stovetop espresso makers made in my opinion) made a cup that was truly the next best thing to true espresso, complete with oils, potency, aeromatics, and a hint of crema but with a gritty texture.

What's the difference between An Aeropress and a moka pot? They both make great coffee, and both make a product that is close to espresso in richness but the Aeropress makes a cleaner cup at the sacrifice of the oils and tetxure.

Should you get a stovetop moka pot or an Aeropress? I say get both, they both are dirt cheap compared to high end coffee makers and espresso machines. I own the moka pot and french press right now. I also own a Chemex pour over coffee maker but the Aeropress is going to be the next thing I buy. It can be had for less than $30 most of the time. That's not much to pay at all in my book.

One last thing - If you liked this post then see my blog post comparing the moka pot to the french press. Again, I love them both, but there are major differences.

I get my espresso fix in one of two ways ordinarily. The stovetop espresso maker in my kitchen and the machine espresso maker at my coffee shop down the street. For a while I considered buying an inexpensive steam driven espresso machine for my home coffee bar but I figured it would be best to wait until I could afford a good pump machine because the quality can be much better if you know what you are doing.

I didn't use that reasoning however when I was decided to buy a stovetop espresso maker and here's why.

A stovetop maker (frequently called a moka pot) is not really espresso. It's similar but not exact.

Espresso is finely ground coffee beans saturated with water under high amounts of pressure. It is brewed extremely fast and as a result produces a very rich liquid full of aromatics, oils, and plenty of crema. The espresso tends to have a bit less caffeine per serving than other forms of coffee due to the super short brewing process too.

Although stovetop espresso is similar it is different in that the pressure created in the moka pot is nowhere near as high as even steam machines. The best moka pots achieve pressure in the vicinity of 2-bar compared to most high end pump machines which pulls shots in the 16-bar zone.

Lower end steam machines even blow moka pots out of the water. The lower end machines pulling between 7 to 10-bar greatly outperform the pressure created in a moka pot.

What's the difference then?

The brewing process is a bit longer so the grind can't be quite as fine. This results in less surface area coming in contact with water and less oil and aromatic extraction. The lower pressure results in less crema and in most cases none at all.

Although the stovetop espresso maker does produce extremely potent and rich coffee it's not really espresso at all.

One can hardly call it fake however. Italians have been famous for their espresso for generations however most of their espresso is actually made in moka pots pushing only 2-bar.

Personally when I head down to my local coffee shop and ask for an espresso I tend to find it a bit brighter. This is likely due to the faster brew, higher acidity, and more greater aromatics. Having said that though we're talking about comparing a great beverage to an amazing beverage. And where does french press coffee fit into the "best" lineup? Who knows. I love it just as much. You can see my comparison between stovetop and French press here for more on that.

For the home I can't even think of a reason not to have a moka pot on hand. They are so inexpensive and the better models are built very tough; many pots will easily last a decade or more... not to mention the fact that they don't have moving parts and are so simple anyone can make great coffee with little to no experience in the slightest bit.

For me I love true espresso but I'm still perfectly fine with running down the street to grab a shot whenever the mood strikes. They are far more expensive to have in the home and the learning curve to make good espresso is a lot higher.

No, it's not the same thing. A Moka pot uses a small amount of pressurized water flowing through fine coffee grind to create a potent cup of stovetop espresso. The brewing process doesn't generate as much pressure as a true espresso machine but the final product is very similar for a fraction of the price.

On the other hand a good coffee percolator like this one also brews a potent cup of coffee but this is generally due to the high heat and lengthy steeping process.

Steeping may not be the perfect term either however. A percolator boils water in the bottom chamber of the pot. The steam rises to the top condenses and then falls back through the grind producing coffee on the bottom of the pot.

During this process the coffee on the bottom of the pot starts out very weak and slowly strengthens as the coffee "percolates".

Many people find the flavor of percolator coffee to be much to harsh, bitter, and burnt although some others greatly prefer it. There is no doubt the percolator creates far more aromatics than alternative forms of coffee making and for that reason many people have find memories attached tot he use of percolators as the nose is well known to jog memory.

The coffee produced from a percolator is potent for different reasons that it is for a Moka pot. In the coffee snob world almost no coffee (or espresso) drinker would opt for a percolator over a moka pot but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing - just different.

You would use the espresso from a moka pot to drink in small quantities or to mix with water, milk, and other ingredients to make specialty coffee drinks. The Percolator would simply be used as straight coffee much like the coffee produced by a basic drip coffee maker.

Are you new to moka pots? If so them a common question has to do with the finish. When is the moka pot done brewing anyway?

People who have watched a moka pot in action know that it is like watching paint dry for a few minutes followed by a slow release of moka into the upper chamber of the pot (as shown in the picture above).

After the slow release there is usually a a much faster release of the last bit of moka espresso. This last release sometimes sprays out of the inner funnel. If the lid is not on I have actually had my moka spray onto my stovetop before.

After the pot fills you can usually hear a gurgling sound coming from the pot. This is the last bit of water and steam and it is an indicator that the pot is done. The gurgling happens seconds after the last bit of espresso enters the top chamber.

If you leave the pot on the heat after the gurgle nothing major will happen at first but eventually the espresso will start to boil and burn and the rubber gasket sealing the upper and lower chambers will may start to compromise. Over time this gasket can wear out early if the pot is left on the heat too long and too often.

Did you know that you can easily and affordably brew espresso at home even if you don't have a big expensive espresso maker or machine? It's so simple and cheap and most coffee drinkers haven't even heard about the technique before.

It's called a Moka pot. It's the way Italians have been making espresso for generations and all it takes is a small aluminum pot (or stainless steel) that can be purchased for $10-$60 on average.

I got mine for around $25 and it consistently makes espresso that tastes just as good or better than that of my local coffee kiosk. If I head over to my local coffee roaster they've got more talented hands in the helm and better equipment too. Their espresso is really the only stuff I find tastier than what I make of my kitchen stove.

The crazy thing is that using a stovetop espresso maker takes not talent at all. So long as you have access to quality beans that are fresh and grind it somewhat fine you can have top shelf espresso in about 4-6 minutes depending on how high heat you brew your espresso with.

I tend to brew mine with really low heat and have waited up to 10 minutes for my stovetop espresso but by jacking the heat up a bit it's easy to get your morning cup in about 4 minutes without burning the stuff.

As with anything on a stove you can't program it or set it up and walk away but so long as you are willing to make that sacrifice this is the best way to do it other than shelling out $1000 or more on a quality espresso machine.

You can see my big list of stovetop espresso makers below to see what they all look like and which one's are better than others.

Check out this post to learn more about how they work and this post to learn how to use one properly.

Traditionally the generally accepted method for cleaning a stovetop espresso maker is as simple as rinsing the pot out with warm water right after brewing. Over time small amounts of residual coffee oils will buildup on the aluminum walls of the pot leaving you with a perfect tasting cup every time. The oils hinder metallic tastes from ever getting into your coffee and the routine use of the pot ensures the buildup is sanitary.

Now, having said that I understand that periodically these pots get an excessive amount of buildup in them and if you only use your moka pot every now and then then it may be worth while doing a little hand cleaning between uses.

Most stovetop espresso pots are made from aluminum. Aluminum is not dishwasher safe and you won't want to scrub it with abrasive pads. You can get away with more when using stainless steel but even still the best practice is to hand wash only with a cloth - or even the tip of your finger.

I've found that when I go for a while without using my espresso pot I like to clean it a little by just rubbing my thumb across it while rinsing it under warm water. This eliminates most of the excess residue without stripping it completely. By washing it this way I ensure the perfect taste I'm looking for is retained while removing the worst offending grime.

As is always the case the preceding only applies to the upper chamber of a moka pot. The filter basket and gasket should be cleaned well each time with an emphasis on the gasket. The gasket can easily pickup little bits of coffee grind and if not cleaned off the grind can "burn" into place and degrade the rubber faster than heat alone.

As the gasket goes so to does the quality of the output. The gasket produces a seal between the upper and lower chambers and if it's not a perfect seal then pressure is lost resulting in leftover (unused) water and a brew that was created with below standard pressure. In short, the coffee just won't come out right.

I always remove the gasket after each use and rinse it down well ensuring nothing is left on it for the next pot. While doing this I give myself a perfect opportunity to rinse the upper filter screen although I do not ever use soap on this either. The screen can't be clogged and this ensures that never happens.

Cleaning the moka pot is not hard. It is mostly as simple as disassembling the pot after each use and rinsing everything independently of each other. To this day I've never used soap and it's not recommended although you could use it if you wanted - just expect it to negatively affect the taste of the pot for a few uses each time you do so.