Monthly Archives: April 2018

Stovetop Espresso Vs. French Press Coffee

http://www.stovpreso.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Stovetop-Espresso-Vs.-French-Press-Coffee.jpgI’ve been a huge coffee drinker for decades now but only in recent years have I been a big drinker of fine coffee.

These days I opt for french press coffee or stovetop espresso almost every time. The quality of coffee is just so much higher than traditional drip coffee.

My usual weapons of choice when making coffee are:

Let me just say that if you are only drinking drip coffee at home then you are missing out!

Both french press and stovetop moka are extremely easy to make and they taste so much better… at least as long as you like the feel and taste of unfiltered coffee.

Click here to see some of the best stovetop moka pots for sale today.

For those of you who prefer coffee to have as little sediment in it as possible then I would have to point you towards the Aeropress. Like the Moka Pot, its another viable alternative to true espresso but it is filtered giving you a cleaner cup.

What is Unfiltered Coffee Anyway?

If you are unfamiliar with either french press or moka then you should know the basics. Both french press coffee and espresso from the moka pot brew your coffee in a way that you get full extraction of flavor from the grind.

Both brewing methods are also different forms of unfiltered coffee – coffee that isn’t filtered through paper.

Both of these these methods brew coffee in such a way as to allow the coffee oils to make it all the way to your cup.

With drip coffee (or any other form of filtered coffee) the oils get separated from the coffee due to the paper filter. This limits the flavor profile significantly.

One additional perk – one of these pots can basically brew your coffee forever. There are no moving parts, no filters to keep buying, and no electronics to fail. Buy one and never think about it again until the estate sale. 🙂

Is French Press Coffee as Strong as Moka Espresso?

Is French Press Coffee as Strong as Moka Espresso
So obviously unfiltered coffee from stovetop espresso pots and french press coffee makers are better than drip coffee makers but the differences between the two are stark.

A french press makes coffee much like one might steep tea. The resulting coffee is unfiltered and has substantial body but it is still served in sizes just like drip coffee because it’s not nearly as strong or potent as espresso is.

On the other hand stovetop espresso brews coffee kind of like a reverse drip coffee maker within an environment of increased pressure similar to a low pressure espresso machine.

The result of this process is a cup that is much smaller and much more potent. It is much closer to true espresso than it is to coffee and it’s just as versatile as espresso.

Unlike French press coffee you would be able to use it to make espresso based drinks or just drink it all by itself. Of course drinking it all by itself means you are drinking shots of 2-4 ounces at a time.

If you have a good tolerance for caffeine and you like having a larger portion size then you would have to own a large moka pot to make a substantial amount at once. For instance a 6-cup moka pot will only make about 9-ounces of liquid! It’s potent liquid though so be forewarned.

Can Stovetop Espresso Pots Make Regular Coffee?

One of the biggest complaints some people have of the moka pot is that it makes an espresso-like drink and not regular coffee. Some people just don’t like complex espresso drinks for one reason or another. Some are just not able to stomach the strength of drinking moka black.

I contend however that although moka pot coffee can be drunk black (as is) or it can be watered down to make an Americano, which is basically just like having a regular cup of coffee.

If you didn’t realize it an Americano, which is on the menu of every coffee shop I’ve ever been to, is just a shot of espresso topped off with hot water!

Only a true coffee snob can tell the difference between french press coffee and an Americano.

Of course moka can also be mixed much like any other kind of espresso to make specialty drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and virtually everything else found at a specialty coffee bar, which is why I think it’s one of the best values you can find in the coffee maker space.

In contrast french press coffee is what it is. You don’t really do anything with it unless you take your coffee with a bit of milk. Although you can make strong pressed coffee you are always going to be limited on the size of the press pot. Unless you have a tiny single serve french press you pretty much have to make a few cups at once meaning you go through more grind.

Is Stovetop Espresso Easy to Make?

As I’ve noted already the quality of coffee from a french press is about as good as it could possibly be for coffee drinkers and many experts consider french press coffee to be the best brewing method of them all but for those who care about versatility the stovetop espresso is by far the best option… and it’s so easy to brew too!

I would argue that it’s even easier than a french press!

For starters I have a lengthy guide to brewing coffee in a moka pot. Read that for deatailed instructions – but to summarize those instructions I’ll say this.

You use medium-to medium grind coffee which you can usually buy at the store if you don’t want to grind it yourself.

You put water and coffee in the moka pot and set it on the burner – a few minutes later it’s all done. This is unlike a french press where you have to do multiple steps a few minutes apart.

After your coffee is ready in a moka pot you simply rinse the moka pot off under the sink and throw away the coffee puck that forms in the brew basket.

French presses on the other hand are more messy. It’s harder to discard all the grind and the filter screen needs to be carefully washed to avoid clogging.

Convinced Yet?

Here at Stovpreso we are all about the moka pot – it’s our thing so we are certainly biased but I think we’re fair.

Stovetop espresso makers are cheap – they make great alternative espresso to drink alone or in mixed espresso drinks. You can top off with water for a rich cup of unfiltered coffee and they are a breeze to care for.

An Americano is very similar to french press coffee and the potent moka these pots produce can be used to make just about any kind of coffee drink imaginable. My preference is to own a good moka pot and use it frequently… but then again I also own a nice press pot too. Can’t have enough gadgetry I guess.

This is my favorite moka pot right now – it’s got it’s own heating element so it doesn’t need to go on a stove but it does need electricity. I like it though because it give me exactly the same results every single time and it’s got safety features like auto-off so I never accidentally burn my coffee or gasket. Check it out here!

What Grind Do You Use With A Stovetop Espresso Maker?

What Grind Do You Use With A Stovetop Espresso MakerI’ve been making stovetop espresso long enough to know the difference between the different grind sizes.

When making regular espresso you need to use a really fine grind but with stovetop espresso the grind needs to be slightly larger.

The smaller the grind the more resistance it has on the steam pressure and the slower it takes to brew. If you use actually espresso sized grind then the resistance can get a little too high resulting in a lengthy brew process and a an extraction that is a little over done.

The vast majority of pre-ground coffee is medium, perfect for a drip coffee maker. Taking these coffee’s out of the picture it’s also easy to fine espresso grind which I think is to fine for a moka pot.

Of all the pre-ground coffee’s I’ve ever tried Levazza is the one that I would best classify as medium-fine. It’s the only one I actually use out of the bag in my moka pot because I just don’t want to use something ground any finer for speed and taste reasons.

Additionally the speed is a concern because when you use a smaller grind size you will be tempted to turn the heat up slightly to get enough pressure built inside the moka pot to push the water through the grind… but there’s another issue that in my opinion is greater.

Fine espresso grind will sometimes push through the screen and rise to the upper chamber with the coffee resulting in a bit of fine grit in your drink, similar to what you’d find in the bottom of your french press coffee.

Moka pots are a lot like french press coffee in that there is always sediment in your cup. Everyone is OK with this until too much gets in the cup. Use a slightly coarser grind size and the moka coffee will be palatable instead of murky. 🙂

How Fine Should The Grind Be?

By increasing the grind size slightly from espresso grind this minimizes the particles that make it to your cup and decreases bitterness that comes from over-extraction. You will still want to use particles that are smaller than you’d use for drip coffee though – I’d label medium fine as best for moka pots.

In fact there are some “top shelf” companies that market moka coffee for sale – most notably Illy has a really awesome preground moka coffee for sale that is just like it’s espresso product but just slightly more coarse.

I’ve experimented with regular drip coffee maker “medium” grind and coarse grind but I’ve consistently found the best results with a medium-fine grind, almost halfway in between that with which you would use in a drip coffee maker and that which you would use in a proper espresso machine. The reason being the final coffee product is supposed to approximate espresso and you need the finer particles to get that level of intensity.

To each his own. You can make perfectly fine moka with almost any grind size but you will see a difference in volume of mud and the flavor depending on the grind size you use.

I recommend starting at medium-fine and then experimenting from there. You’ll soon find your preferred grind size.

What’s the Best Coffee for Stovetop Espresso Makers Then?

stovetop espresso coffee beans
So if you settle on the medium fine (almost espresso grind) then I find it’s best to use any coffee suitable for espresso.

If you buy coffee beans directly from a roastery or in whole bean form online then buy anything roasted for use in an espresso machine and then use your own grinder to grind then to size.

If you don’t have a good grinder already and don’t want to buy pre-ground moka coffee then give serious consideration to buying a really good grinder like this model from Breville. There are better grinders out there for sure but you get diminishing returns as the price climbs.

You should absolutely not be stingy with your wallet however. Inexpensive burr grinders just don’t make very good fine grind. You have to shell out a bit more to get consistent high quality grounds to use in your moka pot.

How to Use Your Italian Coffee Maker to Get Perfect Moka

Now that you have selected the best coffee and grind size for your espresso pot it’s now time to look at the best practices for making moka.

It’s actually pretty easy from this point on to make espresso in an espresso pot like those made by Bialetti, DeLonghi, Primula, Alessi, and other top brands.

  1. First, use filtered water,
  2. next, fill the water to the pressure release valve. Never try to make any less than a full moka pot – it won’t come out right.
  3. brew your coffee over medum-low heat
  4. fill your grounds cup to the top and level it off. Do not tamp down but feel free to lightly press the grounds into the chamber.
  5. Lastly, make sure to remove the completed moke from the heat source immediately upon completion. See this post for more on when moka pots are done brewing.

Final Thoughts to Curb Your Expectations

Is moka coffee as strong as espresso?

Moka coffee grind will get you a final product that is nearly as strong as espresso. Making the switch from medium grind to medium fine will make a big difference. If you lightly pack the grind holder then that will help increase the resistance on water flow resulting in a stronger brew. Also brewing your moka over lower heat will also result in slightly stronger coffee because the water will pass through the grind just a little bit slower.

Overall nothing you do will replicate true espresso but the steps taken to “try” to replicate true espresso will give you the best moka possible.

You will also find that stovetop espresso will always have a slightly grittier texture than espresso made in a pump machine. The texture will remind you a bit of french press coffee but shouldn’t be so extreme. In some cases if your grind gets too small then you’ll get too much sediment in your cup resulting in coffee that’s not as strong as espresso but more bitter. That is something you want to avoid.

Lastly, to make good moka you need to use good equipment. Make sure you use one of the top moka pots on the market – we have reviewed our favorite stovetop espresso makers here – and always check your gaskets for failure. Gaskets are a cheap and easy fix and part of regular maintenance of your device.

What are the Best Alternatives to Stovetop Espresso?

As I’ve said repeatedly I love stovetop moka but it’snot the only brewing method I like. There is definitely a place for drip coffee – I use mine mostly for brewing large batches for parties or house guests. There is also however a place for french press coffee too.

French press coffee as you probably know is an alternative to drip coffee in that it is not espresso and is served in normal sized coffee cups. As a fan of stovetop espresso I like it because it gives me a way to drink coffee in larger portions but it still gives me that unfiltered taste that is to be expected in moka and pump espresso.

If you want to read more about this I’ve got a few articles where I compare moka to many of the common alternatives. Click through to read about:

One final note – are you using a Bialetti moka pot?

Are you using an aluminum moka pot instead of a stainless steel version?

If so there are probably a few maintenance and cleaning tips you need to know – you’ve probably been doing it all wrong! Click here to find out what you need to know!

How To Clean A Stovetop Espresso Maker

How To Clean A Stovetop Espresso MakerTraditionally 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 thereby sealing it. This leaves you with a perfect tasting cup every time free from metallic flavors.

The oils hinder metallic tastes from ever getting into your coffee and the routine use of the pot ensures the buildup of coffee oil 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 with a special pad between uses.

When used frequently the oil that seals the aluminum stays fresh and is churned with new oils but if you haven’t used your moka pot in a long time then the oils simply go bad just like any other oil in your kitchen cabinet.

You’ll have to scour the pot clean and then reseal it with a pot or two of throw away coffee.

How to Keep an Aluminum Moka Pot Clean

Most stovetop espresso pots are made from aluminum. Bialetti makes the best selling Moka Express which is made from aluminum.

In fact if you want a stainless steel moka pot you have to look for them specifically – they are not the norm. See this page for some hand selected stainless steel moka pots if you are in the market.

Aluminum is not dishwasher safe and you won’t want to scrub it with abrasive pads either which is why you should only use super fine steel wool or soft scrub 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 unless your pot is truly disgusting!

If you haven’t ever used your aluminum espresso pot before then the first few uses some of the aluminum will leech out into acidic coffee causing a metallic taste.

The amount of aluminum in your coffee isn’t a health hazard, it just doesn’t taste good.

You might wonder then why they are made from aluminum anyway!

Aluminum conducts heat better, faster, and more evenly than steel so it’s better for making stovetop espresso… you just have to seal the aluminum pores so that your coffee tastes like coffee and not a metal pot.

To do that you never wash the oils off after you make coffee. Just rinse the pot off under cold water and then pat dry with a clean cloth. The water will rinse away the coffee residue but leave behind the oil to slowly seal the metal.

Don’t use soap either! The soap will help slightly with cleaning but will also remove more of the oil that seals the pot!

The only thing that I would take some soap to is the rubber gasket on the inside of the pot. It’s the only part of the device that doesn’t need oil to seal it. Every now and then just peel it off and give it a good washing in the dishwasher, or in a soapy sink basin.

You can use this time to inspect it for damage and reorder replacement gaskets if it is getting too beat up.

When to Scrub Your Moka Pot Clean

moka pot cleaning instructions
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 that may have been going rancid without stripping it completely. I then sometimes brew an extra pot of moka after the light hand scrubbing for the purpose of throwing it away.

The scrubbing gets rid of the bulk of older oils and the throwaway pot help replace the old oils with new fresh oil. By washing it this way I ensure that I get the perfect taste I’m looking while removing the worst offending grime.

Of course at times your trusty Bialetti may need a complete overhaul. That’s when it makes sense to scrub it down under soapy water and then rough it up with steel wool to get down to clean, unsealed aluminum. Once you get to this point you can then run a pot or two of throwaway coffee to reseal it and essentially start fresh.

This is necessary only every now and then and only if you’ve neglected the pot. If it has corroded due to acidic coffee sitting in it or for some other reason or maybe you forgot to empty the pot and the grind in the filter basket started to mold! Yeah, it happens to the best of us sometimes.

How to Care for a Moka Pot’s Gasket & Filter

As is always the case the preceding only applies to the upper and lower chambers of a moka pot including the filter basket. The gasket however should be cleaned well each time and with both soap and water. 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. If you go a few days between use these little bits of left behind coffee stay wet and can even develop mold or other rancid goodies.

If the gasket starts going bad so too does the quality of the moka coffee it makes.

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 and you may end up getting little bits of grime in your moka from last week! Not good.

Best Practice

I always remove the gasket after each use and rinse it down well ensuring nothing is left on it for the next pot. Once every few uses I’ll even wash this rubber part down with soapy water. While doing this I give myself a perfect opportunity to rinse the upper filter screen which doesn’t get touched or cleaned as often–although I do not ever use soap on this screen either. The screen can’t be clogged very easily and this periodic rinsing ensures that never happens.

All metal parts should be regularly rinsed but not scrubbed with abrasive brushes or soaps.

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 had to use soap on mine and it’s not recommended either… although you could use soap on your moka pot it if you wanted. If you choose to just expect it to negatively affect the taste of the pot for a few uses each time you do so.

How To Tell When A Moka Pot Is Done Brewing

How To Tell When A Moka Pot Is Done BrewingAre you new to moka pots? If so then a common question has to do with the finish.

When is the moka pot done brewing anyway?

This question is more common than you think.

First of all let me start by saying this: A typical aluminum moka pot is prepared and placed on a heat source. In the home this is usually a gas or electric burner.

If you have an induction stove then be sure to buy a stainless steel moka pot as aluminum doesn’t work on induction burners. We’ve got a list of our favorite stainless steel moka pots here.

After that there is no magic number of minutes to keep the moka pot on the burner either – the time it takes to brew has everything to do with how hot you set the burner to.

More on that further on down the page.

You’ve Got to Get the Timing Right to Make Good Coffee in a Moka Pot

The trick to getting good moka is actually simple.

You have to wait and listen to the moka pot.

You really only know it’s done by the sound and smell of the pot.

Depending on how low you have your burner set to after 2-15 minutes your moka pot will all of a sudden start making gurgling and bubbling noises and the smell of coffee will be strong.

This is when the coffee is done.

Unless you buy a fancy electric moka pot then you just have to be near it to know to take the pot off the heat.

How Long Does a Moka Pot Take to Make Coffee

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). If you use a higher temperature heat source however the coffee can almost explode out the top so keep that lid closed!

If you set the heat to high then it may only take a couple minutes to brew. For the low setting on your stove your moka will probably taste better but the brew time might get as high as 15 minutes.

Another point to consider is the size of your coffee maker. Small moka pots may brew in half the time as large moka pots just because it’s easier to heat a small amount of water compared to a larger portion.

After the slow release of coffee into the upper chamber there is usually 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.

This is the best indicator that your moka pot is finished brewing so you have to be present to hear it otherwise your coffee might slowly burn before you get to taking it off the heat.

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.

Of course you do need to replace the gasket every now and then to keep the airtight seal intact but no one wants to buy even a cheap replacement part more often than they need to.

So Should You Use High or Low Heat with a Moka Pot

Now that you know a little bit more about how moka pots work the question of low heat vs high heat is a tough one to overcome.

Since you have to be near the pot to know that it’s done and the best moka comes from low heat it would make sense to brew on low but no one has the time to stand around their kitchen for 10-15 minutes every morning.

Personally I have experimented enough to know that if I set my stovetop dial to medium low my coffee will be done in about 8-9 minutes. That’s usually how much time it takes me to do a few chores in the morning like take the dog outside and go to the bathroom.

Usually I set the pot on medium low and then come back after five minutes or so. I then make a bowl of cereal and then pour my finished moka when its done a minute or two later.

I also have learned that in the unlikely event of me forgetting that the moka pot is on the stove this temperature isn’t a danger to the pot itself. The handle won’t melt, the gaskets won’t get damaged as easily, and the coffee doesn’t burn so much if it stays at this temperature for a long time.

Overall I think brewing on low is a much better route because high heat may give you drinkable coffee sooner but it won’t be as good and the risks are higher.

What About Strength?

No matter how high or low the temp, I make my moka strength about the same every time. It all has to do with:

  • grind size,
  • the amount of grind used,
  • and using the correct amount of water.

High heat (too high) can sometimes makes your stovetop espresso taste burnt but the coffee itself is always just as strong.

Moka for the most part is always going to be a lot stronger than drip coffee, a little stronger than percolator coffee, and slightly less strong as espresso.

Lots of people call moka stovetop espresso because it’s pretty similar.

Espresso is brewed under greater pressure so the strength is increased and crema forms.

Moka isn’t quite as strong. It’s serving size however is similar to espresso shots and I’ve never made substantial crema in any stovetop espresso.

Having said that the strength can be increased or decreased a little bit by altering grind size.

What Grind to Use for a Moka Pot

Normally I use a regular drip coffee or pour over grind when I make moka. This is not because it’s better though, I do it because it’s easier.

I frequently make espresso and pour over coffee so I’m regularly switching between the two grind sizes.

A lot of the time I just use a regular medium coarse grind for my moka because it does just fine.

If however I’m trying to make the best moka possible for a guest then I’ll dial in the grinder settings to a medium fine grind. I don’t get to a fine espresso grind but a small particle size does produce a bit more pressure while brewing and a slightly better extraction.

Dropping the particle size down will slow the brewing time a bit but not substantially.

If you want to learn more about moka grind size then see this post: Getting the Right Grind for a Moka Pot.

So What’s Best?

If you read this article carefully you probably noticed that I regularly make drip coffee, espresso, moka, and pour over. Well I also make french press coffee too!

That’s the great thing about coffee – it can be made in many different ways and they all have their own advantages. After you experiment with brewing coffee in many different ways you’ll start to understand what you like and what you don’t and when you like one brewing method over another.

For complete newbies to alternative coffee brewing methods I do have a few articles on this site that you might be interested in reading.

Please check them out and then have fun with your coffee.

Moka Pot Vs Aeropress Coffee: Which is the Best Espresso Alternative

Moka Pot Vs AeropressFor roughly five years now I’ve been drinking stovetop moka made from my Bialetti Moka Express.

It was purchased on a whim way back then 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 a lot higher than what I paid for mine but overall they are super affordable and vary only a little bit in price depending on style and size.

The best selling stovetop espresso maker is probably the 6-cup Moka Express but there are a bunch of great models in different sizes too.

These are some of the larger stovetop espresso makers I recommend to close friends and family.

Ever since then I’ve been a raving fave of the stuff. I even started a website back in August of 2014 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 guy’s 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 at the time but hd never actually seen in person or used before.

I was very interested to head over to this friends’ 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.

Stovetop Espresso Compared to Aeropress & French Press Coffee

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 tell 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 and the french press there is usually 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 aromatic 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, aromatics, 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 just a little more than my weekly coffee bill.

That’s not much to pay at all in my book for another cool way of making something similar to espresso without having to buy a big fancy espresso maker.

Can you use Moka in place of espresso in espresso based drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and the like?
I would say yes you can. At this point I’ve been using my stovetop espresso pots (I have multiples now) for half a decade and I also got a Nespresso machine back in 2017. People use Nespresso for espresso shots and I don’t think it’s any better than stovetop moka.

So long as you don’t expect your moka pot latte to taste exactly like it does down at your local cafe then you wont be disappointed using moka in your espresso drinks at home… my wife swears she can’t even tell the difference once the drink has been mixed up.

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.

How Does A Stovetop Espresso Maker Work?

How Does A Stovetop Espresso Maker WorkWhen I was first introduced to stovetop espresso made from moka pots the very first thing I was confused about was how it worked.

The process seems so opposite of other brewing methods, kind of like an Aeropress.

Turns out it is actually one of the simplest of them all because there are no moving parts, no extra steps to take, and once heat is applied to the moka pot it is entirely hands off.

How do stovetop espresso makers make coffee anyway?

The process is about is simple as can be. These pots have no moving parts and they use the basic laws of physics to make coffee. In short they are foolproof and virtually indestructible.

When you put water in the bottom of the pot and coffee grind in the middle chamber the heat source (be it a stovetop electric, gas, or an open flame) slowly turns the water into steam.

The steam fills the lower water chamber building pressure inside.

That pressure build enough to eventually start pushing the remaining water up the funnel in the center of the pot.

The water (that has not turned to steam yet) is then forced by the increased pressure through the grind which is sitting in the basket in the middle resulting in the creation of moka espresso/coffee.

Because of the pressure involved coffee brews more like espresso than drip coffee.

The pressure from the steam keeps pushing the brewed coffee up the funnel until it finally makes it through the second filter screen (a preventative screen to keep grind out of your cup) and it then enters the upper chamber through the top of the funnel.

When all the water is forced through the funnel via steam pressure the trapped steam then escapes through the funnel resulting in that distinctive hissing and gurgling sound that you hear at the very end of the brewing cycle.

In the long run these pots don’t fail however the rubber gasket in the middle may need replacing every few years as the heat can slowly damage it. These gaskets are extremely affordable and easy to find.

Here are some FAQs that we see all the time from people new to the stovetop espresso scene:

Do you have to make a whole moka pot every time?

The typical stovetop espresso maker is designed to work based on the water you put in the bottom chamber. If you don’t fill the chamber to the safety release valve then inadequate pressure will build in the pot and you won’t brew a good batch of espresso. If you use a lot less water then it may not brew at all.

How much water do you put into a moka pot?

Each moka pot is designed for a very specific amount of water. You need to use the exact amount every time otherwise things just wont brew correctly.

Luckily we don’t have to measure water out every time we want to use a stovetop espresso maker because they all come with a safety valve installed on the lower water chamber.

If you simply fill water into the chamber up to the valve without covering it then your moka pot will work just fine. This is the reason why it’s common to find households owning two or three different moka pots. Much like a sauce pan you just use the size moka pot you need for the amount of servings you want to brew.

Here are a collection of large moka pots which are harder to find in stores locally.

How Does a Moka Pot Filter the Coffee Grind

As I mentioned briefly above coffee grind is innitially placed in the middle chamber of the device with water in the chamber below it. When water flows up through the grind it is reasonable to assume grind would rise with the water.

Above the grind cup however there is a filter screen that presses down ever-so-slightly on the grind kind of like you would tamp a portafilter on an espresso machine.

The screen stays pressed against the grind much like a french press does during the plunging process and it ends up holding the vast majority of the grind down, except of course for the very fine particulate that is always present in coffee grind.

Coffee from a french press is similar to that of stovetop espresso because it has body but the extraction potency of moka resembles that of the Aeropress or that of true espresso.

Why do Moka Pots Make Coffee All at Once at the Very End?

This is something else covered briefly above.

The stovetop heat source (or campfire) slowly takes cold water and brings it up to a boil.

This takes time and only when the temperature gets hot enough to start creating steam does the water start actually moving upwards through the funnel.

A stovetop espresso maker is actually a lot like a geyser that you might see at Yellowstone. As pressure builds it eventually gets to a tipping point where the liquid is forced upwards at great speed.

The entire time a moka pot is on the stove may be 3-10 minutes depending on the temperature of the heat source but the brew time is actually very quick, only 10 to 30 seconds or so at the very end.

A Few More Questions on How to Use a Moka Pot

Here are some more specific questions many people have regarding the inner workings of a moka pot and how to use one correctly. Unlick the questions fielded above we have taken more time and space to fully address the question on a dedicated page here on Stovpreso.

Click any link below to jump to the page covering that topic.

  • What kind of coffee goes into the moka pot basket?
  • Ever wonder why the vast majority of moka pots are made from aluminum? I did too when I bought my first unit. There are cool companies like Alessi making sweet stainless steel models but they do cost more. Click through to this post to read up on why aluminum moka pots are more common than stainless steel.
  • How often do you replace the gasket on a moka pot?
  • You don’t have to clean your moka pot if you use it regularly but there are very strict procedures for doing it the right way. Click through to learn how to clean a moka pot correctly.

Top 5 Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Makers (Moka Pots)

Most stovetop espresso pots are made of Aluminum but some are made of stainless steel. There are some distinct advantages of using a stainless steel moka pot however, and for many people it’s worth spending a bit more money on stainless steel.

For some people aluminum is simply not an option. For instance if you have an induction stove then aluminum will simply not heat up – stainless steel moka pots will work on induction hobs however.

stainless steel stovetop espresso makersMy absolute favorite go-to moka pot that’s not made of aluminum is the VonChef 6-cup stovetop espresso maker. It’s made really well as you would expect from steel but it conducts heat very well and doesn’t cost a ton like some designer moka pots.

The best selling (more expensive) Bialetti stainless steel stovetop espresso maker is obviously the best alternative but it’s not as cheap and its reviews aren’t as good either. Your mileage may vary.

For the casual shopper it’s not always easy to tell which pots are made of aluminum and which are made of steel. Aluminum pots do tend to be much less expensive although this isnt always the case.

For these reasons I wanted to design this site to make the distinction between aluminum and stainless steel moka pots easy.

There are in fact many different options available to you so I’ve only included the most common options below along with a few personal favorites that may be a bit off the radar.

Further down this post Ill be going into more detail on the following five stainless steel moka pots:

But before I do that lets look at something important.

Stainless Steel vs Aluminum Moka Pots & Why SS is Worth Owning

For starters its worth owning stainless steel moka pots if you are even a little bit squeemish about never really cleaning your coffee maker with soap and water.

Some people just get really freaked out about making coffee day in and day out in a stovetop pot and never really scrubbing it down.

There are also people that swear no matter how the treat their aluminum moka pot it just always tastes a bit metallic to them. For people like this SS is a better choice because it just doesn’t leave a metal taste behind like Aluminum can.

Additionally aluminum metals can leave a dark metallic residue on your hands when using them periodically whereas steel will not.

The main problem with SS however is in heat conduction. Aluminum simply heats better (more evenly) and helps brew moka better and faster than other methods and materials.

Of course if you have an induction stove then aluminum simply won’t work so you will actually need to buy stainless steel if you want it to actually heat up and brew coffee.

Stainless steel moka do tend to cost more so that”s definitely another con if you ask me.

Your Best Value for Stainless Steel Moka Pots

Is A Moka Pot The Same Thing As A Percolator?

Is A Moka Pot The Same Thing As A PercolatorNo, it’s not the same thing although a moka pot and a percolator both make make very strong cups of coffee both do it in very different ways.

For instance, 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 of moka doesn’t generate as much pressure as a true espresso machine but the final product is very similar for a fraction of the price.

Here is an example of a traditional and best selling moka pot.

Almost all moka pots look similar to this because they have the same internal funnel that brews coffee. There may be some style differences and some made from alternative materials like stainless steel but generally they are all the same except for build quality.

How a Moka Pot Works Compared to a Percolator

In a moka pot (stovetop espresso maker) the water is pressurized by steam building up in the lower chamber. As steam forms the liquid water is forced up the device through the grounds cup where it is then squeezed into another small upside down funnel leading to the upper chamber.

As the pressurized steam and water pass through the grind in the middle a very rich coffee is produced. It is so potent it is dosed in sizes akin to espresso and it tastes similar as well.

The only main difference between moka and espresso is the body moka has and the lack of crema.

You should see this post for more on how a moka pot works.

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.

Ironically the percolator is the only other major coffee maker than uses an internal funnel or “straw” to “move water around”.

A stovetop espresso maker funnels hot water through the grind as it rises whereas a percolator funnels the rising water to the top before dropping it down over the grind as it falls back to the bottom. If you think it’s hard to know when a moka pot is finished then you have obviously never used a percolator before!

Steeping of the grind in a percolator 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. In some ways it’s kind of like a drip coffee maker except the water continuously circulates through the process over and over until a much stronger coffee is produced.

During this process the coffee on the bottom of the pot starts out very weak and slowly strengthens as the coffee “percolates”. The longer you brew coffee in a percolator the stronger it gets.

Of course this means you can easily manipulate the taste of your coffee in a percolator just be adjusting the brew time. Short brew times make a lighter coffee while longer times produce a much stronger flavor that some people like a lot.

Is Stovetop Espresso Better then Percolator Coffee?

Stovetop Espresso Better then Percolator CoffeeMany people find the flavor of percolator coffee to be much to harsh, bitter, and burnt although some others 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 than 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 – it’s just different.

Moka is basically a more precise method for making super strong coffee.

Assuming you don’t leave it on the burner too long or brew it over too high of heat the stovetop espresso will usually be a preferred beverage because it never seems over done despite it’s extreme strength.

I would not call it better however, instead I would call it more versatile.

You could take freshly brewed moka and add hot water to it and call it an Americano. Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at that. Add your milk and froth and you can make any number of espresso based drinks and hardly anyone would be able to tell the difference.

You could also drink it like I do most of the time.

I brew a 3-cup moka pot and pour all of it into one coffee mug and drink it black… like the strongest cup of coffee possible. Basically you can mix it up and drink moka just about anyway you like.

It’s not better… but I sure to do prefer it.

To summarize – 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.

If you are thinking about getting a moka pot I would wholeheartedly endorse the purchase. They are worth owning and they can be used just as easily over an open fire as they can be used in the kitchen. You can always go for the standard Bialetti moka pots but there are some cheaper models to from companies like Primula and others.

Moka Pot Alternatives

We’ve already covered the main differences between a moka pot and a percolator but there are a few other brewing methods that are solid alternatives to using a stovetop espresso pot.

The most obvious method to compare moka to is real espresso from a traditional espresso machine. In fact I have an entire article dedicated to the comparison of moka to espresso here which you can read… but to summarize that article I’ll say that everything you can use espresso for you can also substitute in moka coffee in it’s place.

You will lose the crema and some of the deeper fruit-notes in the coffee that can only be extracted in a highly pressurized espresso machine but especially in espresso drinks it is extremely hard to tell the difference in flavor.

Another common alternative to using a moka pot is a french press. It’s another way to increase the quality of your coffee over drip coffee maker but for a fraction of the cost of buying a fancy espresso maker.

French press coffee will not taste nearly as strong as moka coffee and it won’t be the base for espresso drinks but it is a great way to get unfiltered coffee into your routine. Just like a moka pot french press coffee will have more body and texture than drip coffee and you will get the oils too.

Here is our full article dissecting the differences between stovetop espresso and french press coffee.

How Big of a Moka Pot Should You Buy

If you are considering buying a moka pot to make stovetop espresso at home then I would recommend you buy a bigger one. I find myself using at least a 6-cup moka pot almost every time because I like to pour a bigger cup and drink it black. I also tend to make moka for two people at a time meaning the 6-cup is usually the one I reach for.

In the home having a larger model is helpful because after dinner espresso is commonly served in our home… especially when we have guests. We’ve got a good selection of large moka pots reviewed right here for you to look at.

Now, if you go camping or RVing frequently – or if you like to top off your espresso with water or milk a smaller model would be best. Not only are they cheaper but they are easier to store when not in use.

When camping I usually bring a 3-cup or even a 1-cup moka pot. They brew much faster and I can easily top off my moka shots with water to make full cups over a camp fire. Here are a few of our favorite small stovetop espresso makers for you to review.