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What's the Best Stovetop Espresso Maker? My Moka Pot Review

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I love making espresso at home, but it can be a real pain if you don't have a good espresso maker.

What's a Good Moka Pot? Simple, Stainless Steel Coffee Bliss

If your family is anything like mine, you spend a lot on coffee. And I'm not talking about drip! We're pretty hooked on espresso-based drinks, and a trip to the coffee shop every day can add up.

In order to save money, we started looking into home alternatives. Pod machines like the Nespresso are convenient, but also wasteful and expensive. Full-blown, pressurized espresso makers work great, but they take up a lot of counter space, and they're also costly. We felt stuck.

Until one day, a friend made a great suggestion: why not consider a Moka?

A Moka is an aluminum or stainless steel, stovetop espresso maker. They're simple, effective, and they brew great coffee. They're inexpensive, and a good one will last a lifetime. The name 'Moka' is actually a brand owned by Bialetti, but there are various versions of this classic design out there.

We have one now, and it's fantastic. That all said, not all models are equal. I've heard some unfortunate stories about cheaper versions. So what's the best stovetop espresso maker out there anyway? Is Bialetti the big name in the game, or should you consider something else?

This article is pretty simple. We'll look at a couple of good Moka pots I recommend, as well as a few tips and suggestions to make your brewing easier. I hope you're as excited about this device as I am!

What Makes a Moka Espresso Maker so Great?

So why is a stovetop espresso maker the best choice? There are other, fancier options out there after all. Here are a few reasons why I turn to one of these for my caffeine needs.

  1. Simplicity: We live in a complicated world with lots of stuff. Sometimes it's nice to turn to something perfectly simple and reliable. A solid aluminum or stainless steel stovetop espresso maker feels like something your grandfather would have used. It's compact, beautiful, and elegant. This kind of design is worth celebrating.
  2. Portability: You can count on a Moka pot espresso maker to work just about anywhere. You can take it camping, you can take it on a boat. You can keep it as a backup in your kitchen. All you need is a heat source, water, and coffee. It's even easy to clean!
  3. Excellent Coffee: This isn't just a backup device for using in a pinch. A good stovetop espresso coffee maker brews legitimately excellent coffee. It's unadulterated and basic, and yet it can be relied upon for a great cup time after time.

Bialetti Moka: The Best Stovetop Espresso Maker on the Market

OK, I've kept you in suspense for long enough. Does the company with the namesake brand still produce the best product? Easy answer: yes.

The Moka is a simple design that, if cared for properly, will bring you plenty of caffeinated joy. It's a classic and iconic octagonal silhouette that lots of people will notice and recognize ("Oh, you have a Moka!")

It's made out of strong and sturdy aluminum, which looks great, doesn't rust, and conducts heat really well. The lid flips up for easy cleaning but doesn't detach.

It comes apart into two main sections, with a filter system and gasket in between. Water goes in the bottom section, grounds go in the filter cup, and it all screws together. As the water heats, it rises up through the filter and bubbles into the top chamber.

Some tips for enjoying your Moka:

  • Polished aluminum doesn't like dishwasher detergents. If you throw it in the dishwasher, that shiny finish will come out looking not so great. It doesn't affect the function or taste, but it doesn't look great aesthetically. A simple hand rinse with a bit of dish soap will do just fine.
  • The 3-cup Moka seems to be the best stovetop espresso maker size of the bunch. The bigger ones work well too, but the brewing process just seems to work better with the smaller sized pot. Not sure why!
  • Don't bother compressing your grounds like other espresso machines. Fill the cup (you can even slightly mound the grounds), but don't compact it.
  • Don't crank the heat! The higher temperature makes it brew quicker, but your coffee will taste much better if brewed at medium heat. Also, try not to let it overcook (as in, don't let the bottom chamber run dry.) You'll enjoy smoother coffee this way.
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Here's a neat thing about this great little stovetop coffee maker: it tastes better the more often you use it. After a good break-in period, it'll be amazing, trust me!

The only real drawback? The small size precludes this working well for large dinner parties.

Cuisinox Roma: The Best Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Maker Around

If you're not a fan of aluminum and want something with more strength and weight to it, this is a fully stainless Moka-style espresso pot. It's big enough to produce a good amount of coffee in a single go, and it's well-built inside and out.

You'll see that the basic workings are pretty much the same, with a lower water chamber, filter in the middle, attached lid and upper pot. The whole thing has a mirror finish, and that finish is built to be heat-resistant and easy to clean.

It also avoids a problem that cheaper models seem to suffer from: it doesn't drip and scald while you pour, and the handle doesn't seem to become untouchably hot afterwards. Its gasket seals perfectly, and the whole product is very elegant with a fine finish. It's perfectly at home in a modern kitchen.

Here's an indication of how incredibly durable and well-made this good little stovetop espresso maker is: it includes a 25-year warranty! Where else do you see that?

The downside? It's pricey, costing almost four times more than the standard Bialetti. But considering how refined it is, and how long it should last, that's a drop in the coffee cup if you ask me.

The Roma is (in my opinion) the best stainless steel 'Moka' pot for espresso around.

Worthwhile Accessories

If you're planning to make more than the standard shot, you'll want to get a few items to augment your coffee creation skills. I'm going to assume you'll mostly be making the standard drinks: cappuccinos, lattes, things like that. Here's what I recommend you pick up.

  • Milk Frother: This inexpensive little device will turn you into a regular barista. Whether you use an electric whisker or a hand-powered frother, you can turn your bland drink into a foamy delight! It's perfect for crafting that latte or macchiato. It isn't quite the same as a full-fledged steamer, but it takes up very little space in your kitchen. In addition to using it with your stovetop espresso maker, a good use for this device is to spruce up tea, cocoa, and other hot beverages.
  • Coffee Grinder: A little electric grinder is invaluable. You'll find that coffee tastes best when it has been freshly ground from the beans. Pre-ground java isn't bad, but DIY allows you to branch out and try some truly great brews. You can find hand grinders too, but I prefer the ease of use of electric myself.
  • Vacuum-Sealed Container: Keeping coffee fresh is imperative to enjoying that first shot of the day. Don't let it go stale on you! A vacuum-sealed container will increase the longevity of your beans or grounds. That's a worthwhile investment if you ask me.

Does a Moka Pot Coffee Maker Make 'Real' Espresso?

In the traditional sense, coffee brewed using a Moka pot espresso maker isn't technically espresso, but it's very similar.

The main difference seems to be in the creaminess and texture, which isn't quite the same. Primarily, you'll get a much better crema (or the caramel-coloured foam that sits on top) from a real machine.

That doesn't mean the coffee from a Moka pot is bad. It's great! And it can even create some crema too. It's just not identical. You can still make all your favourite espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes using a stovetop coffee maker as the base.

Perhaps most importantly, it'll still give you that 'kick' in the morning to get your day started!

What do you think? Have you used one of these devices before? How does it compare to the real deal? Thanks for reading!

© 2015 Graham

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