What do you call a man who wants good espresso but doesn’t have $3000 to buy a machine? That could be the start of a joke but I’m not funny enough to think of a punchline. Sorry. The real answer is I’m talking about myself about 6 years ago.
I love the moka pot. It’s a small metal thing you put on your stove you get espresso coffee from it. Super cheap and super simple, the world of cinnamon dusted cappuccinos can be brought right into your kitchen. And the best part is it’s so versatile.
Rough hangover and you want something sweet and comforting? Just a few ingredients and you can curl up with a French vanilla latte. Have 20 seconds before you drive your kids to school? Smash it back as an espresso then get the radio on full blast!
This is a great tool in the coffee lover’s arsenal. You’ll be very happy to see the price of one. And they age brilliantly…
|Best Budget Moka Pot||Best Overall Moka Pot||Best Moka Pot for Safety|
|Material||Aluminum||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
A few things you should know
Espresso or not?
Firstly, a sticking point. It doesn’t technically make espresso. ‘Espresso’ in the original Italian means ‘pressed’. It is made with a high amount of pressure that only espresso machines can exert – about 9 bars. A Moka Pot can’t produce anything over 2 bars.
A Moka Pot makes something between espresso and brewed coffee. So it’s kinda like a strong coffee or a larger and weaker espresso. Hence the term ‘moka’ is used. For many people, the espresso-like coffee is perfect. And it can still be used to make hybrid Americanos or Lattes.
IMPORTANT: Aluminum / Stainless Steel
The original Moka Pot, the Bialetti which is my budget choice, is made of aluminum. This is a cheap material and in the right conditions makes great coffee. The problem is aluminum deposits can build up and give your coffee a metallic taste. Bialetti even advise to make a throwaway cup the first time you use one of their Moka Pots. You can read more in my comprehensive Moka Pot brew guide. I particularly recommend following that – this method of making coffee is fantastic but has a few idiosyncrasies!
The other two Moka Pots are made of stainless steel and don’t have this problem. You can be sure that your coffee will not be ruined by a metallic taste. This puts them first in line for the best stovetop espresso makers but there’s a catch, they are a little more expensive.
When you look at sizing for Moka Pots, you are going to see sizes like 3-cup or 6-cup. As the Moka Pots are producing a stronger espresso-like coffee, this can get a bit confusing.
As a rule of thumb…
3-cup makes coffee for one person
6-cup makes coffee for two people
And so on. Some models, the Bialetti for instance, offer a 1-cup version. The only reason I can think to use something so small would be if you were making espresso for a baby. Which you really should not be doing.
Also bear in mind that this is not the fastest way to make coffee. Buying a 12-cup Moka Pot might be a test of patience.
What stove you can make it on?
It’s the 21st century and what that means for you happy people is your stove may be of many varieties. A gas stove, an electric stove or maybe even an induction stove. Some Moka Pots work with all types but some don’t. I’m happy to say that all the Moka Pots listed here work on all three types. If you’re buying from elsewhere then I recommend that you find out before you buy one.
cute drawing PIC
Best Budget Option: Bialetti
|Capacity||2-cup / 3-cup / 6-cup / 9-cup|
|Use with…||All stoves|
The Moka Pot was invented in 1933 for a man named Alfonso Bialetti. His name – rather than the name of the poor inventor – is now synonymous with the Moka Pot and the company ‘Bialetti’ produces many of the most popular versions.
The Bialetti – my choice for ‘Best Budget Model’ – produces excellent Moka coffee.
This aluminum Moka Pot does require some maintenance to keep the quality consistent. Make sure you do a throwaway brew when you’ve not used it in a while and check for white aluminum deposits. My brewing guide goes into more detail.
A peculiar aspect of this Moka Pot design is that the smaller models produce the best taste. The 3-cup Bialleti – enough for 1 person – is considered the best for taste. You do get numerous options of size if you need, though. And a nice touch is the many colors that you can buy the Moka Pot in – silver, blue, orange, purple and red.
Quality of build is reasonable but not excellent. It’s made of aluminum and so feels lighter and less sturdy than the stainless steel Moka pots. There are reports of some models having quality and build issues. These seem to come from batches that were not made in Italy. You can rest assured that the model I have linked to states, “2 Year Warranty, Designed and Made in Italy”
It’s worth mentioning that the design of this Moka Pot carries a small element of danger. If you don’t know what you’re doing there is a risk of problems like the handle overheating or water spurting onto the stovetop. If you have kids you may prefer a safer option.
Best Overall: Cuisinox Roma
|Capacity||4-cup / 6-cup / 10-cup|
|Use with…||All stoves|
The Cuisinox is expensive and superb. It’s a lovely design. Many stovetop espresso makers copy the originial design of the Bialletti with its aluminum exterior and octagonal base. This model looks almost like a teapot, albeit a very modern looking one.
This model is entirely stainless steel. Any rusting issues that you can get with aluminum models are not present here. It’s very sturdy, too. A solid build with a low centre of gravity that is useful for safety – one of the most common dangers with these Moka Pots is accidentally tipping them over. Another great safety feature is the rubber gasket which prevents any overspill of water onto the stove.
A big advantage of the stainless steel if there will be no almuinum oxide exposure. This is an issue that can affect the taste of coffee produced by these Moka Pots. It is also why certain models require you to make a throwaway batch or a ‘lungo’ if you’ve not used it in a while. No need for that here.
The coffee produced is lovely and gives one of the best cremas that I’ve seen from a Moka Pot. As with all Moka Pots, don’t expect a full thick foam that you’ll only get from high pressure espresso machines.
The Cuisinox comes in three different sizes – 4-cup, 6-cup, and 10-cup – with a decent reduction in price for the smallest and it wins the best stainless steel stovetop espresso maker and best overall.
Best for Safety: Primula
|Capacity||4-cup / 6-cup|
|Use with…||All stoves|
The Primula steers away from the classic octagonal look of the original Bialetti. The fixed lid, the plastic grooved handle and wide base are all clues to the selling point of this Moka Pot: safety.
The coffee it produces is very good and under the right conditions will produce some crema. As with all Moka Pots, don’t expect a full thick foam that you’ll only get from high pressure espresso machines.
The Primula is stainless steel on the outside but iron on the inside of the upper compartment. Some buyers may be concerned that unpolished iron may affect the quality of the coffee. I noticed no taste problems resulting from the iron but there are reports of customers who can distinguish a clear chemical taste.
The manufacturer claims that “its stay-cool silicone handle keeps your hand comfortable and assures easy handling” and I can attest to this. There is no heat transfer to the handle regardless of how long it has been placed on the stove. Within reason, of course, you may experience problems should you heat this Moka Pot for a few decades or so.
One issue with this Moka Pot is its durability. There are some long-term reports of parts degrading. While these incidents seem to be sporadic, it’s something you may want to bear in mind.
– Happy with your shiny new Moka Pot? Check out my in-depth guide to making that Moka Pot coffee just perfect.
– Not sure if this is the method for you? I’ve got a huge guide on all the methods that will have the right way of making coffee for you.
– Don’t make the classic mistake of having inconsistently ground coffee that will ruin the taste of your brew. You can read up on the relative advantages of preground or ideally invest in a quality hand or automatic grinder that will boost your brews and last you years.
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