Like espresso but don’t like the price?
I hear you.
It’s painful to fork over $6 for a nice coffee in the morning. And paying $1000s for an espresso machine? Forget about it.
If only there was a way to get high-quality espresso coffee for a fraction of the cost…
Well… there is.
It’s this little baby called the Moka Pot, also known as Stovetop Espresso Maker.
I’ve been making coffee for years with the Moka Pot.
I’m big on brewing amazing coffee without burning a hole in my pants, and this thing fits the bill.
It’s super simple. Pop it on your stovetop with some freshly ground Guatemala and you’re onto a winner. Sit back and let the smell of kickass fresh brewed coffee fill your kitchen.
I recommend the Bialetti Moka Express. It’s cheap but strong, comes in lots of sizes and will make coffee so good your head will spin. You can take a look at the price on Amazon and see the reviews from other people here.
One more thing… this ain’t some shady reviews website looking to make a quick buck. I own these things. I make coffee with these things. Here’s a photo of my Bialetti, so you know I’m legit.
Check out that link if you want the easy option…
Or stick around and I’ll chat about a couple other Moka Pots you might like the sound of – these ones are stainless steel – and also throw a few coffee-making tips and tricks at you.
Let’s get to it.
1. Bialetti Moka Express
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. The company Bialetti produces many of the most popular versions.
The one you see on the right is a version of the original Moka Pot. It’s made of aluminum which makes it cheap, but it’s still sturdy and strong. Every Moka Pot is based on this design and many just copy the thing inch by inch.
This aluminum Moka Pot requires some maintenance to keep the quality consistent. Make sure you do a throwaway brew (a lungo) the first time you use it and check for white aluminum deposits. My brewing guide goes into more detail.
There are hundreds of variations of this coffee maker. Sizes go from single cups to family portions. The colors are crazy too if you don’t like the original silver. You can see what colors they currently have in the Amazon link.
A peculiar aspect of this Moka Pot design is that the smaller models supposedly produce the best taste. The 3-cup Bialleti – enough for 1 person – is considered the best.
Quality of build is solid. It’s made of aluminum and so feels lighter and less sturdy than the stainless steel Moka Pots. There are reports of 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”.
Putting an aluminum thing on your stove always carries an element of danger. If you don’t know what you’re doing there is a risk of the handle overheating or water spurting onto the stovetop. If you have kids you may prefer a safer option, in which case read on.
2. Cuisinox Roma
The Cuisinox is expensive and superb. Many stovetop espresso makers copy the original design of the Bialetti. The Cuisinox throws all that away with its sleek, modern teapot like design.
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.
Another big advantage of stainless steel if there will be no aluminum 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 Cuisinox comes in three different sizes – 4-cup, 6-cup, and 10-cup – with prices to match. Although this is the most expensive Moka Pot on the list, it’s a solid choice. Particularly for those who prefer stainless steel or prioritise safety.
3. Primula Stainless Steel Moka Pot
The Primula also 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. It seems 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”. There is no heat transfer to the handle regardless of how long it has been placed on the stove. No unexpected burns here.
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.
Do Moka Pots Make Espresso Or Just Normal Coffee?
Let’s address the E word. Moka Pots do not make espresso coffee.
Espresso in Italian it is derived from means pressed. It is made with a shedload 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 but small brewed coffee. Or a large but weak espresso. This is why the term Moka Coffee is often used.
While it’s not exactly espresso, it’s a great alternative for those who can’t afford the time or space for an espresso machine. And the best thing? You can still use it to make Americanos, Lattes, Cappuccinos or whatever else.
Aluminum Or Stainless Steel?
The original Moka Pot, the Bialetti (my recommendation), is made of aluminum. This is a cheap material. In the right conditions, it makes great coffee.
The problem is aluminum deposits can build up and give your coffee a metallic taste.
Bialetti itself advises making 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. The downside? You’re paying a little extra.
How Does The Sizing Work?
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 confusing.
As a rule of thumb…
3-cup makes coffee for one person
6-cup makes coffee for two people
And so on.
The amount of coffee you will get out of a 3-cup will seem small if you compare it to brewed coffee and large if you compare it to espresso. It’s in the middle.
The larger the Moka Pot the longer it will take to brew. So a 12-cup family-sized isn’t the best choice when you’re in a mad rush before work.
What Kind Of Stove You Can Make Moka Pot Coffee On?
Moka Pots were originally designed for the gas cookers of the 1930s. All the Moka Pots here then are well suited for that and also for electric stoves. It’s simply a case of heating the base until the water boils into steam and rises through the chambers.
Induction is a little trickier. You need cast iron or magnetic grade stainless steel for it to work. Two of the Moka Pots here are stainless steel but I don’t feel comfortable giving a definitive answer on my website. Your best bet is to search Amazon for the questions section.
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