This strange old-fashioned vintage espresso brewing machine looks like it would be more suited in a museum rather than on your kitchen countertop, but don’t let looks fool you.
Moka pots have been brewing strong coffee and ensuring that old-school coffee drinkers are fully caffeinated since the early 1930s. They have been known by many names throughout the years, some like to call these small metal pots stovetop espresso makers, percolators, Bialetti’s, or simply Italian coffee makers.
What you call these compact coffee brewers makes little difference. They all do one thing, and one thing well, they produce a thick, strong-tasting coffee with an impressive firm crema that’s on par with any of the best espresso machines.
If you’re on a budget and are still yearning for a strong, rich coffee, this compact brewing device can outshine those expensive large espresso machines in terms of “brewabilty” and cost per cup.
However, when it comes to buying a good Moka Pot, it’s worth noting that they do differ in terms of quality, especially if you want a consistently great-tasting cup of coffee with a show stopper crema. Some pots can’t handle the repeated pressure and being taken continuously apart and put back again for cleaning.
Luckily, I have done some of the leg work for you, and I’ve put together a handpicked collection featuring some of the best stovetop espresso makers I could find.
What is a Moka Pot?
If you’re new to making coffee in a Moka Pot, you might be wondering how the hell does this thing work? Sure, it looks pretty simple from the outside, and once opened, it only contains a few parts, but for a novice, it can take a bit of practice to master.
Coffee brewed in a Moka Pot isn’t technically an espresso per se, why? It comes down to the amount of pressure. The best espresso is brewed at about 9-bar, whereas the Moka Pot can only generate up to 1.5-bar of pressure.
So, in laymen’s terms, an espresso made with a stovetop Moka Pot is going to be less concentrated or not as rich. I would say the coffee brewed is somewhat in-between an espresso shot and a strong filter coffee, with a consistency of Turkish coffee.
Most Moka Pot’s typically have three parts, which are all tightly screwed together to form a sealed, airtight, pressurized container. You have the water chamber (where cold water is added), a funnel-shaped filter in the center of the Moka Pot where the ground coffee is placed, and the chamber at the top of the pot where the final brewed coffee is collected.
How Does the Stovetop Espresso Maker Work?
Operating this coffee brewing device is relatively simplistic.
Cold water is added to the bottom of the pot, and it’s then heated on your stovetop, as the water chamber heats steam is then produced. As the pressure builds inside of the lower chamber from the resulting steam, it then pushes the hot water through the filter and then up into the top chamber.
The water hits the ground coffee and then soaks the grounds, the coffee grounds expand, and as the pressure continues, the top chamber will fill with freshly brewed “espresso.” All of the best stove-top espresso makers I have used typically give out a gurgling sound once done, which means that the espresso is now ready for drinking.
Once you hear this “gurgling sound” turn off the heat because if the pot is left on the heat for too long, you’ll have a bitter, burnt-tasting coffee. If you want a full step-by-step brewing guide on how to use the Moka Pot, make sure to read my complete guide here.
How to Choose the Right Moka Pot?
Even though the Moka Pots aren’t going to brew coffee exactly like an espresso machine, it still produces a decent-tasting strong coffee that will keep even the snobbiest of coffee drinkers happy.
But if you want to be sure that you can brew great-tasting coffee from the get-go with your new Italian coffee maker, consider some of the below points that will ensure you start off on the right foot.
How Many Cups of Coffee Can it Make?
If you often find that you brew coffee for one most of the time, the smaller one-cup Moka Pot is going to be a great choice. But if you prefer to share brewed coffee with others, make sure you pick out one of the Pots that have a larger capacity.
Many of the best Moka Pots have a range of sizes, and you choose from a modest 1-cup up to a shareable 12-cup.
Where is the Pot Made?
Even though the best quality stovetop espresso makers often do originate from Italy, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise seeing as they are nicked named “Italian coffee makers.” I have discovered that this isn’t necessarily always the case and you can find some excellent products from other places in and around Europe.
If the pot has the words “made in Italy” stamped on the bottom, you can let out a sigh of relief as this is by all accounts a guarantee that you have a quality product. But I would throw caution to the wind if you take a chance on a brewer produced in China.
Now don’t get me wrong, some decent coffee makers do come out of China, and in fact, many of the big brand names in the coffee industry have moved their manufacturing to China to cut labor costs.
But as we all know, many copycat fake products are produced, and branded Moka Pots such as Bialetti’s are commonly faked. So, make sure you do your due diligence before parting with any cash.
Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel
The classic Italian Moka Pots are made from Aluminum, and there are many reasons for this. This material is relatively cheap, and it does a great job of conducting heat, which is a trait worth having if you’re placing the pot on your stovetop.
However, Aluminum isn’t entirely corrosion and oxidation proof, and for this reason, many of the new Moka Pot manufacturers are opting to use stainless steel over Aluminum.
Stainless steel is completely non-corrosive and non-porous, making it much more durable compared to Aluminum. Even though this metal is more expensive, it does have the added advantage of being longer-lasting, which means that a Moka Pot made from stainless steel will be able to brew great-tasting coffee for decades rather than years.
Will it Work with Your Kitchen Stovetop?
Not all Moka Pots will work on every type of stovetop. Some are made for electric, or induction devices, while others are intended to be used on an open flame. So, make sure that you choose the correct pot for your home kitchen setup.
The Best Stovetop Espresso Makers
So now you have a better understanding of the ins and outs of the humble Moka Pot. I have done some of the legwork for you have picked out a selection of compact stovetop coffee brewers that are perfect for both induction stovetops and regular gas burners.
All of these are guaranteed to churn out some great-tasting coffee that’s almost on par with an espresso machine.
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker
The Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my personal favorite, and it also makes logical sense that one of the best stovetop espresso makers comes from the company that first invented it!
If you’re looking for a real Italian stovetop espresso maker, the Bialetti is the one you should have. Its vintage looks and polished aluminum build combined with the classic Bialetti octagon shape make it a great addition to any coffee lover’s brewing arsenal.
The Bialetti Moka Express 9-cup stovetop espresso maker is the perfect size for family brewing or placing on the table when you have friends over. With the Moka Express, you can brew a velvety espresso in less than 5 minutes from the time it’s placed on the stovetop. If the 9-cup is too big for your needs, you can downgrade to a smaller 3-cup or even a slightly bigger 6-cup.
All of the Bialetti Moka Express range is available in various colors from vintage brushed aluminum to modern-day purple, reds, and blues. So, whatever your style, there’s sure to be a suitable Moka Pot.
Bialetti Elegance Venus Induction
If you are looking for a Moka Pot for your induction cooktop, look no further than the Bialetti Venus. With its soft lines and harmonious design, this elegant-looking pot is a beauty to look at – that’s for sure.
But looks aren’t everything after all, and if it can’t brew a great-tasting cup, it’s going to be no better than a paperweight. But the good news is the Bialetti Venus produces some great-tasting coffee – not only does it look awesome, but the coffee is also excellent too!
Constructed from durable stainless steel, you’ll have no problem using this pot on your induction stovetop. The handle is also well insulated, so you won’t have to worry about burning yourself when you pour your freshly brewed coffee.
Also, you’re not limited to just induction cookers with the Bialetti Venus because you can also use it on classic gas burners and naked flames. But, I would caution you if you decide to use it camping, make sure you keep the handle away from the fire; it is a heat-resistant handle but not fireproof!
Alessi Espresso Maker 9090 by Richard Sapper
If the classic Bialetti Express is the workhorse of Moka pots, the Alessi Espresso Maker 9090 is the king – but this Moka Pot isn’t cheap by any means.
However, if money is no object and you want the best stovetop espresso maker you can buy, the Richard Sapper 9090 should be at the top of your shopping list – the design is so famous that it has been enshrined in the Museum of Modern Art!
When you get past its modern, sleek stainless-steel looks, you’ll find a truly functional Italian stovetop espresso maker that’s a workhorse when it comes to brewing great-tasting espresso.
The Richard Sapper 9090 has been crafted from high-quality stainless steel, with an aluminum core and cast-iron handle. Its sleek looks needn’t be hidden in the kitchen because once your coffee has brewed, you can bring the Richard Sapper 9090 directly to the table for serving directly to your guests.
Tops Rapid Brew Stovetop Coffee Percolator
The Tops Rapid Brew coffee percolator is a slightly different type of stovetop coffee maker that doesn’t rely on the pressure as much as the above coffee brewers. This coffee percolator can effortlessly brew up to 9 cups of freshly perked coffee in a fast and efficient manner.
The sparkling high-luster heavy gauge 18/8 stainless steel is durable enough to be used on an open flame, making it the perfect choice for your next camping trip. You have full control over the brew strength with the Tops Rapid Brew Percolator, thanks to the clear glass cover know that allows for easy observation during the brewing process.
The basket and stem assembly have been manufactured out of high-quality solid metal. The Permawood wood grain handle is the best choice of material that enables you to grab the handle directly from the stovetop even when hot.
Cuisinox Roma Moka Espresso Maker
If you require a large-capacity stovetop espresso maker, I recommend that you take a look at the Cuisinox Roma. This brewer can churn out up to 10 cups of espresso “like” coffee in one sitting, which means there’s no need to go through the annoying process of refilling and waiting when you have guests over.
Performance-wise, the Cuisinox Roma lives up to the expected standards found in any of the top-rated Moka Pots and features many “must-haves” such as a heavy gauge 18/10 stainless construction and an induction friendly base that makes it safe to use on all cooking surfaces.
Cuisinox Roma is expensive, but it does come with a 25-year limited warranty. This is an unbelievably extended warranty, and it just proves how confident the manufacturer is about their Moka Pot.
De’Longhi Alicia Electric Moka Espresso Coffee Maker
The final Moka Pot on my list of recommendations is an electric unit from no other than espresso kings De’Longhi.
With the De’Longhi Alicia Electric Moka Espresso Coffee Maker, you simply plug and play – it takes the guesswork out of whether it will work on your particular stovetop because the unit has its own built-in heating element. Plug it in anywhere, and you can have three to six quality tasting espresso shots in a matter of minutes.
Also, you don’t have to stand by your stovetop, babysitting your Moka Pot to ensure it doesn’t burn your coffee. Because the De’Longhi Alicia comes with an automatic shutoff feature that will give you a little bit of extra flexibility in those busy mornings. On top of that, once your coffee has been brewed, the De’Longhi Alicia will keep your coffee hot for up to 30 minutes.
A smart feature is the detachable coffee pat that allows you to take your freshly brewed espresso coffee directly; to your table (just like a kettle). I especially like the clear brewing chamber so you can watch as the bubbling crema-rich coffee makes its way to the top!