Best Stovetop Espresso Makers in 2021
The ultimate test is the test of time, and the Moka pot has definitely passed. Invented in 1933, the Moka pot is named after the Yemeni city of Mocha but was developed by an Italian inventor, Alfonso Bialetti.
The Moka pot, popularly known as a stovetop espresso maker, can brew a very bold cup when used correctly — which is largely why they’ve stood the test of time. They’re a bit fussier than modern brewers, but their distinctive extraction, offering a stronger flavor, is hard to replicate.
So, what's the deal with the moka pot? Most importantly, what brands can be relied upon for great coffee?
We’ll cover everything to do with the Moka pot from top to bottom, so let’s start off by unraveling the secrets of what makes this simple machine so great.
The secret behind the strong coffee
As you’ve probably heard before, the secret behind great coffee comes down to three main things: extraction, pressure, and temperature. The brewing process of a stovetop espresso maker checks the box on all three of these.
The three main sections of a moka pot include the water chamber on the bottom (where you put the water), the filter basket (where the coffee grounds sit), and the collection chamber up top (where your coffee will go!).
When the water in the water chamber heats up, pressure builds up, pushing the water through the filter basket (where the grounds are) and into the collection chamber. It’s all done through water vapor, so there’s no risk of crushing or burning the grounds, which results in a supremely aromatic roasting process.
Do Moka Pots Make Espresso?
Nope! But no one could blame anyone for thinking that. It’s totally confusing — it may officially be called a Moka pot, but people consistently refer to it as a “stovetop espresso maker,” which is totally misleading.
The Moka pot got the alternate name “stovetop espresso maker” due to its similarity in the brewing technique of an espresso machine, where both use high pressure and temperature to achieve fast extraction—but they’re ultimately quite different.
To get a beautiful demitasse of espresso, you need a full 9 bars pressure—that’s nine times the weight of pressure at sea level. Looking at it that way, logically, we all know it’d be impossible to get to that sort of force without some extra gadgetry.
The Moka pot creates about 1.5 bars, which doesn’t get it anywhere near producing espresso, but is just the right amount for a bold cup of coffee!
Buying Criteria: What to Look for in a Moka Pot
Despite the simple design of the standard Moka pot, there are still a variety of features you’ll want to check in on, including size, material, and capability.
How many cups can it make?
Stovetop espresso maker sizes often run in multiples of three: 1 cup, 3 cups, 6 cups, 9 cups and 12 cups. The word “cups” is used pretty differently than the standard US measurement, though.
Adding an extra layer to the confusion about what exactly the Moka pot creates, the cups are often counted the same as espresso shots would be—ounces that are called cups. A 6-cup moka pot will serve six ounces of coffee, so if you plan on entertaining guests, 9 and 12 cup Moka pots are probably your best bet.
Stainless steel or aluminum?
While the original design of the Moka pot called for aluminum, times change. When it comes to kitchen items, we lean towards stainless steel for a number of reasons. Stainless steel is non-corrosive and non-porous, making it easier to clean than alternative versions, but it does cost a bit more, too.
While aluminium may not be our first choice for kitchenware considering its propensity to corrode, we can cut it some slack if it’s anodized. Anodized aluminum is corrosive-resistant and more durable, making it better suited to handle heat. Bialetti, yes, that Bialetti, is known around the world for their excellent moka pots, and they use anodized aluminium.
You’d be amazed how many people overlook this, so we’re going to make a public service announcement:
Not all stovetop espresso makers work on electric stoves.
...so please, make sure you read a little bit about the stovetop espresso maker you’re considering buying.
Top 6 Stovetop Espresso Makers In 2021 - Reviewed
There are a growing number stovetop moka pots out there capable of providing a decent cup of coffee. However, the six we reviewed below stood out from the crowd.
Manufactured by the original makers of the Moka Pot, the Bialetti Elegance Venus features a beautiful steel body made from 18/10 stainless steel, which, on top of adding aesthetic appeal, is safe and great at conducting heat.
The insulated handle comes in handy when the brewer is piping hot, and is detachable, so you can take it with you on an extended trip. The best thing about Bialetti’s Elegance Venus, however, is that it can handle any type of heating system, including induction hobs.
It comes in 4 and 6 cup sizes, which is enough to serve four “cups,” a measuring system used very loosely. In this case “cups” means servings, and Moka Pot servings are about 2 ounces a piece.
This is yet another great Moka pot from the Bialetti family, and as usual, it comes with some excellent features. Featuring a unique octagonal shape that helps with even heat distribution, which is crucial for proper extraction, the Original Bialetti comes in several sizes to suit all needs: 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 cups.
The Original Bialetti comes with a well-insulated handle for carrying when hot, and the design is also quite classy thanks to the polished aluminum body. Top it off with the easy-to-clean disassembly, and this Moka Pot really has it all.
Available in a 4-, 6-, or 10-cup versions, the Cuisinox Roma Stainless Steel Stovetop Espresso Maker is great for entertaining. It costs a good deal more than many other Moka Pots on the market, but it has its reasons.
It features a classy design and is made from 18/10 food grade stainless steel. Working well on both a stove and an electric burner, the Cuisinox has an induction base to go along with its mirror shine.
Within 5 minutes, you’ll be enjoying a strong cup of joe with the whole crew! Cups are, again, determined by something much smaller than a “cup.” The Cuisinox cup designations are based on 1.5 ounces of java produced. Each version does come with an extra gasket and reducer, though, which is always a nice touch.
Don't let the small compact design of the Rapid Brew Stovetop Coffee Percolator fool you. This moka pot comes in three different (large) sizes: 6, 9, and 12 cups.
It's heavy gauge 18/8 stainless steel body not only makes it durable but also gives it an appealing look. The Permawood handle helps keep the handle cool while the glass cover knob adds a unique aspect to this Moka Pot.
Its compact nature, coupled with its permanent cup markings, make the Rapid Brew an excellent coffee maker for camping.
If you are looking to switch things up a little by veering off the conventional stovetop espresso maker, an electric one should do the trick. The Delonghi Alicia is an electric moka pot that combines the no-nonsense art of coffee extraction with some snazzy built-in electricity.
Fill the aluminum bottom chamber, the same as you would for any other Moka Pot, but stay in-the know thanks to the transparent collection chamber. Offering a unique design twist, it also allows you to view the brewing process.
Not that you have to worry about burning or overflowing — the Alicia Electric comes with automatic shut off to prevent any java mishaps. This machine has a few functions we can all appreciate, ones that mimic a more traditional percolator, such as the Keep Warm function, which will keep your strong joe hot for up to 30 minutes.
The filter adapter on the Alicia Electric allows you to brew two different sizes, either 3 cups or 6 cups, so serve yourself or you and friend. The Moka Pot detaches from the corded base for fuss-free serving, as well.
"The Bozeman Percolator by Coletti is an excellent choice for those looking for something that's both high quality and extremely durable.
The concept of campfire coffee went into the design, so it's an ideal coffee maker for camping and other outdoor activities. It's made of high-quality stainless steel and delivers a very full richness to the coffee that it's less-expensive counterparts don't quite match up to.
It’s dishwasher safe, features a glass cover knob, and a rosewood handle for burn-free grasping and classic look.
Another major plus is that Coletti Coffee donates 100% of their profits to charity. Who says you can't drink coffee and make the world a little bit better at the same time?
How to Use a Stovetop Espresso Maker
There’s something beautiful about using a Moka Pot to make your coffee—there’s no fancy gadgetry, no electricity, just good ol’ fashioned basic science. Brewing is super no-nonsense, too, which is always worth appreciating.
All you need is water, coffee, and the moka pot.
For a 6-cup Moka Pot, you’ll want 25.5 grams of coffee, or about three and a half tablespoons. You’ll want to grind them the same as you would for an espresso shot, so nice and fine.
Pour filtered water into the bottom chamber of your moka pot (you can even use hot water to speed up the process), but don’t fill it past the safety valve. Fill the basket and filter, the middle component, with your finely ground coffee, give it a slight shake to make sure it’s evenly distributed, and screw it on, being very careful since the bottom chamber will be hot.
Attach the spouted top chamber and set the entire getup on heat source, whether that be the open flame of the stove or an electric stove top. Pressure will slowly force your strong brew up into the top component!
Easy ways to make sure you’re applying the right heat—if the water seems to be exploding out of the top, the heat’s up too high. If there’s only slight bubbling emitting from the Moka Pot, you’ll want to turn up the heat a tad.
When all of the water has made the journey from the bottom chamber to the top one, you’ll hear a hissing, bubbling sound—remove from the heat and serve immediately!
It wasn’t easy to pick the best one from the lot, but if I had to go with just one stovetop espresso maker, I would bet on the Bialetti Moka Express.
The Moka Express offers a number of excellent features like its octagon shape, large enough cup size, and smooth brewing process. Its sleek design paired with easy-to-use functionality make it stand out among its competitors.
The Cuisinox Roma is also a fabulous choice, but it was beat out by the Bialetti primarily due to affordability.
Good question! Despite the fact that Moka Pots boast the nickname “Italian stovetop espresso maker,” not all are made to sit over an open flame. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using your Moka pot.
Keep in mind that aluminum versions won’t work on an induction stovetop, so buy accordingly.
While maintaining and cleaning your Moka pot is pretty simple, it has a big impact on the quality of your coffee.
Some people new to moka pots report occasionally encountering a slightly metallic taste in their coffee. This is quite common if your moka pot is brand new. To avoid the metallic taste in your coffee, we recommend performing a couple of ‘dry runs,’ or brewing without the coffee grounds.
After each use, you’ll want to thoroughly clean your Moka Pot. After it’s completely cooled, rinse each piece off using warm water — no soap necessary. Harsh detergents don’t bode well for Moke Pots.
Once it’s thoroughly rinsed, either leave the pieces to air dry completely—any water left on the metal can lead to corrosion over time or leave mineral deposits, neither of which are good for your pot—or dry with a soft cloth.