The 9 Best Stovetop Espresso Makers
9. Bialetti 06800
- available in myriad hues and styles
- designed and made in italy
- aluminum tends to corrode quickly
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
8. Minos Moka Pot
- design unchanged since 1933
- tapered top helps prevent spills
- difficult to wash thoroughly
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
7. Primula PES-4606
- fragrant and concentrated brew
- stainless steel won't rust
- gasket may wear out over time
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
6. Osaka Nijo Castle
- smooth polished interior
- high-quality brass safety valve
- funnel can be difficult to remove
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
5. Venus 6-Cup
- results have a smooth taste
- provides a steady and even pour
- must be hand washed
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
4. GSI Outdoors 1 Cup Mini
- rugged enough for years of use
- includes helpful instructions
- cup ledge is a bit small
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
3. Cuisinox Roma
- high quality stainless steel
- includes a reducer and spare gasket
- all parts are dishwasher safe
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
2. Alessi 9090
- from a respected manufacturer
- durable cast-iron handle
- flared base for stability
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
1. Vremi Moka Pot
- also available in silver
- sturdily built for frequent use
- safe for use on induction cooktops
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
It’s Easier To Drink Espresso With Your Nose Turned Up
There are times in life when it’s perfectly acceptable to act like a snob. Some of these occasions will arise on a small, personal level, like besting your classroom rival in a spelling bee, or having someone weigh in on an argument with your precise point of view.
On a more general level, it’s harder to find socially acceptable times to really throw your nose up in the air with that combination of distinction and self-righteousness that only a true snob can perfect. More often than not, the temptation to do so arises out of some cultural artistic preference like a certain musical performer or artist. Snobbery here can get you into some hot water, though, especially if you run into someone with both opposing tastes and a deeper knowledge base in the area. Ultimately, you can fall back on the argument that it’s all a matter of taste, but that often cedes the snobbery high ground to your opponent.
The coffee world offers us a different opportunity to be snobs, however, as there are scientifically measurable ways to determine — at least in part — the quality of a cup of coffee. And if you pit the taste profile of a shot of your homemade stovetop espresso up against that of a cup of mud from the burner at your local gas station, yours is pretty well guaranteed to emerge as the winner.
If you’re not made of time and money, the stovetop espresso maker will provide you with the added benefits of being inexpensive and very fast — particularly if you only need to make a shot or two of the good stuff. High-quality espresso machines can cost well into the thousands of dollars, making the elite brew seem unreachable to the common man. Fortunately, stovetop espresso makers are much more economical, and their contents are ready as soon as the water cooks, though they don’t have the ability to store heated water as some countertop models can, which means you may have to wait longer to brew shots for a larger number of people.
Do keep in mind that if you choose to invest in a stovetop espresso maker over the more haute countertop variety, owners of the latter will, technically, be in the right if they choose to turn their nose up at your device.
How A Stovetop Espresso Maker Brews
Espresso is all about pressure. In a drip coffee machine, hot water slowly makes its way into a basin containing coffee grounds. Once enough of that water builds up, it filters through the ground beans and falls down into a waiting receptacle, often a pot or single-serve cup.
Traditional espresso machines heat up water and force it through a tube that delivers it to the espresso grounds at extremely high pressures, pushing the liquid through the grounds with significant force. These units allow users to precisely dial in the amount of pressure they want to apply to the beans, and a debate over the perfect amount of pressure is liable to rage on until climate change renders the coffee bean itself extinct.
A stovetop brewer marries the simplicity or a drip coffee machine — or more precisely, a percolator — with the high-pressure environment of an espresso maker. The unit consists of three main compartments: a water well, a filter, and a coffee pot.
To make a pot of espresso, you fill the water well to the fill line (or below if you want a smaller, stronger serving). When you place the pot over a heat source, the water’s temperature — and the pressure in the well — rises. The filter at the middle of the pot contains your espresso beans. At the bottom of that filter is a valve that only opens when a certain water pressure is reached in the chamber below. Once the valve opens, it allows hot, high-pressure water to move steadily through the grounds in the filter and collect inside the coffee pot above.
A Brief History Of Espresso
The American blood in my veins recoils to learn that an invention brought about by sheer capitalistic yearning for more efficiency and a better product took place far away from the 50 states. The Italian blood in my veins, however, delights to learn that espresso, quite possibly the best form of coffee available to mankind, was created in Italy.
Fans of the steampunk genre will probably also enjoy the tale, as it includes a great deal of experimentation with different pressures of steam at a time when the substance powered a lot of incredible inventions. At the time (the late 1800s), inventors sought to decrease the time it took to brew coffee, as cafes were cropping up all around Europe and the drink had become more popular than ever.
One of these inventors, Angelo Moriondo, received a patent for a machine that pushed hot water through coffee grounds at 1.5 bars of pressure. Over the course of the next few decades, competitors of Moriondo’s successful espresso machine would experiment with ways to increase that pressure and deliver even faster, more flavorful brews.
Today, you can still purchase large boilers that greatly resemble the machines of the early 19th century, many of which come in fine brass finishes complete with ornate statuettes and other artistic flourishes. Compared to the espresso makers of old, modern models have highly adjustable pressure settings, with nine bars being the common starting point for most brewers as they refine their combination of coffee bean, grind size, and water pressure.
Most of the stovetop espresso makers on the market are designed to draw their pressure from a direct heat source in such a way that the pressure itself opens a valve that lets the water interact with the beans. In order to ensure that this water isn’t so hot that it burns the coffee, these stovetop valves allow water through at approximately 1.5 bars. As such, a cup of stovetop espresso will greatly resemble a cup that would have been produced by Mr. Moriondo all those years ago.