The Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso and Coffee Maker Review
If you love espresso but don’t love the amount of time and money you are spending at coffee shops, we may have a solution for you.
Espresso makers come in all shapes and sizes, but it can still be overwhelming to learn a whole new brewing system and machine. Moka pots, however, are super simple, time-tested brewers with, get this, no buttons!
Our favorite espresso pot is the Bialetti Moka Express. This sleekly-designed model is attractive, easy to use, and creates high-quality espresso-esque coffee at a fair price. Let’s get into the full review to learn the details.
SUMMARY: The Bialetti Moka Pot
- Classic octagonal design and Italian-made finish
- Comes in a variety of sizes so you can choose your brewing capacity
- Performs best on a gas stove
The aluminum pot features Bialetti’s distinctive eight-sided shape that allows it to diffuse heat perfectly to enhance the aroma of your coffee.– Bialetti
Things to Consider Before Getting a Moka Pot
Before you dive into our Bialetti coffee maker review, take a moment to think about what you should have in mind when deciding if this is the best stovetop espresso maker for you.
What Kind of Coffee Do You Want to Brew?
It sounds silly, but the reality is that a Moka Pot is a halfway answer to a lot of things and only a full answer to some.
If you want a real espresso, you’ll probably want to go straight for an espresso machine. While you can imitate espresso in a lot of ways, there’s nothing like the real deal. Here’s our list of the top espresso machine options from super fancy to bare-bones and everything in between. Or if you are into coffees more, here are our reviews of the best coffee brewers.
So, where does a Moka Pot fall in all of this? Coffee expert James Hoffmann puts it very well. (1)
[Moka Pots] make a coffee that is a kind of halfway house between espresso, which is super strong, and drip coffee.
The coffee produced from the moka pot will never fully obtain the signature espresso flavor and consistency, because it lacks the adequate pressure during the brewing process. Traditional espresso machines brew using approximately 9 bars of pressure, usually applied by an electric pump, while the moka pot uses steam pressure to make the coffee. (2)
The pressure built up in the pot’s chambers reach only 1.5 bars, nowhere near the nine bars achieved in traditional espresso makers. Nevertheless, the simplicity of its design and ability to produce quality cups of coffee made it a hit in households
Far stronger than anything you will get from manual brewing methods like a french press or pour-over, moka coffee occupies an interesting spot between good old “regular” coffee and crisp espresso. If you’re interested in an old school brewing experience that can produce both a shot and a mugful of strong, bold coffee, this is an excellent, tremendously affordable option.
Check out our detailed breakdown of the differences between moka pot coffee and traditional espresso here.
The Heat Source
Moka Pots are beautifully simple, tried and true stovetop coffee makers that go the distance. However, you should consider your stove type before you fall in love with one that is incompatible with your induction stove top. Most induction-compatible moka coffee makers will be labeled as such.
Moka Pots were originally designed to be heated on a gas stove or over a flame, so if you have an electric stove, you may have to wait a bit longer for your coffee to bubble up.
Getting a Burr Grinder
If you don’t already have one, this is a great opportunity to invest in a handy burr grinder for your home coffee set-up. One of the most satisfyingly fragrant parts of your home coffee making experience is grinding your beans just before you add them to your coffee maker. As an espresso-like brew, moka pot coffee requires a relatively fine grind, though you have plenty of room for experimenting with particle size.
Using a slightly coarser grind than you would for espresso will keep you from getting bitter, over-extracted coffee.
Grinding coffee for your moka pot is actually the step that people often trip up on. Since moka pot coffee is similar to espresso, it is tempting to use quite a fine grind, where the grinds are about the size of table salt. However, using too finely ground coffee can actually clog your machine and cause it to choke, essentially breaking it. Use a medium-fine grind in your Bialetti or other moka pot of choice to both keep your machine running smoothly and improve the taste of the final product.
Depending on your style and the amount of coffee you typically brew, there are great electric and manual burr grinders that can help you harness all the flavor of your beans into deliciously strong coffee.
The Bialetti Moka Express Review
The Bialetti Express Stovetop Espresso Maker is a beloved classic in the world of moka pots and moka coffee. It is simple, highly-effective, and a bargain to boot.
Ease of Use – 5/5
Using the Moka Pot is an easy process that yields a brew that mimics the barista-quality espresso you’re used to picking up at the café.
To brew in the Bialetti coffee maker, just follow these 3 simple steps.
- Add hot water to the lower chamber. You will see a small safety valve near the top where the filter basket is inserted, be sure not to fill the water chamber up above that valve.
- Add your freshly ground coffee! Unlike with traditional espresso machines, you don’t tamp the grounds in a moka pot. Just make sure there aren’t any left along the rim of the filter basket. Screw on the top piece and…
- Heat it up! It will take just a few minutes for rich, dark coffee to begin gurgling out of the spout in the center of the top chamber. Be sure to keep the flame under control, you don’t want it wrapping around the sides of the brewer.
That’s it! Once you hear the gurgling sound, you know your coffee is ready. Give it a stir in the pot and then serve it up.
Though the brewing process is delightfully simple, you will still likely need to take time to figure out your perfect coffee.
Experiment with the ratio of coffee : water, grind size, and heat level to achieve the taste you want.
For more detailed information on brewing coffee in a stovetop espresso maker, check out our how-to article.
Brewing Capacity – 5/5
From the tiny 1-cup option all the way up to a whopping 12-cup option, you can brew enough stovetop espresso for a lonely hermit… or an army!
Build Quality – 4.5/5
While we’re all here for some well-brewed java, the truth is, the Moka Express isn’t just a great stovetop espresso maker. Its classic octagonal design and expert Italian-made finish also make it a centerpiece that you’ll want to show off proudly in your kitchen.
But, of course, if leaving it out as a display on your counter isn’t something you want to do on a regular basis, that’s okay too! The Moka Express is quite compact and easy to stow away in even the smallest of cupboard spaces.
This aluminum coffee maker does not work on induction stovetops, but Bialetti has made a stainless steel, induction-compatible model that works just as well as the classic aluminium model!
Cleaning and Maintenance – 5/5
The Moka Express has a few simple screw-together parts, making it easy to clean and maintain.
The basic design has remained the same since your granny used this coffee maker, because why fix what isn’t broken? To clean your Bialetti espresso coffee maker wash it by hand with warm water and soap and be sure to rinse it well to avoid any remaining soapy taste in your coffee.
Just as with any espresso machine, Bialetti recommends that you make two or three full coffees in your new moka pot to season it before you start enjoying the coffee yourself. (3)
Value for Money – 5/5
We have hinted at the bargain customers get with the Bialetti, but let’s get into the nitty gritty. To put it simply, the Moka Express is a steal.
The largest capacity option, the 12-cup brewer, goes for less than $50. Just think about that–the 12-cup moka pot produces around 14 ounces of espresso, which is enough for at least 7 cappuccinos or 14 lattes! Any espresso machine with that kind of fast, high-volume capability would cost significantly more than this handy stovetop brewer.
Things we liked:
- Makes delicious espresso-style coffee
- Durable and portable
- Great value for money
- Available in 1-cup to 12-cup sizes
Things we didn’t like:
- A bit finicky to clean
- Aluminum model doesn’t work on induction cooktops
Alternatives to the Bialetti Moka Express
If you’re not sold on the Bialetti, here are a couple of other options to get that espresso alternative you’re looking for!
The De’Longhi EMK6 Alicia Electric Moka Pot – Rather than worrying about getting a moka pot compatible with your stovetop, you can choose an entirely stove-less electric option. You can use this electric machine just as you would a regular one, with the added benefit of keeping your brewed coffee hot for up to 30 minutes in the top chamber of this coffee maker. We also love that this moka pot immediately shuts off when you lift it to pour your coffee and when it finishes brewing in case you forget that you were making coffee–we have all been there.
Unfortunately, the DeLonghi EMK Alicia Moka Pot does not have as many size options as the Bialetti Express, so if you find yourself brewing often for large groups, this may not be the right gear for you.
The Bialetti Brikka – A modern alternative to the classic Moka Express, the Brikka comes with an added pressure valve. This moka pot can yield espresso-like coffee with a frothy layer of crema. Read our Bialetti Brika review to learn more.
The Aeropress – Coming in at roughly the same price range as the Moka Express, an Aeropress is a great option for a manually-pressed espresso alternative. With the Aeropress, you don’t have to worry about its compatibility with different stove tops, since it is never directly exposed to the heat source. Instead, you pour hot water into the top of the Aeropress and then use applied physical pressure rather than steam pressure to extract the espresso.
Don’t let the change in heating and brewing fool you, the results are just as rich and flavorful. The Aeropress also has the added edge of being able to brew a wide range of coffee types. Simply adjust the grind size and steep time of your brew and you can enjoy lots of different types of coffee, from espresso to cold brew to french press. Easy to clean and pack away with its accessories, the Aeropress is ready to travel with you wherever you go.
Be warned, though – you need filters for this one! Read our step-by-step instructions for brewing espresso in an Aeropress here!
Flair Espresso Maker – With its looks, the Flair Espresso Maker could pass as modern art. This manual espresso machine makes strong espresso and is pretty much portable thanks to the suitcase that comes with it. Read our full Flair espresso review.
Another excellent and affordable single-serve option, the Wacaco Minipresso is the perfect alternative to a stovetop espresso maker for anyone who’s constantly on the road. This nifty little coffee maker packs away into a tiny case that fits neatly in your luggage.
Like the Handpresso, it provides everything needed for a quick espresso! Just provide the grounds and the hot water and you’re good to go. The Wacaco Minipresso is not as easy to clean as the Aeropress or a Moka Express, given that it has lots of small spaces where coffee grounds can get stuck. We recommend using a soft brush to clean it just as you would for an espresso machine.
For more information about the wonderful world of portable espresso makers, read our review-round up of the best options on the market.
Using the Moka Express is a great way to improve your coffee routine at home–both in taste and in budget–and avoid the hassle of a coffee shop. It may not brew a truly authentic espresso, but the taste is very similar comes at just a fraction of the price.
It’s the perfect way to keep you awake… and help save your wallet!
The gurgling sound you hear while your stovetop espresso maker is on the stove is a product of its steam pressure brewing system. As we mentioned before, the water in the lower chamber is heated until it becomes steam and is forced up through the filter basket and into the bed of coffee grounds.
As the steam extracts coffee, it travels up the spout and then drips into the top chamber of the moka pot where it accumulates. The gurgle is simply the sound of the steam moving through these three chambers on its way to your cup.
To improve your brew and avoid any excessive bitterness or a burnt flavor, be sure to stop brewing when you hear the gurgle. This classic moka pot sound means that the water in the boiler is running out and your coffee is nearly finished, so turn off the heat and run the boiler under cool water to stop the brewing process.
When brewed to its maximum capacity, the 6-cup Bialetti produced 9.2 ounces, or 272 milliliters, of coffee. If you plan to drink a mugful of coffee as you would with a pour-over or drip, this would be just more than one cup’s worth. However, if you plan to make lattes or cappuccinos with your espresso-esque brew, you could easily make 4 separate drinks, depending on the recipes you use.
As we mentioned before, if you have an induction stove, you will need to get a compatible moka pot. The reason for this is that induction stoves only work with magnetic metals, and since traditional moka pots are made with aluminium–a non-magnetic metal–they don’t perform well.
Luckily, there are plenty of stainless steel moka pots that work well on all kinds of stoves, so everyone can enjoy the moka experience. Take a look at our list of the top 6 on the market
- Hoffmann, J., & Crilly, G. (2015, December 4). Make Great Coffee With A Moka Pot. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpyBYuu-wJI
- How It Works Team. (2016, June 17). How do moka pots work? Retrieved from https://www.howitworksdaily.com/how-do-moka-pots-work/
- Moka Express. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.bialetti.com/it_en/moka-express-experience