How to Use A Stovetop Espresso Maker (You’re doing it wrong)

So, you love espresso. That’s great!

But what’s that? You don’t like the cost of buying them on a regular basis?

And you’d rather not invest in a bulky, expensive machine for your home (what are they, plated with gold or something)?

If you’re a fan of espresso but not the price tag that comes with it, it’s time to consider a stovetop espresso maker.

In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on how to make stovetop espresso.

It may sound intimidating, especially if you’ve watched those fancy baristas wreathed in steam, drawing the freaking Mona Lisa in the froth in your cup, but don’t despair!

We’ll break down a short, simple, and sweet – at least, if you’re into added sweetener – set of stovetop espresso maker instructions, so you can enjoy the perfect cup of espresso on the cheap, whenever you want.

Stovetop Espresso: The Low-Down

What is Espresso?

Okay, a quick quiz on “Espresso 101.” First question:

What is espresso?

As you’re probably aware, like most things in the amazingly complex world of coffee, there are many different kinds of espresso.

The basic concept behind espresso, though, is a process that brews coffee in a different way by expressing, or forcing, hot water through finely ground coffee beans.

Alright, that’s espresso, but how does a stovetop espresso maker work?

Let’s take a look...

Stovetop Espresso vs Machine

For starters, let’s make one thing clear: if you’re looking for an absolutely perfect espresso, you’re going to want to look into a full-blown espresso machine.

However, if you’re simply looking for a change in your coffee routine that won’t break the bank (but will still make an excellent espresso when you want it), a stovetop espresso should fit the bill nicely!

While this method may be a bit less controlled, or “perfect” than a machine, honestly, there can be a charming attraction to that very fact – turning it from a “negative” into one of the main reasons to get one.

Another option, if you’re looking for something in between a machine and a straight up stovetop model, is to get an electric stovetop espresso maker like this one.

It’s the perfect answer between a full-blown machine and a Moka pot.

Wait, a what?

What is a Moka Pot?

Alright, it’s time to get a little technical: we’re not actually making espresso here.

When we use a stovetop espresso maker what we’re really making is Moka coffee in a Moka pot (another name for a stovetop espresso maker).

Gasp! Say it isn’t so!

While Moka coffee is similar to espresso, it’s not quite the same.

The main difference is that Moka coffee is missing the more aerated crema texture, as the water is not forced through the grounds at the same high pressure as an espresso would be.

However, for the sake of this post and the fact that stovetop espresso makers are often referred to as Moka pots and vice versa, we’re going to use the two names interchangeably.

Just remember that they’re not exactly the same!

Caffeine Levels in Moka Coffee

While many coffee drinkers genuinely enjoy each and every cup of joe, the reality is that most of us have a secondary motive in mind: caffeine.

So, what is the Moka coffee caffeine content and what is the difference between Moka vs espresso caffeine levels?

Here are some facts for average caffeine content in three different coffee options:

  • Cup of coffee (8 oz) = 105 mg of caffeine
  • Shot of Moka coffee (2 oz) = 105 mg of caffeine
  • Shot of espresso (2 oz) = 93 mg of caffeine
Note: These quantities can vary dramatically.

As you can see, an 8oz cup of coffee has the same amount of caffeine found in a quarter the amount of Moka coffee, while an equally sized shot of espresso has even less.

That’s right: a shot of Moka coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso!

Moka coffee can tend to over-extract from the coffee grounds compared to an espresso. So be prepared for some stronger coffee with a higher caffeine content than usual. Drink responsibly!

Best Stovetop Espresso Maker

Before we break down the best way to make a stovetop espresso, make sure to check our top 4 choices for stovetop espresso markers here.

Pro Tip: Make the best possible batch of Moka coffee by keeping your equipment clean! Watch the video below to find out how.

One final note before we dive into how to make stovetop espresso. If you go through this tutorial and it doesn’t seem to be the answer you were looking for, don’t despair!

There are several other non-machine approaches to making espresso that you can consider if this option doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to get away from that overly-complicated, overly-priced espresso machine!

Now on to the tutorial!

What You’ll Need

  • The Stovetop Espresso Maker itself! (This should have three parts: the lower part, the filter funnel, the top part)
  • A couple of ounces of your favorite coffee
  • A coffee grinder set to a fairly coarse grind.
  • Cold, filtered water
  • Your stovetop

How to Use a Stovetop Espresso Maker: A Step by Step Guide

Let's get started on how to use your stovetop espresso maker with these simple steps:

Prep Time: How long Does Stovetop Espresso Take to Make?

About ten to fifteen minutes. Just long enough to grind the coffee and bring the water to a boil.

PRO TIP: Be prepared for the first time to take a little bit longer as you’re learning how to use your stovetop espresso maker.

Step #1. Prepare Your Moka Coffee Maker

Separate your stovetop espresso maker into its three parts:

  • The lower portion for the water

  • The filter for the coffee grounds

  • The upper chamber for the finished coffee

Step #2. Grind the Coffee

Grind the coffee on a fairly coarse setting. The typical finer grind that is perfect for espresso is not always a great choice for the Moka pot, as it can leak and cause issues.

Pro Tip: While we suggest a coarse grind for the coffee, the truth is, each setup can be different. Experiment between a coarse grind, a fine one, and everything in between until you find a setting that gives you just the right Moka coffee for your own palate!

Step #3. Add Water

Fill the lower part of your stovetop espresso coffee maker chamber with cold, filtered water.

Don’t fill past the safety valve!

Step #4. Add the Coffee Grounds

Take the filter basket and fill it all the way with coffee grounds.

Make sure it is full!

This is an important step, as under-filling it can cause brewing issues. Once you have a filter basket full of coarsely ground coffee, move on to Step #5!

Step #5. Reassemble the Unit

You’re almost ready to make your Moka coffee!

All that’s left is to put your stovetop espresso maker back together. First, place the filter back into the water-filled lower part of the unit. Then screw the top part on well.

Pro Tip: Do not overtighten the top chamber! Most threaded metal devices, particularly ones that come equipped with a gasket like this, do not require excessive force. Just make sure it is firmly tightened and head on to the next step!

Step #6. Add Heat!

This one is easy. Place your stovetop espresso maker on the stovetop, turn on the stove, and wait for the water to come to a boil. Most units are fairly small, so this process shouldn’t take long.

Don’t wander off, as you need to be present when it does start to boil.

If using a gas stove, be careful the flame doesn’t melt the plastic handle.

Step #7. Serve and Enjoy

When you hear a gurgling sound, that’s the cue that the water has made the short, hot trip north and has filled the upper chamber with some delicious coffee.

Once you hear gurgling, remove the maker from the stove and pour!

Pro Tip: Don’t leave the coffee on the burner for more than a few seconds after the gurgling begins, as one of the prime dangers of making espresso this way is getting a burnt taste due to overheating during the brewing process.​​

The Perfect Cup of Moka Coffee / Stovetop Espresso

And there you have it!

If everything has gone well, and you’ve followed the steps carefully, you should be looking at your empty Moka pot, while sipping a delicious cup of stovetop espresso. That just leaves one question left to answer:

How is it?

If you enjoyed this tutorial (or have any other thoughts or feedback) leave a comment below!


Alex is the Founder and Editor of He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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