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.

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.

What You Need

the main parts of a moka pot
  • 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
  • Fire (ideally, your gas stove)
a hand grinder, a coffee bean container, and a stovetop coffee maker

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:

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

separating the parts of the bialetti
three parts of the moka express

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

a hand grinder, a coffee bean container, and a bialetti moka express

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.

Step 3. Add Water

pouring water in the chamber of a moka pot

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

putting coffee grinds in the filter basket
placing the filter basket in the lower unit of the bialetti

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

grinds in the lower unit of the bialetti

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!

a photo showing how to use a stovetop espresso maker

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

a moka pot with an open lid
pouring coffee from a bialetti moka pot

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.​​

Stovetop Espresso vs Espresso Espresso (from a machine)

a moka pot on top of a stove

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.

For more about the differences between a Moka Pot and a normal espresso machine read this head to head guide.

What The Heck is a 'Moka Pot'?

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

parts of a moka pot

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!

If you're wondering how the stovetop coffee maker works, How It Works explained the process perfectly (1).

"When the moka pot is placed on the stove, the water heats up and generates steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and pushes the water up through the coffee granules and into the top chamber where it is ready to be poured." - How It Works

Caffeine Levels in Stove Top Espresso 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 pot 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!

Final Thoughts

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, and check out our other coffee brewing methods to try here: https://www.homegrounds.co/the-complete-guide-to-coffee-brewing-methods/

FAQs

How long does is take to make stovetop espresso?

Moka pots usually take around 5 minutes to make coffee. But if we're going to consider the grinding and prep time, it normally takes about ten to fifteen minutes. That does not include cleanup which is important if you want to continue to enjoy your moka pot coffee.

What is the best stovetop coffee maker?

The best Moka pot is the Bialetti Moka Express as it makes coffee fast without compromising the quality and taste. It's also stylish,  easy to clean, and it lasts long. If you are on the lookout for something different, check out our buying guide

There is a HUGE difference between a cheap and a good stovetop espresso maker, so choose wisely. Here's a place to start: The best stovetop espresso makers.

How do you grind coffee for a stovetop espresso maker?

For Moka coffee, we recommend grinding your beans on a fairly coarse setting as a finer grind can cause leakage and other issues. 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!


Reference

  1. How It Works. (2016, June 17). How do moka pots work? Retrieved July 6, 2019, from https://www.howitworksdaily.com/how-do-moka-pots-work/
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  • Alex
  • September 14, 2018
Alex
 

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

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