Ultimate guide to the best stovetop espresso machine

Despite technology advances that gives us some of the best espresso machines on the market today, I sometimes still feel the need to make my own cup of espresso on a plain old stove espresso pot. There is something satisfying about doing everything using traditional stove and enjoying the fantastic aroma from a great brew. If you have not try your hand at making coffee from a stovetop espresso maker, I have put together this guide to help you along.


Editor’s Choice: Bialetti moka express espresso maker 3 and 6 cup review

bialetti moka express espresso maker 6 cup reviewThe Bialetti moke espress can be said to be the original stovetop espresso maker. Its design is so classic that it is being displayed in the Museum of Fine arts! With over 1000 positive reviews, you can’t go wrong with this model.

To be honest, the coffee is not as strong as what a pure espresso machine can produce. This is why it is called a moka pot in Italy and not a espresso machine. Nevertheless, it is still stronger coffee than your regular version and making it with this maker is so simple that it is worth an investment.  It is also very durable so one will last you for years to come.

To get stronger coffee, use slow heat. The longer it takes for the steam pressure (See this explanation on how stovetop espresso works) to build up, the better tasting the coffee will be.

There are a couple of different sizes. The one shown above is the 6 cup model and can easily filled an American size coffee pot. If you want something lessor, try the 3 cup version.



How stovetop espresso works – directions and guide

How stovetop espresso maker works 1

If you have not used this appliance before, this is how it works. Basically, there are 2 or 3 sections to it, depending on how you define the section. For me, I see it as 2 (see the picture above). Basically, you unscrew the stovetop espresso maker from the middle. The bottom half is where you fill the water, following by the espresso grind (item on the right is the bottom half). It has 2 parts to it which is why some count this as 2 sections while I treat it as one.  To fill the water, you need to life up the lid with the holes. Once that is done, replace the lid and pour in the coffee grind. (See below)

How stovetop espresso maker works 2

Once the ingredients are in, screw the top part back and place it on the stove for heating.  What will happen is that the steam pressure will press against the grind which in turn will press against the screen on the bottom of the top layer. Over time, espresso will flow into the top half and be ready for consumption!

Note that for this machine, you cannot use less grind even if you only want to make one cup of espresso. You need to fill up the whole section similar to the above image. This is because the bottom half will push up on the screen inside the top half of the machine to create the pressure necessary to brew the coffee. If you didn’t fill the grind to the top of the bottom layer, it will just be empty air pushing the top layer screen, which doesn’t work.

If you really want only a single cup espresso, there is only particular model that allows it to do that. See that model here.


How to make stovetop espresso

Once you have the necessary equipment, the steps for making the espresso is fairly simple.

  • Step 1: Unscrew the stovetop espress maker. Take out the lid on the top of the bottom layer and fill up it up with water. There is usually an indicator inside the maker to tell you where you should fill the water to.
  • Step 2: Close the lid and pour in the espresso grind. Make sure you fill it to the top. (See image above)
  • Step 3: Screw the top stovetop espresso pot back together and place it on the stove for heating.
  • Step 4: Once it has started heating, listen out for sounds coming out from the appliance. That is an indication that the appliance is working. Once you hear these sounds, stop the stove and let the residual heat do its thing.  If you want to, you can open the stovetop lid at this point and be able see espresso coming out at the bottom. Just leave the appliance alone until the sound disappears.


What kind of grind for stovetop espresso maker

The important thing, after learning how to use the coffee maker, is to know which coffee grind to use. For espresso, we generally use super fine but that doesn’t work with stovetop espresso. It is easy to see why if you look at the image above. The lid containing the grind have holes in them to allow the steam pressure to do its thing. Unfortunately, these holes can allow the grind to slip through to the water so we need something larger than fine. The best kind of grind is medium fine, which is the same size as pour over coffee grind.


Best stovetop espresso maker reviews

Here are more options for buying a stovetop espresso maker in case you didn’t like the editor’s choice for whatever reason.


Bialetti Kitty – Best stainless steel stovetop espresso maker

best stainless steel stovetop espresso makerThe one thing that some folks might dislike about the original Bialetti moka espress is probably the material. It is made of aluminum but is plated with chrome. Some might worry over health issues while others simply prefer a different material. In this case, you can’t go wrong with their stainless steel version called the Kitty coffee maker.

This version has a sleeker design. I especially love the new handle design as it is easy to grab and looks much better than the original. For sizing, it is available in 4 or 6 cups version.  The 4 cup version is just nice for one large jug so if you are only making coffee for 1 person, this is a good model to choose.

There are also some comments saying this stainless steel version actually produces better tasting coffee compared to the original. Reason? They claimed that aluminum can affect the coffee taste while stainless steel is more neutral. I am not a coffee expert so I can’t really tell the difference.

There is however one downside to this beautiful appliance and that is the time. Maybe it is the material but the Kitty heats up much slower when compared to the original aluminum based moka espress.  The exact time difference is probably around a couple of minutes more.


Stovetop espresso vs machine

Before I go, let me just highlight what is the main difference between using this approach to making espresso, rather than a more traditional espresso machine method. I actually allude to this point when I review the Bialetti moka express espresso maker.

  • Taste difference: Stovetop coffee maker do not actually make tradition espresso. Don’t get me strong. They can still produce great tasting strong coffee but it is not espresso. The latter is only possible when you push steam pressure (9 bars) through the coffee grinds. Unfortunately, a stovetop maker only produces around 3 bars of steam pressure.
  • Price: Espresso machines are much costly especially if you get into the higher grade which can cost more than a few hundred dollars. A stovetop espresso maker less than $50. More often than not, they can be found under $40.



Stovetop espresso is another way to enjoy great coffee. Even though it is really espresso but it is pretty close and the taste is just awesome. Best of all, the coffee maker is very affordable and has great durability as well.