What's Up with Stovetop Espresso Makers?
One of the oldest brew methods still kicking is the stovetop espresso maker. These brewers produce a thick, rich coffee that bears more than a passing similarity to espresso. They also are a fraction of the cost, so what’s up with them? Why do people love these things? Why don’t more people use them? Let’s take a look!
How Stovetop Espresso Works
The classic stovetop espresso maker is the moka pot. When most people think of the moka pot, they think of Bialetti. Here at Seattle Coffee Gear we’re big fans of Ilsa’s stovetop brewers, which work similarly but just look a little different. At any rate, here’s how they work!
Coffee is added to a filter with a funnel at the bottom, then placed in a lower chamber filled with water. An upper chamber, sealed with a gasket and with a metal screen that fits over the coffee filter is placed on top of the lower chamber. On the stovetop, the water in the lower chamber heats up, and is pushed up through the filter full of coffee and into the upper chamber, where it goes up and out of the funnel in the middle and spills into the sides of the chamber. This pressure from the steamy, hot water through the filter full of fine coffee grounds creates that pressurized brewing that we associate with espresso.
So why does anyone invest in an expensive espresso machine when stovetop is so much cheaper?
But is it Espresso?
The answer here is really in the details. Most people think of espresso as being brewed at 9 BAR of pressure or more. By comparison, stovetop brewers tend to brew at 1-2 BAR of pressure. The result is less crema, but more importantly, it’s just a different tasting brew.
One of the most popular arguments surrounding these brewers is “is it even espresso.” We don’t really find this argument that productive. It doesn’t really matter whether we define stovetop brewing as espresso or not, it’s just a different kind of coffee drink, call it what you want!
This does get into why a cheap stove top brewer isn’t necessarily the answer to your at-home espresso needs. If you want to froth milk at home for lattes and cappuccinos, or just enjoy and americano or straight shot, the difference in flavor in a stove top brew may not make the cut. The nice part is they are pretty affordable, which means it’s easy to check it out and see if you like it.
One other aspect of stovetop brewing that can be frustrating is cleaning. These brewers have several parts that need to be cleaned and maintained just like any other coffee equipment. This can be frustrating without a dishwasher, and not all of the pieces are necessarily dishwasher friendly, so it’s worth finding that out before you make any purchases.
With all of this said, stovetop espresso brewers make a tasty, simple cup of coffee that might just be perfect for you, but they also aren’t quite the replacement for a full espresso machine that some people hope for. Check it out if you’re curious!