Choosing an Italian stovetop espresso maker



Last revised 1/29/2011

 

One of the greatest days of my coffee drinking life, was when I discovered the Italian stovetop espresso maker. Other popular names for this device are moka pot, Italian coffee pot, caffettiera, and macchinetta del caffe. Most of the daily calls and emails we receive at Stovetopitaly.com are questions about choosing the right espresso maker. Many factors will affect your decision including the following:

• Are you shopping on budget or quality?

• Health concerns  (aluminum or stainless steel)

Where will you be using the espresso maker?

What if I have an Induction type stove?

What is your beverage of choice? (Espresso, Latte, Capuccino, etc.)

Where’s my foam?

Is it important that your espresso maker is made in Italy?

Will this espresso maker be purchased as a gift?

How many servings are needed?

Budget or quality?  
The Bialetti aluminum Moka Express is the original Italian stovetop espresso maker invented by
Alfonso Bialetti back in 1933. It is still the most popular moka pot in use to this day for it’s price and simplicity.  If you are shopping purely on budget, this is always a safe choice, and a great unit  to get you started. However, if this is something that you want to last a really long time, there are many stylish espresso makers made with stainless steel. Vev-Vigano offers great quality at a reasonable price. If you want the highest  standard of quality, Stella espresso makers are actually handmade in Italy and their design is pure elegance. Each Stella moka pot is carefully protected by a brown felt bag.

Health concerns  (aluminum or stainless steel)
Some people are concerned about cooking with aluminum. My personal advice is that if you are using the espresso maker more than a few times a week, then you should consider a stainless steel maker for it’s added health benefits. All stainless steel moka pots made by Stella, Bialetti and GAT are made of  high quality
18/10 stainless steel. However, you should note that some of the GAT espresso makers have an aluminum core and  aluminum funnel. Whenever a stainless steel espresso maker contains an aluminum core, funnel, or filter plate we will note that in the description.

Where will you be using the espresso maker?
Stovetop espresso makers are used in various places. I use mine twice in the morning on our kitchen stove, but I use an electric Bialetti maker at work and on the road. We also sell moka pots that work great on camping stoves. If you have an induction type stove, we cover this below.

What if I have an Induction type stove?
For those of you who have modern induction type stoves, you will need a maker that is designed to work on this type of cooking surface.
Frabosk and Stella both have recently introduced some new Induction Heat Diffuser Plates which allow non-induction cookware or stovetop espresso makers (such as aluminum, copper, etc.) to be used on any induction cook top.

What is your beverage of choice? (Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, etc.)
Choosing the right espresso maker may depend on what kind of espresso drinks you will be making. If you only plan on drinking straight espresso, a  1-3 cup maker will be just fine. However, if you also want to create latte’s and cappuccino’s,  a 4 cup or larger maker will be a better choice. 

Where’s my foam?
Probably the biggest difference between a stovetop espresso maker and an expensive Italian espresso machine is the ability to produce foam. When I am in a really nice coffee shop, I don’t mind if the Barista adds a little foam to my latte or cappuccino. But when I am at home, I really don’t care to take the time to make up some frothy foam. I have tried many of the cappuccino machines in the $60 to $600 range and all of the maintenance and repairs aren’t worth the added benefit of their cheap little frothers. However, if you can’t live without your foam, there are a few options for us traditional old world espresso makers. Frabosk makes a great line of milk frothers that you can use on your stovetop. Bialetti offers a cappuccino set that includes both a 6 cup Moka Express and a 6 cup milk frother.
Aerolatte has created a modern little Steam Free Milk Frother that whips the milk into a decent froth. The Bialetti Mukka Express and Mukka Express Electric are stovetop style makers that actually foam the milk while the espresso is brewing!

Aren’t all Italian espresso makers made in Italy?
All
Stella and Vev-Vigano espresso makers are made in Italy. The aluminum Bialetti Moka Express is still made in Italy, but as of this writing, most of the high end stainless steel Bialetti models are now made in India and Romania, and some of the GAT models are now made in China. If this is important to you, please look for the words Made in Italy on our product pages.

Buying a stovetop espresso maker as a gift
Stovetop espresso makers are popular birthday and wedding gifts.  For a wedding, a 6 cup Vev-Vegano or Stella maker with a combination of gold & silver finish are popular. Since the Stella is handmade in Italy and comes in a protective felt bag, this would make for a long lasting memorable gift.  Any stovetop maker in our webstore can be added to a StovetopItaly gift basket, and we include a custom handwritten gift note including your custom message.

What size espresso maker do I need?
The first important question we need to address is the question of what is a cup? Have you ever wondered why your 12 cup drip coffee maker only makes about 6 cups of coffee? There are cups of coffee
and there are cups of espresso and standards of measuring also differ between North America and Europe. In the USA, a standard cup of coffee is traditionally 8 Oz, and most coffee shops serve 8 Oz. latte’s and cappuccino’s. In Italy, the average cappuccino cup holds only  4 Oz. A European cup as it relates to espresso makers,  is equal to 1.5-2 Oz. To help clarify a little further we have created a table based on our own careful tests that shows how much water each espresso maker will hold, and how much espresso it is capable of producing.


Espresso Maker Size or model

Water Capacity

Finished
Espresso

Espresso cups

Latte or
capuccino

1 cup

2 Oz.

1.5 Oz.

1

0

2 cup

4 Oz.

3.5 Oz.

2

0

3 cup

5 Oz.

4.5 Oz.

3

1

4 cup

7 Oz.

6.5 Oz.

4

1

6 cup

10 Oz.

8 Oz.

5

1-2

9 cup

16 Oz.

14 Oz.

9

2-3

10 cup

18 Oz.

16 Oz.

10

3-4

12 cup

25 Oz.

23 Oz.

15

4-5

 


Based on the chart above, here are the results of a 6 cup maker based on tests using a Bialetti 6 cup Musa. The 6 cup moka pots are the most popular size available. Most 6 cup models will hold  10 Oz of water resulting in 8 Oz of espresso, depending on how much water evaporates and how much water makes it out of the bottom chamber. If you are living at a higher elevation, your finished output of espresso may vary slightly. Six European cups really amounts to about 2 lattes or cappuccino's in a standard 8 Oz coffee mug if you like 50% espresso and 50% milk. In other words, you could make two drinks each with 4 Oz. espresso and 4 Oz. of milk. Personally I like triple shot latte’s that are rich and strong, so for me, a  6 cup maker creates just enough espresso for one latte in an 8 Oz cup with just a little leftover in the pot. The ultimate latte for me is 6 Oz of espresso and about an inch of milk
(2 Oz). Now when you are ready to make espresso shots, the 6 cup maker will create 4 servings.

 
~ Guy Ritter
Stovetopitaly.com

 

Stovetopitaly.com is dedicated to the old world tradition of making delicious, authentic Italian stovetop espresso. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to write us at mail@stovetopitaly.com.


 

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