Okay, so let’s talk about espresso! And in particular how to make espresso on a stovetop coffee maker and achieve fantastic results every time.
Many wake up in the morning and go straight for their cup of filtered coffee. This is because the best quality espresso machines are expensive, and not everyone has that kind of money to throw away on a morning pick me up. But in reality, getting a good espresso isn’t as expensive or difficult as you might think. By following my advice, you will be able appreciate one of the most amazing cups of coffee you’ll ever have at home all day long, for a fraction of the cost by using a stovetop espresso maker!
But is this actual espresso, you ask? Well, that’s a complicated question, but the answer is yes and no. Although technically we’re not brewing authentic espresso, this is the next best thing if you don’t have the money for one of the various other types of coffee and espresso makers.
If you haven’t got one already, purchase a decent quality stovetop espresso maker, sometimes also referred to by its Italian name, the ‘moka pot’. All department stores will likely sell one, and even your local grocery store might have some in stock. But you can get the stovetop coffee pot I use here on amazon, and I swear by it! When I got mine, it completely changed the way I think about coffee, dispelling any notions that espresso is a fancy, difficult to achieve, exclusive coffee that only my local coffee shop could deliver. I’ve become the master of my own coffee experience, and you can too!
What is a Moka Pot?
A stovetop coffee maker, percolator or moka pot (whatever you want to call it) is a cleverly simple bit of kit that usually consist of 3 parts, all made of metal for its heat conductive properties. You’ve probably seen a stovetop coffee percolator at some point and wondered what it was, particularly if you’ve done any travel in Europe. The bottom or base pot holds cold water, the basket is where the coffee sits in the middle of the pot and the top pot is where the espresso will collect as heat forces the water through the filter screen. All 3 parts working together to get you an amazing cup of coffee every time.
The Moka pot I use is the Bialetti Moka Express, but there are other options available and I run through some of them including the Moka Express in my review of the best stovetop espresso makers.
What do You Need for Perfect Stovetop Espresso?
Never used a stovetop coffee maker before? Don’t sweat it! I’m not going to throw a huge amount of information at you, because that’s probably not going to help. I’ll just run through the basics of how to make a stovetop espresso by actually showing you, with pictures, how the process of using a stovetop espresso maker works. Then you can do your own experiments, playing around with strength and recipe to get a tailored flavour and aroma that suits you.
To get started, we need to think about the water we’ll use. If your tap water tastes okay, go ahead and use that. Otherwise, you might want to consider using bottled water or get yourself a filter. A Brita pitcher is great for this, and you’ll find that if you filter before using water for anything you won’t get a buildup of lime scale again (your kettle would thank you if it could). Fresh, clean and filtered water in your moka pot will lead to a better tasting espresso.
Next, let’s make sure we get the grind of your coffee right. Espresso needs a very fine grind so that the water molecules can pass through the particles of coffee more efficiently, and that the coffee readily infuses with the water. This means that the grind your currently using for a filter coffee or a French press (cafetiere in France) might be too coarse. You’re looking for coffee particles to be around the size of a grain of salt. If grinding sounds like a chore, get yourself a preground coffee that is specially ground with espresso in mind.
How do You Make the Perfect Espresso?
A ‘perfect’ espresso doesn’t really exist, because everyone is different and everyone likes different things. Preference is always king, and you should never compromise on the taste and strength of your coffee. Start with using between 1 and 1 ½ tablespoons of your (remember, it must be fine) chosen ground coffee. This is a ‘double shot’, and is usually the standard for any cup of coffee you’ll get at a coffee shop. You can add more or add less later on if you prefer, but start with this amount to test your limits. Keep in mind that this measurement is for a 2 cup moka pot. If you’ve got a larger one, scale up the coffee (e.g. a 6 cup moka pot will need between 3 and 4 table spoons). The Bialetti Moka pot comes in sizes ranging from 1 cup right up to 9 cups. It’s also worth mentioning that 2 cups usually equate to a single serving, unless you are not planning to dilute.
Now, to get the right flavor, we need to think about temperature. The science behind making a good stovetop espresso tells us that the temperature of your water should be between 195 and 205 degrees F. Higher temperatures on this spectrum will give the coffee a more roasted flavour, lower temperatures will give the flavour a more invigorating, bright quality to it. Which is best? Again, preference is everything. Try both and see which you prefer! You can control the temp of your water by using a candy or infrared thermometer, but you’ll probably have to adjust the flame or heat intensity of your stove a few times as you go.
How Much Espresso Do You Get From Stovetop Coffee Makers?
If you’re used to a different method of making coffee, don’t expect as much liquid in your top pot when you’re finished. Espresso is a concentrated coffee, and is very strong. There is a reason why people refer to a cup of espresso as a ‘shot’. Depending on how much water your base pot holds and how big the grind basket of your middle screen is, you can expect anywhere from 2 to 3 ounces of espresso if you’re using a 2 cup stovetop espresso maker.
How To Use A Stovetop Espresso Maker
Right, let’s get down to business. Here I’ll break down each step of how to use a stovetop coffee maker, and you’ll find that it’s probably a lot easier than you might think. First, you’ll need to take your moka part apart, so that all 3 parts are separate. Then, follow these steps:
• Fill the bottom section of the pot with filtered or bottled water as far as the valve level.
• Place the finely ground coffee into the filter basket, and wipe away any grounds that might get on the edge.
• Place the filter basket on top of the bottom section of the Moka pot.
• Screw the top and bottom sections of the Moka pot back together.
• Set your burner to medium-low. Allow the burner to get hot before setting the Moka pot on top.
• Place the Moka pot on the burner.
Now, all that remains is for you to wait patiently for your delicious espresso to be ready. Allow the coffee to fully percolate through to the top pot. You’ll know when this happens as you’ll hear it stop bubbling; resist the urge to lift the lid and take a look as it will be very hot. If you have to for whatever reason, remove it from the stove completely and set it on a flat counter top (be careful not to burn your wooden counter). You can then lift the lid safely using a cold wet cloth. It should take around 5 minutes for the entire process to take place, but will take longer depending on the size of your stovetop coffee maker.
You can either drink the espresso straight, or dilute 2 shots with boiling water and add milk and sugar to taste for a long coffee.
That’s pretty much it! You see, it’s not difficult to make your own espresso at home using a stovetop espresso maker. Now you don’t have to visit your local coffee shop 3 or 4 times a day for your coffee treat, and I’ll bet you’ll be saving your cash too!
For more details on the stovetop coffee pot I use, check out the best stovetop espresso makers review