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Brewing Guide to Stove-top Espresso Makers

Brewing Guide to Stove-top Espresso Makers

Stove-top espresso makers (also referred to as espresso or moka pots) are a simple and affordable way to brew espresso style coffee at home or on your travels.

A stove-top uses steam pressure to brew a strong coffee with some of the characteristics of espresso, such as: added texture, viscosity and flavour. Therefore they make a great alternative if you don't want the expense of, or don't have the space for, a genuine espresso machine.

Brewing Method

1. Pre-heat the Cups: Pre-heat the cups by filling them with hot water.

Tip - Small volumes of liquid lose heat quickly. So to keep your espresso hot you should serve it in pre-heated cups.

2. Fill Water Tank: Fill the water tank with freshly drawn cold water to just below the level of the pressure safety valve.

Please note - that on some models, like the Bialetti Brikka and Bialetti Mukka Express, there is a line marked inside the water tank for the correct level of water. If unsure on how much water to add, please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tip - If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, it’s worth investing in a water filter such as a Britta jug. This is also important if you live in a hard water area, as hard water contains alkalines which can neutralise the acids that give coffee its bright and subtle flavours.

3. Add Coffee to Filter Funnel: Place the filter funnel on top of the water tank and fill with ground coffee until it’s level with the top of the filter basket. The coffee should be ground medium-fine (like demerara sugar) with the largest particles approximately 1mm in length.

Be careful when filling to ensuring that no coffee grounds get on the rim or screw thread of the water tank. Do not tamp (pack) the coffee as it needs room to expand during the brewing process.

Tip - A useful measure for the correct coarseness is the holes found in filter basket. The majority of the grounds should be larger in diameter than one of these holes.

Don’t use espresso grind. This is designed for espresso machines which work under much higher pressure.

4. Reassemble: Screw the upper part to the water tank as tightly as you can without using the handle for extra leverage.

5. Place on Heat: Put the stove-top espresso maker on a medium heat source. If using gas, make sure the flames do not exceed the base of the water tank. If using electric, make sure the handle isn’t directly over the hob.

It should take between 3-4 minutes from the moment you turn on the heat until the coffee starts pouring into the upper part.

Tips - If the coffee comes through quicker, try lowering the heat next time. If the coffee comes through slower, try raising the heat.

If you have an electric hob that takes a while to warm up, you made need to turn on the hob for a few minutes prior to putting the espresso maker on it.

Small stove-top espresso makers can be unstable on gas rings, as they are too small for the pan supports. This can easily be resolved by using a gas ring reducer.

6. Remove from Heat: As soon as the coffee starts pouring through at a steady flow, remove from the heat.

7. Serve Immediately: Once the flow of coffee has stopped, serve immediately. Don’t leave it in the pot, as it will continue to heat the coffee turning it bitter.

Tip - If you’re sharing the coffee, you may wish to stir it before serving. This is because the final few drops of coffee when brewing will be weaker than the first few drips.

diagram of how to brew coffee using a stove-top espresso maker


Problem Possible Solutions
Stove-top takes more than 4 minutes to brew or the coffee tastes bitter
  • Increase heat
  • Use coarser coffee grounds
Stove-top takes less than 3 minutes to brew or the coffee tastes weak
  • Lower heat
  • Use finer coffee grounds
Liquid or steam leaks from join between the water tank and upper part
  • Ensure parts are fastened tightly together
  • If the stove-top is new, or has new parts, has it been seasoned?
  • Ensure the stove-top is clean from any old grounds and completely dry before use
  • Reduce the amount of water added
  • Reduce the amount of coffee added and ensure its not tamped
  • Use coarser coffee grounds
  • If the pot is over a year old, the washer made need replacing

Cleaning Your Stove-top Espresso Maker

As soon as you’ve served the coffee, (whilst the pot is still assembled) rinse the upper part under the hot tap. This will prevent coffee staining the sides.

Once cooled, carefully disassemble the pot, remembering not to use the handle for extra leverage. Stove-tops made from aluminium should be washed with soapy water and must not be left to soak for prolonged periods (over 1 hour). Stove-tops made from stainless steel can usually be washed in the dishwasher.

Every 1-2 weeks (depending on usage) the washer and filter plate should be removed and cleaned. The washer can be prised out using a flat-head screwdriver or similar implement.