Stovetop coffee makers often claim to make espresso. The coffee they make is not espresso, strictly speaking, but it is a sort of middle ground between regular coffee and espresso. Sometimes, this means that the stovetop is seen as a second choice, but the coffee you get is good enough in itself that it doesn’t need to pretend to be anything it’s not.
Stovetop machines are simple and ingenious pieces of equipment. They are cheap and really easy to use, all you have to do is add coffee and cold water, place the coffee maker on the stove and then remove it when your coffee is ready. It’s a simple and affordable, uncomplicated and hugely popular means of making coffee, stovetop coffee makers are household staples in Italy and other European countries that really care about their coffee.
What Makes An Espresso?
The problem with stovetop espresso (which isn’t a problem really, it’s just a poor description) is that it just isn’t true espresso. Why? Because mostly what makes espresso different from regular coffee is the high pressure brewing method used.
Stovetop coffee makers use pressure to brew, but they reach 1-1.5 bar of steam pressure compared to the 9+ bar that the genuine espresso machines generate. The pressure from a stovetop is not enough to extract the beans to the same degree and the cup contains less of the flavorful oils and crema and it is not so full-bodied as a result.
The crema is a characteristic of espresso that just can’t be gained from lower pressure brewing too, although there are people who swear they can brew in such a way to achieve it with manual machines, to get an authentic crema you need authentic espresso.
Is Stovetop Coffee Just Regular Coffee?
Yes and no. Stovetop isn’t espresso, but it contains many similar characteristics. It is a strong, short coffee which, for people who aren’t connoisseurs of espresso, is a perfectly good alternative. It can be made cheaply and easily, and it tastes great once you get the hang of it. Considering the alternative involves investing in a very expensive espresso machine, there is a lot to be said for the more basic stovetop as it makes a great compromise between manual coffee machines and the true espresso it is often marketed as.
The versatility of espresso is just the same for stovetop coffee, you can make lattes and cappuccinos by just adding warm milk, drink it as it is or dilute it to make a longer, less powerful cup of Americano. It’s always good to have options and both stovetop and true espresso can give you that.
So while stovetop espresso might not match the espresso machines in terms of flavor, the differences are not that much of a big deal to people who aren’t fussy. It’s a shame that the marketers of stovetop coffee makers seems to want to confuse people into thinking that stovetop coffee is a second-rate replica of espresso when in fact it’s a great brewing method in its own right.
We invite you to take a look at all of our stovetop “moka pots” on this page.