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Stovetop Espresso Machines, etc

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This might be a dumb question so sorry in advance. Can I use a stovetop espresso maker with a gas stove?

Also, what are some favorite AND affordable home espresso makers - stovetop or other? I'm looking for a decent one to get for my husband for fathers day.

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  1. First even though they are called stove top espresso makers they are not TRUE espresso makers. By definition espresso showed be brewed with ~ 9 bars of pressure. These stove top makers are also called moka pots. They brew a strong dark cup of coffee but do not have the heavy crema layer on top. Something true espresso has. I have several moka pots and I use mine on my gas rangetop. For some stoves a diffuser type ring may need to be used, not so much to diffuse but to allow a stable surface since the bottom of the small mokas may not fit securely on the cast iron grates of some gas stove tops. You should look at the coffeegeek.com web site for reviews on home espresso makers.

    1. I use my Moka pot (from amazon for about $17) on my gas range with no problems. My range has a pretty good "low" setting so the flame is fairly tame on its own.

      My suggestion is to stick with that as I've not found an "affordable" (which to me would be less than, say, $200) home espresso machine that turns out really good espresso. My sense is that it would take about twice that amount to get to really quality espresso at home. So, I stick with the moka pot, happily.

      1. Stovetop espresso makers, like the Bialetti, function very well on gas stoves although you might need a stabilizer ring with a small one. Remember that the cup measure is for very small cups so order accordingly. A 6-cup model makes 12 ounces. Sur La Table stocks them and a good mail order source is http://www.fantes.com/espresso_stovet...
        Remember that millions of Italians have used these at home for generations to make what they all call espresso. Put on your fireproof Nomex gear and be prepared for the flamethrowing of those who will tell you that only expensive electronic machines invented recently can make something that's been around for a very long time. That's like saying there's no music without an iPod.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MakingSense

          I always look for your responses because they always end up making sense.

          The OP might want to look at the Aeropress. There have been a couple of threads. Here's a recent one.
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37639...

        2. Be careful! I had a Bialetti. One of the ones which make "capuccinno." One day I was using it, following the instructions in the same way I had done dozens of times before. All of a sudden it was raining coffee in my kitchen. The thing "blew!" It was like a geyser. A powerful jet of coffee shot straight up and hit the ceiling! I'm still not sure what went wrong, but I was so spooked I just trashed it. BTW, I was using it on a gas stove, but I don't think that is related to what happened.

          1. Thanks.
            I should say that this is for my husband only (and guests, I suppose) because I sadly can no longer drink coffee.
            His not-so-old Krups coffee maker just died a few days ago so I'd like to surprise him with an espresso maker, since he'd much rather drink espresso than coffee. Sure, I'd love to get a fancy schmancy one but that's not financially doable so I'll settle for the kind without the heavy crema layer. I think my husband will be ok with that.
            I do have to say I'd like to stay away from aluminum and it seems as though most of the Mokas are aluminum. Has anyone used a stainless steel one?

            Thanks for the tip about the trivet. I'll keep that in mind.

            Are there any coffee/espresso machine combos that are decent or are they all overpriced and not that great?

            I tried to check out coffeegeek but got dizzy from their site. Yikes!

            Makingsense - I like your analogy. :)
            I'll try to stay safe over here.

            1. >> Remember that millions of Italians have used these at home for generations to make what they all call espresso.

              Well said!

              BUT, if you're going to get an espresso machine that makes the Holy Grail of crema it will cost you some bucks. I think a certain amount of dizziness is to be expected when browsing some of the espresso sites, which border on the fanatical. You might want to check out www.1st-line.com or www.wholelattelove.com for a good sampling of quality machines that would serve you well.

              FWIW, the instructions that came with my moka pots state that when used on a gas stove, the flames should not be coming up over the bottom and onto the sides.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jimmy Buffet

                Yes the handle can heat up very quickly if the heat is coming up around the base. Be careful these little pots can get very hot.

              2. I always see a lot of moka pots at Marshall's/TJX type stores pretty cheap. Just make sure you pay cash :-)

                I've never seen a standalone espresso machine for what I would consider a sensible price....that's not to say they aren't worth it, just not worth it to me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jzerocsk

                  Marshalls is now selling some porcelain ones - I can't recall the brand.

                2. Gas stoves are no problem, but keep the flame low/medium for safety.

                  I like the Bialetti Brikka (uses a weight to build up a little more pressure before brewing, which results in a decent crema) but its quite a bit more expensive than your standard aluminum stovetop model ($50 instead of $20):
                  http://www.bialettishop.com/BrikkaMai...

                  Bialetti has a lot of stainless steel ones, too.
                  http://www.bialettishop.com/EspressoM...

                  1. Go ahead and call it a stovetop espresso maker and don't worry about the "but
                    what about the crema??!" crowd :). They make perfectly great tasting coffee. One
                    extra accessory to consider is a little pot to heat milk in. Start the milk heating at
                    the same time you fire up the coffee, mix about half and half when the coffee
                    is ready and as MakingSense points out above, you join a centuries-old tradition.

                    Nifty-looking stainless pots start at about 3x the price of the aluminum ones and
                    function identically.

                    But to answer your actual question: The main danger of using on a gas stove
                    is melting the handle. You need to position it so the handle is away from the
                    flame. Not a problem, but otherwise you'll end up with one that looks like mine.

                    For sizing, the smallest "one cup" size is way too small. I've got a couple of
                    the next size up and they're perfect for 1 or 2. The six cup level is way too
                    big and my experiments with making a smaller-than-capacity load were a
                    complete failure.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      >> my experiments with making a smaller-than-capacity load were a
                      complete failure.<<

                      Some places (I think www,fantes.com) sell these little reducer gizmos that allow brewing less than the stated capacity. I've never tried them, though...