Basic Cooking: How to Make Espresso on the Stove
Now, I know that I’m treading on hallowed ground for some, discussing how to make espresso.
Like beer and good wine, espresso is one of those things that folks are very particular about. (Espresso afficionados out there, please be kind!)
I’m not an expert barista�or a super fussy coffee person�by a long shot. I’m just a girl who likes a strong cup of coffee. I drink my coffee and espresso black. And as long as I start with a quality ground espresso, I’m generally very happy.
This how I make espresso at home. (In fact, it’s how I made the espresso that went into my Gentlemen’s Brownies.)
It doesn’t yield quite the same brew that you get from a professional machine or coffeeshop, but this is the way that a lot of us know espresso: Made at home, by an aunt or a grandmother, on the stove, using what’s traditionally known as a moka pot.
The Moka Pot: What does it do and how do you use it?
This little guy is basically a stovetop percolator designed especially for espresso.
Simply fill the bottom with cold water, fill the filter with ground espresso, and set it on the stove to boil and bubble away. As the water heats, it’s forced up through the ground espresso in the filter, and into the empty pot above.
Stovetop espresso makers generally don’t make enough pressure to produce a thick, top layer of crema�that mocha-colored, foamy emulsion that you see at cafes. For homemade, that’s just fine with me. It’s still a mighty fine, strong cup of coffee.
One thing to note about this kind of pot. Depending on how hard your water is, this type of pot can develop a mineral buildup on the inside. Italian specialty stores sell little tablets meant specifically for getting that deposit off.
If you make your espresso differently, I’d love to what you do. (Do you only use spring water? What’s your favorite brand of espresso?)
Here’s my method.
A step-by-step guide to making espresso on the stove
Disassemble your pot. It’ll come in 3 pieces: the bottom chamber that holds the water (left), the filter basket that holds the ground espresso (center) and the top part which holds the brewed espresso (right).
Fill the bottom part with cold water.
Don’t fill it past the steam valve (that little round brass thingie):
Next, nestle the filter basket into its place on the bottom of the pot.
Fill the filter basket with ground espresso.
Fill it right to the top, then smooth the espresso down so it’s fairly level.
Set the top of the espresso pot on the body and screw it tightly into place.
Set the pot on the stove over high-ish heat. Because it’s a smaller pot, I turn the heat up high enough so that the gas flames cover the bottom of the pot, but don’t lick up the sides.
Keep the lid closed. (I opened mine a few times to snap these pics.) It will take a few minutes for your water to get hot enough to start brewing the espresso.
After a few minutes, the espresso will start to pour out of the center of the pot.
It will trickle out at first.
And then pick up in speed and volume.
When your pot is a little less than halfway brewed, it should be pretty much gushing.
Peek a little if you like, but do keep the lid closed as it brews. Once it gets going, the pot fills up very quickly and can spit, sputter and let off a fair amount of steam.
How to Make Espresso on the Stove: How do you know when the espresso is done?
Good question. Use your ears�then your eyes.
When the espresso is brewing, you’ll hear it bubbling and splashing about in the top of the pot. When those happy sounds taper off, lift the lid and take a peek. If the espresso has stopped pouring out of the center, your pot is done. It’s really that simple. Remove the pot from the heat immediately.
How to Make Espresso on the Stove: Serve and enjoy!
Now, what you do next depends entirely on how you want to serve your espresso. You can pour steamed milk into it for a cappuccino. You could add hot water to it for a cafe americano (one of my favorite things to do).
Or, you can serve it straight in demitasse cups.