Help with stovetop espresso machine

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Renault78law, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. Renault78law

    Renault78law Senior member

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    I'm having trouble perfecting my espresso with my stainless steel stovetop espresso machine.

    As a preliminary matter, would you please confirm whether these contraptions are capable of making excellent espresso? I was under the impression that stovetop machines were among the best for an authentic espresso, the only drawback being ease of use/cleaning. However, I've been research this a little, and have read that real espresso cannot be made on the stovetop because it cannot create enough pressure. Which is it?

    One problem is that I get a lot of grounds in the cup. My beans are ground at the grocery store on the 'espresso' setting. It's pretty fine. In the cup, it collects at the bottom looking like sludge. If I get it ground any coarser, it won't be 'espresso'. Should I opt for a slightly coarser ground? Drawbacks?

    The biggest problem is that I get no crema. Overall, I think the espresso tastes pretty good. How important is crema, if at all. Is it just hype, or a necessary component of a proper espresso?
     


  2. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    First, it is supposed to be used with coarse grounds. I don't have much experience with it, though I have one, since I started cutting back on caffeine. But I remember it making a pretty good cup.
     


  3. Dmax

    Dmax Senior member

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    Unfortunately, it is impossible to get real espresso from a stovetop machine. You need a pump machine that is capable of producing the correct amount of pressure (around 15 bar).
    You can make a tasty cup of coffee in a stovetop but don't call it espresso.

    Real espresso machines start around $200 and I would recommend getting a burr grinder as well.

    Let me know if you would like more information.

    Dimitry (the coffee nazi).
     


  4. Renault78law

    Renault78law Senior member

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    Unfortunately, it is impossible to get real espresso from a stovetop machine. You need a pump machine that is capable of producing the correct amount of pressure (around 15 bar).
    You can make a tasty cup of coffee in a stovetop but don't call it espresso.

    Real espresso machines start around $200 and I would recommend getting a burr grinder as well.

    Let me know if you would like more information.

    Dimitry (the coffee nazi).

    Oh poo. I figured as much.

    Any tips on the size of the grounds? Comments on whether producing a crema is important and possible?
     


  5. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    Well, I'll wade briefly into these dangerous waters. I think Dimitry is basically correct. The stovetop machine doesn't generate enough pressure to compete with what you might be used to getting from a commercial machine. Still, I think I would take a Mocha Express stovetop over a cheap electric machine (such as the basic Krups or Braun) any day. I myself have used the venerable Bialetti Atomic stovetop machine nearly every day for the past 12 years and have been very satisfied. By some mysterious and improbable process it produces a very fine espresso invariably topped with a lovely crema. I like crema as much as the next guy, I suppose, even if it's often just a coffee geek way of ranking a cup. I have my coffee ground at Peets and ask them to use the setting just between espresso and turkish. What kind of machine are you using? The sludge seems like a clue that something isn't quite right.
    If you're really obsessive you might haunt your local Craig's List and see if you can snag a castoff commercial machine. A friend of mine got one for the price of picking it up--but then, of course, he had to call up a plumber to get a permanent line and an electrician to upgrade the outlet.
     


  6. Renault78law

    Renault78law Senior member

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    Well, I'll wade briefly into these dangerous waters. I think Dimitry is basically correct. The stovetop machine doesn't generate enough pressure to compete with what you might be used to getting from a commercial machine. Still, I think I would take a Mocha Express stovetop over a cheap electric machine (such as the basic Krups or Braun) any day. I myself have used the venerable Bialetti Atomic stovetop machine nearly every day for the past 12 years and have been very satisfied. By some mysterious and improbable process it produces a very fine espresso invariably topped with a lovely crema. I like crema as much as the next guy, I suppose, even if it's often just a coffee geek way of ranking a cup. I have my coffee ground at Peets and ask them to use the setting just between espresso and turkish. What kind of machine are you using? The sludge seems like a clue that something isn't quite right.
    If you're really obsessive you might haunt your local Craig's List and see if you can snag a castoff commercial machine. A friend of mine got one for the price of picking it up--but then, of course, he had to call up a plumber to get a permanent line and an electrician to upgrade the outlet.

    Ah hah, so it is possible to produce crema from a stovetop! I'm pissed, I sprung for the top of the line stainless steel version, I think it was $75. This is not right. Any tips? Once it starts gurgling, do you turn take it off the heat, or do you keep it on until all the water is gone?
    Is turkish more or less coarse than espresso? You don't get any grounds in yours?
     


  7. tattersall

    tattersall Senior member

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    Listen to pejsek and get yourself onto eBay to find an Atomic - mine is a Brevetti Robbiati and I've had it for three years. It's a gorgeous little appliance that can be tricky to get working properly, but once you get the grind, packing and pressure right, crema-topped espresso is there every morning!
     


  8. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    All I can claim is that I get a nice crema from my Atomic (made by Brevetti, not Bialetti as I suggested above). It's a great looking machine too. They're a little bit pricey these days, but still probably worth it. Here's a little info:

    http://www.wave.co.nz/~atomic/history.html

    Btw, I'm not one of the Atomic cultists, but it has served me very well.
     


  9. Vaclav

    Vaclav Senior member

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  10. tiger02

    tiger02 Militarist

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  11. Vaclav

    Vaclav Senior member

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  12. Dmax

    Dmax Senior member

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    If you get sludge in your cup it usually indicates that the beans were ground too finely. "Turkish grind" is the the finest grind on the common scale of coffee grind sizes. Going from coarsest to finest a rough grind guidline would look like this:

    French Press (aka plunger pot)
    Drip (metal filter)
    Drip (paper filter)
    Espresso
    Turkish (aka Greek, aka middle-eastern)

    Proper espresso preparation requires a great deal of control over your grind. If the grind is too thick the coffee will not present enough obstruction to the hot water pushed through it. The water will gush through you brew basket (portafilter) and fail to extract the aromatic oils and other coffee goodies.
    If the grind is too fine you will choke the machine and the water will not be able to pass through your grinds at all.

    If you want to get any kind of crema then freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee is very important. The presense of crema in the espresso shows that the coffee oils have been properly extracted and that the coffee used was relatively fresh.

    If you don't have your own quality grinder then always buying the same coffee and always having it ground the same way may offer enough consistency to get satisfactory results (even in a stovetop as pejsek was able to do).

    When I talked about real espresso machines I did not talk about Braun or Krups "steam toys". A real entry level pump machine would be something like Gaggia Espresso. It is perfectly capable of producing good espresso when paired with at least an entry level burr grinder.

    Dimitry
     


  13. blackgrass

    blackgrass Senior member

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    I have the stove top model and I use the same grind as I do for my French Press. Works just fine for me. I'm pretty sure you are supposed to use a coarser grind in the stove top moka pots.
     


  14. nightowl6261a

    nightowl6261a Senior member

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  15. Vaclav

    Vaclav Senior member

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    [​IMG]


    If thats espresso,why is it so much?
     


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