If you love a good espresso but balk at the high price of those fancy espresso machines, you may be looking for an alternative.

In a straight up comparison: stovetop coffee maker vs espresso machine, which would win? Which is better? Can most people tell a difference? We’ll answer those questions just below.

What is a Stovetop Coffee Maker?


First things first, though, if you’re not familiar with what we’re talking about where stovetop coffee makers are concerned, consider something like the Moka Pot. These devices work by forcing steam through the brewing chamber, in order to increase the potency of the brew.

While it does generate a delightfully strong cup of coffee, it’s not, strictly speaking, espresso. The reason comes down to steam pressure.

To be an authentic espresso, you need about 15-bars of pressure. On a stovetop system, you’re going to get about one tenth that, or about 1.5-bar. Stronger than regular coffee? Absolutely, but espresso, it isn’t.

See, the thing that gives espresso its rich, full-bodied flavor is the pressure of the steam it is brewed. While stovetop models do a fairly good job at replicating the experience, you just can’t get the same kind of steam pressure you can on a dedicated machine.

This is not to say that it isn’t delicious. You’re going to love the flavor of a cup of coffee brewed in a Moka Pot or similar stovetop models. The pressure these devices are capable of generating may not be sufficient to please a true espresso aficionado.

However, for the vast majority of people, the difference in flavor isn’t so profound that most will be able to tell much of a difference. If you heat milk separately, you can, with a bit of experimentation, make most of the same coffee drinks. 

More About the Espresso Machine


Now, let’s talk about dedicated espresso machines for a moment. Their chief advantages are a stronger finished product, thanks to greater pressure, more automation, and more flexibility. Many (but not all) espresso machines can use either grounds or individually packaged coffee pods like K-cup pods.

These features, plus the speed with which you can get your coffee creation. In the eyes of true espresso lovers, the espresso machines is the clear favorite between the two. You may try an entry-level espresso machine like this one by De’Longhi.

Espresso Machine vs Stovetop Coffee Maker Comparison


We can’t really make a comparison like this “Apples to Apples” without talking at least a little bit about cost.

Most stovetop coffee makers won’t cost you more than thirty dollars. Meanwhile, an entry-level espresso machine is likely to cost somewhere around a hundred dollars.

If you’re on a budget, and looking for a way to replicate the espresso experience for as little cash as possible, then a stovetop coffee maker will serve you very well.

At this point, we should also say something about the brewing process. There’s something pure and decidedly old school about making a delicious cup of coffee on the stove.

Yes, it takes more time and is more hands-on. However, that also opens the door to a greater degree of individualism in the creation, and ultimately the flavor of the finished product.

In short, it gives the brewer a higher degree of control. In the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing, a Moka Pot can easily produce a more pleasing, better-tasting drink than a machine can, even with the espresso machine’s greater pressure.

Stovetop Coffee Maker vs Espresso Machine: Which is better?


At the end of the day then, it comes down to personal taste and preference. A stovetop coffee maker will appeal to two distinct groups of coffee fans. Those on a budget, and those who consider coffee creations to be more than just a drink, but individualized works of art.

Espresso fanatics, on the other hand, will find the coffee they get from stovetop coffee makers to be too weak to enjoy in the same way they enjoy their espresso.

While they may occasionally enjoy a cup brewed from a stovetop maker, they’ll probably wind up having both machines, rather than having to choose one over the other.

Where are you on this spectrum? In considering the head to head matchup, stovetop coffee machine vs espresso maker, do you prefer convenience, automation, and authentic espresso taste?

Or are you more inclined to sacrifice convenience and some intensity of flavor for the opportunity to control every aspect of the finished product you produce?

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