Published January 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Before we found a winner, we had to learn how to master the subtle techniques that make these small, inexpensive coffee makers worth purchasing.
Often referred to as poor-man’s espresso machines, Italian moka pots are small, inexpensive (under $100) coffee makers that use steam pressure to force hot water from a bottom chamber up through coffee grounds. That pressure isn’t high enough for true espresso extraction, but the coffee they make is stronger and more complex than anything brewed in a drip machine.
Of the eight pots we tested—three traditional 3-cup stovetop designs and five electric models with capacities twice as large—the electric mokas were universally disappointing, as they failed to deliver enough power and produced flat, characterless coffee. Conversely, two out of three of the stovetop devices, including our favorite, brewed rich, full-bodied coffee—once we mastered subtle techniques like gently tamping the grinds and immediately removing the pot from the heat.