Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Coffee Maker review: the classic percolator gives sublime results

The coffee percolator is back and better than ever in the shape of the Bialetti Moka Express.

Bialetti Moka Express
(Image credit: Bialetti)
T3 Verdict

The brilliant simplicity of the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker makes you realise just how good coffee can be when it’s brewed in a percolator. This is an old-school design, but it’s been nicely updated and the use of modern materials mixed with conventional brewing ingenuity means it’s pretty quick and certainly easy to enjoy a quality brew or two. Cool beans!

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Awesome coffee

  • +

    Classic design

  • +

    Cheap to use

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not dishwasher proof

  • -

    Needs an adaptor for induction hobs

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Here’s our Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker review in a sentence: enjoy classic percolated coffee from this Italian stovetop brewing brand.

Much as I like the convenience of today’s many and varied best coffee machine models there’s nothing quite like the coffee you get from the best percolators. These curious little pots that sit on top of a hob or stove – unless you plump for a fangled electric model that is - are fantastic at producing freshly brewed coffee. Granted, most are only able to produce relatively small amounts and do it rather slower than an pod coffee machine. Nevertheless, the taste is invariably waaay better.

Why’s that? Well, the brewing process is more restrained, takes a little more time and, as a result, what comes pouring out of the spout is a little more refined. It’s tasty with a capital T. 

Better yet, buy yourself a coffee percolator and you won't have any pod or capsule nonsense to contend with. You’ll be able to rather smugly enjoy fresh coffee, brewed from loose ground coffee, with next to no waste save for the spent coffee grounds post-brewtime. And, you’ll feel even more contented after enjoying the rich, packed-with-flavour coffee that somehow tastes better than most machine-produced cups of caffeine.

Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker: price and availability

I’ve been living with the four-cup model of the Bialetti Moka Express Aluminium Stovetop Coffee Maker, which is a firm favourite with coffee fans on Amazon and has sold in the thousands. It’s a snip at just £21.25 in the UK. You can get models that serve more coffee, but this is usually reflected in the price, although the six cup Bialetti Moka Express Caffettiera is currently on offer and cheaper than its RRP of £39.99. 

Similarly, you can get a dinky one-cup edition from Amazon in the US for a healthy discount off the list price of $43.99 and there are plenty of variations on the theme there too. 

Amazon Australia follows suit, with a six-cup model costing $58.00 AUD and, again, there are plenty of other models to choose from too.

Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker review: design

Bialetti Moka Express

(Image credit: Bialetti)

The Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker is a great example of how keeping things simple, stylish and classic can result in a product that just oozes appeal. Alfonso Bialetti had obviously been drinking the right brew when he came up with the original design way back in 1933 and, to be honest, it’s remained virtually unchanged ever since.

Of course, the design has been carefully honed over the years and now the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker really looks the business with its angular aluminium lines and black plastic flourishes in the shape of the handle and small knob on the top of the unit. The units are still made in Italy and these days come complete with a funky little logo on the outside along with a caricature of Bialetti himself.

The design is pretty simple too, with a top half and a bottom half, with the lower portion action as home for the water and the upper bit accommodating your ground coffee of choice. The great thing about the design is that there’s very little to wear out or go wrong, although we have heard of seals failing but so far my unit has been perfectly fine. 

People voice reservations about cleaning percolators like this, but the secret is to stay on top of flushing it out. Don't leave coffee in there for days on end in other words, that seems to work for me at least, although you will naturally get some staining, but that merely adds to the flavour I think.

Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker review: features

Bialetti Moka Express

(Image credit: Bialetti)

The thing about coffee makers, percolators, call them what you will that are created like the Bialetti Moka Express is that they’re brilliantly simple. The design has remained relatively unchanged forever. That means you’ve got very little in the way of features to discover, although it’s worth spending a little bit of time picking over your new gadget to check you know how and why it works.

There are essentially two halves, the upper and lower sections, which contains the water in the bottom and the coffee in the top. As the water is heated on a stovetop or hob the hot water rises and subsequently drips, or filters, down over the fresh coffee. This is why the end result generally tastes so good, as it’s not an instant experience. The Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker is actually quite nippy once it gets into its stride, but using one takes a very different route to most coffee machines.

Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker review: performance

Bialetti Moka Express

(Image credit: Bialetti)

I’ve spent some quality time using the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker and it’s a great little unit that performs as expected. You just know from the heritage of this brand that it’ll get the job done and it doesn’t disappoint. My model is the four cup one, so the amounts it brews aren’t huge, but they are good. However, you can get coffee percolators that produce more, or less, depending on how much fresh coffee you need at any given time.

On average I can get around 200 millilitres of water into the base and this turns out about 150 millilitres of coffee. What it produces, however, is hot and strong. The taste is also a real treat. You can’t get a lot of loose coffee into the unit, less than 20 grams seems to be about it in my example, and you’ll need to practice a little bit to get the coffee-making procedure nailed down tightly. Expect a few spills along the way. The same goes for heating it on your hob or stovetop, but practice allows you to get the knack of this easily enough. 

I certainly can’t really fault the performance of the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker as it does everything that’s expected of it. The only slight issue I’ve had is getting rid of old coffee from the unit and cleaning has the potential to be something of a chore over time. I guess if you plump for the larger models the cleaning process must get easier. Conversely, pick a little two-cup number and it’s probably a bit of a faff. That's a minor detail though as it's a win, win on the taste front.

Please note that this is such a vintage design classic that it's not compatible with induction hobs. To use one on your modern hob, you'll need an induction base adaptor However, since this is simply a disc of metal – sometimes with a handle – that heats up, it's not a complicated or expensive upgrade.

Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker review: verdict

Bialetti Moka Express

(Image credit: Bialetti)

If you’ve never experienced coffee from a percolator such as the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker then it’s well worth getting one just for the taste. The old-school brewing vibe actually makes it more of an experience than putting a pod or capsule in an automatic machine. What’s more, there’s the quality of the coffee and you can specify which one you want to put in depending on personal taste. Illy or Lavazza are two example brands I've tried.

Sure, there’s a little bit of effort involved, but the results are much more impressive than many coffee machines, even those that rate themselves as ‘best in class’ models. Considering how little the Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker costs it’s a bit of a bargain to be honest, and even if you only dig it out for occasional use I think it’s well worth the money.

In fact, once you’ve discovered its charms you may well find yourself using a percolator instead of your Nespresso machine or whatever other coffee-making gadget you have in your kitchen. It's that good.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.