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Stovetop Espresso - Others - Neill Walker's Review
Posted: July 14, 2010, 11:50pm
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Stovetop Espresso - Other Models
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Arrow The Stovetop Espresso - Others has 21 Reviews
Arrow The Stovetop Espresso - Others has been rated 8.41 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
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Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Glenn R. Holmes 8.67
Peter Van de Reep 7.66
Aaron Cooper 7.66
Esben Brun 7.50
Mike Foster 7.42

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.8
Product Reviewed: Vespress 3-cup Stainless
Manufacturer: Vev Vigano Quality: 8
Average Price: Varies Usability: 7
Price Paid: $35.00 Cost vs. Value 7
Where Bought: Italian Centre Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 6 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Bialetti Kitty Oro 1-cup, Forever 6-cup
Bottom Line: A moka pot that gives Bialetti a run for the money with induction compatibility and a better upper-chamber design.
Positive Product Points

Excellent moka coffee; strong but not bitter, no metallic taste.
High quality stainless, stays shiny, always looks new.
Good clear instructions on use and care.
Easy to clean, can be washed with detergent if necessary (but you'll need to re-season it).
Induction compatible.
Upper chamber design has no crevices to get dirty, unlike Bialetti moka pots.

Negative Product Points

Requires seasoning (as all moka pots do).
Traditional rubber gasket -- why not use silicone?
Small base means some induction stoves won't detect it.
Leakage at the gasket until it's sufficiently broken in (about 5-10 cups).
Cleanup is a bit more involved than a drip machine (as with all moka pots); have to wait for it to cool.

Detailed Commentary

After much research I decided on the Vev Vigano Vespress, mostly because it is clearly made for induction. Like all moka pots it requires a quick clean (Vev recommends baking soda and water) and then seasoning before actual use (3 pots-- I used old beans).

The instructions are very clear - fill up to, but don't cover the pressure valve; fill the coffee basket with a medium to course grind level with the top, no tamping; make sure the threads, basket rim, and gasket is clear of grounds, and use a low flame or low to medium heat. If you're using an electric stove, put the pot on the very edge of the element with the handle hanging past the element, unless you want to melt it or burn your hand.

Stove temperature is very important: if you want a good tasting cup of coffee, this requires a nice slow heating time. It takes about 4 minutes on my stove at a medium heat for coffee to start trickling out, and about 6 minutes to complete. You should remove the moka pot from the heat as soon as you hear it gurgle, because the water is mostly gone and the pot will get hot rapidly, making your coffee bitter. It's a bit more forgiving than aluminum pots since stainless doesn't conduct heat as well, but not by much. My previous experience with moka pots was with Spanish and Italians making it for me... and it was awful, worse than awful, but at least they tried to hide the burnt, bitter taste of overheated coffee with copious amounts of cream and sugar. I would not have considered buying a moka put until I came to coffeegeek and saw that perhaps good coffee could come out of them. And if you're patient and follow the directions, you don't need cream and sugar to enjoy the coffee that comes out of the Vespress. It's really fantastic.

There are a lot of videos on the web-- and even people on the Coffeegeek forum-- that use high heat or fill their moka pots with boiling water. All I can say is they must have no taste buds. Water starts turning to vapor in small amounts long before it boils. As the vapor increases, so does the pressure. At the right temperature, you should get enough pressure built up to force hot, but not yet boiling water up through the grounds, producing a really nice cup at optimal temperature for extraction. Sure, high stove temperature will shorten brewing time, but you will most likely end up with boiling water going through the grounds, producing bitter coffee. Starting with boiling water means you risk burning your hand when trying to screw it together, and the water will return to boiling too fast, with no slow pressure buildup, meaning you are sending steam and boiling water through your coffee, resulting again in a bitter brew. Just like Italian cooking (or cooking of any kind, really), the good stuff takes time. If you can't spend 6 minutes waiting for delicious coffee, there's this crazy thing called "drive-thru" at a lot of places...

The Vespress has a simple looking, modern design and is well put together. At first I got a fair bit of leakage at the gasket, but after about 5 uses this disappeared. It seems these rubber gaskets take a bit of working in; they need to get moistened, softened, and coated with coffee oils to improve the seal. I have read that a very thin coat of mineral oil can also help at first, though I haven't tried it myself.  

The tube that empties into the upper chamber is capped, like all good quality moka pots, so you can operate it with the lid open. It's quite loud when it gurgles, which is good -- you don't need to keep an eye on it constantly to know when it's done. I have another moka pot by "Forever" that is nearly silent and easy to forget.

Proper sized gaskets are readily available if you need to replace yours, so Vev is a safer, easier choice than some of those cheap no-names you may come across. My only complaint is that the gasket is rubber, and will need to be replaced every year or two; recently silicone gaskets are appearing in some of the Chinese brands and they seem to be lower maintenance and have a higher resistance to temperatures (in case you forget to put the water in... and you will). Vev is one of the few who makes a  stainless, induction-ready moka pot, which is nice for me, although the 3-cup model is so small that it only works on the very smallest induction element on my stove, and is too small to activate my tabletop induction hotplate.

After 6 months of every-other-day use, a quick wipe with a towel brings the outside of the Vespress back to like-new condition. I have not used anything but cool water and a baby bottle brush to clean it. For heavier cleaning, Vev recommends only baking soda and water, and then only if it really needs it. Like any moka pot, it needs to be dried before putting it together to avoid mold growth and the slimies, although this is less of an issue with the stainless Vespress. One of the things I like best over other brands such as Bialetti is that the floor of the upper chamber is completely flat and flush with the side wall. Bialetti moka pots have a very narrow channel around the wall which is nearly impossible to rinse out completely, and too narrow to really get at with a brush.

I've used my Vespress to make Americanos, Macchiatos, and Lattes. Drinking it straight is delicious too. I've even used it for topping ice cream desserts! After I got it, my friends started inviting themselves over for coffee, and I had to invest in a 6-cup model (not Vev, this time) to deal with the number of guests!

Overall I am very happy. It's not espresso, of course, but moka coffee is very different than drip coffee, and it's really nice to have a flavor change once in a while. While I don't think you can go wrong with a Bialetti, they don't make an induction-compatible model. If you don't have an induction stove, then the main advantage to the Vev is the cleaner upper chamber design, although I think the flat bottom of the Vespress  is probably more efficient even on electric stoves.

Buying Experience

The staff were not knowledgeable at all, but luckily there are always some Europeans standing in front of the moka pot display case, so I could get a lot of advice from fellow customers. And they stock all sizes of gaskets, which is really nice.

Three Month Followup

My Vev is still going strong, and is as shiny as it was when I bought it. Although the price of this moka pot seemed high to me at first, it is very well constructed and will likely last me a lifetime (or more). It's been a good investment.

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Posted: July 14, 2010, 11:50pm
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