How does an electric espresso maker compare to a stovetop model?
We trialled the Leaf & Bean Electric Espresso Maker and compared it to the Pezzetti Bellexpress stovetop moka pot.
By Amy McNabb
Product test writer
An electric espresso maker is similar to a stovetop moka pot. But instead of placing the unit on a stove, an electric espresso maker comes with a kettle-like base that plugs into a wall socket.
We assessed the quality of brew produced, and how easy it is to use, clean and re-use for successive cups.
$122–$133 for the Leaf & Bean; $57–$62 for the Pezzetti Bellexpress (3-cup).
Taste and temperature
The Leaf & Bean is similar to a stovetop, making a brew of good flavour and strength. But the coffee isn’t quite as hot – 80oC for the Leaf & Bean brew vs 87oC for the Pezzetti stovetop brew. That might not matter if you like your coffee black or with hot milk, but it’s worth noting if you prefer a quick splash of cool milk.
The Leaf & Bean is similar to a stovetop model. Both take around 4 minutes to make a brew. But the Leaf & Bean takes some time to cool before you can brew again or pack it away (see ‘Ease of use’ below).
The Leaf & Bean is safe to use. The temperature is set automatically, and the unit switches off when done. While the button and indicator light remain on, the boiler’s internal switch clicks off. Care is required when handling as the boiler’s main body gets to 130oC and the jug to 71oC. But the handle stays cool to touch so you can pour your coffee safely.
Ease of use
It’s slightly easier to make your brew with the Leaf & Bean. Loading with water and coffee is the same as a stovetop, then you pop it on its electric base. But the Leaf & Bean has a transparent jug rather than just a window in the lid (as with many stovetop models), and the rate of heating is set automatically, removing some of the guesswork. Also, it turns itself off when done so doesn’t need as much supervision as a stovetop.
But it’s not as quick to make consecutive brews with the Leaf & Bean, or to clean and pack away. The boiler has an electrical connection to pair with the base, so it can’t be rapidly cooled with water like the underside of a stovetop unit. The jug can’t be unscrewed to cool the boiler with water from the inside, either. That’s because it’s too hot to touch right after brewing and the user manual says not to push the handle, which flexes under pressure (see ‘Construction’ below).
It takes about 10 minutes for the jug to cool sufficiently. This can be reduced by adding cold tap water to the jug and leaving for 5 minutes. Then the unit can be unscrewed (holding the jug body and the insulated bottom edge of the boiler) and cool water poured into the boiler to rapidly reduce the temperature. But care is required to avoid touching the scalding hot body of the boiler before then.
Once the Leaf & Bean has cooled, cleaning is easy – just give the internal areas a rinse and wipe out to dry. A stovetop unit is easier, since all surfaces are safe to get wet, while the Leaf & Bean’s boiler underside needs to stay dry given its electrical connection.
The Leaf & Bean’s user manual says not to use non-coffee products like cocoa powder and tea leaves, as they risk blocking its filter. But the filter appears identical to that of a stovetop moka pot, which can be used for those kinds of drinks. We think it’d cope fine.
However, you are limited to locations with mains power for the Leaf & Bean, while a stovetop coffee maker can be used anywhere when paired with a small hiking stove.
Size and weight
At 13x17x25cm and 899g, the Leaf & Bean is 2.3 times bigger and heavier than the Pezzetti Bellexpress. But that’s not likely to matter since you won’t be taking the Leaf & Bean hiking.
The Leaf & Bean is made from a mix of stainless steel, aluminium and Tritan (a BPA-free, impact-resistant plastic). Overall, the unit feels strong but not as robust as a full metal stovetop moka pot. The handle and jug are made of Tritan, which flexes under pressure, so there’s a risk of breaking if pushed to screw or unscrew the components.
Overall, we like the Leaf & Bean Electric Espresso Maker. It’s convenient, safe and easy to use. But there’s a delay before you can make another brew or pack it away; its use is limited to places with mains power; and it’s about twice the price of a stovetop moka pot.
We think the Leaf & Bean is best for travellers staying in accommodation with water and power but not always a kitchen, and who only want one small brew at a time.