In this review you will learn why I rate the Alessi 9090 and Vev Vigano Kontessa as the top Italian stovetop stainless steel espresso makers. I’ve also included a video for you illustrating how the Alessi works due to its unique and creative design.
When I was in Italy, I learned about making espresso on a stove. I had never heard of a stovetop espresso maker before and what a shame really.
They are extremely popular all over Europe and are now catching on more so in the U.S. These espresso makers have been around for many years – actually many decades.
Although I currently own and brag about the Alessi 9090 Stovetop Espresso Maker I am also including the Vev Vigano Kontessa as a second Italian alternative worth mentioning.
In this review, you will learn:
- If they are made in Italy
- What they are made of and how sturdy they are
- What sizes they come in
- If they are dishwasher safe
- Any important factors to keep in mind
- Where you can purchase them
Are they made in Italy?
Yes! The Alessi 9090’s are made in Crusinallo, Italy by an Italian company named Alessi which has been around since the 1920’s. For those familiar with Italian designs – you probably have heard of them.
Their focus is to design high quality products which can be used decoratively in the kitchen. The Alessi 9090 is a perfect example. Made with 100% mirror polished stainless steel from top to bottom – it is absolutely stunning.
Alessi is considered one of the most important “Factories of Italian Design”. Their reputation goes beyond espresso makers and reaches into other products giving themselves a reputation for high quality and sophisticated items.
I was impressed to learn they employ over 500 workers, and use top designers from around the world to craft quality products which are trendy, aesthetically pleasing and completely functional at the same time. This is their trademark.
Vev Vigano is also an Italian company located in Briosco, Italy, – in the center of Brianza. The company has been around for decades and are most known for their Kontessa stovetop espresso makers and Pento-Nett saucepans.
Vev Vigano like Alessi, puts a high emphasis on quality – hence the stainless steel construction and attention to aesthetics.
They too use designers to pour out their creativity into the designs of their espresso makers and other products for us to enjoy. You can purchase the 9090 easily online at Amazon.
Design and Elegance
Both the Alessi and Kontessa are elegant in design with their stainless steel construction and decorative handles. Similar to a tea pot, they are meant to be attractive for serving as well as for decorative purposes.
Alessi 9090: For starters, it has a gorgeous elegant design which is suitable for kitchen decoration. It uses 100% mirror polished stainless steel which does not lose it’s shine.
The 9090 has even earned its inclusion in the Permanent Design Collection display at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York City, as well as winning the Compasso d’Oro Award in 1979.
In regards to functionality, they use a locking mechanism to attach the top to the bottom. Other makers screw the parts together. The base is wide and heavy which makes it suitable for use on gas stoves without fear of it falling through.
Vev Vigano Kontessa: This model (shown below) is made of stainless steel 18/10 gauge. Which means it is sturdy. In accordance with the more traditional espresso maker design, the top and bottom screw together.
The handle is gold in color adding a very sophisticated look. Other Kontessa styles have either silver handles or black. You can see the various styles at Amazon, which has great shipping.
The Kontessa can be used on gas, electric and even induction cooktops. The Alessi can work on induction as well, however you need to make sure the one you are purchasing states it. Mine does not appear to be induction ready.
Are these stainless steel stovetop espresso makers sturdy?
Both the 9090 and Kontessa are sturdy products. However, from using the 9090, I was surprised at exactly how sturdy it is. I know this espresso maker will last for a very long time!
It is solidly built from top to bottom, inside and out. There isn’t one cheap part in it that I could find. Once you hold it in your hands I’m sure you will agree 100%.
Does the 9090 have a copper handle?
Yes. At first I was puzzled by this, until I did some research. Let me share with you why this handle is so unique.
- Good Conductor of Heat. Copper is a great conductor of heat and reacts quickly to temperature changes – meaning it will cool quickly. When I tested this product I placed the handle directly over the small burner (glass stove top), and could easily grasp the handle without any issues.On a large burner where the heat was more intense, it was too hot to grasp. However, there would be no need to ever use this over a large burner anyway.
- Locking Mechanism. The handle has a locking mechanism which locks the top and bottom pieces together when assembled. There is no screwing of the pieces together which is the more common design among other styles on the market. This locking mechanism rates as one of the best features when it comes to ease of use and functionality.One note: Although this is an excellent feature, it does take a good tug to pull the handle out of the locking position. Make sure to hold the top part of the espresso maker with one hand while you pull the handle, otherwise it can go sliding on you – especially on a wet surface.I found once I understood how to grasp it in order to easily unlock the handle, it was very simple. I can see why this never leaks – it is very solid.
- Protects Your Hand From Steam. In the photo above on the left, you will see that you can lift back the lid with the latch at the top of the handle. This allows you to open the lid and peer in without having to grab a knob which is generally placed in the center portion of the lid.
- Why is this important? Because that top compartment holds very hot steam which shoots straight up when you open the lid. Yes, I’m speaking from painful experience. By using the lever off to the side, your hand does not come in contact with the steam. However, you can avoid this by using a pot holder if you choose to get a maker which has the handle on the top.According to the manual, you actually want to keep the lid open while brewing. This is because the steam that accumulates while the lid is closed can dilute the espresso.
What size should you get?
In general 1 cup size = 2.5 oz serving of espresso (a single shot) and a 3 cup size = 5 oz serving of espresso.
The Vev Vigano Kontessa also has many options and are available in 4, 6, and 12 cup sizes.
Why is stainless steel better than aluminum?
I have a few reasons for this actually. The main reason is that the cheaper quality of aluminum will corrode and pit over time. I think I replaced mine 3 times before I realized they were offered in stainless steel.
In addition, there are many reports claiming aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s. I for one, tend to play it safe and prefer stainless steel.
Is it dishwasher safe?
Yes! These are dishwasher safe which is great for those like me who don’t want to take the time to clean items by hand, or are always in a rush.
As with nearly every other espresso maker made for the stove, the top and bottom parts screw together. However, Richard Sapper, the original designer of the Alessi 9090, used the handle as a locking mechanism to lock the top and bottom segments together.
As mentioned above, the locking mechanism creates a very tight seal and requires a good pull in order to unlock the two pieces. It also needs a good push to lock the two together. After a few times of just getting familiar with the handle, I became very fond of the feature.
Both the Alessi and Kontessa have wide bases. For those who use a gas stove you will understand the importance. The wider base allows it to easily fit on top of the grates surrounding the flame. If the espresso maker is too narrow – it may be prone to tip and not sit firmly over the flame (as happened to my sister).
How much should you expect to pay?
Stovetop espresso makers come in a variety of price ranges. If you want the cheapest ones around go with the aluminum ones (the famous Bialetti Moka Express for example).
However for those who are interested in stainless steel stovetop espresso makers – which is what I recommend, you will usually pay a little more.
I’ve owned a number of espresso makers and in my experience you get what you pay for. I paid a good penny for my Alessi, but I know it will last for many years and save me a lot of money by having espresso at home rather than from a cafe.
Where to Buy?
On Amazon, espresso makers can range anywhere from the low 20’s on up around $200 and I suggest you check out the many reviews there. I’ve included a few links throughout this review, plus some below to help you get to the right place.