Before this "moka pot" espresso maker, I've owned (and returned) a string of the <$150 countertop steam-pressure/pump espresso machines, only the first of which actually worked... until the pump finally gave out. All subsequent makes and models failed to seal properly around the basket. So, as an alternative replacement, I bought this Cuisinox stovetop espresso maker about 3 weeks ago, and have been SUPREMELY pleased with it. I sprang for this all-stainless model because of concerns over aluminum oxide exposure from brewing coffee (an acidic liquid) in an aluminum vessel like the original Bialetti models. Also, a friend's Bialetti had trouble sealing after repeated use, as the soft aluminum threads malformed over time. Double advantage with a stainless model.
Although it is pricey, it appears to be VERY well made. The stainless steel is thick and heavy, the silicone gasket seals perfectly, and the extra replacement one included in the box is an added bonus. I have yet to use the 3-cup adapter, and probably never will.
Please note: the 6-cup capacity indicates *espresso* cup sizes, or "shots" which are roughly 1 - 1.5 oz each. This is plenty of espresso for 2 standard-strength lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, etc. ...or 1 stout one, which is how I take mine. If you need to make more than that at once, Cuisinox also makes a 10-cup size worth considering.
The instructions indicate (as others have mentioned) not to screw the top and base together while holding it by the handle, as the torque could loosen it from the pot, despite the fact that it appears to be welded on quite sturdily. I have no problem twisting it together or apart: for grip, just place one thumb against the pour spout on top and the other thumb against the pressure relief valve (in the opposite direction, obviously) on bottom.
I find it makes the BEST espresso with lots of "crema" if I grind fresh whole beans very, very fine, then *gently* tamp them into the basket with the back of a spoon. (If they're not somewhat packed, you won't get the luxurious crema; but over-packing will cause too much resistance, and the steam pressure will be forced out the safety pressure-relief-valve, and not up through the coffee grounds.) I haven't seen the need to invest in a burr grinder yet - I use a simple blade grinder to get the grind as fine as I possibly can, to an almost powdery consistency that compacts easily.
Be sure to keep your burner on a medium or medium-low setting for 2 reasons: 1) so as to avoid boiling the already-made espresso in the the upper chamber as the pot is continuing to work, and 2) to keep the handle cool enough to lift the pot and pour. Doing this, I've never encountered the handle becoming too hot to touch, as others have mentioned.
Another advantage this pot has over steam-pump espresso machines is the ease of cleaning. Every serving of espresso is fresh and delicious, because every part is easily accessible to thoroughly clean. That's not the case with the reservoirs in pump-machines, which acquire a stale spent-coffee-grounds smell rather quickly.
The ONLY downside to this gadget is the need to let it cool before disassembling. If I'm in a hurry to make a second pot for guests, I simply place it on a potholder in front of a fan to quickly air cool it. Some have suggested placing it in cold water, but I would advise against this, as the thermal stress could potentially damage the welds, the pressure relief valve, or warp the threads where it screws together.
If I had to make this purchase again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It's unquestionably worth every penny. 5 stars for functionality, 5 for style & appearance, and 5 for the AMAZING coffee it produces every time.
I've had this Cuisinox Moka Pot for almost 2 years now, and I'm coming back to re-review because I'm considering also getting the 10-cup size for when I have houseguests. I still haven't had to use the included replacement gasket, I've given it daily use, outdoor campstove abuse, and it still makes amazing espresso. It works fantastically on all the electric, gas, and induction surfaces i've had it on, although each heat source heats it & produces espresso at a different rate.
The reviews I've seen about it making watery/bad tasting brew or leaking coffee appear to me to be from improper use, so I've also included the follow tips which would apply for any moka pot espresso maker.
Tips for awesome results:
--Don't fill the water reservoir above the brass safety pressure-relief-valve.
--Just like ANY espresso maker, wipe the excess coffee grounds from around the grounds-basket-lip (where it comes into contact with the gasket) to get a perfect seal so it won't leak.
--Leave the lid open while it brews so you can watch it brew; when the crema forms and covers the espresso, it's done. The oily-black liquid should gently roll down the spigot sides until the pot fills and the crema gathers like sea foam. If you walk away and hear it begin quickly coughing air/steam up through the tube/spigot: it's slightly over-done, and the crema will then break up and dissipate. At this point, the espresso's still OK, but will seem more watery and bitter, and not as perfect as this gadget was meant to achieve.
--Use fine-ground coffee (espresso grind) or you'll have watery coffee.
--clean it regularly (it's a cooking utensil, duh!)