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Ultimate Guide to Moka Pot Coffee

Moka Pot Sat on a stovetop

Here is your ultimate guide to Moka pot coffee, providing a one stop shop to ‘stove top espresso’. The iconic, stovetop Moka pot brews coffee by forcing hot water pressurised steam through ground coffee beans to quickly produce a concentrated brew. This complete guide covers everything from selecting beans to troubleshooting issues to serving up delicious Moka pot coffee.

What is a Moka Pot?

A moka pot is a small coffee brewing device that sits on a stovetop and uses the heat to push pressurised, boiling water through ground coffee. This results in a strong, espresso-like coffee from this inexpensive device. 

Multiple chambers are used to separate the hot water at the bottom, the coffee basket in the middle, and the coffee collection chamber at the top. 

The Moka pot is often referred to as a stovetop espresso maker. 

It is an iconic Italian invention designed to brew coffee by passing boiling water pressurised by steam through finely ground coffee. 

The Moka Pot uses heat to push pressurised, boiling water through ground coffee. This results in a strong, espresso-like coffee from this inexpensive device. Multiple chambers are used to separate the hot water at the bottom, the coffee basket in the middle, and the coffee collection chamber at the top. 

The potent brew lies somewhere between espresso and drip coffee, boasting a robust flavour profile, full bodied mouthfeel and a velvety texture.

Water is added to the bottom chamber of the Moka pot, with fine to medium ground coffee placed in the filter basket which sits on top. Then, the coffee collection chamber is screwed on tightly and the whole thing is placed over a hot stovetop. 

The stove heats the bottom of the Moka pot (made from aluminium) which then further boils the hot water above. This generates steam which, as the water boils over, rapidly evaporates through the coffee grounds and pushes hot coffee up through the central spout of the coffee collection chamber. 

For more information on how to use a Moka Pot the right way, check out this post from Batch Brew, How to Use a Moka Pot Stovetop Coffee Maker.

History and Origin of the Moka Pot

Invented in Italy in the 1930s, the Moka pot is a stovetop coffee machine made from aluminium or stainless steel. It has three main chambers. The bottom chamber holds boiling water which converts to pressurised steam. In the middle chamber sits the ground coffee in a filter basket. As hot steam rises through the grounds, it extracts flavours and aromas into the topmost chamber holding freshly brewed concentrate.

According to the Moka pot Wikipedia page, the device was first invented in 1933 by Italian designer Alfonso Bialetti, of Bialetti Industries. It then became a staple in Italian kitchens and soon spread throughout Europe. 

European migrants (who had been displaced due to the second world war), brought their Moka pots to parts of South America and Australia, further spreading the usage of the device. 

You may be wondering where the Moka pot gets its name… 

Well, the Moka pot was named after the city of Mocha, in Yemen. Mocha has a rich history of being one of the original coffee trading ports and even drinks like the mocha are thought to also be named after the coastal city. 

Best Coffee Beans for Moka Pot

To pick the best coffee beans for your Moka pot, you’ll want to play to the strength of the brewing method. Moka pots make strong coffee quickly thanks to the build up of pressure and hot water, so picking coffee beans that compliment this method is key to getting the best out of your stovetop brewer. 

Your Moka pot technique could be the best in the world, but if you aren’t using the right coffee beans, you’ve got no chance of making a great cup of joe! 

Roast

The roast of coffee used in your Moka pot will play a major role in the development of flavour, taste and bitterness. 

Let’s not forget, Moka pots produce pretty strong tasting coffee, so using an extremely dark roasted, bitter tasting coffee bean could make the whole drinking experience a bit overwhelming. 

That being said, light roasted coffee beans tend to be more acidic and retain a lot more of their natural, underlying flavour notes. Therefore, using light roasts with a Moka pot that brews coffee through pressurised steam, may result in the delicate flavours being overpowered and lost. 

As a result, I would recommend using medium roasted coffee for Moka pot brewing. It tends to strike the balance between that classic earthy, nutty coffee taste, whilst not being too intense or bitter. 

Freshness

Using freshly roasted coffee beans is one of the biggest upgrades you can make to your daily brew. If you’ve never tried coffee beans that have been roasted within the last month and only ever bought them from the supermarket, you’re missing out! 

If you go to a local specialty coffee shop, coffee roastery or even order direct from coffee subscription services online, you’ll be able to get much fresher coffee beans than you’ll find in the supermarket. 

Origin

If you are an avid Moka pot brewer, you’ll want coffee beans that are low in acid, but also have a nutty and almost bittersweet flavour to them. This is because the Moka pot works well with full bodied beans, and those that combine subtle sweetness with intense smokiness. 

With this in mind, here are a few origins to consider when picking the best coffee beans for your Moka pot: 

  • Nicaragua: Sweet and Creamy
  • Peru: Subtle Sweetness
  • Columbia: Intense, Nutty, Chocolate flavours. 
  • Brazil: Low Acidity and Chocolate flavours
  • Jamaica: Full Bodied with Balanced flavours
  • Sumatra: Full Bodied, Syrup and Chocolate flavours. 

For more information about coffee origins from around the world, check out this article by Maxine Builder and Lauren Kolm on Extra Crispy from February 2018 “A Beginner’s Guide to Coffee flavour Profiles of the World”. 

Flavours

To get the most out of your Moka pot, the key is to go for coffee beans that combine bitterness and sweetness in the same batch of beans. If the words, nutty, chocolaty, syrup, caramel, smooth, rich or clean are used, this is a good sign. 

However, you should avoid characteristics like floral, citrus, acidic or wine unless you want a very sour and bitter tasting cup of coffee. 

Grind

The grind size used in your Moka pot plays a major role in ensuring you achieve the correct level of extraction. Because a Moka pot uses highly pressurised, boiling water to force steam through ground coffee, you’ll want to use a relatively fine grind. 

Well, something between an espresso and pour over grind (medium to fine). 

If you are going to use pre-ground coffee beans, then make sure they are specifically designed for Moka pot brewing as the size requirements are quite specific. 

If you have more questions about the perfect grind size for Moka pot, check out my article on the subject here. 

How To Use a Moka Pot Step-By-Step

Here’s a step by step guide to help you get the most out of your Moka pot. 

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Moka Pot
  • Coffee Mug
  • Knife
  • Finely ground coffee
  • Tea Towel
  • Kettle.

 

Step 1: Grind Your Coffee Beans

I recommend using a medium to fine grind for Moka pot coffee, which sits somewhere between an espresso grind and a pour over grind. 

This will ensure you have a fine enough grind to achieve full extraction, but not too fine that you risk over extraction and bitterness in your brew. 

In terms of the quantity of coffee needed, you need to pretty much fill up your moka pot basket. A rough rule of thumb is 20g/0.7 Oz per cup of coffee brewed. 

In terms of the coffee beans you should use in a Moka pot, I’d recommend a medium or dark roast. The Moka pot forces hot water up through the ground coffee and exemplifies smoky, nutty and umami flavours. 

Check out my article for an in depth review of grinding coffee for your Moka pot.

Step 2: Prepare Your Moka Pot

Next, disassemble your Moka pot. 

To do this, simply unscrew the top half (coffee collection chamber) from the bottom half (water chamber and coffee filter basket). 

Take out your coffee filter basket and set it to one side. 

Step 3: Pour Hot Water into the Bottom Chamber of Your Moka Pot

Once your kettle has boiled, simply pour the hot water into the water chamber of your Moka pot just below the pressure release valve. Remember, it is important to have a tea towel or oven glove to hand now, as the base of your Moka pot will now be very hot! 

Step 4: Add Coffee Filter Basket and Ground Coffee

Fill up the filter basket with coffee and try to get as even of a surface as possible. There is no need to tamp the bed of coffee (in fact doing so could actually create too much pressure build up). 

However, if you have a coffee distribution tool, you could use this to get rid of any major clumps in the coffee bed and increase the likelihood of an even extraction. 

Use your knife to level off the ground coffee in the filter basket, so you have a nice even surface. This will help you make your coffee extraction more consistent. 

Step 5: Screw on the Coffee Collection Chamber

Once your coffee is nicely distributed in the filter basket, hold the base water chamber of your Moka pot tightly with a teatowel (so as not to burn your fingers) and screw on the top half of the pot. 

You’ll want to ensure it is screwed on pretty tightly so no coffee escapes out the side of the Moka pot! 

Step 6: Place Moka Pot on Stovetop

The key is to start your stove off at a medium to low temperature on the smallest ring or flame possible, so you don’t risk over extracting the coffee or having it spurt out the top of the Moka pot. We are aiming for an even and consistent brew here, not a coffee volcano! 

Step 7: Wait for Coffee to Brew

You’ll start to hear the water gurgling and hissing once it is getting up to boiling point, and it will soon shoot up the central pipe and up out through the top of the coffee collection chamber. 

The water should flow out of the central funnel at quite a consistent rate. If it just dribbles out very slowly and intermittently, it’s time to turn up the gas and bring some more heat to the party. 

However, if you’ve created a coffee explosion and there is a lot of spluttering going on, you’ll need to reduce the heat. This can be done by either removing your Moka pot from the stove altogether (but use a tea towel or oven glove for this), reducing the flame or ring temperature, or even running the base of your Moka pot under a cold tap to stop the extraction. 

Don’t worry though, you’ll only have to wait for a minute or two for your coffee to brew. 

Step 8: Serve and Enjoy! 

Once you have a coffee collection chamber full of delicious, freshly brewed coffee, it’s time to serve! 

You’ll want to pour your Moka pot coffee immediately to reduce the risk of over extraction, as the device will still be hot after the coffee is brewed. Leaving it to sit for a few minutes will effectively keep cooking the coffee and leave you with a bitter after taste. 

Common Moka Pot Mistakes 

Compared to other coffee brewing methods like the French press or pour over filters, the Moka pot is quite a highly strung device. Whilst it is very popular, it is also easy to over extract and burn your coffee, leaving you with a bitter and astringent brew

Here are a few common Moka pot mistakes you might be making, along with steps you can take to avoid them. 

Using The Wrong Amount of Water

You should aim to fill the water chamber of your Moka pot just below the pressure release safety valve. 

Unlike many other coffee brewing methods, Moka pots come ready made with the right measurements for coffee and water built into their design. However, there is still room for ambiguity when it comes to how high you should fill up your water chamber. 

Using too little water will result in it boiling too quickly, whereas using too much water will mean the boiling process takes too long and the coffee will turn out over-extracted. 

Not Stirring Your Brewed Coffee Before Serving

Another common mistake made by Moka pot users is not stirring their coffee before serving. Since the Moka pot forces pressurised steam up though coffee grounds, the beginning of your brew will be stronger than the end. 

This is because more water will be flowing more forcefully through your coffee grounds at the beginning of your brew than at the end when the water starts to evaporate more rapidly and run out. 

Not Cleaning Your Moka Pot Regularly 

Make sure to clean out your Moka pot with warm soapy water after every brew. It may sound like a long and boring process, but it only has to take a few minutes and it’s totally worth it. 

If you leave ground coffee in your Moka pot for too long you risk it staining the inside of the pot, leaving rancid residual oils on the metal surfaces. 

Not Using The Right Grind Size

Generally speaking, the more intense the brewing method (high heat and pressure), the finer you’ll want to grind. For example, Turkish coffee and espresso use very finely ground coffee, whereas a French press or cold brew coffee will use a much coarser grind size. 

The best grind size for a Moka pot is medium to fine, sitting just below a medium pour over grind. You don’t want to go as fine as espresso when using a Moka pot, or you may clog up the filter basket. This could lead to an uneven extraction, resulting in watery and bitter coffee, or worse, a Moka pot explosion! 

Tamping the Moka Pot

Another big no no for when using a Moka pot is tamping the coffee grounds. Tamping finely ground coffee in an espresso machine makes sense, so channelling is minimised and you have a nice even bed of compressed coffee for the highly pressurised steam to flow through. 

However, in a Moka pot there is a much lower amount of pressure generated. For reference, most espresso machines operate at approx 9 bar, whereas a Moka pot will only even generate around 1 to 2 bar. 

Therefore, tamping your coffee grounds down in your Moka pot’s filter basket will only stop water from flowing up through the central funnel into the coffee collection chamber. Effectively, there won’t be enough force from the boiling water to work against gravity and push through your bed of coffee, since tamping it makes it a lot more dense and compact. 

Tips for Improving Your Moka Pot Coffee

Here are a few key tips to help improve your Moka pot coffee. It may be difficult to get it perfect every single time, but following these tips will at least steer you away from a disappointing cup of coffee in the morning. 

Boil Your Water First 

The first tip to take your Moka pot game to the next level is to boil your water before pouring it into the lower water chamber.

If you use cold water, firstly your coffee will take longer to brew, but secondly you’ll get an uneven coffee extraction. 

Use a Coffee Distribution Tool

Another tip to help improve the uniformity of your coffee bed is to use a coffee distribution tool. 

The most popular of these is a WDT (Weiss Distribution Technique) tool which uses a number of thin metal spikes to break up any big clumps that may form in your bed of coffee.

Use Medium to Dark Roasted Coffee

The coffee beans you use with your Moka pot ultimately come down to personal preference.

However, because Moka pot coffee is quite intense in flavour, it would make sense to use a medium to dark roasted bean to allow the Moka pot to accentuate the coffee’s natural smokiness and strength. 

Keep an Eye on Your Moka Pot Throughout the Brew

Another tip to help maintain control over your Moka pot brew, is to stay with your Moka pot throughout.

If you go off and do something else whilst your Moka pot is bubbling away, you could risk a coffee explosion if it gets too hot, which will make a nasty mess! 

Serve Coffee Immediately

Because intense heat is applied straight to the base of the Moka pot and steam is forced through the coffee grounds rapidly, letting it sit will just result in the residual heat over brewing your coffee.

So if you want to avoid over extracted, butter tasting coffee, pour your cup of Moka pot coffee immediately! 

Keep Your Moka Pot Lid Open

This may sound controversial or potentially dangerous, but if your heat is not on full blast there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. 

Keeping the lid of your Moka pot open whilst brewing coffee actually gives you more control of the water flow and allows you to know what’s going on. 

This allows you to adjust the heat accordingly as coffee starts to spurt, dribble or flow evenly out of the coffee collection chamber spout.

Turn Down the Heat Once Coffee Starts Brewing

It is more likely that coffee will be spitting out the top of your Moka pot as a result of overheating the device than simply dribbling out the top from not applying enough heat. 

When your Moka pot starts spouting it can quickly turn into a bit of a violent mess, so be ready to turn the heat down or off, move your Moka pot to the side of your hot plater or even rinse your Moka pot under cold water to cool it down quickly. 

 

How to Clean and Maintain Your Moka Pot

It is important to clean your Moka pot after each use, not only to preserve its lifespan, but also to improve the taste of your next brew. Here are a few key tips to help you clean and maintain your Moka pot the right way. 

Cleaning your coffee equipment can be a bit of a boring task at times, but it is necessary if you want the best results possible. If you leave ground coffee in your Moka pot for too long you risk it staining the inside of the pot, leaving rancid residual oils on the metal surfaces. 

Make sure to clean out your Moka pot with warm soapy water after every brew. It may sound like a long and boring process, but it only has to take a few minutes and it’s totally worth it. 

Don’t Scrub Your Moka Pot Too Hard

Whilst cleaning your Moka pot is definitely a good idea, try not to scrub it too hard with a scourer or bristle brush. This can damage the inside of the Moka pot and cause discolouring. 

Most Moka pots are made from aluminium and therefore have a protective layer to stop them from becoming damaged. If you scrub your Moka pot too hard with a steel wool brush you may well end up with tiny fragments of metal in your next cup of coffee! 

Therefore, I’d recommend using a soft sponge and hot soapy water to clean your Moka pot with. 

Clean it by Hand, Not in the Dishwasher

Another mistake you’ll want to avoid whilst trying to get your Moka pot clean is putting it in the dishwasher. Simply put, the intensity of a dishwasher can ruin your Moka pot thanks to the hot water and chemicals. 

You’re much better off using warm soapy water and a cleaning sponge to get those pesky coffee stains off your Moka pot. 

Be Sure to Dry Your Moka Pot Completely Before Putting it Away

Once you’re done cleaning your Moka pot, make sure to dry it properly before storing it away in your cupboard. Either towel dry it completely or leave it to air dry for a few hours. 

If you store your Moka pot away whilst it’s wet you’ll risk discolouring and oxidation. 

Moka Pot Compared to Other Coffee Brewing Methods

The Moka pot is a simple yet effective coffee brewing device that makes characteristically strong, full bodied and intense cups of joe. Here’s how it stacks up against other popular ways of making coffee.   

Moka Pot vs Espresso

The Moka pot is often referred to as a ‘stovetop espresso maker’, due to the intensity of the coffee it produces. There are some similarities in terms of the fine grind size needed to operate both of these devices at their best, as well as the pressurised water and steam used to extract those essential coffee oils. 

However, where a Moka pot generates 1-2 bars of pressure, espresso is usually made with around 9 bars. 

Moka Pot vs Aeropress

Moka Pot and Aeropress coffee brewing do actually share some similarities. Both use relatively finely ground coffee, both use pressure to extract coffee oils and both are small, portable coffee makers. 

However, one of the key differences between them is the heat source used to extract the coffee. Moka pots use a direct heat source from the stovetop, whereas an Aeropress just uses the residual heat from the near boiling water that’s poured onto the coffee grounds. 

Moka Pot vs V60/Chemex

Pour over coffee is pretty different to the humble Moka pot, both in terms of taste, texture and grind size. V60 and Chemex brewers typically use a coarser grind size to account for the longer brew time, whilst also offering a cleaner, crisper and arguably more refreshing taste. 

Moka Pot vs French Press

Whilst the resulting coffee produced by the Moka pot and French press are relatively comparable, the way they get there is pretty different. Where the Moka pot uses finely ground coffee, a direct heat source and pressurised steam to extract coffee, the French press uses a coarse grind and residual heat from the boiling water to add flavour to your cup. 

Summary

The iconic Moka pot offers an inexpensive, highly flavourful brewing experience perfect for the espresso lover. With quality beans and the right technique, this little Italian pot can deliver a sweet intensity and aromatic flavour profile sure to transport you to your favourite cafe.

I hope you have found out everything you need to know about Moka pot coffee brewing in this article. If there’s anything I’ve missed, feel free to let me know in the comments below! 

Moka Pot Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does a Moka Pot Make Such Good Coffee? 

Moka pots use highly pressurised hot water to force steam through finely ground coffee beans, making for a bold, strong, highly concentrated coffee with a pretty high yield compared to other brewing methods. 

This is what makes the coffee brewed using a Moka pot taste so good! 

Is Moka Pot Coffee as Strong as Espresso?

No, Moka pot coffee is not as highly concentrated (strong) as espresso. However, it does come pretty close for such a short, sharp brewing method. 

How Does a Moka Pot Work?

A Moka pot works by heating water from the bottom of the device using a stovetop, which then generates boiling water and steam inside the lower chamber. Then, the steam and hot water rapidly evaporates through the filter basket containing finely ground coffee, which is extracted quickly. 

This then flows up the central channel of the Moka pot and into the coffee collection chamber at the top. 

What is the Best Coffee for Moka Pot?

There is not necessarily one roast, region or variety of coffee that works best in a Moka pot, this of course comes down to personal preference. 

However, a medium to dark roast will be accentuated by the rapid, pressurised coffee extraction method, making for a stronger, bolder tasking brew. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Answer 1

Answer 2

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