If you’ve been thinking about changing the way you brew your coffee at home, you might be considering a moka coffee pot as a way to add some new flavor to your morning java. With so many ways to brew coffee, it would be a shame to never try a cup made with this classic Italian brewing method. These metallic-colored pots are typically made out of aluminum or steel, so they’re more durable and lightweight than the average automatic drip coffee pot. Instead of being heated on an element as a modern coffee machine would be, the moka pot is heated on your stovetop to achieve the temperatures necessary to create enough pressure in the bottom of the pot.
The classic Italian moka pot is similar to the French press because there is no water dripping from the top of the container. All the brewing happens inside the moka coffee maker within a three-part system that consists of a lower chamber where the water is stored, a middle layer that’s called the filter basket, which is where you’ll put the ground coffee, and an upper layer that the coffee rises into after the pressure builds. While there have been other coffee pots to emerge out of Italy in the past, the moka pot is widely regarded as the best Italian coffee pot.
How to Choose a Good Moka Pot
There are many Italian coffee pot brands that sell great moka pots, so how do you which one to pick? If you haven’t had the chance to try using a few different moka coffee pots before, you might be wondering which features to look for. Here are some steps you can take to choose the right moka pot for your needs:
- Choose the right size moka pot – Start by determining how large of a pot you’ll need. Most people end up choosing a pot that is too large and wind up leaving much of the coffee on the stove. Normally, a 3-cup moka pot will be sufficient for the average coffee drinker. If you have a partner who also enjoys strong coffee, then you may want to opt for the 6-cup moka pot.
- Pick between aluminum or steel – If you have an induction or electric stove, you’ll want to make sure you buy a moka pot that is compatible with that kind of stovetop. Generally, aluminum moka pots aren’t compatible with this kind of stovetop. So if you have that kind of stove, it would be best to get a stainless steel coffee maker instead.
- Decide whether you want an electric or manual moka pot – If you would rather keep control over the temperature and other aspects of the brewing process to make a more old-fashioned cup of coffee, then stick with the traditional manual moka pot. If you want to easily achieve a consistent quality and flavor in your cups of coffee, then choose a newer electric moka pot. While the electric pots take away from some of the nostalgic value, they deliver an ideally made cup of coffee with less hassle because they have built-in temperature control. If you want a preview of the features that the most modern moka coffee pots have, check out an electric moka pot review and compare some online store listings. Be aware that if you choose the manual moka coffee pot and you’re frequently handling the container, you’ll need some heat-resistant mitts or avoid touching the container with your hands because it can get very hot.
How to Make Coffee with a Moka Pot
Purchasing the best moka pot is a good start to make sure you’re getting an authentic cup of Italian-style coffee but to make sure it is brewed right, you’ll want to follow the steps:
First, be aware that in the lower chamber – where the water is stored – there is a safety valve that lets you know the maximum fill line for the water. If you fill the bottom chamber with water beyond that point, there will be excessive pressure that could cause the pot to overflow onto the stovetop.
Instead of filling the bottom chamber with cold water, boil the water before pouring it into the bottom chamber of the moka pot. Pre-boiling the water will give your moka-made coffee the freshest possible taste and prevent those unwanted burnt aromas.
Don’t press the ground coffee into the middle chamber. Instead, leave it lightly pressed as a mound. Pressing down and compacting more ground coffee into the filter basket can prevent steam and pressure from moving through the coffee and extracting all the flavor.
What Kind of Coffee Can you Make in a Moka Coffee Pot?
Since you are still firmly in control of the type of coffee, the consistency of the grinds, the brewing temperature, and other key aspects, you are free to make virtually any kind of coffee in a moka pot. Technically, any kind of coffee can be made in a moka pot, but the resulting java will always be at least twice as strong as what you expect due to the unique pressurized brewing process.
Many people use moka coffee pots to make espressos, americanos, and even cold coffee cocktails by adding ice or freezing the coffee after mixing it with other ingredients. You can even find some moka coffee pot brands marketing their product as a top moka espresso maker, catering to coffee drinkers who consider any kind of strong coffee to be espresso.
One of the most popular kinds of coffee that is made with a moka coffee pot is the Italian coffee beverage called bialetti. While some espresso drinkers may think that bialetti tastes slightly burnt, the robust flavor will brighten up your morning and bring out some of the more subtle flavors that you wouldn’t normally get from a regular brewed cup of coffee. The main mistake that leads to burnt-tasting bialetti is brewing it at a high temperature. The high pressure in the bottom chamber is already applying extra brewing power to the moka pot, so there is no need to rush the process with a high temperature setting on your stove.
If you accidentally make a bialetti that tastes kind of burnt, you can find some guides online that will teach you how to clean a burnt Bialetti moka coffee pot. Usually, the burnt taste comes from cooked sediment on the sides of the pot, so a good cleaning of the pot should solve the problem.
Tips for Getting a Better Brew
Aside from following the basic steps above to put your new moka coffee maker to use, consider these tips:
- Grind the beans freshly before brewing – while pre-ground coffee can certainly get the job done to give you a boost in the morning if you want the most flavorful moka experience possible then you should grind the beans immediately before putting the coffee into the filter basket. Be sure to grind the beans in 5-20 second pulses to avoid overheating the ground coffee and imparting a burnt flavor before brewing.
- Use a fine or medium ground size – when making moka it is best to avoid course grind consistency. Finely ground coffee beans make a more espresso-like cup of coffee whereas medium ground sizes will produce a French press-like boldness. However, keep in mind that the beans should not be ground as finely as espresso, as silty ground coffee beans will create an overly potent and bitter cup of coffee.
- Avoid brewing moka on high heat – using the low or medium heat setting on your stove will produce a more authentic cup of Italian coffee. The high heat setting can cause the coffee to taste burnt and may also lead to an over-boiling pot. Most baristas recommend a lower heat.
- Check back frequently to determine when it is ready – Over-brewing in a moka pot can create some overwhelmingly rich coffee. Stay nearby and leave the top off the upper chamber so you can tell when a sufficient amount of coffee has been collected. Letting coffee over-brew is the easiest mistake to make when using a moka coffee pot, so don’t rely solely on a timer.
- Remember that moka pots make very strong coffee – if you’d prefer a lighter brew, coffee made in a moka pot might not be for you. Although you could hypothetically use a small amount of coffee to weaken the brew, the way coffee is conventionally made in a moka pot will result in a cup that is 2 to 3 times more potent than the average cup of coffee.
Moka Coffee Pots Also Make Pouring Coffee a Breeze
One last benefit of a moka coffee pot is that these 8-sided containers greatly simplify the process of neatly pouring coffee without any spills. The ridges in the pot guide coffee cleanly into any mug and the ergonomically shaped handle makes pouring with the moka coffee pot much more convenient than dealing with a glass coffee pot that comes with an automatic drip coffee maker.