Coffee Percolator vs. Moka Pot: What’s The Difference?

Coffee percolators and Moka pots are frequently mistaken for the same coffee brewing appliance, given their similar appearance. Still, the two are not synonymous and produce very different tastes and quantities of coffee. Here’s a look at some key differences between a coffee percolator vs. Moka pot.

Coffee Percolator Vs. Moka Pot
Coffee percolator makes larger batches of coffee compared to Moka pot

Coffee Percolators use a heated brewing method that runs water through a pipe-like structure and requires medium to medium-coarse sized coffee grounds. In contrast, Moka pots use a high-pressure technique to create coffee from steam built up when water is heated. This results in two very different tastes.

The differences between a coffee percolator and a Moka pot are not apparent and may seem insignificant, but they are notable and yield two very different results.

So if you’d like to know why a coffee percolator makes larger batches of coffee that aren’t as robust as the coffee you make in a Moka pot, here’s a look at the different factors and how they affect the taste of your coffee.

Coffee Percolator vs. Moka Pot: What’s the difference?

Technically Moka pots are percolators, by definition. However, unlike a standard coffee percolator, they use steam and pressure to brew coffee grounds, similar to the method used for making espressos.

The key difference between a Moka pot and a standard coffee percolator is that it brews your coffee from bottom to top instead of from top to bottom.

Mechanically, a percolator uses medium to medium-coarse grounds and uses a drip-coffee mechanism in a single chamber by repetitively cycling hot water through the basket near the top of the percolator by the lid. 

The Moka pot creates steamy, espresso-styled coffee through two chambers – one at the bottom to fill with water, heat, and create steam; another on top to collect freshly brewed coffee from the coffee basket and steam chamber below. 

But the mechanisms only tell half the story. There is that small matter of the coffee each brewer creates.

It is not unusual for coffee from a Moka pot to be compared to espressos because both types of coffee leverage steam and pressure to brew an intense, concentrated, strong cup of coffee, but which is also served only in small doses.

However, Moka pots cannot produce steam at the same high-pressure level as an espresso machine, so it’s technically not the same. Moka pots also don’t create that thin layer of foam known as crema that espresso fans love.

A cup of espresso drink on a wooden table.
Moka pots don’t create that thin layer of foam known as crema

On the other hand, Percolators do not produce coffee with the same bold taste that Moka pots do, but they do make far larger quantities. They make an average strength coffee without that robust, highly concentrated taste found in Moka pots.

One big drawback is that it is easy to over-extract coffee in a percolator (leading to a bitter taste), and you don’t have much control over your brew. However, for the regular coffee drinker, it’s hardly a problem given how quick, affordable, and easy-to-use coffee percolators are, which is why it remains one of the most popular brewing methods used to date.

What To Consider When Buying A Coffee Percolator or Moka Pot

Price

Moka pots are relatively cheap compared to other coffee brewers and will set you back anywhere between $20 and $40, depending on the quality you’re aiming for.

On the other hand, a coffee percolator will cost you at least $25, with some brands costing more than $70.

But the real difference is not in the price of the appliance itself but the coffee it uses. The extra-fine coffee grind used in Moka pots typically costs between about $0.30-1.74 per ounce while the standard medium-size grind you’ll likely be using for your percolator costs anywhere between $0.30 and $1.00 per ounce.

vintage coffee pot with coffee cup in a stove
The extra-fine coffee grind used in Moka pots typically costs between about $0.30-1.74 per ounce

So, whichever direction you take, you won’t be able to distinguish between the two, price-wise. The difference, you’ll note, will be with the quantities produced. And percolators produce far, far larger quantities of coffee, which may make them better value for money for you, depending on your preferences.

Convenience

When it comes to your trips to the supermarket, a coffee percolator will make life a lot easier because medium-sized coffee grinds are the standard, and you’ll never struggle to find them in stores as you may with the extra-fine grind-size needed for Moka pots.

Both brewers are relatively similar in ease of use and require coffee, water, and a heat source. They’re both also effortless to clean, but for deep cleans, the pipes in percolators, as well as the coffee basket in the Moka pot, can make life difficult for you. But, for everyday use, both score high as far as convenience goes.

Again, for more people, this is where percolators win. It makes far greater quantities of coffee than Moka pots, and, to many people, this makes them more convenient to use. Unless you prefer quality over quantity, percolators are probably the best choice for you.

Flavor

For me, at least, this is where the Moka pot wins hands-down. I’m a big fan of strong coffee. Moka pots are far cheaper than espresso machines, so their strong, bold taste, which is rarely over-extracted and bitter, makes your coffee significantly more enjoyable.

Furthermore, Moka pots are more consistent too. Sometimes you never know what you’re going to get with a percolator.  

Other Coffee Brewing Methods

Several other methods to brew coffee may be a better solution for you if you don’t like what percolators and Moka pots have to offer. Here’s a quick look at a few of them:

French press is another incredibly popular brewer that’s incredibly useful and similar to a percolator in that it soaks coffee grinds in hot water but uses a push-down filter to separate your brew from the extracted coffee grinds. It’s a cheap and easy method, but the taste isn’t anything exceptional.

Espresso machines, on the other hand, are costly and tricky to use. Using high pressure to extract a concentrated brew similar to that of a Moka pot (but better), espresso machines aren’t for beginners but still produce the best taste, in my opinion.

espresso machines pouring coffee in a coffee cup
Espresso machines aren't suitable for beginners but its result product is the best

An Aeropress is a much cheaper, simpler way to make coffee, making delicious, consistent brews in about 30 seconds. It’s a cylindrical chamber and a plunger with an airtight seal, similar to a syringe. Hot water and ground coffee are forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the chamber.

Then you get drip coffee machines requiring you to add ground coffee to the filter paper, press a button, and wait. They can vary in price but cost far less than espresso machines and produce a smooth, consistent taste. But they take their time, so don’t expect to be using your drip coffee machine on the go.

Finally, we get the pour-over coffee machine, which is similar to a drip machine in that it holds coffee in filter paper, and water is poured over it to brew. However, it’s far less automated and gives you more control over the brew, with all kinds of unique kettles, spouts, and other gadgets that allow you to cultivate a cup of coffee that is perfectly extracted and gives you the optimal taste. They are also relatively inexpensive.

The Final Word On Coffee Percolators vs. Moka Pots

I may be getting a smaller cup, but I’m getting just as much caffeine and don’t need to take as many bathroom breaks later in the day. This is a matter of personal preference, and the right cup of coffee for you is, after all, a very personal thing.

If you don’t care much for your coffee tastes like, want to spend as little money as possible, and are deadset on drinking 10 cups a day, you may prefer a percolator. But you can’t put a price on waking up every morning with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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