With all the fancy, extravagant, and expensive equipment that's out there in the coffee world, we can sometimes overlook the little guys. Just because a machine doesn't come with multiple fancy levers, a slick and shiny touchscreen, and possibly too many dials don't mean that it can't make a damn fine cup of Joe. This simple machine that I am, of course, talking about is a little metallic beauty called the Moka Pot.
In this article, we explore the Moka Pot with how-to's, the pros and cons, how to properly care for one, and more. Join me on this tour of one of the most simple but effective coffee pots that are gaining in popularity, and with good reason.
What is a Moka Pot, and how does it work?
The Moka Pot is a simple and specialized stove-top like this or electric coffee pot. Most are made from aluminum with bakelite handles. They are typically octagonal in shape, but there are some variations, too. They were presumably crafted and patented in 1933 by an Italian inventor named Luigi de Ponti, who was commissioned by the engineer and coffee enthusiast Alfonso Bialetti. The Moka Pot works by passing boiling water through the coffee grounds by means of pressurized steam.
They quickly gained popularity, and now today, many Italians use them for their daily coffee fix. You can, too, as they became so popular and were so unique, they spread from Italy to almost all across the globe. They gained such popularity that other brands, such as Mr. Coffee and KitchenAid, have also made their own versions.
Since its creation in 1933, the looks and functionality of the original Moka Pot has had little to no change. There have been a few electrical versions over the years, as well as different colors and sizes, but then again it's hard to improve upon perfection.
The main parts of the Moka Pot are as follows:
- The boiler. This part sits at the bottom of the pot. It is the part that's in direct contact with the heat source of your choice.
- The coffee basket. As its name suggests, the coffee basket is a little basket that holds your precious coffee grounds at just the right position in the water.
- The collecting chamber. This is the area that the delectable coffee nectar rises to when the pot is done brewing.
Each pot is different, but there are also a couple of rubber lining pieces. Where they are located and how they're configured depends on the type of Moka Pot you have. However, they all have the same basic job. These typically help to keep any hot water, steam, or coffee from escaping during the brewing process.
How to use a Moka Pot
First, if you're using real coffee in your Moka Pot, then you need to grind your coffee beans(see my favorite grinder). They should be as fine as you would grind for espresso, which should feel like sand or salt. The amount of coffee that you use should be enough to fill the basket. That exact amount will depend on what size of Moka Pot you're using, of course.
Now, get your fingers out of your coffee grounds and pour them into the filter pot. The grounds, not your fingers, silly. Be sure to shake the basket lightly to settle the coffee grounds nice and evenly. It's imperative that you make sure you use enough grounds to fill the basket completely. Don't use too much or too little, because it just won't work. Too little and you're only making light bean water, too much and you're going to choke the poor pot and possibly ruin it.
Next step, boil your water. I hope I don't need to explain this part. Once your water is fully boiled, pour the boiling water into the bottom half of your Moka Pot until it is completely full. Just like the coffee grounds, make sure not to use too much or too little water.
Next, place the filter into the bottom half and screw on the top. Be careful. The bottom chamber might be hot, so refrain from caressing it. If you're worried about being burned, you can wear protective gloves or use a damp towel when handling the pot.
Go ahead and stick your nice and full Moka Pot onto the stove and set for medium heat now. Once the water reaches boiling temperatures, it should start to pass the water through the grounds. Make sure your water isn't too hot or too cold. Too hot and it will explode forth and ruin everything, too cold and it will sputter sadly and do nothing else. Regulate the temperatures vigilantly like you were a hawk, and in a few moments, you should hear the happy gurgling sounds of your Moka Pot successfully brewing a delicious batch of super strong and tasty coffee for you. It should sound kind of like a hissing, bubbling, and gurgling sound if it was done properly.
Perhaps you're wondering why I mentioned to start with already boiled water if you're just going to be boiling it again anyway? The reason for this is that if you start with boiling water, it lessens the time needed for the hot water to be in contact with the grounds, thus hopefully saving you from burning or over extracting your coffee. Trust me, you don't want to ruin it.
Why should you use a Moka Pot?
The Moka Pot is a delightful little coffee pot that makes amazing coffee without very much effort at all. It is easy to clean, which is always a blessing. And since it is made of metal, it may just outlast any other coffee machine you can buy. Not to mention, Moka Pots can come in many different shapes and sizes, as well as visual appearances. You may truly find the one that fits you the best.
Moka Pots are known for their ability to make very strong coffee with little effort as compared to the other means of making strong coffee. So, if a nice, strong cup of coffee is what you're in the market for, then this unassuming coffee pot can deliver just that. It's a big bang in a little package.
The simple and minimalistic design is not only visually appealing, but it makes the perfect cup almost every time. As long as you buy the correct size for you needs and use it as instructed, your Moka Pot should provide you with the right amount of delectable coffee every single time.
I'm not going to sugar coat using it, however. Every coffee machine has its ups and downs. The Moka Pot is no different in that regard. The Moka Pot is pretty cool, but it needs your undivided attention. It requires you to pay close attention to it while it is in use. You must be wary that this pot can possibly burn you if you're not careful. But, so long as you pay close attention to it and use it properly, it can make you a delicious pot of coffee that's well worth the hassle.
It may take some time to really learn how to use a Moka Pot correctly, but once you do, you'll be making magic coffee like you were some kind of bean wizard brewer. And who doesn't want that impressive title?
How to care for your Moka Pot
Regular cleaning is needed to ensure the highest quality of coffee and the most optimal performance of your pot. If you don't perform regular maintenance, then the coffee quality will degrade and your Moka Pot will suffer. Sadly, it might possibly even break all together. Don't be lazy; think of the pot!
Every now and then you should replace the rubber parts inside the pot, as they can lose their integrity over time. After replacing the rubber parts, you may want to run a cleaning cycle once or even twice. Those parts have been manufactured somewhere, being touched by who knows how many people. Run a cleaning cycle to purge the chance of strange flavors contaminating your coffee, unless you like the flavor of random people, of course.
You can run a cleaning cycle with plain water or with some coffee grounds to help prepare it for a real brewing session. I personally suggest just plain water at first, then going on to use some coffee grounds, but you might not actually have to do that much.
Another thing to check is that the pressure valve does not get clogged. If it does, it can lead to excess pressure and might explode. Nothing like going for a nice delicious cup of coffee and instead getting your face blown off.
You can also optionally clean the outer surface of your Moka Pot. While cleaning this part may not be needed, it does help keep your Moka Pot looking dazzling. Cleaning the bottom of the pot might actually be somewhat important, however. If the bottom of the pot has some grime on it, then it can start to burn off when used, which doesn't smell very good and may possibly eternally stain your pot. It could also get into your coffee, ruining all your hard work.
It's always wise to inspect your Moka Pot before use to make sure everything is both functioning properly and is cleaned thoroughly for maximum flavor output.
What types of Moka Pots are there?
There are several types of Moka Pots on the market today, and finding the right one may be a hassle. So, let me tell you about several different types of Moka Pots as well as their functions and capabilities, for your convenience!
To start off, there are both stove top and electric types of Moka Pot, each with their own different advantages and disadvantages. In this section, I'll talk about the stove top Moka Pot.
For the stove top Moka Pots there is the Brikka, the stainless steel kinds that come in three different versions, and the more popular Moka Express. There is also the Moka Melody Italia, which is interesting for reasons I'll get into later.
The Brikka makes a frothier type of coffee. This froth is typically called crema and brings out other flavors that a normal coffee might not have. This type comes in two and four cup sizes.
The stainless-steel ones come in three different versions, the Musa, Kitty, and Venus. These types are slick and shiny, and lack the octagonal shape of the original Moka Pot. These types come in four and six cup sizes.
The ever popular Moka Express claims to make espresso, but in reality, it doesn't put out a high enough amount of pressure to count as real espresso. Regardless, it still makes a stronger than normal, and just as delicious, cup of coffee. This type comes in one, three, six, nine, and twelve cup versions.
And finally, the quaint little Moka Melody Italia. What makes this one so interesting is that it is a specialty version of the Moka Pot that is blue in color and has the Italian flag in the center. It claims to play the Italian national anthem when the coffee is done. What an interesting effect! It should be noted that this is a limited edition and may not be for sale for very long.
Now, on to the electric Moka Pot side. We have the Easy Cafe, and… Well, that's it. There's only the one from the original makers of the Moka pot, Bialetti. I suppose one is better than none, or them making hundreds of the same exact thing over again.
Just because there is only one type of electric pot, it doesn't mean that we should overlook it. The Easy Cafe Moka pot is as the name implies: easy to use. If you want a really strong cup of coffee but don't want to bother with all the other things that I mentioned you need to do with a stove top Moka pot, then this could be perfect for you.
What is the best Moka Pot?
Here I'll go into a more in-depth description for the above mentioned Moka Pots, rating them as we go along.
If you want something reliable and comes in the most options, then the Moka Express knocks all others out of the park. As the original version of the Moka Pots, just by using one it's easy to see why it has remained virtually unchanged for so long. Guess there really is a reason why this pot is so popular. That many happy users can't be wrong.
The Brikka may not have as many cup sizes as the Express has, but it does have the unique twist of creating a visible frothy crema. If that's your thing, then this could be a great option for you.
The quirky Moka Melody Italia might initially seem like a nice little gimmick, but not only is it a limited edition, it would probably start to get annoying after a few days of using it. Maybe use it to entertain guests, or if you really love the Italian national anthem for some reason. It also only comes in one size: three cups.
The stainless-steel Venus, Musa, and Kitty all function pretty similarly to each other, but are slightly different than the others on this list. Mostly in the fact that, unlike the aluminum versions, they are the least likely to impart a metal aftertaste to your coffee. That's a pretty big bonus, if you ask me.
If you're just using a Moka Pot for the first time, then your best bet may be either the easy to use Easy Cafe or the reliable Moka Express(see Amazon). But when all is said and done, it really just mostly comes down to your personal preferences and what you need and want from your coffee maker.
Is the electric Moka Pot better than a stove top version?
All right, time for the ultimate face off: electric versus the traditional stove top Moka Pot. It's the battle of the century! Okay, it's not quite that dramatic, but you can get into a pretty big argument with people over this stuff.
Electric is quick and easier to use, but not quite as durable because of the electronics involved. You also have to use electricity for it to function, as evident by its name. There is also only the one type of electrical Moka Pot, unless you decide to go with another brand. However, the electrical version makes more consistently tasty cups of coffee and can make them faster than a traditional stove top can.
Stove top is the more traditional version of the Moka Pot. While it can be more of a hassle to handle than electric, it is more likely to last longer. It also comes in more versions to pick from. You also don't have the possibility of a heating element breaking, as the stove top ones can be used on other stoves.
The electric pot is easier to use and great if you always have access to electricity, but is typically pricier than a stove top version. The stove top Moka Pot is a little harder to use and requires you to watch it at all times while brewing, but is still the original and works so long as you have a heat source.
Moka Pot: pros and cons
I promised you a pros and cons at the start of this article, didn't I? Here's a nice and simple list I have made for you to help compare Moka Pot stats.
- Simple concept. Not only is it sleek and elegant, but all you have to do to operate it is dump in your coffee and water and boil. No knobs or switches or anything like that.
- Decently durable. A few nicks and bruises may appear over frequent use, but since this is an almost entirely metal pot with no machinery, its durability is quite high. This mostly applies to the stove top version.
- Most are decently priced. What you can and cannot afford is entirely up to you, but the Moka Pot's basic prices don't typically reach that high.
- Makes very strong coffee. If you're a fan of powerful coffee, this is probably one of the best types of coffee pot out there that produce it with relative ease.
- Most are small and neat. Perfectly sized so that once you are finished using it, you can tuck it away somewhere out of the way. No obnoxious extra bits to lose, and no obscenely weird shaped nozzles or handles to get in the way.
- You have a very high possibility of burning yourself too easily. The entire pot is metal, save for the handle which may also get a little toasty, and can even possibly get hot enough to burn. Be sure to wear protective gloves or use a damp towel when removing it from the stove and pouring yourself some coffee. You could also wait, but let's be honest, really good coffee is worth drinking when it's scalding hot.
- Maintenance can be a hassle. The parts need to be replaced more often than most other coffee brewers, but the parts are easy enough to get a hold of. The machine needs to be cleaned thoroughly for the best coffee output.
- On rare occasions the coffee may taste slightly metallic. It's not usually that noticeable and really doesn't happen often, but it can happen and should be noted.
Based on these pros and cons, perhaps you now have a better understanding on whether or not the Moka Pot could be a good choice for you and your daily routine.
The Moka Pot is a tried-and-true, effective coffee pot. It's a reliable pot that can make some deliciously strong coffee when used properly. Its simplicity and effectiveness makes it a strong candidate for your kitchen and coffee-making routine. With several types and versions out today, it's easy to find the one that's right for your home. While this pot can require some special adjustments to how you might usually make coffee, it may very well be worth the effort. Plus, it's just a cool little coffee pot that could be a fun thing to show off to your friends and family.
Can you use a Moka Pot on an open flame?
While they are made of metal, it is highly recommended that you don't use them over an open flame. The metal they are made of is a softer type of metal. Open flames are likely to singe or even destroy the pot easily. You can place the pot on hot coals, but you must be very careful when handling and using the pot this way. The pot will most likely still get burnt and blackened as a result, and the possibility of burning your coffee will increase.
Can you use a Moka Pot on a flat-top stove?
Moka Pots were designed to be used on a variety of stoves. This can, in fact, apply to a modern flat-top stove. Since this type of stove typically gets hotter than most others, you should turn off or lower the heat the moment the pot starts to gurgle, otherwise, you may burn the coffee. Every stove is different and you should experiment to find what works best for you. Just be careful not to slide it around too much. You may scratch the surface of the stove.
Can you use a Moka Pot on a cooktop wood stove?
Yes, but be cautious. Cooktop wood stoves do not have reliable temperature controls and can reach upwards of 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The Moka Pot will be extremely hot to the touch and will likely burn your coffee. Unless you know how to control the temps on top of your wood stove, you might want to avoid using a Moka Pot there.
Does a Moka Pot make espresso?
While the coffee that a Moka Pot produces is really strong, it is not considered true espresso. This is because espresso is typically made using a lot of pressurized steam, about eight to ten bars of pressure usually. The Moka Pot can only make about one to two bars, thus making it incapable of making real espresso. Bialetti and other companies do, however, make real espresso machines. Espresso machines tend to go for hefty prices, so keep that in mind.