A moka pot can create espresso-esque styled coffee without the need for an expensive, bulky espresso machine that takes up a good portion of your counter space. The moka pot is versatile, compact, and, if handled correctly, can make an excellent cup of coffee reminiscent of an Italian cafe. It also has the added benefit of being incredibly easy to use, since it’s three compartments disassemble very easily, and it only requires a heat source, normally a stovetop, though if you are wanting cafe-quality coffee on the go or while camping, then you can also use a portable burner as well.
To better appreciate the moka pot, first a little bit of history: Created in 1933 by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti, the moka pot uses steam pressure generated by the stovetop that builds up in the bottom chamber and pushes the water through the second chamber which contains the ground coffee and finally trickles up into the top chamber as the final product: espresso-esque coffee. It’s modernist octagonal shape looks like a Futurist sculpture created by one of Italy’s fine modernist artists from the Futuristic movement. Even it’s use of aluminum bears note due to the rising popularity of the material for various kitchen and other appliances sweeping through Europe.
For nearly a half century, the moka pot held supreme as the only method to brew espresso-like coffee at home. It began to fall out of favor, however going into the latter decade of the 20th-century and into this one, due to complaints that it produced a metallic, sludge cup that did not have the crema that espresso lovers were looking for, and sometimes a burnt taste that no one really likes, the moka pot slowly but surely became less and less widely used.
Yet there’s been a resurgence of moka pot enthusiasts coming back in droves, and if you’re at all curious, then you’ve come to the right place to discover the wonders of the moka pot and whether it’s a good fit for you.
As stated above, the moka pot is composed of 3 compartments that easily screw on and off. The first step you’re going to want to do is unscrew and disassemble the moka pot so that you have three separate compartments. The bottom layer will be for water, the second for coffee, and the top with the handle will be for the finished product.
What many people get wrong, and ultimately what leads to the burnt taste in the final cup, is that they put cold water into the bottom compartment, which means it takes longer for the water to start boiling and more time in which the steam interacts with the coffee to produce an over-extracted cup of coffee with a burnt mouthfeel. So, what works best is to first heat up your water, not boiling, but nearly there, and place it into the bottom compartment right below the little valve in the center. You’ll want to be careful and use caution when handling the bottom part if you used hot water.
Next, you’ll grind your measure out and grind your coffee. We recommend using a slightly finer grind than you’d use for pour overs, but not so fine that it’s espresso. Somewhere in the range of granulated sugar thereabouts. The best coffee to water ratio for moka pots is 1:7, which for most moka pots will mean anywhere from 15 grams to 22 grams depending on the size of your moka pot. Once you have your grounds, you’ll place them into the middle, second compartment that looks like a little cup, but you don’t want to pack it too tightly down, or again you’ll get an end product that tastes a little more bitter than preferred.
Then it’s a matter of reassembling the moka pot with all the ingredients in their respective place, and placing it on your stove, or respective heat source and letting the moka pot do its magic. Make sure the heat is around medium, or if using a gas burner make sure the flame isn’t bigger than the base of the moka pot.
The entire brewing process should take less than five minutes, and you’ll know when it has finished because the moka pot will give off a distinct, gurgling hiss sound at the end. Make sure you don’t uncover the moka pot before you hear the hiss, or you’re liable to get coffee spurting out all over your stovetop and counter. Then it is all a matter of pouring the coffee and customizing it as you see fit. The finished product should be a robust, well-grounded cup of coffee with a strong kick and body reminiscent of something you might find in espresso.
After all is said and caffeinated, though, we strongly recommend thoroughly cleaning out the moka pot. There are schools of thought out there that say to let a film of coffee encoat the top layer of the moka pot, but ultimately this is what leads to a bitter, smokey taste after awhile, and so it is best to just clean your moka pot after every use to ensure consistent quality from your first brew with the moka pot till your upteenth.