A Moka pot is the standard way most Italian families enjoy their daily coffee. Sourcing Nova walks you through everything you need to know about this small, metal coffee maker from Moka, Italy.
History of the Moka pot
The small, eight sided coffee maker, although newer shapes and models exist, goes by many different names – stovetop espresso maker, Bialetti and Italian coffee maker just to name a few. The name Bialetti refers to the inventor of the Moka pot, Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. The name Moka comes from Mokha, Anglicized to Mocha, a city in Yemen where the international coffee trade grew and flourished. Today, the Bialetti company produces a model very similar to the original design of the inventor – the Moka Express. The Bialetti moka pot is specially designed to produce a quick cup of espresso like coffee without the expense of an espresso maker.
The Moka pot earns the name stovetop espresso maker because the coffee is finished on the stove. There are other steps necessary before putting the entire assembly onto the stove burner, but this will be covered later in the blog. The resulting coffee is strong, robust and has a flavor very similar to espresso.
The Moka pot has its origins solidly in Italy, and some of the better Moka pots still come from there. China has learned the art of making these small stovetop espress makers, and the quality of the products coming from China rival that of the best Italian makes and models.
The standard Moka pot is made of four parts: a bottom chamber for water, a centerpiece basket for the ground coffee beans, funnel to move the water and a top for the brewed coffee. The basic pots are made from aluminum or stainless steel. Sourcing Nova will discuss the pros and cons of each later as well.
Preparing your Moka pot
A Moka pot is not designed for use straight out of the box. All Moka pots have some degree of residue in the pot from the manufacturing process. Here are the steps to preparing your Moka pot:
- This means the first thing you need to do is wash and dry your Moka pot completely. Use a gentle soap and hot water, and allow the Moka pot to air dry.
- Run a pot of water through the pot. This serves two purposes: 1. It allows you the opportunity to learn when your coffee is done; 2. It cleans the internal portions of the pot.
- Brew some coffee with one-half of a filter of coffee. This is not for drinking, but instead will coat the interior of the Moka pot with a thin layer of the oils and waxes from the ground beans.
- Wash a second time. Use a soap that will not strip the thin coating. Allow to dry. Your Moka pot is ready for its first round of freshly brewed coffee.
What coffee for a Moka pot
Moka coffee is similar to espresso. Both styles of coffee use steam pressure to brew, pushing the steam through the ground beans. The difference is the pressure used – moka pots use steam from the stovetop, and espresso uses highly pressurized steam from the espresso machine. Much like espresso, most Moka pots brew a small amount of coffee at a time – usually one or two cups – although larger models are available.
The Moka pot can make a variety of coffee styles to suit the coffee lover. This includes lattes, cappuccinos and the Italian favorite – machiatto – coffee with frothed milk. Regardless of your personal tastes, the secret to a good coffee brewed in a Moka pot is the correctly ground bean.
What is Moka pot crema
One of the absolute pleasures of a fine cup of Moka pot, stovetop espresso or any espresso made is the crema.
Crema is the deeply tanned froth that appears on the top of a properly made cup of stovetop espresso. Crema adds to the flavors and richness of the taste. The best crema comes from freshly ground beans – by now it should be obvious the importance of grinding your own.
How do you get the best crema in a Moka pot? Experience and practice is the only possible way to do it. Once you make a good crema for your Moka pot experience, you will be expecting to have the perfect amount each and every time.
The best coffee bean
The coffee bean itself is not as important as the grind. Sourcing Nova has previously discussed the importance of good coffee beans and grinding your own. Like we have said before, the bean is a matter of personal choice. The grind is what makes a difference when using a Moka pot for your coffee. You will want to grind your beans down to a grind somewhere between a standard drip coffee maker and espresso maker. What is this setting on your home grinder? Sourcing Nova has no idea. This is up to you to experiment and find the golden setting for your particular make and model of Moka pot. Once you have this setting dialed into your grinder, it is time to determine ratios.
Best coffee grind
If you have read our other piece on French press coffee makers, you know what the rule is on a coffee grind size. Here is a quick reminder:
- A burr style grinder is best.
- There is no one size fits all for a stovetop espresso coffee grind.
Sourcing Nova believes in you enjoying the best possible cup of stovetop espresso coffee you can brew for yourself.
A good rule of thumb as a starting point is a grind that is more coarse than an espresso grind yet finer than a drip coffee maker grind. This is about as clear as a cup of Moka pot coffee, but it is a starting point for you to experiment and find the best grind for you and your personal tastes.
The Golden Ratio – coffee to water
Italy uses the metric system of measurement, like almost all countries in the world. When it comes to using a Moka pot to make a cup coffee, metric units do allow a much more accurate measurement. The best ratio is one to seven, 1:7, and measured in grams. Here is a breakdown of the best ratios depending on the cup size of the Moka pot and is based on a 200 ml/six oz.. U.S. measurements are also listed.
|Cups of Moka pot coffee||Amount of coffee - pre grind||Amount of water|
|1 cup||7 gms /0.25 oz.||50 ml/1.7 oz.|
|2 cups||14 gms/0.50 oz.||100 ml/3.38 oz.|
|4 cups||28 gms/1.0 oz.||200 ml/6.76 oz.|
|10 cups||70 gms/2.5 oz.||500 ml/17 oz.|
|12 cups||84 gms/3.0 oz.||600 ml/20 oz.|
Like many things when it comes to making coffee, this is an average. There are variables to consider, including personal taste preference, coffee bean, grind and the like. Only you know what is best for your Moka pot cup of coffee.
Using a home stovetop
It is time to start using a Moka pot to make coffee. Here are the steps you will need:
- Set your stovetop to medium heat. Moka pots work best on electric stovetops, but gas is also acceptable. Use caution in either case.
- Grind your beans – Freshly ground coffee beans make all the difference when using a Moka pot. As soon as a bean is ground, flavor loss starts. Maximize the freshness by grinding at home.
- Fill the bottom portion of your Moka pot with freshly boiled water. If your tap water is suitable, that is fine. Sourcing Nova recommends filtered water or spring water for the absolute best tasting coffee.
- Fill the center portion evenly with your freshly ground coffee. Smooth the top, and make sure no coffee is on the rim or threads before you attach the centerpiece to the bottom.
- Place the top portion of the pot onto the previously assembled pieces. Use caution, the bottom will be hot.
- Move the entire Moka pot assembly to the stovetop.
- Listen for a hiss, bubble and strong smell of coffee. This is when your Moka pot stovetop coffee is ready.
- Pour into a mug of your choice, and enjoy.
We did not include a time to brew coffee in a Moka pot because there is no set time. Instead, listening and the scent of brewed coffee tells you when the coffee is done. Experiment to learn for your own stovetop.
If you are wondering why your Moka pot is not working, there are a few common issues that may occur. Here are those issues, and how to fix them.
- Why is there water in my Moka pot after brewing? The funnel that pulls the steam up to the top does not reach the bottom. A thin layer of water will always remain.
- Why is my Moka pot coffee bitter? The Moka pot is not seasoned correctly. Refer to the section above on proper seasoning.
- Why is my coffee weak? Fill the basket almost completely full with grounds; do not go past the reservoir line; use dark roasted beans.
Earlier in the piece, Sourcing Nova explained to you how to season your Moka pot. Here are steps in cleaning a Moka pot. Remember to use gentle cleaners so you will not strip the thin seasoning from the interior of the Moka pot.
- Take the Moka pot apart into its separate components.
- Wash each part carefully by hand.
- Set aside to air dry.
Aluminum or Stainless steel
The original Bialetti Moka pot had eight sides and was made of aluminum. Aluminum made sense – it is easy to work with as a metal and conducts heat exceptionally well. Aluminum pots are also less expensive for those who are considering trying coffee made in one. The drawbacks are the aluminum pots are not as strong, cannot be put into a dishwasher and do corrode over time.
Today’s stainless steel moka pot is made from the same SUS304 stainless steel used in kitchenware and appliances. Stainless steel is non-corrosive, durable and is safe for the dishwasher. The tradeoffs are the expense, the stainless steel holds heat for a considerable time and is heavier.
Sourcing Nova can help you find Moka pots made in either of the two materials as well as a variety of shapes, including the classic eight sided model.
Electric Moka pots
Today’s coffee drinker has plenty of ways to enjoy their coffee. Electric Moka pots give the drinker far more control over the brewing process than a standard Moka pot.
The electric Moka pot plugs into any standard wall outlet instead of sitting on the stove to brew. There is a shut off valve for the unit when the coffee stops brewing.
Stovetop moka pot – options
One of the great things about your stovetop Moka pot is its versatility. You can make any number of coffee styles: espresso, latte, cappuccino, Americano and macchiato. One of the other things you can do is brew tea.
Put your loose leaf tea into your filter portion. Use the same steps as you would for your standard coffee made on the stovetop.
Is the brew healthy
The degree of health conscious people seems to be growing daily. Concerns about health and coffee are common. Many people with high cholesterol need to avoid French press coffee, for example.
Caffeine in a Moka pot is approximately two to three times stronger than a standard drip coffee and one to two times weaker than a standard shot of espresso.
So, is Moka pot coffee healthy? If you are trying to watch your cholesterol or are not allowed caffeine, then it is likely a Moka pot is not for you. Otherwise, enjoy your Moka pot coffee. It, like many things, is probably best done with moderation in mind.
Sourcing Nova has done the hard work for you and found out as much as possible about the Moka pot. It is now your turn. What is something about the Moka pot you like? Perhaps a coffee bean you can recommend? Let us know in the comment section below. We love hearing from you.