Great coffee comes in many different forms. Although it’s easy enough to order from your local coffee shop, when you’re used to barista-quality coffee it can be a steep learning curve to move on to home-brew coffee.
If you want to take a step up from the French press and start brewing espresso-like coffee at home, by far the cheapest and easiest method of doing this is to use a Moka pot. This coffee maker, designed in Italy by the engineer Alfonso Bialetti makes a truly rich and dark brew that can rival any espresso.
As with most coffee makers, if you use a Moka pot wrong then you’ll be set for disappointment. To get the very best out of your brew here’s a complete guide to using your Moka pot. From the coffee you choose to the brew method, it’s all here to keep you on track!
The Moka Pot (Stovetop Espresso Maker)
The Moka pot is an Italian stovetop coffee maker that makes very strong dark coffee. It has three compartments, one for the water, one for the ground coffee, and a top chamber where the brewed coffee ends up.
When you place it on the stove the water heats up and the steam creates pressure that forces the water up through the coffee grounds to brew the coffee in the upper chamber. The Bialetti Moka Pot is a traditional Italian brand that has the iconic design most people are familiar with.
Is It Real Espresso?
Although the Moka pot is called a stovetop espresso maker, the coffee it brews isn’t actually true espresso. An espresso machine should reach around 9 bars of pressure to create that thick crema that characterizes a true espresso and the Moka pot can only manage 1.5 bars.
Because the Moka pot uses steam pressure to create a pressurized environment, this means that the hot water is boiling rather than the optimal 195-205F temperature that an espresso machine works at. This can create a bitter brew if the Moka pot isn’t handled with care.
Moka pot coffee can still be enjoyed as an espresso-like cup of coffee or you can add steamed milk to make a latte or cappuccino.
The first thing you need to consider when you set out to make Moka pot coffee is the kind of coffee you’re going to choose.
Whole Bean Vs Pre Ground
It’s always best to opt for whole coffee beans as coffee loses a lot of flavor and aroma quite quickly once it’s ground up. To get the most flavor out of your coffee, buy whole beans, ideally freshly roasted from a local coffee roaster.
Type Of Coffee
A darker or medium roast is better suited to the Moka pot due to its strong single-note flavors and more oily texture. The bean origins come down to personal preference and which varieties suit the darker roasting process.
How Much Coffee
The amount of coffee you add to your Moka pot depends on the size of the pot. For a 4 cup, Bialetti Moka pot, you will need about 15-17 grams of coffee to fill the filter basket. You want the basket to be full of coffee that’s loosely packed in, not tamped down.
The Moka pot needs a medium-fine grind of coffee, similar to drip coffee. It should have roughly the consistency of table salt. It’s best to use a burr coffee grinder to grind up coffee beans as these ensure a consistent particle size throughout the coffee.
To make coffee in a Moka pot you will need a heat source. An electric or gas stovetop does well but you can always use an open flame or campfire to make coffee in the great outdoors. Just be wary of the plastic handle on the pot and make sure it isn’t exposed to too much heat as it can melt!
Now you have your coffee and your pot ready, let’s look into exactly what to do to get the very best coffee out of your Moka pot.
Start with the lower chamber. Typically this is filled with cold water then placed over the heat. I have found that this can impart a metallic taste to your coffee and this is much reduced if you use pre-heated water. Boil the kettle and then add the water to the bottom chamber of the pot, filling it to just below the pressure release valve.
Next, place the filter basket on top and add your coffee grounds. Don’t tamp them down, simply fill the basket and use your finger or a spoon to gently level the surface.
The bottom chamber will be pretty hot at this point so use a tea towel or oven mitts to screw the top chamber in place. The rubber gasket should create an airtight seal between the two parts.
Place the pot over a medium heat-low heat and wait with the top open so you can keep an eye on the brewing process.
When it starts to hiss and emit a thick cloud of steam you know it’s nearly there. The coffee should start to bubble and ooze out of the spout. If it’s spitting a lot at this stage you can close the lid to keep it tidy.
Once the upper chamber is full and the coffee is no longer oozing out the spout, remove the pot from the heat source and run it under cold water. This quickly cools the stainless steel pot and helps further prevent that metallic taste from ending up in the coffee.
Serve the coffee in shots to be enjoyed as an espresso, topped up with hot water to give an americano, or with steamed milk to give a latte or other specialty coffee.
The Moka pot is an easy-to-use, simple solution to making rich, dark coffee at home. It takes a bit of practice to get the coffee perfect but once you manage it you’ll never look back. Just make sure you use good quality coffee and take care as you brew and you’ll be enjoying the most delicious cup of java in no time.