Many Moka Pots are sold as stovetop espresso makers, which is misleading because while they do make an espresso-like coffee, you are not in fact making true espresso
Real espresso coffee is made by pushing water through the coffee at very high pressure (9 bars of pressure to be exact) and Moka Pot coffee is made by pushing water through coffee grounds at somewhat high pressure (1 bar).
More from that, the pressure inside an espresso machine is created with either a piston if it’s an older machine or a motor if it’s a newer higher-end machine.
While inside a Moka Pot the pressure is created by the water boiling and turning into steam where it gets directed through a small pipe inlet into the coffee grounds and up into the top chamber where it stays. This is still fairly powerful in terms of pressure, if you could put your hand in front of it without burning yourself you’d be able to feel it.
But compared to 9 bar it’s like standing in a light wind compared to standing in a storm wind with your jacket whipping over your face.
And while both end up with a small cup of strong coffee this difference in the method is enough to change the flavor and the texture of the coffee even if you started with the same beans.
But both have their advantages and more subtle differences…
Moka Pot Vs Espresso Machine Coffee
1. Moka Pots Are Far Cheaper
This is the most significant difference in my opinion, because yes the type of coffee makes is different, and yes they taste different, but that’s just a small detail compared to this fact…
You can get a great Moka pot for $50 but to get a good Espresso Machine you’re looking at $500.
Now, this is no small difference! And for $500 you might not even have a great home espresso machine, you might not be able to get a truly great coffee out of it, but with a $50 Moka Pot you’re all set and ready to make a great cup of coffee.
I personally save my espresso enjoyment for coffee shops, I plan on taking it up as a hobby but for now, I have neither the space in my kitchen or the budget in my bank that will allow me to start.
So on a per cup and cost-effective basis a Moka Pot “nospresso” is more than a good enough substitute for an actual espresso
2. Espresso Machines Make Stronger Coffee
When you use a Moka Pot and make black coffee with it you certainly get a deep intense flavor, and if you also drink espresso you’d be forgiven for thinking it tastes just as strong.
But trust me, if you were to drink them side by side you’d know for a fact that espresso remains the strongest form of coffee you can drink.
As for the argument that espresso makes smoother coffee, I’d say it makes different coffee, a different texture and you’ve got crema. And I think people say this because badly made Moka Pot coffee tastes very harsh. But well made it has a strong dark roast like flavor but the coffee itself is very clean tasting.
Besides it goes both ways, bad espresso is usually a bitter sour mess but we’re all lucky that espresso is so widely available that pretty much everyone who drinks it has gotten to enjoy a top-quality barista-made espresso and so knows how good it tastes when it’s done right.
But if you’ve only had your own badly made cup of Moka Pot Coffee you’ve not gotten to experience the highs of it.
3. Moka Pot Coffee Requires Less Equipment
To make coffee in a Moka Pot you require 2 things, the pot itself and a heat source like a stovetop (hence a stovetop coffee maker). Then just add ground coffee and water, and you’re good to go.
An espresso machine by contrast is going to need the machine itself which is a big bulky beast generally, plus you’ll want an accurate scale that can read in grams up to 0.1 which just adds an extra fiddly layer, and you’ll need a good quality grinder that can grind to an espresso fineness of grind. Which means a more expensive grinder to boot.
That’s already becoming a big investment, and you’ve not even got a coffee out of it yet!
4. Moka Pots Require Much Less Skill
Water in, coffee in, apply heat, and enjoy a cup of coffee. That’s what I’m all about because I do often try very hard to get a truly exceptional cup of coffee pushing my equipment to its limits, but sometimes I’m feeling lazy and very sleepy and I just want some coffee.
I’m sure you can feel for that right?
No-fuss, no-frills, just some coffee to enjoy and that’s why a Moka Pot is a great addition to your coffee cupboard.
But it’s why having both is entirely an option, you can have the espresso machine for when you’re feeling fancy, or when you have guests and there are a few coffees to make, and then your Moka Pot for when you’re half asleep and need to get caffeine into your face ASAP…
And Moka pots are nice and small, I have a 6 cup one that fits comfortably onto the window sill in the kitchen beside the washing up liquid and a not very happy looking orchid.
5. Moka Pots Are Less Commitment
All of the last three points add up to one thing, a Moka Pot is just less commitment, there is less financial commitment, less of a time commitment to learning how to use the damn thing, and less of a time commitment between deciding you want a cup of coffee and enjoying one.
And I’m not against the commitment it takes to make good espresso at home (although I might have come across that way) I just want it to be clear that it’s not as easy as buying an espresso machine and enjoying it. But it is as easy as buying a Moka Pot and enjoying a cup of coffee.
And while eventually, you’ll get better coffee from your espresso machine, you will much more easily get an Above Average Coffee from your Moka Pot, and that’s what we’re all here for.
6. Both Can Be The Basis of A Cappuccino
It is one of my greatest pleasures that I have enough time in the morning to make a cappuccino for my wife and I. And I’m happy to report that I do this with a Moka Pot and a milk frother (which I’ve reviewed here).
Is it as good as a cappuccino made in a coffee shop? No. Is it damn good and a delicious way to start the day? Absolutely yes.
If and when I progress to making proper espresso at home I’ll also be taking the time to master the steaming wand, another skill unto itself. And I’m sure it will bring new realms of cappuccino pleasure into the house, but for now, I am more than happy making cappuccino with my Moka Pot each morning.
But in general, this is a similarity they share, you can use both to make cappuccinos, but the milk frother falls short if you want to make the other milk coffee drinks like Latte or Flat Whites. For these, you need the steam wand and the extra pressure you can get from an espresso machine.
7. Both Come From Italy
Our final similarity is that both of these coffee brewing methods hail from Italy. The first espresso machine was patented in 1884 by Italian Angelo Moriondo, and the Moka Pot was patented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, and Bialetti are still making the best quality Moka pots today.
The Moka Pot was invented as a way of getting espresso coffee into the home, whereas large espresso machines are very costly and back then were enormous machines that looked much like big tea urns as they did coffee machines. I’ve got a picture of one below so you can see it for yourself.
8. Moka Pots are less maintenance
As far as clean up goes it couldn’t be easier in a moka pot, the bottom chamber just has water in it so doesn’t need cleaned. Then the filter basket can be emptied by blowing on the bottom over the garbage, and the rest can be rinsed down the sink for the garbage disposal. Then the upper chamber is cleaned with hot water.
The only brewing process easier is possibly a drip coffee maker because that’s got a paper filter you can bin.
Because all coffee lovers want a brewed coffee but ease of use and ease of upkeep is also important.
Now an espresso machine might be as easy as hammering the grounds out of the portafilter, but if you don’t take some time to really care for the whole machine your shot of espresso is quickly going to go downhill in terms of quality.
Should I tamp my moka pot?
You shouldn’t tamp your moka pot or you might end up making a small bomb! If the grind size is too fine and the coffee is packed in too tight then the water won’t be able to pass through. So no matter how much you increase your brew time there’s no coffee coming out of there!
But a good idea, while we’re here, is to have the heating element on a medium heat, I found this produces a much tastier coffee. More moka pot tips if you’re interested.
Is Moka pot finer than espresso?
No moka pot coffee grounds should be coarser than espresso, turkish coffee should be finer than espresso coffee but not moka pot. It depends on your coffee grinder but about a 12 on a Baratza encore burr grinder is good for moka pot coffee compared to an 8 setting for espresso.
Can you leave coffee in a Moka pot?
I wouldn’t recommend it, because while yes you can leave it in there and reheat it the next day it’s a very inefficient way to do so. The flavor profile will get ruined and it develops a weirdly “tinny” taste.
Is aluminum Moka pot bad?
Not at all, aluminium won’t work on an induction hob, you’ll need stainless steel for that, but apart from that aluminum moka pots are absolutely fine to use and brew coffee equally as good as any alternative.
So similar and yet so distinct are these two methods of coffee making. Each has its place and each can produce excellent coffee when used correctly, but if you came here wondering which you should buy then I can’t recommend the Moka Pot more highly.
Quick easy coffee making with delicious results.
Who knew there could be such a variety across combining hot water and coffee beans at pressure?