The Moka Pot is simple to use but so many people complain the coffee it makes is terrible.
That’s because there’s somewhat of a knack to it that takes some practice.
With these 17 tips, you’re going to be well on your way to mastering your Moka Pot and getting delicious Stovetop espresso made properly.
I should also point out that Moka Pots are different from percolators (see this article for the differences) and these tips will only work for a Moka Pot.
1. Tap The Side Of The Filter Basket
And bang the beat of that drum!
When you’re filling the basket with grounds, hold it outside of the water chamber and tap the side of the basket so that the grounds fall level.
This makes sure that the water will pass through it all somewhat evenly without having to try and delicately spread them about with a spoon.
Plus it makes sure they aren’t pressed down which causes its own problems.
2. Never Tamp The Coffee
If you’re making espresso in an espresso machine you need to firmly tamp down the coffee into the portafilter basket, it’s an essential step and ensures you get a really great coffee.
But in a Moka Pot? This is a sure-fire way to set yourself up with a small device that could explode…
Because this could stop the water from being able to pass through the grounds because the pressure isn’t nearly as high as in an espresso machine (1 bar compared to 9 bar to be exact) so the pressure builds up with nowhere to go.
That leads to one of two situations.
Either it gets through all at once and coffee explodes out the top, or it slowly has to escape through the safety valve in the side. Which if that’s blocked due to limescale or some other defect the whole thing could just explode apart.
3. Don’t Grind Too Fine
I’m going to talk a little bit later about how this affects the flavor and aroma of the coffee, but before we even get to that there’s a better reason…
And it’s the same reason you shouldn’t tamp your coffee down, if the grind is too fine you could clog up the filter and make yourself a small explosive device as all of the steam tries to escape out the safety valve.
It’s a pretty unlikely scenario but it’s one I try to avoid, grind coffee for your Moka Pot coarser than you do an espresso machine, a medium-fine grind rather than a fine grind. A medium-fine grind has particle sizes from around 1/16” to 1/32” (1.6mm to 0.8mm) in diameter.
For easy reference we have a grind size chart on our Cheat sheet which you can download by signing up for Moka Pot Mondays our coffee newsletter below.
4. Fill With Boiling Water Not Cold
This is the easiest win you can have for making your Moka Pot coffee taste better, if you put in cold water you’re leaving the coffee grounds to gently bake in a hot metal container before the water ever has a chance to reach them, which makes a big difference in the flavor and leaves a more burnt taste.
But if you boil a kettle and fill the bottom chamber with boiling water you’re already most of the way there, so it only takes a minute or two before the water starts coming through the grounds.
Better taste and it speeds up the brewing process so you go from not to coffee in no time at all.
Just make sure you use a towel to grip the bottom when you’re screwing the two halves together, I certainly don’t want you to burn yourself!
5. Run Cold Water Over The Base When It’s Done
To not overheat your coffee grounds at the start, you can take steps to ensure that once they’re finished brewing, you stop the process altogether. You don’t want over-extracted coffee making its way into your cup.
You certainly don’t want to check on it only to find the coffee in the top chamber at a gentle boil! I have to confess, I have done once before I figured these tips out.
How extreme you want to go is up to you, if you want a truly stupendous coffee you can remove it from the heat at the first gurgle and plunge the bottom into ice water to immediately stop the process.
I settle for removing the Moka Pot from the stovetop on the first gurgle and placing it on a heat-proof mat. That’s how you make Above Average Coffee.
6. Don’t Put It In The Dishwasher
Unless you have a Moka Pot specifically designed for an Induction hob then chances are you’ve got an aluminum one.
If you put an aluminum anything into the dishwasher, while it does come out clean it also comes out tarnished to hell and possibly even corroded…
If it has become tarnished, it shouldn’t affect the taste. Just give it a good clean by hand and thoroughly rinse off any detergent.
You could try and polish it or get some tarnish removed but it’s an awful lot of work and is more likely to leave behind polish, which will go into your next cup. So if it has already gone through the dishwasher just check that the safety valve still works and then carry on using it as it should have only suffered cosmetic damage.
7. Blow Into The Bottom Of The Basket To Empty
This was a game-changer when I got my first Moka Pot when Scott, this site’s co-founder, told me to blow into the bottom of the filter basket cone when it’s time to empty.
If you do that there’s a good chance a single puck of coffee will fall into your garbage can making the emptying of it infinitely easier.
Sometimes it doesn’t all fall out in one piece and needs a scrape with a spoon to get the last bits out but most of the time it works perfectly.
Just let the whole thing cool before you do this, and please make sure you do it standing over the garbage can. Watch out though, coffee grounds aren’t great for your garbage disposal.
8. Heat Up On A Medium Heat
After you’ve filled the water chamber with boiling water, it’s tempting to place it on the stovetop at maximum heat so it makes coffee even faster.
Please don’t do this.
It’s a surefire way to a burnt and bitter cup because the water gets too hot for the grounds and extracts through them way too fast.
What’s a better plan is to go for medium to medium-high heat and let it brew just that little bit slower, the coffee comes out so much smoother and so much less bitter.
Another quick and easy way to improve your cup.
9. Don’t Fill Past The Release Valve
This is both a safety point and a making-a-better-coffee point.
The release valve is a small circular bit of metal with a hole in it on the bottom chamber. It’s got a mechanism in it that can open and allow steam to escape if the pressure gets too high. If you overfill it, water blocks it up and steam can’t escape.
This leaves you either with a valve that’s spilling out hot water or a chamber that’s got more pressure in it than it can handle. So coffee water gets forced up through the coffee grounds and can actually spurt coffee everywhere.
Or it pushes up water before it’s the right temperature and you end up with coffee that doesn’t extract properly.
10. Clean Under The Rubber Seal
Yup, if you use a teaspoon you can pull that rubber seal out. This is especially important if you’re Moka Pot isn’t used very often because coffee grounds can get stuck underneath it.
Short term they’re going to go stale and could affect the overall taste of the cup, but long term they could start to grow moldy and before you know it the only thing it’s going to be good for is the bin.
So pop it out and give it a clean. Ideally, you should clean this every time but if I’m honest I tend to clean under my one far less often than that, I’ll just occasionally give the whole thing a deeper clean. Never in the dishwasher but I’ll get to that…
11. Descale If You’ve Got Hard Water
If like me you’re one of the lucky ones who lives somewhere with software, i.e. not in a big city, then you probably don’t think about this.
But if you do have hard water this is going to be very important for the health of your Moka Pot, because if scale builds up in the water chamber it can cause the safety valve to block and stop working.
Not a big deal you think, well if you have the unfortunate coincidence that your safety valve breaks and then you’ve ground to fine or tamped your grounds in then you’ve got a little pressure bomb. If the pressure builds up with nowhere to go you could be readying for a bang!
Not a hugely likely scenario but one that could and has happened.
Apart from that, the limescale build-up will leave a funny taste in your coffee which is better avoided, and it will start to affect how the coffee is brewed. So Descale it as often as you need to then give it a very thorough rinsing afterward.
12. Always Fill to the Bottom of the Valve
You need to use the whole capacity of your Moka Pot if you want it to work properly. Half-filling it will only lead to subpar coffee because the pressure can’t build up properly.
And if the coffee basket is only half full then it won’t brew properly either.
So if you only want half of a cup, your options are to make a full pot and only use half of it, or you can buy a smaller 1 person size Moka pot (go for a 3 cup size, not a 1 cup size because 1 cup of Moka pot coffee is never enough).
I’m glad I decided to get a 9 cup Moka Pot so I can use it when guests come over. I can make 4 great-sized cappuccinos. The only problem is where to store it because they’re giant!
13. Remove From Heat After First Splutter
I touched on this when I talked about cooling the bottom chamber once it’s finished brewing.
If you keep the lid down you can normally hear when it’s almost done because it starts to sputter and gurgle as the last of the water shunts out the main pipe. Well, the moment you hear this you’re going to want to remove it from the heat to let it cool.
Another alternative is to brew it with the lid open so you can watch the coffee start to flow out, which while very satisfying also helps you keep an eye on temperature because if it’s foamed coffee coming out it’s too hot.
And once the coffee starts to lift off from the sides of the Moka pot you know it’s about to splutter and you can take it off the heat.
There might be a little water left in the bottom but don’t worry about it, you’ve already got all the best tasting coffee and more than 90% if it so you won’t miss that last mouthful of bitter coffee that’s left behind.
14. Use Filtered Water In The Bottom
This is another good one if you live in a big city. The rule is if you don’t want to drink the tap water straight, then don’t use it to make coffee!
It seems so simple once you know but you don’t think about it until it’s pointed out.
Get yourself some bottled water, even if it’s just for your coffee. Alternatively, use a water filter jug if you want to use less plastic.
If you’re really into coffee you’ll be able to taste a difference between different brands of water from the mixture of minerals that are present. But if you’re like me, you can’t…
There is a definite taste difference between using subpar tap water in your coffee and using nice-tasting water.
15. If It’s Sour Grind Finer
Because Moka Pot is espresso-like it can be prone to a certain sourness in it when you drink it black. Not a nice grapefruit sourness from some expertly roasted coffee beans, but a sourness that is nothing but unpleasant.
But the fix is relatively simple, you need a finer grind of coffee.
If you’re using a grinder this is an easy fix of lowering the setting and trying again. But if you’re buying pre-ground coffee it’s more of an issue.
Standard grind from supermarket coffee is about a medium grind which is good for a drip machine but not great for most other coffee brewing methods. So you’re going to need to either get yourself a coffee grinder, find a local roaster who will grind your coffee to your request, or use a different method.
16. If It’s Bitter Grind Coarser
If you’re finding your Moka Pot is a really bitter taste, well first I’d actually use the other tips in this list, boiling water in, remove it from the heat promptly and then see how it is.
If that still isn’t doing it then it’s time to adjust the grind. A bitter brew normally means it’s ground too fine, which is a problem in itself so you’re going to want to start grinding your coffee coarser (or get it ground coarser using the above tip)
17. If It’s Leaking Buy A Replacement Gasket
If water is coming out the valve it means that the bottom chamber is too full when you’re using it, so a little less water next time.
But if water is coming out the joint between the two chambers that’s a bigger problem.
It could simply be that they need to be screwed together more tightly. Alternatively, it might need to be washed out underneath it, there could be some coffee grounds affecting the seal.
But more likely is that the rubber seal will perish over time, especially because it’s getting heated and cooled so much.
Luckily you can head over to Amazon and you can order yourself a replacement gasket for any size of Moka pot.
The three biggest changes you can make are to start putting boiling water in the bottom chamber instead of cold water, heat it up on a medium heat, and take it off at first bubble.
If you do those you’re going to notice an immediate improvement.
But I hope the rest of these tips helped, and if you have anything to add that I missed then let me know in the comments below!
Looking for a wider range of tips for all kinds of brewing methods? Check out this article at Porch which features our answer to one of their coffee questions!