How to Use A Moka Pot (You’re doing it wrong)

So, you love espresso. But you are looking for something a little more portable and cost friendly? And you’d rather not invest in a bulky, expensive machine for your home (what are they, plated with gold or something)? Maybe you've already bought yourself a stovetop espresso maker...AKA the 'Moka Pot'.

Let's make some coffee. Here's a simple set of instructions so you can enjoy the perfect cup of coffee on the cheap, whenever you want.

What You Need

  • A quality stovetop espresso maker (which has three parts: the lower part, the filter funnel, the top part). This is also called a moka pot
  • Coffee beans
  • Coffee grinder
  • Water
  • Fire
the main parts of a moka pot
a hand grinder, a coffee bean container, and a stovetop coffee maker

How to Make Stovetop Espresso: 7 Steps

Follow these simple steps. Be prepared for the first time to take a little bit longer if it is your first time making Moka pot coffee.

1. Prepare your Moka Pot.

separating the parts of the bialetti
three parts of the moka express

Separate your moka pot into its three parts:

  • The lower portion for the water
  • The filter basket for the coffee grounds
  • The upper chamber for the finished coffee

If it is your first time using it, give each part a rinse with fresh water to remove any metallic taste. For this tutorial, we are using the Italian Bialetti coffee maker - a long standing favorite.

2. Grind coffee beans.

a hand grinder, a coffee bean container, and a bialetti moka express

Grind your coffee to a fine to medium fine setting. Take note of the grind setting you used; if you over or under-extract your coffee, you'll have something to change for the next brew.

Here's a coffee grind size chart to help you nail the perfect grind.

3. Add water to bottom chamber.

pouring water in the chamber of a moka pot

Fill the lower chamber with cold, filtered water. Don’t fill past the safety valve, as this will cause issues once your water boils.

For best results, avoid tap water use filtered or distilled water.

This article explains the importance of using good water for brewing. If you're in a rush, add hot water to the chamber rather than cold water. This will speed up the brewing process.

4. Add ground coffee to filter basket.

putting coffee grinds in the filter basket
placing the filter basket in the lower unit of the bialetti

Take the filter basket and fill it all the way to the top with coffee grounds. You don't need to tamp it like you would if you were using an espresso machine. Use your finger to smooth of the excess grounds, and give it shake or tap to help the grounds settle evenly. That is all you need to do.

5. Reassemble the unit.

grinds in the lower unit of the bialetti

Put your coffee maker back together. First, place the filter back into the water-filled lower part of the unit. Then screw the top part firmly.

Do not over-tighten the top chamber! 

Most threaded metal devices, particularly ones that come equipped with a gasket like this, do not require excessive force. Just make sure it is firmly tightened and head on to the next step.

6. Add fire.

a photo showing how to use a stovetop espresso maker

Place your coffee maker on the stovetop and turn on the stove to a medium setting. Avoid the temptation to save a bit of time by blasting your coffee on a high heat setting. This will burn your beans and leave you with bad tasting coffee.

Wait patiently for the water to come to a boil. Most units are fairly small, so this process shouldn’t take long - 3 minutes max for a 6 cup moka pot. Don’t wander off, as you need to be present when it does start to boil. If using a gas stove, be careful the flame doesn’t melt the plastic handle.

7. Remove from heat and serve.

a moka pot with an open lid
pouring coffee from a bialetti moka pot

When you hear a gurgling sound, that’s the cue that the water has made the short, hot trip north and has filled the upper chamber with some delicious coffee.

Don’t leave the coffee on the burner for more than a few seconds after the gurgling begins, as one of the prime dangers of brewing this way is getting a burnt taste due to overheating during the brewing process.

Turn off the heat and pour your coffee. If you want to drink it black, add a little hot water to make an Americano, otherwise forth some milk to make a latte or cappuccino. Here's a guide on frothing milk at home.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! If everything has gone well, and you’ve followed the steps carefully, you should be looking at your empty Moka pot, while sipping a delicious cup of coffee. That just leaves one question left to answer: How is it? More coffee brewing guides here.

FAQs

How does a Moka pot work?

A moka pot works by forcing boiling water (via steam pressure) from the bottom chamber through coffee grounds into the top chamber. 'How It Works' explains the process perfectly (1).

"When the moka pot is placed on the stove, the water heats up and generates steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and pushes the water up through the coffee granules and into the top chamber where it is ready to be poured." - How It Works

How do you know when a Moka Pot is done?

You know a moka pot is done when you hear a hissing or gurgling sound. This indicates the pressure of the boiling water has pushed the water from the bottom chamber to the top chamber. Once you hear this sound, it is time to turn off the heat and wait 30 seconds.

How long should a Moka Pot take?

A moka pot should take between 2 and 5 minutes to brew, depending on the size/capacity. Avoid the temptation to turn the heat up to speed up the process as this will only leave you with burnt, hot coffee. Stainless steel vs aluminum coffee makers may differ in brew times.

Is Moka coffee as strong as espresso?

No, moka coffee is not as strong as espresso. Moka pots brew what seems to be a strong, dark coffee. Many people confuse it for espresso. The reality is that this type of coffee maker lacks the pressure required to make true espresso. According to James from Gamble bay coffee (2):

"While coffee from a moka pot may have less caffeine than regular espressos, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of caffeine to be had." - James Lambert, Gamble Bay Coffee Co.

If you’re looking for an absolutely perfect espresso, you’re going to want to look into a full-blown espresso machine. For more about the differences between a Moka Pot and a normal espresso machine, read this guide.


References

  1. How It Works. (2016, June 17). How do moka pots work? Retrieved July 6, 2019, from https://www.howitworksdaily.com/how-do-moka-pots-work/
  2. Lambert, J. Is Moka Coffee as strong as espresso? Retrieved from https://medium.com/@jamesgamblebay/is-moka-coffee-as-strong-as-espresso-81b6bfa81b12
  3. Freeman, J., Freeman, C., Duggan, T., McLachlan, C., & Ott, M. (2012). The Blue Bottle craft of coffee: growing, roasting, and drinking, with recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
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  • Alex
  • September 3, 2019
Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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