Moka Pot vs Espresso Machine – Do They Really Compare?
Talk to an Italian grandmother and they’ll argue that the best espresso is made on the stove with a Moka Pot. Talk to a professional Barista, and they will tell tell you the only way to make true espresso is via a large and somewhat expensive espresso machine.
So who are you going to listen to? Today’s showdown: Moka Pot vs Espresso Machine.
Which one makes the better coffee? What’s the better bang for your buck?
Defining The Espresso
Before we venture into the different brewers, it is important that we define and explain what exactly an ‘espresso’ is.
This forced pressure reduces the brew time to less than 30 seconds and produces about 2-4 ounces of ultra-rich and concentrated coffee.
Espresso is highly praised for its ability to create intense flavor profiles and highlight some of the unique flavors inherent in coffees that get lost in longer brew times.
Espresso is recognizable for its super thick and concentrated body and an off white layer on top known as the “crema.” The crema contains a lot of the aromatics of the coffee.
For an in-depth conversation, check out Intelligentsia’s mini-education video course:
Moka Pot vs Espresso Machine – Head to Head
Now we’ll take a look at each brewing method, head to head, to find out which one is the one for you. If you’d like to learn more about each plus every other brew method out there, skim through our ultimate list of coffee brewing methods here.
The Moka Pot
The Moka Pot is often referred to as a “stovetop espresso maker.”
How it works
Put over an open heating element; the Moka Pot places water in a bottom compartment. Above that coffee is inserted between the water and serving vessel. As the water boils, it bubbles up and over the coffee grounds. This bubbling forcibly extracts the coffee from the grounds and pushes said coffee to the top compartment.
The coffee that comes out is very concentrated, thick, and delicious – however its very easy to under or over extract.
You can find super detailed instructions on how to use a stovetop espresso maker here.
- Makes a very rich and thick coffee
- Aluminum body helps to retain heat
- Very easy to clean
- Requires a costly grinder to produce a fine texture
- Difficult to control quality from brew to brew
- Does not create authentic espresso with crema and vibrant flavors
The Espresso Machine
By comparison, an espresso machine is a much more complex coffee making apparatus. Whereas the Moka pot uses nothing but a stovetop to heat water, an espresso machine uses motors, heating elements, and electronics to brew espresso properly.
How it works
An espresso machine has three main components. The water boiler is self-contained in the machine and is used to boil water and build pressure.
The grouphead, which, similar to a valve, controls the water flow and pressure through the coffee grounds. And finally, the portafilter, a handled basket filter that allows the brewed coffee to be pushed through a sheet full of small holes.
Some espresso machines are automatic and used complex electronics for the proper brew time and water flow whereas others give the user a little more control over the extraction process (such as the Rocket R58).
We’ve taken a closer look at some of the best rated espresso machines, if you’re in the market for one: Best espresso machines (all prices).
- Extracts a super concentrated coffee with crema and complex flavors
- Water boilers also build pressure for the steam wand used for steamed milk drinks
- Can make multiple drinks quickly
Which is Right for You?
There is no easy answer to this question. Although they are similar in the sense that they both brew a strong cup of coffee, the Moka pot comes nowhere near to the espresso machine in consistency, quality, or control.
Because of the grouphead valve, a consistent and steady stream of pressure flows over and through the grounds. This helps produce an even extraction and a full flavor.
The Moka pot, on the other hand, has no pressure consistency which can result in a bitter or watery taste.
The only flaw with an espresso machine, and this is a major one, is that that espresso machines are extremely costly (in comparison) and require extra equipment (and often, know-how) to make them work successfully.
THE VERDICT: We Prefer a Good Old Espresso Machine!
If you had to choose, and money wasn’t an issue, the clear winner would be an espresso machine.
The Moka pot can produce a concentrated coffee, but it does not lend itself to any control or consistency which could result bad coffee. There is not much to work with to fix any problems from brew to brew.
The espresso machine, on the other hand, has mechanics that aid in ensuring consistency from cup to cup. Although there is a steep learning curve (depending on your machine, of course) the espresso machine allows you to manipulate and change multiple variables including water temperature, extraction time, and the total amount of coffee brewed. This control will help you create a routine and cater the flavors of the coffee to your particular taste.
If you are feeling adventurous and are ready to start learning about espresso, the DeLonghi line of home espresso machines are a great (and economical) first step.
If you consider yourself a little more advanced/hipster, you can look at more expensive options like the Breville line of home machines which offer more features and controls.
Still deciding to side with your Italian grandmother? That’s cool - then check out these 4 moka pots that will keep your nonna smiling.
Have you thought about or taken the plunge and purchased an espresso machine? What was your experience? Any recommendations?