Moka Pot vs Espresso Machine – Do They Really Compare? - HOMEGROUNDS
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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.

According to Scott Rao, a premier voice in specialty coffee, “espresso is produced by the percolation of pressurized hot water through a tightly packed bed of finely ground coffee.”

espresso extraction book

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.

To produce an excellent espresso, one must have proper instruction in technique and access to various tools like a quality grinder. This ensures uniformity in the grind and proper extraction.

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.

PROS

  • Makes a very rich and thick coffee
  • Aluminum body helps to retain heat
  • Very easy to clean

CONS

  • 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:

PROS

  • 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

CONS

  • Requires special training for consistency
  • Requires the purchasing of extra equipment including scalestamps, and grinders
  • VERY COSTLY range from $300 to $1000+
  • Machine can take 20-45 minutes to warm up depending on water boiler volume

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?

Moka Pot vs Espresso Machine
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 10 comments
Eating Adventures - May 4, 2016

Glad I found your website. More interesting than most. Maybe that is just my coffee addiction speaking. I would take my perculator any day over an espresso machine. Having had both, my perculator produces a much purer flavour and requires less space and is easier to clean. I can also travel with it….

Reply
    Alex - May 5, 2016

    Thanks for the compliment.

    When I’m travelling I use my Aeropress, however, I can see how a mini-moka pot would work.

    Reply
Mark - March 28, 2017

Great article, thanks!

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Frank - June 1, 2017

Hey, great article. I’d like to now the difference in concentration between an espresso shot and a moka pot cup. If i drink a whole 4 cup moka pot in the morning, is that too much? Been doing it for years! Thanks.

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James - July 25, 2017

Have you ever seen a plug-in moka pot? kind of like a countertop hot water heater. I love my mochapot at home, but it would be cool to have something that plugs in at work. not enough desk space for an espresso machine.

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Brian - December 19, 2017

Why don’t cars have espresso machines built into the dash ffs

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    Alex - December 20, 2017

    Great Idea….for now, the handpresso will have to do…check it out!

    Reply
Kevin - December 22, 2017

I was in Germany a week ago on business, and the best part? The coffee! (I also enjoyed the Christmas Market and I love my colleagues at my company.) Anyway, the coffee makers were actually automatic advanced espresso machines – at my hotel I would select “Kaffee Krema” (or however it was spelled – I don’t speak German except for being around a pipe organ – my previous career). The coffee was so good! I missed it when I came back to the states.

I thought about an espresso machine, but with limited room in our kitchen, I got a Moka pot. As we have a gas stove, I am able to regulate the heat as it brews. As the coffee starts rising to the top, I turn down the flame and regulate the flow so it is not too fast, not too slow. I must say the coffee I get from this Moka pot is nothing short of AMAZING, and I can have coffee when the power goes out.

I vote Moka pot hands down – it’s fun!

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Dawn - March 28, 2018

I actually prefer a Moka pot. I work in a Starbucks kiosk in a Giant food store. I make my espresso at home with Starbucks Komodo Dragon coffee and use my Moka pot.

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