Stovetop Espresso Maker or Moka Pot

Brew Guide: Stovetop Espresso [Moka pot]

Coffee lovers that crave espresso often have to choose between one of two things:

  1. Heading to their local coffee shop for a perfectly pulled shot every morning 
  2. Having to give up precious kitchen counter space to a bulky espresso machine

Don’t like either choice? 

The good news is that there is a third option:

Making stovetop espresso right at home.

With a moka pot that fits on one burner on your stove, you can make a great cup of espresso every morning, every night, or whenever the mood strikes.

Ready to learn how?

Here’s our brew guide to making stovetop espresso in a moka pot.

What is a Moka Pot?

The moka pot dates back to 1933 when Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti came up with the original design as a way to brew excellent coffee at home. Known as the Moka Express, Bialetti’s original aluminum pot became a huge success, eventually finding its way into 90% of all Italian homes.

At that time, the Italian coffee culture revolved around drinking cups of espresso in public coffeehouses. The Moka Express changed that.

To this day, coffee lovers everywhere use the stovetop moka pot as an easy and effective way to brew espresso at home.

One of the reasons that coffee drinkers love the moka pot is that it's easy to use. It also comes in a variety of cup sizes so that you can make anywhere from one cup to six cups of coffee at a time. It’s perfect whether you want a single cup in the morning or prefer to brew enough for two or three people to enjoy.

As much as we love the moka pot for how it works, we can’t ignore that it’s also highly regarded for its design. A Bialetti Moka Express sits in the Museum of Modern Art as a shining example of early 20th century Italian style and design.

Did You Know: The French press was also patented by Italians? Read more about it in our article: The Pros and Cons of the Electric French Press.

How Does the Moka Pot Work?

Because both use a stovetop, some people confuse the moka pot with the coffee percolator. But there are major distinctions between the brewing process each machine employs and the cup of coffee each device produces. 

The coffee percolator features one large chamber with a basket for coffee grounds and a pump stem. As the water boils at the bottom, it rises up and through the pump stem to cover the coffee grounds. A moka pot is quite different and features a triple chamber design.

The bottom chamber of the moka pot holds and heats the water. A chamber in the center holds the coffee grounds. As the water boils at the bottom, high pressure builds up. It flows upward into the coffee grounds and expands them in the center chamber, which has filtered holes above and below it.

Once the coffee grounds saturate, the water continues to boil up through the metal filter, pushing the brewed coffee up into the top chamber. The heated water generates steam, which continues to force the water upwards and into the top section.

The moka pot makes strong coffee, but it’s not nearly as strong as coffee made in a traditional espresso machine. And that’s partly because the moka pot uses only a fraction of the pressure that an espresso machine does.

With an espresso machine, you can pull a shot of espresso in about 30 seconds. In a moka pot, the brewing process takes about five minutes. 

How to Make Coffee in a Moka Pot

How to make stovetop espresso

Tired of making your morning cup of java in a French press, AeroPress, or drip machine? 

It’s time to try your hand at making a cup of coffee in a moka pot — and it’s easier than you may think.

Gather Your Equipment

With a grinder, high-quality coffee beans, and a stovetop coffee maker, you can make a fantastic cup of espresso right from home.

You’ll also need water, but it doesn’t have to be boiling water. Water at around 204 degrees is usually the perfect temp. Some people prefer to heat their water in a kettle first, while others start the process by adding cold water to the bottom chamber. Either way, the first step is to fill the bottom section with water.

Hot Tip: We recommend preheating the water. Doing so speeds up the extraction process and prevents the pot from overheating and burning the coffee grounds.

Grind Your Beans

Next, grind your coffee beans. 

Make sure your coffee grounds aren’t too fine, as they may get stuck in the tiny holes in the metal filter basket. Finer grinds can also lead to over-extraction and cause your coffee to taste bitter. Ideally, you want your coffee grounds to be a bit coarser than what you would typically use to make espresso.

Fill the Bottom Chamber and Filter Basket 

Fill the bottom of your moka pot with water (up to the water line or safety valve), then fill your basket with loosely packed coffee grounds. 

Once you attach the center chamber, screw the top section onto the brewer and place the moka pot on the stovetop on medium heat.

Put On the Heat

You can use a moka pot on any gas stove or electric stove, but if you have an induction stove, pay special attention to the pot you use. If you have an aluminum pot, do not put it on an induction stove. You’ll either need to buy a stainless steel moka pot or a stainless steel heat diffusing induction adapter plate.

Once you start to see the coffee flowing out of the spout into the chamber, remove it from the heat. Place it on a cool towel or wrap a towel around the bottom to cool the bottom chamber. 

Cooling down the base brings the extraction process to an end so that your coffee doesn’t end up tasting burnt.

In about five minutes, you should start to hear a gurgling sound. That’s the signal that your coffee is ready!

Clean Your Machine

Like any other coffee maker or coffee machine, it's essential to know how to take it apart and clean it. Besides cleaning it after each use, it's also a good idea to change the rubber gasket from time to time.

That rubber gasket can absorb flavors over time. Replacing it every once in a while will ensure that you’ll get the best coffee flavor out of your espresso moka pot.

Related: How to Use a Pour Over Coffee Maker.

What Does Moka Pot Coffee Taste Like?

Just like making coffee in an espresso machine, drip coffee maker, or French press, the taste all starts with the type of coffee beans you choose.

Moka pots make great coffee, as long as you make it correctly. And it can take a bit of trial and error.

It's crucial that you put the proper amount of water in the lower chamber of your moka pot. With too much water, you can easily over-extract your coffee grounds, which can cause coffee to taste bitter. If someone tries to talk you out of buying a moka pot because the coffee always tastes bitter, it's probably only because they're not making it right.

An espresso shot from a traditional espresso coffee maker tastes stronger than coffee made in a moka pot. But you can get a nice, concentrated cup of coffee out of your stovetop moka pot when brewed properly.

If stovetop espresso doesn't cut it for you, check out the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine

It’s All About the Beans

Let’s put the brewing method aside for a moment and talk about what really makes a great cup of coffee:

The beans.

Whether you prefer a medium-dark roast or a super dark Italian roast, your coffee will only taste as good as your beans. When shopping for beans, pay attention to roast dates so that you know which beans are the freshest. When you get them home, be sure to store them properly.

Need to pick up some new beans to make in your moka pot? 

Check out our Organic Red Rooster French Roast, Las Colinas Single Origin, and Kintamani Bali Single Origin beans.

Related: French, Italian, and Vienna Roast Levels Explained.

What Coffee Drinks Can You Make With a Moka Pot?

Coffee drinks you can make with a moka pot

A moka pot will not make an espresso shot like the baristas in your favorite neighborhood coffee shop do. However, it's ideal if you're looking to make an espresso-based coffee drink and don't have an espresso maker in your kitchen. 

Here’s a glimpse into some of our favorite espresso-based coffee drinks (and how to make them):

Americano

An Americano is one of the easiest espresso drinks to make, as it’s simply a combination of espresso and hot water.

To make an Americano at home:

  1. Brew a cup of coffee in your moka pot.
  2. Grab your coffee mug and pour in ½ cup of hot water.
  3. Add ½ cup of coffee to your mug, and voila!

You've got yourself an Americano.

Because it requires equal parts hot water and espresso, one cup of coffee will result in two Americano cups.

Latte 

A latte starts with espresso, mixes with milk, and finishes with milk foam on top.

A single latte requires one shot of espresso, so if you make a whole cup in your moka pot, you’ll have enough to make about ten lattes.

Start by making your coffee. While it’s brewing, foam about three ounces of milk. (If you don’t have a steamer wand, you can also foam it in a glass jar in the microwave or by warming it on your stovetop and plunging it in a French press).

Pour your coffee into your mug. Add the milk, then save some of the foam to top it off. If you’re feeling creative, grab a toothpick and try your hand at latte art.

Cappuccino 

Wish you could be sitting in an Italian café sipping a cappuccino right now? 

We sure do.

But since we can’t, the next best thing is to make a cappuccino at home.

The perfect cappuccino calls for equal parts double espresso shots, foamed milk, and steamed milk. Make your espresso, pour it into your cup, add steamed milk, and top it off with foamed milk for the perfect coffee drink.

Mocha 

When you're in the mood for coffee and craving a chocolate fix, what you want is a mocha. 

To make the perfect mocha, add one part espresso, one part cocoa, and one part steamed milk. Top it off with milk foam for a tasty chocolate coffee beverage. 

Pair it with a chocolate donut or a brownie for an extra-chocolatey pick me up!

More Options 

Prefer your coffee with a bit of sugar or cream? 

You can make all sorts of coffee drinks with coffee brewed in a moka pot, so get creative and add whatever kind of dairy or non-dairy additive you like. 

Make yourself a flat white. Whip up an Irish coffee. Enjoy a café au lait …

How you drink your coffee is personal, and you can turn a cup from your moka pot into just about any type of drink you like.  

You may also enjoy: 5 Delicious Ways to Eat Coffee [Bonus Chocolate Espresso Beans Recipe].

We all wish we could start every morning with a few espresso cups as we did on our last vacation to Italy. But since we can’t, we rely on espresso brewed in a moka pot on the stovetop as the next best thing.

A stovetop espresso maker makes strong coffee, and it’s ideal for whipping up a single bold cup or making several other espresso-based drinks.

Beholden to your French press or Chemex

We totally get it …

But if you’re ready to test your hand at a new brewing method, the stovetop moka pot is definitely worth trying out.

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