Moka Pots: The Stovetop “Espresso” Makers


moka pot

The topic du jour at CoffeeKrave this morning: Moka pots. More specifically, who loves them, who hates them and do they really make espresso?

(Given the subject at hand, perhaps I should say Moka pots are the topic del giorno at CoffeeKrave this morning.)

As for me and my house, I have never been especially fond of the Moka pot. I do have grudging respect for them. Having been challenged with this assignment, I believe I can maintain a certain level of objectivity. (Fingers crossed.)

Related: Check out our French press guide

Moka Pots: Espresso and “Espresso Approximations”

A few words of introduction before we jump straight into reviewing (and generating) polarizing opinions. Moka pots are stovetop coffee makers. Like an espresso machine, they rely on pressure to make the magic happen, with steam pressure forcing the hot water up from the bottom of the pot through the grounds.

Moka pots are nearly ubiquitously referred to as “stovetop espresso makers.” However (and this is a big however), we are talking a very different level of pressure involved, and therefore a very different end result. Moka pots produce 1-2 bars of pressure. To review our standards for traditional espresso, from the Institute Nazionale Espresso Italiano:

Water temperature: 88°C ± 2°C

Water Pressure: 9 bar ± 1

Extraction Time: 25 seconds ± 5 seconds

Ergo, 1-2 bars of pressure does not a pot of espresso make. Some of my more fair minded coffee friends have been known to refer to Moka pot brew as an “espresso approximation.”

People who love Moka pots (and they are legion) are quick to point out that they are inexpensive and they are capable (in the right hands) of making a very strong and complex brew on the stovetop.


Moka Pots: My Reservations

I am going to lay it all out on the table here: I find Moka pots fussy. Messy. Difficult to work with. I love the design, but find the numerous design variations each require an adjustment in technique. I am not overly fond of the results. I think they tend towards over-extraction (and I am not alone in this opinion). I dislike the lack of fine-tuned control (or much of any control) over temperature and extraction time. I am skeptical of reports of crema. I would much rather grab a French Press, pour-over or, if I am in a certain mood, an Ibrik.

However . . . if you have been a longtime loyal CoffeeKrave reader, you know I tend to be rather picky about my trusted sources of information. Given the names behind the brewing guides highlighted below (and, while we are at it, nearly the entire country of Italy), I am willing to keep an open mind.

Well . . . I am willing to keep an open mind as long as the Moka pot in question is stainless steel. Aluminum is one of the few words that are classified as profanity in my personal coffee vocabulary. Aluminum is not a word I use in polite coffee company, and it’s not an adjective that applies to any of my coffee brewing devices.


Brewing Guides

In the spirit of embracing the possibilities of the Moka pot, we offer the following guides:

James Hoffmann (video)

Stumptown Coffee

Sweet Maria’s


Where do you stand on the Moka divide? Have you spotted the rare and elusive Moka Crema Creature? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Photo Credit: quasireversible via cc


Robyn is a freelance writer, editor and a serious foodie. A native of Seattle, she has found a new home in Northern California where she splits her time about equally between hiking in the redwoods and typing in local coffee shops. In addition to writing for CoffeeKrave, Robyn is currently working on a project to produce a short animated documentary—"Clipped and Tucked"—about her adventures in cooking recipes from antique cookbooks.

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