A Common Sense Guide to Moka Pot Coffee


The perfect step-by-step to making Moka pot coffee.

A black Moka pot coffee maker around coffee beans in a jar.
The double chamber Moka Pot hanging out with coffee beans ready to brew.

1933. After a few failed attempts to recreate a steam-driven, home espresso machine, the Moka pot is born. Alfonso Bialetti, its creator, names its Moka pot after the famous Yemeni port whence coffee first made its way to Italy.

Italy was the capital of coffee back in the 19th and early 20th century. Everybody yearned for a way to make espresso at home. And that’s how Bialetti came up with the Moka pot. And guess what? There’s still making Bialetti Moka pots today!

How does it work?

Just like the espresso machines of old, the Moka pot works by creating pressure through steam. It consists of three parts, or chambers, which connect via a narrow tube.

The water travels vertically, from the lower chamber up to the top chamber.

First, you fill the bottom chamber with water. Second, you put ground coffee into the middle chamber and place it atop the lower chamber. Third, you screw the top chamber onto the lower chamber, making sure it’s tight enough so that no steam comes out.

Once you place it on a heat source, the steam created in the lower chamber will force water up, passing through the grounds and then depositing freshly-brewed coffee in the top chamber.

Keep in mind that the pressure created with the Moka pot can only reach about 1 or 2 bars; the standard is 15 bars for a decent espresso machine. While you will get a perfect coffee cup, it will not be as concentrated as an espresso.

Moka pots consist of three chambers:

  • The lower chamber, which contains water.
  • The middle chamber is made up mainly of a metallic filter and is where you place the coffee grounds.
  • The upper chamber, which has a tube in the middle, and holds the brewed coffee.

Now that we know the theory, it’s time to get right to what you were probably skimming the article for the practice. Let’s learn how to make coffee using the Moka pot!

What you’ll need:

  • Hot water (94C°)
  • Medium fine ground coffee
  • An espresso coffee cup (demitasse)
  • A Moka pot

How to make it:

  1. Bring water to a boil and let sit while we prepare, so that it’ll be around 94C° by the time we need it.
  2. Unscrew the upper and bottom chamber and take the filter, or middle chamber, out.
  3. Fill the bottom chamber with water up to ¾ of its capacity. Usually, there is a valve — fill it just below it.
  4. Place the filter on top of the bottom chamber and pour an adequate dose. If using a small Moka pot, you’ll just need 15 grams — enough for 2 cups. Tamp very lightly.
  5. Screw the Moka pot together and place it on top of the stove on high heat.
  6. Leave the top lid of the Moka pot open. After a few seconds — maybe a minute, you’ll see the coffee start to pour from the tube. This process takes very little time.
  7. Once the chamber fills about halfway, and just as it starts gurgling violently, turn the heat off and serve immediately.

And it’s done!

Moka pots can catch many temperatures, so if you don’t serve immediately, chances are you’ll end up with bitter coffee. Not a second to waste!

Tips for the perfect coffee

To help you master the delicate art of the Moka pot, here are some tips acquired through blood and sweat of all those who came before you:

Avoid the gurgle

If there’s one thing that people instantly associate with Moka pots is the distinctive gurgling sound they make.

Some people think that the sound is simply the sound of the coffee coming out — a sign that everything is going well. But the case is the contrary; a combination makes this gurgling sound of water and steam coming out of the tube. The pressure is too high, and, instead of just water passing through the coffee grounds, steam makes it way up, diluting your coffee.

As soon as your machine gurgles, you can take it off the stove, and your coffee is ready.

Use hot water

Nobody seems to do this nowadays. Using hot water to pour into the bottom chamber might sound redundant at first; aren’t you going to heat the water anyway?

Well, yes. But the thing is — Moka pots are made mostly of aluminum, to conduct the heat better. But aluminum conducts heat a little too well. This means that, before the water starts going up, your filter will heat up faster, and the coffee grounds in direct contact will burn a little.

The result? Bitter coffee.

Using hot water for the bottom chamber will eliminate almost all the bitterness from the coffee — while also speeding up the brewing process.

Espresso grind? No, thanks.

In the US and the UK, people tend to call this machine a stove-top espresso machine. While it is right on the money in a way, it might lead to a misunderstanding: that this machine makes espresso.

It doesn’t. And using the same grind you would for espresso is a mistake. The Moka pot needs higher temperatures than espresso machines. And there’s a reason why: espresso machines make water flow through the coffee at a much more top speed — if you were to let water and beautiful coffee grounds mingle for more than 10, 15 seconds, they would become over-extracted: bitter, burnt coffee.

Instead, grind your coffee just a little bit coarser. A medium point between espresso grind and Hario V60 grind is the ideal size.

Happy brewing! And if you’re in the market to buy a Moka pot, we highly recommend the Coffee Gator Moka Pot!

For recommending more brew guides or other suggestions, please head over to our website to submit your recommendation. We read every single comment!


Leave a comment