Last Updated on September 7, 2023 by Barry Gray
Friends and family appear to know I’m the guy you want to talk to when it comes to coffee. I think it’s because I talk about it whenever I can, and I like to think I know a thing or two about coffee.
When people have been in my home, they notice I can brew coffee in different ways, and I think one of the most intriguing brewing methods for them is my Moka pot. But they then ask a question when they see the dark liquid it produces.
What’s the question? Is that an espresso?
A Moka pot does not produce an espresso, but it creates a coffee close to it. The main difference is in the pressure and concentration used to make the coffee, as those two areas broadly define what constitutes an espresso, and they are lacking in a Moka pot.
So, a Moka pot does not produce an espresso. Still, I just told you how it does get close to it, and I think it means it’s a worthwhile exercise to learn more about the coffee a Moka pot can deliver.
What is a Moka Pot?
A Moka pot is actually a stovetop coffee maker, and it uses boiling water and pressure that is forced through ground coffee to give you that glorious liquid at the end.
It’s actually an Italian invention and will be typically manufactured from aluminum. Still, you will also see stainless steel and copper versions on the market. However, I do prefer the aluminum version, and it tends to be cheaper.
You will see three different chambers if you open up your Moka pot. The lower chamber is where you put the water, while the middle chamber is where a filter basket sits, and that’s where you put your ground coffee.
The upper chamber is where the brewed coffee appears, so that’s clearly my favorite part of a Moka pot.
How to Use a Moka Pot
I’ve used my Moka pot so often that I think I could do it with my eyes closed, but that’s not something I’d recommend. Yet, I’ve read countless comments from people who appear to struggle with getting their Moka pot to produce a decent coffee.
So, I’m going to help.
You see, a Moka pot is actually very basic. It doesn’t come with a lot of different parts, so there are few areas where things can break or go wrong.
To get your Moka pot to produce decent coffee, you simply need to add water to the lower chamber and look out for a fill line.
After that, add your ground coffee to the filter basket. I find a medium to medium-fine grind works best, but don’t go for the same grind as you do with an espresso.
If you use too fine a grind, you will get a poor coffee.
Also, don’t tamp the coffee down as you would when making an espresso. Making the coffee too compact will make it harder for the water to pass through and produce the coffee.
After adding the coffee to the filter basket, you simply screw the pieces together and place it on your stovetop.
Now, don’t make the common mistake of turning your stovetop up high in order to speed things up. Slow and steady is the name of the game here.
I use the size of the base of my Moka pot as a bit of a guide. You don’t want the heat to extend beyond the base, so keep it low and listen for a gurgling sound.
When you hear this gurgling sound, it means the coffee is being produced, and you can switch off the heat. If you keep it on the heat, your coffee will be ruined thanks to over-extraction, and it will taste horrible.
What Type of Coffee is Produced in a Moka Pot?
Let me just remind you that a Moka pot will not produce an espresso. Yet, it gets close.
What you get with a Moka pot is a coffee that is strong, but is also packed full of flavor. I see it as a brilliant alternative for people looking for a strong coffee, and yet feel scared about the potency of an espresso.
I often use my Moka pot to make a strong coffee and then add some hot water to make an Americano. It’s something that works well, and it delivers a delicious coffee that is certainly very enjoyable.
What I find with my own Moka pot is I get a shot of coffee that is packed full of flavor and smells amazing. I admit I’ve played around with different coffee grounds, and not all taste the same.
The Advantages of Using a Moka Pot
I remember one of the first times I saw someone using a Moka pot. It was a cousin, and I had no idea what it was.
I admit I had this idea that it would be impossible for this metal looking teapot, a small teapot as well, could then make some delicious coffee. I couldn’t determine how the water and coffee grounds at the bottom would produce the coffee in the top chamber.
And yet, I quickly realized it had its advantages with making coffee, and several stood out.
- A Moka pot can be relatively inexpensive to purchase.
- A Moka pot is very easy to use, and it’s difficult to get it wrong.
- The strength of coffee it can produce is mind-blowing.
- They take up little space.
- It brews coffee in a matter of minutes and requires little maintenance.
But for me, it’s the sense of consistency you get when using a Moka pot that stands out. As long as you follow the same steps every single time, you should get pretty much the same result, and that’s cool in my book.
The Disadvantages of Using a Moka Pot
Yet, I have to be honest here and tell you that it’s not all positive when it comes to a Moka pot. They do have a few slight disadvantages and problems I feel you should know about.
- You cannot brew Espresso in them. They use a different brewing method.
- You do need to always clean them, or old granules become stuck.
- You must ensure you use the correct grind size, or your coffee won’t taste right.
But that’s it for the disadvantages, and there really are not that many.
Why is it Impossible to Make Espresso in a Moka Pot?
The key thing that makes an espresso is the pressure used. Typically, you are looking at 9 bars of pressure to make an espresso, and a Moka pot just does not produce that.
The pressure is used to extract the flavor and oils from the coffee, which is also why it’s best to use a dark roast bean as it has more oil. Forcing the water through the coffee grounds results in a strong cup of coffee.
A Moka pot is different. It does produce some pressure, but it’s usually around 1.5 bars of pressure instead of the 9 bars for an espresso.
That’s a huge difference, and it’s an important difference for us here.
Also, an espresso machine is way more complex than a Moka pot. I mean, just look at the difference between both options, and you can see there’s no comparison.
Which Option Makes the Best Coffee?
This is a tricky question, but I’ve been asked it by other people when I’ve served them coffee.
I think the problem is people are unaware of the various ways in which you can brew coffee. Sure, most people have heard various terms, such as Espresso or perhaps even drip coffee. Still, those with less than a passing interest in coffee may never have heard of a Moka pot.
And this simple fact means those people are also unaware of the coffee that either an espresso machine or a Moka pot can produce. So, I’ll try my best to answer it.
If you accept that a Moka pot cannot produce an espresso, it makes life easier.
First, an espresso is more robust thanks to the extraction process. It does come with more of a kick to it from a caffeine perspective. An espresso machine is also faster, but the Moka pot does only take a few minutes for it to brew up some amazing coffee.
Personally, I feel coffee made via my Moka pot is often a bit more balanced in what it offers. The way it extracts the aroma and flavor from the coffee grinds will often be less harsh on the tastebuds.
But if you want sheer strength and depth from your coffee, the Espresso is the better option.
A Recap on the Espresso and a Moka Pot
I feel I’ve covered everything that’s important for any individual thinking about an espresso while looking at their Moka pot. But a quick recap always helps.
- It’s impossible to make a pure espresso in your Moka pot.
- A Moka pot uses significantly less pressure than an espresso machine.
- A Moka pot can make a strong shot of coffee.
- A Moka pot is less expensive than an espresso machine.
- A Moka pot is easier to use than an espresso machine.
- A Moka pot is the best alternative if you don’t have an espresso machine.
At the end of the day, you can certainly use your Moka pot to make the base coffee shot for various other drinks that can then follow. It may be slightly lacking compared to an espresso. Still, it’s capable of producing a strong coffee that packs enough of a punch to make a huge difference to the finished drink.
While you can make a strong coffee via a Moka pot, it’s not actually an espresso. Sure, it gets close, but a Moka pot is unable to reproduce the pressure that forms an integral part of the Espresso.
But I don’t doubt your Moka pot has the potential to produce coffee that is flavorful and aromatic. I know my own Moka pot does exactly that, and I love the end results.
However, if it’s an actual espresso you are after, the only potential solution is to get your hands on even a relatively cheap espresso machine. No other coffee brewing method has the potential to replicate it.