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In this quick coffee brewing guide, you’ll learn how to make moka pot espresso that even your Italian Nonni’s will be proud of.
Do you love espresso coffee, that syrupy black gold in a cup? If you’re not ready to invest in a home espresso machine or don’t have space for it, then you may want to consider a stovetop espresso maker also known as a moka pot.
What is a moka pot?
Before explaining what it is and how it works, perhaps we should start with the bizarre name. People are generally aware that this basic appliance is an Italian staple which is a good thing because after all, it was created by an Italian engineer, Mr. Alfonso Bialetti, in 1933. Lesser known is that the name hails from the small port town of Mocha on the shores of the Red Sea in Yemen. This tiny town has a famous history in the coffee trade, hence the name.
Simply put, a moka pot is a machine designed for stovetop coffee brewing. Unlike so many other appliances these days, it only has three parts (and they’re easy to clean!): a water tank at the bottom, a filter basket in the middle, and a top chamber where the coffee pours out.
There’s really nothing to it, so without further ado, let’s walk through the process step-by-step!
Step 1: Prepare the moka pot
Separate your stovetop machine into its three parts by unscrewing it at the middle. When the top chamber comes off, you’ll find the filter basket resting inside the water tank.
Step 2: Grind your coffee beans
This part is important. First of all, notice we didn’t say “get your pre-ground coffee out of the cupboard”. We strongly recommend grinding your beans for that fresh flavour that no pre-ground coffee will ever match. The only advantage to pre-ground coffee is it’s usually ground to the consistency you want for espresso and stovetop, which is about the same as table salt. So when you’re grinding your own beans, you’re after that fine grind.
Just to get really finicky though, err on the side of slightly coarser than fine rather than powder. That powdery grind is what you’ll find in Turkish coffee but in stovetop it can potentially clog the filter and create too much pressure during the brew.
So, no finer than espresso!
Step 3: Add water to the water tank
The bottom portion of the stovetop machine is the water tank. Fill it with cold and filtered water. You’ll notice a little safety valve near the top of the tank. Think of that as your water level marker. Fill up to that point but not above so that it’s able to let out steam to balance the pressure.
Step 4: Put the FRESHLY GROUND COFFEE in the filter
Fill the filter basket with freshly ground coffee to the brim. Once again, if you’re still using pre-ground coffee, consider purchasing a grinder. Ok, rant over (but you’ll be amazed by the difference it makes)!
Sometimes people are tempted to tamp the coffee a little but that’s unnecessary with a moka pot, it’ll only interrupt the boiling water bubbling upward. Simply fill the basket to full and use a tea spoon to level it out across the top.
Step 5: Reassemble the chamber or unit
Place the coffee filled filter into the water tank and screw on the top chamber! Easy!
Step 6: Put it on a medium/medium-high heat.
Turn your stove to a medium to medium/high heat and put the moka pot on top.
The process won’t take long, anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes depending on the unit. And if you can, don’t leave the maker. You want to be present when the top chamber starts drizzling out hot coffee.
Side note – Experiment with the brew temperature and take note of the end result, as some coffees do better with a higher heat than others. There’s no exact rule to this. Generally though, if your coffee tastes bitter or burnt, the brewing temperature may have been too high and if the coffee tastes sour or watery, the brewing temperature may have been too low. This is assuming that your coffee is fresh, and the grind is on point.
Step 7: Serve and enjoy your espresso!
You’ll know it’s done when you hear the gurgling sound. It means there’s air in the chute and the upper chamber is full. Turn off the heat and remove the coffee maker from the stove, pour that black gold into your cup of choice and enjoy!
Pro tip – Don’t leave the coffee maker for more than a few seconds after the gurgling sound starts. Once it’s done…it’s done. Leaving it longer on the stove may overbrew the coffee and cause a slightly burnt taste.
Stovetop Espresso vs Espresso Machine
Coffee fanatics will forever debate whether stovetop can be considered espresso. There’s certainly similarities to an espresso machine but one major point of division is that an espresso machine presses boiling water down through tamped coffee, resulting in that rich crema texture. Moka pots on the other hand use more water, loose coffee and they bubble steam up through the grind. A crema does emerge but only as a thin, more diluted layer.
If you’re really into espresso and you want it to be perfect, then be aware that a stovetop is not an exact substitute. You definitely want to look for an excellent home espresso machine in that case.
Stovetop espresso is an art in its own right, and will still be a pristine tasting espresso if done right.
For many coffee drinkers, the caffeine hit of coffee is as much a part of the attraction as the delicious flavour itself. So it’s probably worth noting that moka pot coffee has higher caffeine levels for the same amount of coffee as an espresso machine.
Both machines use about 2oz of coffee but the difference in caffeine is about 13mg.
2oz moka shot = 105mg of caffeine
2oz espresso hot = 93mg of caffeine
This happens because moka pots are designed to ever so slightly over-extract the beans compared to an espresso machine.
Needless to say, like alcohol, when drinking coffee, drink responsibly!
Well, that’s about it! Follow the steps carefully and experiment at different temperatures.
Above all, enjoy the process, enjoy the journey and enjoy good coffee!
The Connected Coffee Team