How to Make Coffee that Doesn’t Suck: The Moka Pot

espresso moka pot coffee coffee pot stovetop coffee pot
The Moka post I’ve been using for over a decade

Anybody can make coffee with a coffeepot. It’s the reason Folgers is still around. Put in your filter, scoop, and press a button. It seems strange, but this is the absolute limit of how much some people can handle.

The moka pot is for those people. Maybe following a lot of directions just isn’t your thing, but you really like espresso. Alternately, maybe you’re cheap or you want espresso in a campsite. Well, then a moka pot is for you. They sell for less than $25 on Amazon.

Technically, a moka pot does NOT make espresso. Espresso is extracted with 9 bars of pressure, and a moka pot tops out around 1.5 bars. What it DOES make is shots of intense, strong coffee that’s perfect for a campsite or a rainy afternoon.

I bought this moka pot when I graduated from high school. I bought it with my graduation money and it was the first time I branched out from a drip brewer, and I never went back.

To make coffee with a moka pot, you’ll need the following:

 

1. Grind your coffee

You need fine ground, dark roasted coffee for this. Why? A couple reasons. The fine grind provides the right amount of surface area for maximum contact with the water, and is packable to aid in building enough pressure to properly extract. If your coffee is too coarse, it won’t pack and you won’t get enough pressure to get anything decent.

You need dark roast (preferably French or Vienna) because at those roasts, acid is as diminished as it can get. Since we’re using boiling water and steam to make this coffee, we need low acid coffee to keep it from tasting like vinegar.

 

2. Fill your reservoir

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ALWAYS use cold water

Believe it or not, your water quality really impacts your end result. ALWAYS use cold water in your coffee maker no matter WHAT you’re making. See that white stuff? That’s scale buildup from using well water and hot water.

Fill your reservoir to just below the little brass safety valve. Don’t fill over it because then boiling water will squirt out if the pressure gets too high, and then you’re gonna have a bad time.

3. Fill your basket

 

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Your basket should look like this

Now, fill your basket as full as it can get. Mine holds about 5 tablespoons of ground coffee.

4. Tamp tamp tamp

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Tamp like this.

There is some debate over whether or not you should tamp your coffee in a moka pot basket. I do. I get a more uniform taste from it. You can tamp with anything round and flat. I use the end of my coffee scoop. You can just set it in the base and tamp away.

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Your coffee should look like this once it’s tamped.

5. Assemble and brew.

moka pot espresso coffee the iron buzz stove cooking coffee fine ground coffee fin coffe coffe
Toward the end, the coffee tends to spurt out rather violently. Either cover the spout with a spoon or close the lid.

Now comes the fun part. Screw the top onto the reservoir and set on the stove. Set your burner to high and wait. You can either shut the lid and wait, but I like to keep it open. I put a spoon over the inside spout to keep it from spattering, and then I know when it’s done boiling and I don’t warp the reservoir.

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I like watching it come out.

6. Pour

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A double shot of moka coffee

Enjoy straight, iced, or with a touch of cream. You can also be extra manly and add a double shot to a mug of French press to make a killer depth charge.

 

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Author: El Chris

I'm full of snark that doesn't always come out. I have a soft spot for kids and people with special needs. I'm a disability advocate by day, and a coffee roasting photographer by night. You'll love me, but your parents will love me more.

12 thoughts on “How to Make Coffee that Doesn’t Suck: The Moka Pot”

  1. I proposed to my wife while drinking a cappuccino made with moka coffee prepared on a camping stove. So delicious.

  2. When i was 19 I moved to NYC to be a nanny. My first morning there I was up early with the kids and their dad had told me to feel free to make my own coffee. I searched high and low for the coffee pot and gave up until Peter joined me in the kitchen a few hours later. When he asked why I hadn’t made coffee, I fessed up that I couldn’t find the pot anywhere! He picked up a moka pot that was right under my nose and proceeded to show me how to use it, but man did I feel sheepish…..like the Midwestern hick that I apparently was 🙂

    I may need to dig mine out tomorrow morning for old times sake 🙂

  3. I have one of these in my storage unit; it was a gift and I never knew what to do with it (and as much as I love coffee, that’s kind of embarrassing to say!). Thanks for tips on how to use this thing…now I need to make a day to search for and use the thing. 😀

  4. El Chris, last night you mentioned your disappointment in the extra bitterness when using the moka, most likely because of the boiling water’s effect on the coffee. I took another look at your preparation guidelines here and saw that you have been setting your burners on high. It takes longer, but I would recommend trying it on a much lower setting (mine was set at about a 3.5 out of ten this morning). The general rule of thumb is that if it sputters out of the top, it was either set too high or left on too long. I try to take it off the heat if I hear it starting to gurgle; I might miss the last few drops, but those if those last few drops are burny, it can affect the taste of the rest of the pot. Finally, I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I don’t tamp the coffee (Bialetti told me not to do it). Something to experiment with and write another blog post about.

  5. Anybody heard the next level – Bialetti brikka? That pot enables you to brew a shot that tastes a bit closer to espresso. It has some “gravity” valve which creates a slight bigger pressure when the extraction begins and also gives some longer pre-infusion. Recently I have stumbled on some evolution of that pot which had not a “gravity operated” valve, but had some kind of more elaborated higher pressure valve which claimed to allow extracting the coffee with steady high pressure. And LOST the link, pot name, manufacturer details and so on. Cannot find it anymore online, like all the references to high stable pressure pot had been deliberately removed from the entyre Internet… That pot theoretically should be capable of making espresso without any fancy full-automatic or manual steam-punk styled espresso stuff.

  6. Heat the water before you put it in the resevoir, then use medium heat with the moka pot until the dark gold comes seeping out, at which point you turn it down to low medium until it finishes off. This is much less bitter, and more thick and creamy. Another tip is to caramlize the sugar at the bottom of your cup with the first bit of hot coffee that comes out of the moka! enjoy, -km

  7. Hi, I advise using boiled water, not cold as most people recommend , otherwise the aluminium conducts the heat to the coffee, burns the granules/powder and by the time you have full heat, you have cooked coffee, with pre boiled water the whole process is quicker and no burning or drying takes place, just because its traditional, it dosent make it right, and you are not re boiling the water so ruining its taste by removing the oxygen, you are just continuing to boil it the way you would with cold, but you moved it once during the process, thats all. Its all about the science!

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