Learn how to appreciate the classic coffee maker as well as how to make the perfect cup of moka pot coffee
The moka pot—otherwise called a stove-top espresso maker—has a richer history than it might let on at first. What do we really know about the moka pot? It has a classic design that really stands out from all other household coffee makers. The moka pot is, in fact, almost a hundred years old. And it still remains one of the most popular ways to make coffee.
In order to better understand and better appreciate the moka pot, let us take a brief look at its history.
In the first half 20th century, early (steam driven) espresso machines were all the rage in Italy. Italians cherished all forms of coffee, but the coffee that espresso machines produced was intense in flavor and aroma, and people flocked to coffee houses and restaurants that had one of these wonderful machines.
They were, however, too big and expensive for most people to own. Nobody came up with a solution to this problem for decades, until Alfonso Bialetti finally had a breakthrough in 1930. He had invented a small device that harnessed the power of steam in a similar way to how espresso machines did it. And it was inexpensive enough and small enough for everyone to own one! It quickly became a phenomenon in Italy.
In essence, it works exactly like any espresso maker: it uses force to push the water through the grounds, brewing a strong cup of coffee. In old coffee makers, you would use a lever—modern ones use levers. Some modern espresso makers rely on manual force, like the Aeropress or the Flair espresso maker.
But the moka pot is the only coffee maker that defies gravity. Coffee is brewed upward, and into a container sitting above the grounds. In most other coffee makers, it’s the complete opposite! Here’s how it works in more detail:
- The lower chamber is filled with water. A funnel is then placed on top, which contains the ground coffee.
- The upper chamber has a small duct that connects the bottom half to the very top of the moka pot.
- As the water is heated, it creates steam. When there’s enough steam, it forces the hot water out—and the only place it can go is up. So it goes up, through the coffee grounds, and finally reaches its destination at the upper chamber. All the brewed coffee is deposited in this chamber.
And that is how this little miracle works. It’s simple enough that anyone can successfully use it at home to make homemade espresso—although it’s not exactly the same, and moka pot coffee has gained a reputation of its own right.
Now, let’s go through a recipe and a few tips and tricks on how to make the perfect moka pot coffee:
- Hot water.
- Medium fine ground coffee.
- Heat up water to about 60°C.
- Unscrew the upper and bottom chamber and take the funnel out.
- Fill the bottom chamber with water up to ¾ of its capacity. If there is a small valve, fill it just below the valve.
- Place the funnel on top and pour the ground coffee.
- Screw the moka pot together and place on the stove. Turn the heat to high.
- Leave the top lid of the moka pot open so you can see when it starts brewing. It should start pouring after a few seconds. The whole process should take less than a minute.
- Once done, serve immediately.
As the recipe says, using hot water is a must. All moka pots are made of aluminum, which heats up very quickly—if you use tap water, it takes much longer to heat to the proper temperature. By using already hot water, you cut the brewing time in half and prevent the whole moka pot from heating up so much that it burns your coffee.
This is a very simple trick that immensely improves the quality of your coffee.
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 actually the opposite: this gurgling sound is made by a combination of water and steam coming out of the tube. The pressure is too great and, instead of just water passing through the coffee grounds, steam makes its way up, diluting your coffee.
As soon as your machine gurgles, take it off the stove, and your coffee is done.