Coffee: Moka, that ubiquitous stove top coffee maker

birth country of the moka

If ever there was a universal coffee maker, I think the moka pot fits the bill.  It is also known as caffettiera “coffee maker” or macchinetta del caffè “small coffee machine”, or “Italian coffee pot.”  For such a relatively simple devise it provokes a passionate response.  I mean really, it is a stove. top. coffee maker.  Thats it. But what it does, it does very well, by passing hot water pressurized by steam through ground coffee, ever since it was first patented by inventor Luigi De Ponti for Alfonso Bialetti in 1933.  How passionate, you might ask skeptically?  How about the fact that it is on display in such museums as the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper–Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Design Museum, and the London Science Museum, my stove top?


our much used moka pot

How the heck does it work? 

The boiler (the bottom portion) is filled with water to a marker and the funnel-shaped metal filter is inserted.  Then the upper part with the second metal filter at the bottom, is tightly screwed onto the base. The pot is placed on stove burner, the water is brought to the point where steam is emitted from the boiler and forced through the coffee in the first filter continuing through the second filter into the upper chamber where the coffee is collected.

As with percolators, the pot should not be left on the stove so long that the coffee boils. Ideally, with a little practice it should be removed from the heat before it actually starts gurgling – usually, when only about half of the top chamber has been filled.

Bring on the Competition

Moka coffee vs. drip coffee

The flavor of Moka pot coffee depends greatly on bean variety, roast level, grind, and the level of heat used. Due to the higher than atmospheric pressure involved, the mixture of water and steam reaches temperatures well above boiling causing a more efficient extraction of caffeine and flavors from the grounds, and resulting in a stronger brew than that obtained by drip brewing.

coffee specifically for the moka maker

Moka coffee vs. espresso coffee

Moka pots are sometimes referred to as stove-top espresso makers and produce coffee with an extraction ratio similar to a conventional espresso maker. Depending on bean variety and grind selection, Moka pots can create a foam, known as crema, also found on properly made espressos. However, the maximum pressure for coffee extraction which can be achieved with a Moka pot is 1.5 bar. If you really want to get picky about it, and the folks at the Italian Espresso National Institute and the Specialty Coffee Association of America do get a bit technical here – an espresso must be made using a precise extraction pressure of 9 bar.  Ergo while similar, a Moka coffee ≠ true espresso.  Nice to know, as I’d been mistakenly referring to it as a stove top espresso maker for far too long.

not the right grind

Moka Preparation – Types I’ve used and seen consistently suggested 

While the process is simple to understand, the finer points are what make all the difference. First, we need to start back at the very beginning with the coffee grind. If grinding coffee is the way to go, set the home grinder to “medium”; too fine of a grind (espresso like) results in a burnt and bitter taste from water passing through the ground coffee too slowly, causing over-extraction. Conversely beans ground too coarsely (of the French press consistency) produces an overly light body and sour taste, because the water passes through the grounds too quickly leading to under-extraction.

Also important: do not tamp the coffee in the filter. If you do, the pressure won’t be sufficient for the rest of the process to work properly, leading to that dreaded over-extraction. If you prefer a stronger flavor profile, fill up the filter up to its capacity, and fill the lower chamber with cold water up to the valve or marked line, and set the burner on a low flame.

for home grinding?

Critical final step: turn off the flame when the upper section is half full, to avoid overheating and burning the coffee. (Peek in carefully as coffee is still coming up through the middle column and it splatters). As the water approaches boiling, which you don’t want to happen, the process rapidly accelerates, extracting bitter, unpleasant burnt flavor, and upsetting the beautifully balanced aromatic equilibrium the Moka method is known for.

 Will Moka Be America’s Next Coffee Tradition?

maybe not the jitters, but the day does not start right with out a cuppa


Update me when site is updated

20 comments for “Coffee: Moka, that ubiquitous stove top coffee maker

  1. May 2, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    I have one of thos lovely machines and I love it! I also make coffee the Greek/Turkish way…



  2. May 4, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I don’t drink coffee anymore because of my headaches but my hubby does! He also has a moka coffee maker to put on the gasfire! He has several different coffee maker’s machines & he uses them all!

    A lovely & very informative post! 🙂 My husband read this post & loved it so much! 😉
    Sophie recently posted..Orange marmalade marinated pork chops & garden update!

  3. May 5, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    My stepfather used to use one of these and I just suggested he look for it again. It did make awesome coffee and I’m glad to know why now. I always learn something really interesting whenever I visit here and I wanted to let you know that I just awarded you the versatile blogger award. I know some of my awardees have gotten this before, but I do have my favorites and really wanted to honor you. For the announcement, see:

  4. May 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    That moka looks identical to my first coffee pot. I still have it except the handle melted. We bought a new one about four years ago and it is still my go-to when I am alone.
    tammy recently posted..Bitter

  5. May 6, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    I have my first moka from 30 years ago! Never did get one of those new-fangled cappuccino-espresso machines. So I am either a. cheap, b. lazy, c. not a coffee believer or all or none of the above.
    Claudia recently posted..Ricotta Gelato for Small Bites Sunday

  6. May 7, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Excellent post. So glad you brought this up as so many of us know so little about the true origins of mocha!
    ruth recently posted..Italian Foodie Experience#5 King Prawn/Shrimp Ravioli with a Portuguese Twist

  7. May 8, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    Oh hey, I have the same exact one! xD
    sophia recently posted..My Top 5 Favorite Study Date Spots

  8. May 9, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    I’ve always thought these were so interesting. So glad you shared about them! My in-laws have had one and I loved the coffee from them. I planned to get one, but then we ended up with a Nespresso, which I love. Not as authentic, but it’s taken the need for me to get a Moka now. Perhaps in the future though!
    Lori recently posted..Strawberry-Lime Salsa with Homemade Flour Tortillas

  9. May 17, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    I used to have a moka pot years ago, but I always called it my espresso maker… 🙂 I learn so much from your posts!
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted..Hot Lunch: In the Kitchen with the Sous Chef

  10. May 19, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    i just come back from italy and I just love their ristretto !!cheers de paris !!pierre
    pierre recently posted..Cabillaud basse température, écume citronnelle-gingembre

  11. May 20, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    I’ve got a stovetop coffee maker and its wonderful! When using good quality beans and grinding them freshly at home, the result is a better cup of coffee that I will buy from most cafes!

    The bonus is that the whole house will have a beautiful coffee aroma after use, truly a wonderful start to the day!!
    Mark Adrian recently posted..How to Persuade People Using Coffee, Say What?

  12. May 22, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I love learning things like the proper definition of espresso. I always used to call our Moka an espresso maker too. Now I know better!
    lisaiscooking recently posted..Blueberries and Yogurt with Buttermilk Crepes

  13. May 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    I am a huge coffee fan!!!I used to have one of those in Colombia and loved it!
    Erica recently posted..Quinoa Salad with Pineapple,Mango and Avocado

  14. May 26, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Just learned something new today… thank you for such an informative coffee post.
    Angie@Angie’s Recipes recently posted..Sweet Potato Salad with Baby Spinach and Feta

  15. OysterCulture
    May 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Rosa – Love the versatility and the spontinaity of using the moka.

    Sophie – Sorry to hear about the headache issue – no fun. Your hubby sounds like a man after my own heart – I true coffee lover.

    Ingar W – Yup, time to break out the moka again. Thank you so much for the recognition. I am honored that you considered me with all the great bloggers out there.

    Tammy – sam here. I bought some similar ones recently and went through several handles. Made me suspect they changed the material there and not for the better.

    Claudia – Or smart – why mess with success?

    Ruth – Thanks!

    Sophia – Great minds think alike!

    Lori – I was just intrigued as they are so darn ubiquitous.

    Andrea – I still have to curb my habit of calling it an espresso maker. But it does make a good cup, regardless of the name.

    Pierre – I need to get to your blog and see what Italy inspired in you. Cannot wait to see the new works of art and taste!

    Mark – There is something special about the aroma of just brewed coffee.

    Lisa – I had no idea they got so technical about the definition of espresso – news to me.

    Erica – Sweet – they are really everywhere.

    Angie – My pleasure.

  16. May 30, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    I have one of those pots somewhere but I’ll be darned if I know where. I also have my grandmothers expresso pot which I haven’t used in years. When I was a kid I use to get the biggest kick out of turning it upside down for the coffee to filter through. (oh the things that entertained me back then:)

    Dare I say, I still perk my coffee each morning with an old percolator. I do have a Keurig sitting stately on the counter but I’m having a difficult time warming up to it:)

    Thanks for sharing, Lou Ann…
    Louise recently posted..Foiling My Way Through the Empty Nest Syndrome

  17. May 31, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    I don’t think I’ve ever had coffee made in one of these. I’ve totally been missing out. You have me jonesing for a sip now.
    Carolyn Jung recently posted..Miso-Cured Tofu

  18. OysterCulture
    June 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Louise – Nothing wrong with a percolator, but it is intriguing to see all the brewing options.

    Carolyn – I hope you get your caffine fix soon!

  19. July 30, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    I’ve owned a wide range of coffee makers from fancy to basic, and I always go back to my percolator,which amazes me because it beats out even the coolest coffee machines with all the bells and whistles. thanks for the tip on not tamping down the coffee. I did that last week and learned the hard way.
    Christine @ Fresh Local and Best recently posted..Mexican-Style Grilled Corn

  20. October 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I got given one these babies, but have never used it. Will give it a try asap!

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