A moka pot is also called a stovetop espresso maker. But does it actually make espresso? Let’s find out.
A moka pot does not make the same style of coffee as comes out of a professional espresso machine. Espresso from a machine tends to have a bolder and more viscous taste and mouthfeel. With some adjustments in grind size, roast, beans and coffee ratio your moka pot can get closer to a machine.
Find out how to get your moka pot brew closer to an espresso machine below.
Does a moka pot make espresso?
Even though a moka pot is often called a stovetop espresso maker, it’s not quite the same. There are some differences in how the coffees are brewed and that results in a different tasting coffee.
If you’re expecting the same espresso you’re going to get from professional equipment, you’ll likely be disappointed. It’s not going to be the same experience. Maybe if you’ve got a lower quality domestic grinder and espresso machine the difference won’t be that big.
However, in my opinion, you’re not getting espresso from a moka pot. It’s just not the same experience.
While a moka pot will brew strong coffee with a lot of caffeine there are a few differences that make it feel very different.
The biggest difference in my opinion is the mouth feel and texture. A good (for me) espresso is thick and viscous. It tastes bold and feels substantial in your mouth. This mouth feel is a big part of the experience of espresso.
A moka pot doesn’t brew coffee with similar mouth feel. It’s much thinner feeling which makes the experience quite different. The taste might be roughly in the same ballpark but the feel is different.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad. I find moka pot coffee quite enjoyable.
The differences in taste and texture mainly come from the differences in brewing method. There are a lot of differences that lead to a different result;
- Grind size: The grind size in a moka pot is a ideally a bit coarser than for an espresso machine. Grind size has an impact on the extraction of the grounds.
- Preparation: In a moka pot, you don’t tamp the grounds like in an espresso machine. This is because the pressure in a moka pot is lower so without tamping the steam still gets through the bed of coffee.
- Pressure: A moka pot can create 1 or 2 bars of pressure in the boiler. An espresso machine works with 8 to 10 bar. This is a huge difference. The extra pressure helps extract more compounds from the grounds.
- Temperature: The water tends to hit the grounds at a higher temperature in a moka pot although this also depends on how you use an espresso machine. This can cause a bit more bitterness.
- Ratio: The ratio of coffee grounds to water in a moka pot is around 1:7 to 1:9. In an espresso machine the ratio can be as low as 1:2. This difference in ratio will create different taste. To properly extract the grounds, you need the higher pressure and finer grounds in an espresso machine. When those grounds are extracted into less water, you have more coffee compounds per grams of water which makes it feel more viscous.
How can you get close to espresso with a moka pot?
So if you use the moka pot as designed, you don’t really get something that is the same as the espresso you get from a machine. What can you do to get results that are a bit closer?
You can do a few things that get you closer to an espresso from a machine. Although doing this might come with some taste drawbacks at the same time. Here’s what you can do to change the mouth feel of moka pot coffee to be closer to espresso from a machine.
Grind your coffee as fine as you can get away with. A finer grind will help you extract more from the coffee grounds because there is more surface area that is in contact with the water. However, with the high temperature of the water in a moka pot you do run the risk of extracting some more bitter compounds than you like.
Also, the finer grind could block the holes in your filter or create too much resistance for the steam to get through. If this happens the pressure created by the steam can’t go anywhere but through the safety valve. In that case you’re not going to get any coffee at all.
So if you experiment with smaller grind sizes, make sure to keep a very close eye on you moka pot to prevent bad things from happening.
In Italy, where espresso originally came from, coffee shops use medium or dark roasted beans. If you’re using a medium roast and aren’t happy with the results, try a darker roast next time. Darker roasts tend to give a bolder taste which is what you might prefer.
Try mixing in a bit of Robusta beans. Robusta coffee tends to have a bolder mouth feel and feel a bit thicker. This does come at the expense of taste though. Robusta coffee tends to have more rubbery, bitter and burnt notes. Not something most people enjoy. However, don’t forget there are quality and taste differences in Robusta beans just as there are in Arabica. Getting a high quality Robusta will definitely be different than the cheap stuff.
Mixing in a little Robusta will give a bolder taste and mouth feel to your moka pot coffee (or any other brewing method for that matter). A mix of 20/80 is a good place to start off with.
Many espresso blends actually already come with a certain percentage of Robusta mixed in. So if you buy a whole bean espresso blend and you grind it to the right size for your moka pot, you don’t have to mix it yourself.
Of course you can increase the ratio of grounds to coffee and get a stronger cup. In a moka pot the easiest way to do this is to use the same amount of grounds but a little less water.
However, you do run the risk of under extracting your coffee which can turn things a bit sour.
Adjusting the ratio should be used as a tool to adjust the “intensity” of a coffee. Just like turning up the volume on your stereo. Try to dial in the other factors named above first and the ratio last. Just like with a Hi-Fi system, at some point you start distorting the sound when you turn up the volume too high. The same thing can happen with coffee but with the taste.
To get the ratio right, a coffee scale is the right tool. It might seem a bit over the top to bust out the scales for a simple cup of coffee but it’ll allow you to dial in exactly what you like and do the same thing every time.
A big part of a drinking experience is the vessel you put the coffee in. putting your moka pot coffee in an espresso cup will actually make it drink more like an espresso. It’s like drinking beer from a can or a glass. It’s the same liquid but it feels different to drink.
An espresso cup has very thick walls which feel different on your mouth and can help you make your moka pot coffee feel more like it’s coming from a machine.
Can you use it for espresso based drinks?
Can you use the coffee from a moka pot for espresso based drinks like cappuccino, americano or latte? Besides the fact that a moka pot doesn’t have any options to the milk you need for those drinks, yes you could use this brew for espresso based drinks.
For drinks where you add dairy like cappuccino or latte, you can actually get away with a brew that’s a little bit bitterer since the dairy will cover up the taste. Personally I even prefer to use a brew that’s a bit bitterer for a cappuccino but that’s personal taste.
For Americano it’s more important to get the taste you want. Since you’re just going to add water you don’t have anywhere to hide the taste. It’s going to take some experimentation with the factors outlined above to find what you like. Everyone’s taste is different so you’ll have to figure out what works for you.
Favorite Moka Pot Products
You don’t need many things to brew good coffee with a Moka pot. Here are the few things you need to make the best possible coffee.
- Moka Pot: Just buy a high quality Moka pot from the get go. The cheaper ones can be messy when brewing. Bialetti is the original and still one of the best with it’s classic looks. They cost a bit more than the cheap ones but these can last for decades and the parts that wear out are easily available for the Bialetti Moka pots. The 3 cup size is good for a single person (Amazon)
- Beans: Good coffee starts with good beans. You can’t make bad beans taste good. Espresso roast beans are good for a Moka pot and will get you closer to that typical espresso taste. Peet’s coffee does a great 100$ Arabica espresso roast. Give it a try, you can get it here on Amazon
- Grinder: Using whole beans means you need to grind them at home. This improves the taste because the grounds are much fresher. A Hario Slim (Amazon) is a great starting point for the starting home barista. If you want a good hand grinder for a good price, check out the TimeMore C2 (Amazon)
- Scales: To get consistent results, a set of accurate scales is essential. Check out this Apexstone scale (Amazon). I’ve been using it for more than a year and while it doesn’t look the sleekest, it’s cheap and just as accurate as more expensive coffee scales. It just reacts a little slower.