A Moka pot can be a bit mysterious. You can’t see what’s going on inside so how do you know when your coffee is finished brewing? Let’s find out.
A Moka pot is done brewing coffee when the flow of liquid from the tower turns from dark to light and you can hear sputtering. The collector will be filled and the moka pot can be taken off the heat. Don’t keep the pot on the heat to get all the last drops of coffee since this can cause bitterness.
Read more about how you can exactly figure out when your moka pot is finished brewing when it’s time to turn off the heat and what some less-than-ideal ways of knowing your coffee is done are.
When Is a Moka Pot Finished Brewing?
To know when a moka pot is finished brewing, it’s useful to know what is going on inside. How it works. That way you can figure out when it’s done.
A Moka pot has water in the bottom part (or at least that’s where it should be). In the middle, you have the filter basket and filter lid. Then on top is the tower inside the collector.
You put the pot on a heat source and the water will get to boiling temperature. Hot water turns into steam, steam takes up more volume than water and this creates pressure. That makes the steam push water through the coffee grounds and into the collector since that’s the path of least resistance.
So a moka pot is done when all (or almost all) the water in the lower boiler has moved through the grounds. if you filled the pot to the level of the safety valve in the boiler, the collector should be quite full of coffee.
In the beginning, when the coffee starts to flow, it will be a very thick liquid and it’ll move quite quickly. Then, as more of the coffee grounds get dissolved in the water and there are fewer solubles left in the grounds, the liquid starts flowing faster as the bed erodes. That will also lead to the later liquid becoming lighter in color.
The lighter color means it’s almost done but not quite yet. Wait until the coffee starts sputtering in the tower and almost no liquid is getting into the collector anymore. That’s the point where the moka pot is finished brewing.
Want to know how to use a moka pot to make tasty coffee from start to finish? click here.
There will always be a little bit of water left because at some point there just isn’t enough water to create enough steam/pressure to push through the grounds, up the tower, into the collector. So that last bit of steam and water will stay in the boiler. This is normal.
You shouldn’t have to worry about the amount of water that turns into coffee since it’s a good idea to get your ratio right from the beginning. Just put the correct amount of water and grounds in the moka pot.
You can keep the lid of the moka pot open to see when the first liquid appears. Since the first part will flow slowly, having the lid open is not an issue. However, you might want to close it after that since sometimes the pressure pushes the coffee out too fast and you make a mess in the kitchen. After closing the lid, simply wait for the sputtering sound to start, and then take the moka pot off the heat.
When To Take a Moka Pot Off The Heat?
Taking a moka pot off the stove or other heat source at the right time is important. You don’t want to take the moka pot off the heat too early but also not let it sit for too long. If you take it off the heat too early, a lot of water remains in the boiler. This will throw off the ratio of grounds to water. Less water means less extraction of the coffee grounds and likely a very sour-tasting cup.
On the other hand, if you keep it on the heat too long, it can get quite bitter.
That means timing is important. However, there is a decent window where your coffee will be fine. It’s not like 5 seconds is going to make a huge difference here. However, you do have to keep an eye on things. By taking the moka pot off the heat about 5-10 seconds after the sputtering starts, you’ll have good results.
If you feel that the coffee is too bitter at that point, you can try taking it off a bit earlier although it’s likely the grind size and roast level are bigger factors in excessive bitterness.
Don’t turn off the heat and leave the moka pot on the hob. The hob will still have enough residual heat to keep the water boiling so you don’t actually stop the brewing process. Taking it off the hob and maybe even running some water over the boiler to stop the water from boiling is much better.
Leave The Lid Open
A good way to keep an eye on things is to keep the top lid open. It will really help you to see what’s going on. Sure you can’t see what’s going on in the boiler but seeing when the coffee comes out of the tower is very useful.
If you leave the lid open you can see when the coffee starts flowing. Of course, the beginning doesn’t tell you when it’s finished but at least it warns you when the end is near. That sounds a bit ominous but since you googled this question, it’s a good thing.
Once the coffee starts flowing, it’s when you need to keep a close eye on it. The first liquid is very dark and it will gradually get lighter towards the end. The last liquid will be almost clear and very light. As long as there is a solid stream, the moka pot isn’t done yet. When the stream starts sputtering and there is very little coffee coming out, your moka pot is done.
Once the liquid starts becoming lighter, there is a good chance that it’ll shoot out under pressure and make a mess in your kitchen if you’ve got the lid open. So closing it once the coffee starts flowing is a good idea. If this happens does depend on the specific design of your moka pot though. Some (more expensive ones) are better in this regard than others.
Time Is Not a Good Indicator
There are plenty of things that can’t be used to really know when your stovetop espresso is done.
You might be tempted to just go by time but that’s not a great way to measure if your moka pot is done. There are just too many factors that can influence the amount of time it takes a moka pot to finish brewing. The most important factors;
A Moka pot brew can take from 1 to 4 minutes from putting the pot on the stove until it’s done. . If it takes significantly longer, you can try starting with hotter water or a higher setting on the stove. Don’t keep going for a long time in high heat if nothing is coming out.
Especially if you can hear that the water is boiling and nothing is flowing, there is a chance the filter is blocked and the safety valve is malfunctioning which could lead to less pleasant outcomes.
That said, once you get into a routine you can predict how long your brew is going to take pretty well. After you dial in your coffee, and know you can keep all the things listed above the same, it will become pretty predictable. However, once you change one factor it might all change again.
Time can still be a good indicator to see what happened to your brew. It can be an indicator that something is off when it’s suddenly much longer or shorter. Once you’ve dialed in your brew and timed how long it takes, if you should do things the same way, the brew should take the same amount of time. So if you didn’t change anything it should take the same amount of time.
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 its 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.