Moka pots can are usually made out of either aluminum or stainless steel. Does it matter which one you choose and is one better than the other? here’s what you want to know.
Aluminum is by far the most common material for moka pots. It’s cheap, light weight and has worked well for many decades and will for many more. However stainless steel has some great benefits like; Induction and dishwashing compatible, nicer designs and is possibly better for health.
Find out more about the differences and details in moka pot materials below.
Moka Pot Materials
There aren’t many material choices for moka pots so that makes our lives a lot easier. There are three main types;
- Stainless steel
Yes, that’s actually one more material than in the title. However, hybrid in this case means a combination of stainless and aluminum. They’re pretty rare but I thought i’d mention this option anyways.
But which material is actually the best choice for a moka pot? Well, there are pros and cons to all the different materials. Everyone has different expectations from their moka pot (well, except that they have to make coffee of course).
Let’s take a look at the different materials below. We’ll go through some pros and cons of aluminum and stainless steel moka pots which hopefully will help you figure out what’s best for you.
Aluminum Moka Pots Pros And Cons
The vast majority of moka pots is made out of aluminum. If you pick up a random one without checking the material, there is an overwhelming chance it’s made out of aluminum. The main reason for this that the moka pot was invented in 1933 in Italy by the workshop of a certain Mr. Bialetti. This used to be a workshop that made semi-finished aluminum products. So since this was Bialetti’s origin, it makes perfect sense that the original moka Express (Amazon) is made out of aluminum. And most other places that copied the design also copied the material choice.
And this has proven to be a solid choice. Many of these pots survive for a long time. There are ones available cheaply second hand that are easily decades old and they’re still being sold in the same shape today. It’s the most common material and the best option for most people. There are a few use cases where a different material could work better but aluminum has a lot of properties that make it popular;
- Lightweight: Aluminum weighs quite a bit less than stainless steel. Moka pots are quite small so it’s not a huge deal for most people but it can be for some.
- Cheap: If you buy a moka pot from a big brand, the aluminum ones cost about the same or a little less than a stainless one. However, there are some really cheap aluminum ones available from unknown brands.
- Transfers heat well: Alumimum dissapates heat much faster than stainless which means you have more control over the temperature inside the boiler.
- Classic look: The original moka Express was made out of aluminum and has an iconic shape. The stainless models often have more modern looks. This can either be a pro or con depending on what you like.
There are some cons as well though;
- Looks: One drawback of aluminum is that it often starts looking old quite quickly. The surface doesn’t stay as nice and shiny as a stainless one. This doesn’t have any effect on the functionality though.
- Potential health hazard: There is some discussion on the potential health hazards of getting aluminum in your coffee and the resulting health effects. However, the consensus seems to be that you’ll have to drink many liters of coffee from a moka pot every day before this is even a possible issue. Breaking in your moka pot properly also helps.
Stainless Steel Moka Pots Pros And Cons
There are a few moka pots made out of stainless steel. These are not as common and you’ll have to make sure that the moka pot is made out of stainless steel if that’s what you want.
There are some advantages over a stainless steel moka pot though;
- Looks great: Stainless steel stays nice and shiny. These moka pots usually have more modern designs as well which can be a plus for some people.
- Induction compatible: The big benefit is that stainless steel is induction compatible where aluminum is not.
- Dishwasher safe: Stainless is also dishwasher safe which makes cleaning easier.
- Possibly healthier: There is no discussion that stainless cookware in general is safe for your health.
- Heavier: Stainless steel moka pots are heavier than aluminum ones. But, since they’re relatively small, this isn’t a big deal.
- No cheap ones available: Although you can get very affordable stainlesss moka pots, there are fewer of the really cheap options.
- Heat management: Stainless steel stays hot longer and takes longer to heat up. This means the water will boil a little longer than you might want.
Because stainless steel has the potential to keep looking nicer for longer, it could last longer. However, aluminum moka pots will also last for many years, even decades, if treated right. Some people actually like the weathered look of an old aluminum pot but that’s personal preference.
The Bialetti Venus is a good choice for a stainless steel moka pot. It’s the traditional brand but just looks a bit more modern. You can find it here on Amazon.
Hybrid Moka Pots Pros And Cons
There are a few moka pots that are a hybrid between both materials (or even glass in some cases). What is most common is that the bottom is made out of stainless steel. The rest is made out of aluminum. This makes a moka pot work on an induction hob while still staying ‘traditional’. At least for the most part.
While you get induction compatibility, it’s still not dishwasher safe so you don’t get all the benefits of stainless steel. Unless you really want induction capability combined with classic looks, this is not really an option to look too hard for. If you want the benefits of a stainless moka pot, just go for a stainless one.
Aluminum vs. Stainless Moka Pot Summary
Aluminum and stainless steel moka pots both have their pros and cons. Aluminum is the traditional choice and comes with traditional looks. Stainless moka pots will stay looking nice and shiny for longer and have the benefit of being induction and dishwasher safe.
If you look at some of the large brands that sell moka pots, there is quite a variety in looks. However, if the moka pot has a different color it’s likely the result of a coating on top of the bare metal (usually aluminum)
What are the differences of a metal look moka pot and a coated one?
If we are talking about the coating on the outside of a pot, it doesn’t matter functionally. It’s just cosmetic. It makes the moka pot look better. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A moka pot that clean and attractive will probably see more use than one that’s dirty and just looks nasty. If it looks nice and clean, you’ll feel like the coffee coming from it is better, even if it’s the same. Presentation is important.
Bare metal moka pots can start looking pretty dirty over time with a lot of use. Especially if not cleaned very well all the time. Especially on a gas stove, the residue from the flame will leave a black/brown stain on the metal. This can be very difficult to get off. A coating makes it easier to clean and thus looking nicer for longer.
On the other hand, the coating can wear off as well which then also looks bad.
So with or without coating has its own benefits. If you get a high quality moka pot, the coating will be long lasting and therefore worth it. On cheap models, just going for a bare metal one is a better choice since the quality of the coating will probably be lower and start chipping faster.
Functionally, the coating on the outside doesn’t make a difference in the coffee it brews.
Health And Aluminum Moka Pots
One important thing to consider when choosing a material is health. Health is very important to all of us. So if we can make a small and easy decision that can have big impacts on health, it’s important to make the right decision. To make the right decision, you need the right information so let’s dive in.
Getting aluminum in your coffee (or any other food for that matter) is not good. It can have some pretty bad effects on your health. Stainless steel has much fewer health effects if ingested. So the question is, in a moka pot, do you have to be worried about that?
“In contrast, preparing coffee in an aluminum moka pot results in a maximum of 4% to TWI, if an average of 3.17 L coffee is consumed per week, even if the pots are washed in the dishwasher, against the explicit instructions of the manufacturer.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5388725
So, no, it’s not a big deal if you read the conclusions of the research paper linked above. Compared to an aluminum drinking bottle, a moka pot results in very little aluminum transfer into your drink, even if not treated right.
That research paper found that you get about 4% of your tolerable weekly intake (TWI) from making coffee in a moka pot. And that assumes you drink 3.17 liter of coffee from a moka pot. That 3.17 liter is the average amount of coffee people drink. However, that’s usually mostly filter coffee. Moka pot coffee is stronger so there is a large chance you don’t make it to the full 3.17 liter of coffee from your moka pot, lowering the aluminum intake even more.
The research paper also mentions that the researchers cleaned the moka pot in a dishwasher, something all manufacturers warn against doing. You actually want to wash a moka pot with water only (especially inside). Also, manufacturers recommend not to drink the first couple of batches from a new moka pot.
That is because when you brew coffee in a moka pot, the natural oils in coffee, leave a film on the surfaces of a moka pot. If you wash it with just water after that, the film will remain and create a barrier between the aluminum and your coffee. Of course this doesn’t happen in the lower half of your moka pot but it will still halve the aluminum transfer.
So it’s probable that using a moka pot as intended will result in way less than 4% the of TWI of aluminum that researchers found.
That means a moka pot isn’t responsible for a large percentage of aluminum TWI for an adult person. It’s well within safe limits. However, if you want to limit any intake of aluminum as far as possible, and you’re worried about it, just get the stainless steel moka pot. The slightly higher price will be worth it for peace of mind.
If the research paper showed you that it’s nothing for you to worry about, save your money and get an aluminum moka pot.
What’s best for you?
Now you have an idea of what the options are. But what should you choose?
The material and coating does have some effect on the usability of your pot. For taste reasons there isn’t a big reason to go for one material over another especially if you broke in your moka pot correctly. In the beginning there might be small differences in taste.
Aluminum is the right choice for most people. It’s light, cheap, works well. Bialetti has sold many millions of these things over the years and the vast majority is made out of aluminum. It’s the preferred material for Italians which is where the moka pot came from in the first place.
Except the silicone gaskets that have to be replaced at some point, these coffee makers can survive for decades if properly cared for. You can find aluminum moka pots for very low prices (from unknown brands) so even if it turns out you don’t like the material or the coffee it brews, it’s not a big loss. Smaller aluminum moka pots can be found for under $10.
The biggest drawbacks of aluminum are looks and lack of compatibility with induction stovetops. although you can get around that as well.
If you want to be able to use your moka pot on an induction hob and/or put it in a dishwasher, a stainless steel moka pot will be a better choice.
Favorite Moka Pot Products
You don’t need many things to brew good coffee with a Moka pot. Here are the few things you need to make the best possible coffee.
- Moka Pot: Just buy a high quality Moka pot from the get go. The cheaper ones can be messy when brewing. Bialetti is the original and still one of the best with it’s classic looks. They cost a bit more than the cheap ones but these can last for decades and the parts that wear out are easily available for the Bialetti Moka pots. The 3 cup size is good for a single person (Amazon)
- Beans: Good coffee starts with good beans. You can’t make bad beans taste good. Espresso roast beans are good for a Moka pot and will get you closer to that typical espresso taste. Peet’s coffee does a great 100$ 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.