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How to Use a Moka Pot to Make Espresso

After recently traveling to Europe I noticed something rather interesting. There was no drip coffee. In Europe, everyone would have either an Espresso based drink or instant coffee. I took to the custom and drank delicious cappuccinos or toughed it out with instant coffee. When I returned home I still craved an espresso, but the nearest cafe was 15 minutes away. I began to search for a solution and eventually found the stove top espresso maker—also known as a Moka Pot. In this post, I’m going to explore how to use a Moka Pot.

Instant Coffee

Instant coffee is the lowest form of coffee you can get.

It sits right above caffeine pills, but not by much. Essentially, instant coffee is brewed coffee that is then freeze-dried and concentrated. By adding hot water to it you bring it back to life. Making instant coffee is simple. First, you boil water and then add a scoop or two of instant coffee to your mug. Pour in the boiling water and your cup of coffee is ready.

It’s that simple.

This makes instant coffee very convenient and cheap. With a fast boiling electric kettle like this, you can make a cup of instant coffee in under 5 minutes. The trade off is taste. The taste is bearable, I’ve lived with it before, but you’re really only drinking it for the caffeine at that point. With an espresso, I like it for the caffeine of course.

BUT, also for the taste, aroma, and overall experience that comes with it.

Drip Coffee and Aeropress

how to use a moka pot

In the States, drip coffee replaces the function of instant coffee in Europe. It’s very common for households to have a drip coffee machine. This is a step up from instant coffee in taste but slightly more inconvenient.

Drip coffee machines are typically big and bulky, making them less than ideal to transport. They also take a bit of time to brew, you need coffee filters and coffee grinds make a mess if you’re not careful.  Plus, drip coffee is notoriously inconsistent in strength and taste. I’ve had some amazing cups of coffee but I’ve also had some horrible ones.

An Aero press can be great for making a cup of coffee on the road. They are convenient to carry since they are light and small. There are some drawbacks to an Aero press like this.

They need specific coffee filters, are typically made out of plastic, a separate device for boiling water and use manual pressure to brew coffee.

If I’m in a situation that calls for an Aeropress then I’d much rather opt for a stove top espresso maker instead.

Espresso

To compare instant or drip coffee to an espresso would be an insult. Espresso is clearly superior in taste, experience, and caffeine content.  The problem with espresso is you either need a gigantic espresso machine or to fight the lines at a local cafe. This is a problem if you work from home or are in a rush to get to work.

At one point I looked into buying a prosumer espresso maker. This is turned out to be a bad idea. I settled on a partially working one that I bought at a garage sale for $100. It was a Wega Mini Nova. The machine was heavy, even though it was small for an espresso machine it took up a lot of space and I never got it fully functional.

Eventually, I gave it away to a guy who fixes espresso makers after he quoted me over $300 dollars to fix it.

How to Use a Moka Pot to Make Espresso at Home

Moka Pot

That was the end of my espresso making days until I found the stove top espresso maker, also known as a Moka pot. This little tool gives you the ability to brew cafe-quality espresso on your home stovetop.  It is cheap, quick, easy to use and easy to clean.

What I like about it most is that it has an active brewing process. With an Aero or French press, you are making coffee with methods more akin to brewing tea. However, with a stovetop espresso maker, boiling water allows the pressure of steam to pass water over the ground coffee. There is no manual pressure with this method.

In essence, it uses the same brewing mechanism as a large cafe quality espresso machine. Most models are made out of some type of metal, typically stainless steel or aluminum. I personally prefer the weight and feel of stainless steel like this compared to the cheaper feeling aluminum versions (here). Either type will work.

The Brew Process

To brew espresso with a Moka pot you will need a Moka Pot, finely ground coffee, electric plate or stove top, and water.

  1. First, begin by grinding your coffee. If you are traveling you can use a manual coffee grinder like this. You want to set your grinder to a fine or espresso setting. Coffee ground for a drip machine will work but results will vary depending on the grind. In the store look for coffee specifically ground for espresso.
  2. Pack the grinds into the metal filter. I use a regular spoon and pack it just shy of the brim. Don’t worry about packing it to hard just a firm press with the spoon will work fine.
  3. Add water to the bottom kettle. Make sure your water is just below the blow off valve.
  4. Assemble the Moka pot by setting the filter on top of the water kettle and screwing on the brew top portion.
  5. Place on the stove on high heat and let brew. It takes about 5 minutes to fully brew. Carefully lift the lid to check on it. You will know it’s done when there is no more coffee bubbling up from the center spout.
  6. Remove from the stove and enjoy.

The Moka pot is commonly used in the Italian and Cuban cultures. Buchi, a traditional Cuban espresso shot, is typically made with a Moka pot, sugar, and Bustelo coffee.

I like to enjoy my espresso black with one sugar. Keep in mind this is not your typical cup of coffee. If made properly a shot of espresso from a Moka pot will be very strong. It’s great for an early morning kick in the ass.

In any case, that wraps up this article about how to use a Moka pot.

Have you ever used a Moka pot before? If so how does it compare to other methods of making coffee for you?

Let me know in the comments below.

-Sam

PS: If you enjoyed this post about how to use a Moka pot, and are ready to get your own—check this one out.

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