The Moka Pot

As a long-time devotee of the French Press, I was hesitant to try my new roommate’s stovetop coffee pot, partially out of snobbiness and partially out of FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. I didn’t like the idea of using boiling water to make my cuppa– ideal coffee extraction temperature is about 195 degrees F, otherwise the extraction process is effed up and you get bitter coffee. Turns out it’s the steam that forces water up through the grinds, not the fact that it’s boiling. You’re supposed to remove the pot from the stove before it actually starts boiling.

Once that misconception was cleared up, I decided maybe I could get on board with the moka pot. (It may also have had something to do with the fact that the only coffee in the house was ground fine for said moka pot and had I used it in my press pot I would be drinking mud.)

Whilst stovetop brewing produces a very different cup from a French press, done correctly it’s delightful. Since steam and pressure play a major role in extraction, the resulting beverage is much more akin to espresso than press pot coffee. The only reason I still prefer the press is that I like my coffee just a little thicker, where there’s some sediment at the bottom of the cup when you finish. You definitely don’t get that with a moka pot.

So anyway, I’d recommend trying it out if you never have before. It’s less work than a French press, since you only need one vessel rather than a kettle and a press. Here’s a diagram:

So water goes in the bottom and coffee goes in the filter basket. For best results it should be ground more fine than for drip, but not quite as fine as espresso. Put the pot on the stove or whatever heat source you’re using and as the water heats up, the resulting steam will force it up through the filter into the upper chamber. Remove it from the heat before it reaches the boiling point (i.e. before it starts gurgling and spitting) and the steam will continue to force the remaining water upwards. There’s even a chance you’ll get some crema, just like a shot of espresso.

What’s your favorite coffee extraction method, and why?

(photo by lafille)

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3 Responses to “The Moka Pot”

  1. hells yes! i’ve been curious about moka pots. this is perfect for a noob, such as myself.

  2. I have an electric moka pot (with a heating element in the bottom). I’ve always had a hard time getting a good cup of coffee out of it because the coffee usually boils/burns in the top before it’s finished (because the whole contraption is so hot). I might try turning it off before it gets too hot.

  3. I love my french press. I have tried stovetop espresso pots and always end up burning it. I don’t want to have to stand over the stove to determine just when to remove it from the heat, so I prefer the kettle and french press method as sort of lazysloth-proof, which is essential for me.

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