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The Moka Pot Tutorial and Brew Guide

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The Moka Pot (sometimes referred to as a stovetop espresso maker) is a classic brewing method with strong Italian roots. Patented in 1933 by inventor Luigi De Ponti, the Moka Pot has spent over three quarters of a century as one of the most recognizable and championed at-home coffee solutions (especially in Europe).

What is a Moka Pot

A Moka Pot is a brewing device that uses steam pressure and an external heat source to create a strong coffee concentrate (usually about a 1:7 coffee to water ratio).

They are most often made of aluminum and consist of three major parts: a boiler, a filter basket and a collection chamber. There are also a few minor parts including a gasket and a removable metal screen.

Are you are interested in a stainless steel Moka Pot? Minos Living makes several varieties with a sleek and appealing design. You can read my review of a Minos Moka Pot here.

It is a fairly fool proof brewing method that is easily accessible to the masses. The Moka Pot comes in a variety of sizes, brands, material composition and designs but the most popular and iconic model is the Bialatti Moka Express.

What a Moka Pot isn’t

Despite the Moka Pot’s “Stovetop Espresso” moniker, it is not actually an espresso maker.

According to most modern definitions of the term, espresso is a coffee that is extracted at 9-10 bars of pressure. From my research of the Moka Pot, it peaks at around 2 bars of pressure and is often lower than that.

The Moka Pot is not a cheap work around for spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on an at-home espresso machine. It can make a delicious cup of coffee concentrate but make no mistake, it is not actually a stovetop espresso maker. An experienced espresso enthusiast will not be fooled by this faux espresso concoction.

How to Brew With a Moka Pot

As I mentioned previously, the Moka Pot is actually a pretty easy device to brew with and hone your skills. I recently left mine at my parents house with a few simple instructions. They were so pleased with the results that it has become their daily morning brewer.

Some basic parameters

General Moka Pot best practice is filling the filter basket completely with coffee and filling the boiler up to the fill line with water. If there is no fill line, fill the boiler up to the bottom of the relief valve. This means your brewing ratios are pretty much set. The only things you have to fiddle with are grind size and heating technique.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT fill the boiler with water above the relief valve. The valve is there to relieve steam pressure should something go awry. If the valve is covered with water, it will not work as designed.

A note on grind size: Most of the Moka Pot brewing tutorials I have read suggest using a fine “espresso grind.” You will typically see recommendations like using pre-ground Illy and similar styles. I found that I like the coffee better when I use a coarser grind. I’ve been using a drip grind setting and find that the results are a sweeter less bitter coffee.

The first time you use your Moka Pot, you will have to approximate how much ground coffee your filter basket will hold. I recommend filling the filter basket with the correct volume in whole beans, weighing it and adding about ten percent more (by mass).

Do not pack the coffee into the filter basket. If you compress the coffee bed (like you would for coffee in a portafilter) you may end up with a really long brew time and burnt tasting coffee.

Load up the brewer

Once you have figured out the amount of coffee to use, fill the boiler with water up to the fill line (or the bottom of the release valve).

There is some debate on whether to use hot or cold water when filling the boiler. I prefer to use warm water but the key is to use the same water as you typically use for brewing. Don’t use hot tap water as it can be different than your cold tap. The water you use has an enormous impact on the final cup of coffee. If you would like to start with hot water, heat the water up in your electric kettle. Use caution when screwing the Moka Pot together as the aluminum boiler can become quite hot.

Place the filter basket into the boiler and fill it will coffee. There should be no water that seeps up into the filter basket, if there is, the boiler is too full. If you get any coffee on the rim or threads, make sure you brush them off. Having a good seal is essential to the operation of the Moka Pot.

Screw the upper collection chamber onto the boiler base and make sure you screw it together tight. If you have chosen to use hot water in the boiler, you may need to use a towel to hold onto the bottom piece.

Heat on low (have patience)

Place the loaded Moka Pot on your stove. If you have a gas stove, keep the flame low. Make sure there aren’t any flames going up the sides of the boiler (this could scorch the coffee inside).

If you have an electric cooktop, set the burner to low and place the Moka Pot on the edge of the burner instead of directly in the middle (this will also help keep your coffee from scorching).

It may take a few minutes for the water in the bottom to heat up to boiling but be patient. Leave the lid of the upper portion open and look for coffee to start coming up from the bottom.

Pay attention at the end

Once coffee starts to flow from the bottom reduce the heat further. For an electric cooktop, you may want to try simply turning the burner off as the burner often stays hot for awhile.

You want the coffee to come out in a slow trickle, not a violent coffee eruption. From the time coffee starts to flow, it should take about a minute for the brewing cycle to complete.

The pacing of the flow of coffee will take a little bit of practice and experience with your chosen heat source. I will typically take my Moka Pot off of the cook top entirely when it is about halfway done (hopefully around :30 since the coffee flow started).

Once the majority of the water has traveled from the boiler to the top, there will be mostly steam in the bottom portion. Try to avoid having this super-heated steam come through the coffee grounds at the end of the brewing cycle. It will scorch the coffee grounds and bring a bitter burnt flavor to your brew.

The finished coffee should be removed from the Moka Pot as soon as possible when brewing is complete. The coffee can also take on a scorched taste if it is allowed to “cook” in the hot aluminum collection chamber. It is more important to get the coffee off of the heat source before the steam scorches your coffee than to get every last bit of water out of the bottom of the boiler. There will always be a small amount of water left behind.

Enjoy and Tweak

As with all brewing methods, as you are enjoying your coffee, think about things you would to change next time you brew with your Moka Pot and record it.

Was the coffee too sour? Grind the coffee a little finer next time.

Was the coffee too bitter? Try grinding the coffee a little coarser.

Did the coffee taste burnt? Try taking your Moka Pot off of the heat sooner. Make sure you are removing your coffee from the Moka Pot as soon as possible.

Did the coffee taste thin or not as concentrated as you would like? Make sure you are filling your boiler up to capacity and try starting with warm or hot water.

The water you use also plays a huge role in the final product. To explore this topic in depth, read my post about the best water for coffee.

If you are ready to dive deeper into the world of Moka Pot science, check out this video. It may help you trouble shoot some problems you are having.

Cleaning and maintenance

Let the Moka Pot cool before cleaning (it will stay hot for awhile). Unscrew the boiler, remove the filter basket and discard the grounds. As tempting as it may be, don’t bang the filter basket on the side of the garbage. If you do this, it will eventually dent and need to be replaced. Rinse all parts with cold water and hand dry.

You will want to give it a deeper clean with Joe Glo (or a similar product) on occasion. The rubber gasket will also need to be replaced periodically. A new Moka Pot will typically come with a few extras gaskets.

Do you brew with a Moka Pot and have a favorite technique, tip or trick? Share your experiences and questions in the comments below.

(Originally Published January 18, 2016- Updated September 11, 2020)


  1. Eugen

    After reading I can’t say I use mine that precisely, even using it every day for many years. So it’s great having a coffee expert doing all the science work. Many thanks for sharing your great work!

    • John

      Thanks Eugen!
      Something that I have found is when you use something every day, all those little steps become habit and you don’t even have to think about it any more. I’m sure you have a few tricks you could teach me. I’m certainly no expert, just trying to explain it how I understand it. :)


  2. Brian's Coffee Spot

    Hi John,

    I own a couple of Moka Pots, but I’ve never really mastered them, preferring espresso or pour-over. Do you find the Moka Pot brings something to the coffee that say an Aeropress or V60 (with the same beans) doesn’t?


    • John

      That is a good question. I have never directly compared a coffee brewed with the Moka Pot with a V60 or Aeropress (something to try).

      I brew the V60 and the Aeropress through a paper filter, so that will change the outcome a bit. I would think that the V60 would be noticeably different than the Moka Pot (even when brewed at the same ratios and with a metal filter).

      I don’t really brew my Aeropress at that ratio either (or water temperature). With a metal disk filter, a recipe with hotter water and the same grind, I suppose you may be able to approximate a Moka Pot brew with an Aeropress.

      This leaves me with the question if I think the Moka Pot brings something different to the table. I think that it does.

      Besides the nostalgia and fun it brings, I think the vacuum pressure brewing process combined with the coffee’s contact with the hot aluminum brings something a little different to the cup. Whether it is an improvement or a detractor is for the person drinking the coffee to decide.

      Of course, this is all just conjecture at this point since I have never actually done a side-by-side comparison. I will update you as my opinion evolves.

      Thanks for the question,

  3. Manny

    Hi John,

    I recently found in my parents’ house a 50-year-old, unused, 3-cup Bialetti Moka Express pot that had a part that didn’t match any Bialetti parts diagram I had seen. It was a cylindrical chamber, similar to a tin can with an open top, and had a small hole at the bottom. It fit in between the funnel and the heating vessel.

    I couldn’t figure what the part was, nor its purpose, as the pot provided good tasting coffee both with and without it installed. I wrote Bialetti itself, but the person who responded wasn’t familiar with the part either.

    I decided to post pictures of the part on the internet, and eventually found out more about the unusual story behind this forgotten Bialetti part. I hope you will find this story interesting.


  4. Jeremy L Williams

    Hi, I got a moka pot for Christmas and am very pleased so far, using what I’ve learned here and in other sites. My concern though is that you say the cycle should take about a minute. I have a 6 cup and if I stop it at a minute I only have around 2-3 ounces of coffee. And it seems that 6 ounces is really all I can get unless I leave it on after it starts sputtering. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  5. Joni

    Thanks so much John – great information probably for the 4-cup? I also have a 6-cup and it needs more than the 30 seconds mentioned :)

    Something else to consider that was important for my purchase- Bialetti and other companies make high food grade quality stainless steel pots so there isn’t the worry about aluminum on our health.

    Enjoy! I know I am :)

  6. Cheech

    I sandwich a sprinkle of cinnamon or chocolate in the middle of the coffee while filling the basket.

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