You don’t need to go to Starbucks or your local hipster coffee shop to get your caffeine fix. To get strong coffee, you don’t even need to buy an expensive espresso machine that hogs limited kitchen counter space either.
If you want to make really eye-opening coffee that’s like espresso without the machine, make it like the Italians do… quickly and very cheaply at home, using a moka pot.
What is a moka pot?
Moka pots (also called an espresso stoves) are metal kitchen gear that are in nearly every Italian household. They are part metal tea kettle (older ones are made of aluminum, newer ones use stainless steel), and part science experiment. In many ways, they work like an espresso machine, but upside down. Instead of pushing pressurized water through espresso grounds from the top down, moka pots do it the other way around… from the bottom up.
Compared to an espresso machine, a moka pot (sometimes also called an espresso pot) produces a highly-concentrated, powerful coffee with a very robust dark-roasted flavor. The taste of the moka coffee isn’t as clean as a shot of espresso, so while it’s not the best for shooting straight, it tastes great mixed with a little bit of of sugar, and even better with milk. In fact, many prefer the flavor of caffe moka once mixed because of it’s dark-roasted flavor. I personally enjoy the taste of caffe moka in lattes, cappuccinos, and affogato (espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream).
How do you use a moka pot?
A moka pot is very easy to use once you get the hang of it. To make your caffe moka, you simply fill the bottom of the kettle with water, put ground coffee into the top of the funnel, filling almost to the top, but not packing it in like you would with an espresso machine.
Then you place the funnel in the bottom half of the espresso stove and screw on the top of part (which contains a spout). When the assembled pot is heated over a stove on medium heat, the water rises through the coffee grounds as the temperature rises, extracting the caffeine.
After a couple of minutes, the finished product will start to pour out of the spout like a coffee fountain into the reservoir in the top half of the moka pot. Once this happens, you can lower the temperature a bit while the rest of the water rises through the spout.
From there, you can mix your strong coffee however you want. We like to use a bit of maple syrup and some frothed milk to make tasty cappuccinos. We’re also huge fans of mixing caffe moka with vanilla ice cream to make affogatos.
Benefits of moka pot:
1. Moka pots make really strong, tasty coffee
2. Moka pots are cheap, and only cost 25-35 dollars
3. Moka pots can save you a ton of money and time
4. Moka pots have an iconic look and are a symbol of Italian culture
5. Moka pots take up almost no space compared to dedicated espresso machine, making them very portable (take them anywhere)
Everything you need to make coffee using a moka pot
Use the right coffee for your moka pot
To make good caffe moka you need quality ground coffee. Although you can grind your own, we’ve found that after much trial and error, our favorite coffee is the pre-ground stuff Italians use. For medium bodied flavor, our favorite is Lavazza Qualita Rossa (70 percent arabica and 30 percent robusta beans) or the darker Lavazza Qualita Oro (100% arabica) that you can buy inexpensively on Amazon, especially if you buy in larger packs.
For reference, each 8.8 pack of Qualita Rossa can make 40 shots or more of espresso in a 4-cup moka pot (each run requires approximately .8 oz of ground coffee), bringing your costs to about 11 cents a shot when you buy 4 packs at a time.
Pick the right moka pot
Size matters – Before you buy an espresso pot, you should know that they come in different sizes, for producing for example 2, 4, or 8 shots worth of espresso / caffe moka per run. It makes sense to err on the side of a smaller pot because you aren’t always going to want to drink 8 cups worth of caffe moka every day… but you can easily make 4 cups twice. We settled on the 4 cup stove to make coffee for 2 people every morning, and it has suited our needs well.
Older-style moka pots are made of aluminum – the original Bialetti moka pots came out in 1933 and they were made of aluminum, which tends to oxidize over time when it comes into contact with water. For that reason, we like the newer stainless steel models, which are less delicate / more durable. Our current stainless-steel moka pot of choice is the Bialetti Kitty Coffee Maker (4-cup), as it comes from a reputable Italian maker and we’ve used it for years with no problems.
If you are budget concious, generic stainless-steel moka pots might be 10 dollars cheaper.
Ready to start making your own coffee with a moka pot?
In this post you’ll find affiliate links to all of the products we use to fulfill our coffee fix on the cheap, just like we did on vacation in Italy and how millions of Italians do every day. Once you buy a moka pot, you’ll be making your own lattes and affogatos in no time!
Bonus tip about moka pots: Like some other cookware, you should season your moka pot before using it. That means you should make a few pots of coffee before you drink your finished product. I’m not sure if this is an absolute requirement, but all Italians seem to do this with their moka pots.
Now you know everything you need to know to get started making coffee in the moka pot. We hope you like using yours as much as we enjoy using ours.