Under Pressure: How a Moka Pot Compares to an Espresso Machine
We’re really raising the bar with these next two brewing methods. The pressure bar that is.
The Moka Pot has earned the nickname Stovetop Espresso Maker, but its final brew can’t technically be considered espresso.
Why not? To truly be an espresso, you need at least 9 bars of pressure. A Moka Pot only comes in at around 2-3 bars.
So while it’s a similar flavor and technique, the Moka Pot isn’t exactly an espresso. But don’t discount it quite yet.
Today we’ll take a look at these two pressure brewing methods to see whether or not a Moka Pot is a worthy competitor to an espresso machine.
Comparison: Moka Pot vs Espresso?
Ease of Use
It’ll take some trial and error at first, but follow these steps to get started with your Stovetop Espresso Maker:
- Grind your beans very finely, about the same as table salt (roughly 20 grams)
- Boil water and use that water to fill the bottom half of your pot (some people skip this step and simply use cool water)
- Put the grounds in the filter basket and make sure they’re distributed evenly
- Place the basket in the bottom half of the pot
- Put together the rest of the Moka Pot and place the assembled pot on the stove (it’s best to place it on the corner of your burner to avoid scorching the coffee)
- Turn your burner on medium heat
- Wait until you hear a hissing sound, then carefully remove the pot, pour, and enjoy
Keep in mind that there are a lot of different ways to make espresso. And if you have a capsule machine, it’s as easy as pressing a button. But we’ll cover the basic method here:
- Heat up your machine
- While it’s heating up, grind the beans very finely and put them in a portafilter
- Tamp the grounds - 30 pounds should be good - so you make a “coffee puck”
- Add the portafilter to your machine and make sure your cup is ready below it
- Begin pulling the shot, stopping before the liquid turns clear
- Stir in the crema and enjoy
Remember, espresso making is an art form as much as a brewing method. So if the first few aren’t successful, look for ways to adjust your method. Soon you’ll be pulling shots like a pro.
Some espresso machines make this process pretty simple, so if you have one of those then making espresso won’t be hard. But since things can get complicated quickly, we’ll let the Moka Pot take the lead for consistency.
Give yourself about 10 minutes for the whole process, from preheating the water to the final hissing sound indicating the finished brew. Once you get the process down, it’ll probably take less time.
It only takes 10-30 seconds to pull a shot of espresso. But you’ll also need some time to heat up your machine and get everything else prepped. So give yourself 5-7 minutes total time.
Once you become a pro puller, espresso shots take the lead with the fastest brewing time. You may even be able to get it down to under 4 minutes total.
Ease of Cleanup
The first rule of cleaning a Moka Pot is “keep it cool.” Let the pot cool down before cleaning, discard the grounds, and rinse everything with cool water.
Espresso cleaning gets a bit trickier. After each shot, you’ll want to run a water shot through the machine and a steam shot through the steam wand (if you have one). You’ll also need to clean the filter basket and portafilter.
If you have a pod machine though, simply remove the pod, dump the water, and you’re done.
For all espresso machines regular, preventative maintenance keeps everything in tip-top tasting shape.
We’ll go with the Moka Pot here because a quick rinse each time keeps it working well for years. Even with a pod espresso machine, you’ll have to make sure to keep up with regular cleaning.
Moka Pots range from 1-12 cups on average. But keep in mind that these are espresso-sized cups, usually around 2 oz (also known as demitasse if you want to get fancy).
So while you probably wouldn’t want to drink a whole 12 cup Moka Pot brew, the larger sizes are good for sharing or making multiple specialty drinks like lattes or mochas.
1-2 shots are pretty much all you’ll get from your espresso machine. But they’re quick, so you can make a lot of shots in about the same time it takes to finish your Moka Pot brew.
The Moka Pot wins based on its versatility to make larger amounts while still being good for a one-shot drink too.
This one hit wonder doesn’t need much else before it can make a great cup of coffee. Consider investing in a burr grinder and kettle if you don’t already have them. But other than that, your Moka Pot does it all.
If you have a pod variety espresso maker, you only need pods (which can get a little pricey).
If you’ve got an espresso machine, the options are almost limitless. You’ll definitely need a grinder that can do a fine espresso grind, as well as a tamper. And to make yourself a specialty drink, you’ll want to invest in a steaming wand and milk pitcher.
The Moka Pot has a slight advantage over an espresso machine simply because you have less to keep up with. But since most espresso machines come with all the necessary parts, it takes a close second.
The best brands range in price from $30-$100, with even the lower end of the range offering you robust coffee. Not a huge investment for adding this level of coffee brewing to your arsenal.
If you find an espresso machine in the $30 price range, don’t buy it. Because the only ones worth your money are significantly more than that.
You can find an effective capsule espresso maker for $100-$150. Or you can spend anywhere from $100-$1200 on a semi-automatic, at-home espresso machine to quench your espresso thirst.
This one’s a standoff. A Moka Pot will deliver close-to espresso at a fantastic price point for anyone.
But if you must have the real thing, you can make an investment in a lower-end espresso machine without going hungry for the next few months. Or you can go all out for the top of the line if you’re really looking for an at-home barista flare.
The Moka Pot receives its other name, Stovetop Espresso Maker, because it’s the closest espresso flavor you can get without an espresso machine. But even though it tastes similar to espresso, it’s not quite the same.
Since Moka Pots brew using pressure, you’ll get a much heartier, robust flavor than other brewing methods. It’s even possible to get some of that sweet crema that espresso lovers covet.
Dark, smooth, and bittersweet, espresso is more than just strong coffee. It’s a completely different brewing method that results in an intense coffee flavor and a sweet crema on top.
Espresso stands alone as the winner of the taste category. The Moka Pot serves its own purposes in the coffee world but compared to a true espresso, its taste doesn’t quite cut it.
These are your lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, etc. Basically, any drink made by adding milk to espresso. They’re usually warm, indulgent, and beautiful because of the addition of latte art, a special way of pouring the milk into the espresso.
So is it possible to make your favorite specialty drink without espresso? Yes and no. Espresso exists in a class all its own. It’s concentrated and slightly sweet, with its own crema. Without these flavors and mouthfeel, you won’t be able to make a truly espresso-based drink.
But, the Moka Pot comes pretty close. It too creates a concentrated, pressurized coffee, with a little bit of crema on top. So if you’re in a pinch, the Moka Pot will do okay. If not, get yourself an espresso maker.
Will the Real Espresso Please Stand Up?
Ok, so you want espresso. There’s no other place to look than a genuine espresso machine.
It delivers the deliciously sweet but strong flavor espresso lovers have come to expect. And you can use it to make any specialty drink, without skimping on flavor.
But it comes with a cost. All that pressure needed for a true espresso means your machine might be pricey. In this case, a Moka Pot serves up an innovative espresso-esque drink you’ll love.
And it has its own merits too. You may find that you enjoy the process and the product of the Moka Pot on its own, without needing to compare it to espresso all the time.