What is Moka?

What is Moka?

If you prefer traditional ways of brewing coffee instead of using modern coffee makers, a Moka pot may suit you best. It brews coffee by allowing boiling water pressurized by steam to pass through ground coffee.  Read on and let us get to familiarize ourselves with what Moka is and the type of coffee that it produces.  

What is Moka?

The Moka or Moka pot is a stove-top or electric coffee brewer that functions by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee.  The word “Moka” comes from Mocha, a city in Yemen that was a center for buying and selling coffee during the 19th century.  The Moka pot became a common staple of Italian culture shortly after it was invented by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. It is common in Europe and Latin America and the current models are usually made from aluminum with Bakelite handles. 

Moka pots are hourglass-shaped and come in a variety of styles but all are based on the same principle of water being heated in the lower chamber of the pot.  These pots are made of aluminum that retains heat and a pressure regulator is incorporated that functions as a pressure cooker. 

These are the main parts of a Moka pot:

  • Boiler – It contains the water that is to be heated. It is also referred to as the bottom chamber, base or cylinder.
  • Filter funnel –  It is meant to hold the ground coffee. 
  • Collector –  It collects the coffee once it is brewed and is also called the top chamber. It has a removable filter that is held in place with a rubber gasket. 

The Moka pot features a three-chambered brewing process. When placed in an open heating element, freshwater is placed in a bottom compartment while above it, ground coffee is inserted in the filter funnel just between the water and serving vessel. When water boils in the bottom chamber, the powerful steam causes pressure that pushes water through the coffee grounds in the filter and into the top chamber. This creates smooth and aromatic brewed coffee. 

How to use the Moka pot?

Here are the steps on how to use the Moka pot:

  1. First, fill the base chamber with cold water up to the valve level. 
  2. Insert the filter. 
  3. Next, fill the filter with ground coffee completely but do not pack it down. 
  4. See to it that the filter and rubber gasket are in place. 
  5. Next, screw the two chambers together tightly. 
  6. Put the Moka pot into the stove. 
  7. Remove the Moka pot from the heat once the coffee starts to gurgle and just before it starts to rise and bubble.
  8. Mix the coffee well using a spoon before pouring it into cups.
  9. Finally, rinse the pot with hot water and dry thoroughly. 

Important reminders when using the Moka pot: 

  • Be sure to change the seal and removable filter periodically. 
  • Always use a low flame. 
  • Do not overheat the coffee and be sure to remove the pot from the heat once the brewing is done to avoid over-extraction. 
  • When you hear a gurgling sound from the pot it means that the water is over and it ensures that you will only get the best parts of the coffee. 

The resulting brew or Moka coffee is almost like an espresso shot especially if you use the right grind and technique. The taste is strong and sharp and has exceptional body and richness similar to that of an espresso. Moka coffee is concentrated, thick and flavorful but can easily become under or over-extracted. 

The Moka pot has no pressure consistency and it is difficult to control the quality from one brew to another. This means it may result in bad coffee that is bitter and watery tasting so it is important to learn the mechanics of operating the brewer. Nevertheless, it only takes more or less four to five minutes to brew with a Moka pot making it a good option for people who want a quick cup of joe, especially in the morning. 

Reasons why some people prefer Moka over other coffee brewers

These are the reasons why some people prefer Moka over other coffee brewers:

1. Medium-dark and dark roast coffee beans brew well in it. 

Moka pots are popular because dark roasts brew well in them. Most people like dark roasts since it blends with milk and sugar well.  Dark roasts bring a nutty, earthy and chocolate-like flavor of coffee although it tends to be more bitter than light roasts. French Press and cold brewing methods seem to suit better with lighter roasts as it brings out the fruity notes of coffee. 

2. It is convenient and easy to use. 

Coffee buffs like the Moka pot because it is easy to learn and use it. In just a few times of using the brewer, you can figure out when to take it off the heat. Once you hear the gurgling sound you need to take the pot off the heat since it is an indicator that there is no more water left that will pass through the ground coffee. 

3. It produces a strong and espresso-like coffee. 

While coffee connoisseurs state that Moka coffee is not the best quality coffee, it is popular among common folks who need a decent cup of joe in the morning. If you like black coffee, Moka coffee is not for you since it is strong, thick and produces a crema like an espresso. Moka coffee sits well with people who like strong coffee with a dash of milk and some sugar. 

4. You can take it with you if you are on a camping trip. 

The Moka pot is portable and you can bring it with you if you are the adventurous type who likes to go on camping and hiking trips.  You can easily heat the pot in your campfire and enjoy a good cup of coffee while you are on top of a mountain. 

5. It is affordable and easy to find.

Moka pots are reasonably priced compared to other types of coffee brewers.  Most of them are also antique pieces which make them easy to find.  They have been around for almost a century already and most of your grandparents may have owned one from way back. These pots are also easy to spot in yard sales and flea markets. 

What type of coffee grind should you use for your Moka coffee?

Moka coffee experts recommend using grinds that are relatively fine and are slightly finer than those used for drip coffee. The grinds should be slightly coarser than those used for espresso. To find the perfect grind, you may also try the trial and error basis where you start with a coarse grind and then try the finer grind until you find the right texture and taste. 

To avoid bitter coffee when brewing with your Moka pot, make sure to use boiling water at the start and then reduce the time required to brew the coffee. Use slightly coarse grounds and brew over lower heat. Take the pot off from the heat when the brewing is two-thirds complete and allow it to finish brewing without direct heat. 


If you are the type of person who only wants a good cup of coffee in the morning without the complexities, a Moka pot will suit you well. It features a three-chambered brewing process and produces espresso-like coffee that is strong, thick and flavorful. Some coffee lovers choose it over other coffee brewers because it is convenient, easy to use, affordable and above all, dark roasts brew well in it. 

Image: istockphoto.com / Dmytro Varavin