Moka Coffee: What it is and Why You Should Try It

fresh moka coffee

Among the coffee enthusiasts, Moka coffee has been hailed as a superior homemade coffee with its etymological origins in Yemen and traditional grounds in Italy, the capital of coffee. But upon first getting introduced to the term, the question you ask isn’t how you should prepare it, what its benefits are and whether it is any better than that pod coffee you have every morning. Your first question is, “What is Moka coffee?”

Moka coffee is stovetop coffee made in a Moka pot, using heat to force water up and through the filter basket that contains coffee grounds into the top collection chamber that holds the final yield. This coffee is thicker, more intense, and richer in flavor compared to the average brew.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to get familiar with Moka coffee, including how it is different from mocha coffee, what the key benefits of Moka are and how to prepare Moka in the first place. Finally, you’ll discover what to look for in a Moka pot so you can brew yourself the cup you deserve.

Moka Coffee vs. Mocha Coffee

Because Moka and Mocha are usually pronounced the same way, the average non-Italian might confuse the two. Despite sharing the same pronunciation, these two drinks are different. While you can have a mocha coffee prepared using the Moka method, the two aren’t linked. Neither all mocha is Moka, nor all Moka is mocha, though they can overlap.

Mocha is defined by the presence of chocolate flavor in a cafe latte drink. Moka is coffee made using the Moka pot. So, while the former is the flavor-driven title, the latter is a method-bound label. That’s why they aren’t mutually exclusive but are also not related anymore.

The two words, however, do share the same origins: the Yemeni port of Al Mokha. Al Mokha port in The Mocha city was famous for its coffee bean trade. That, alongside the dark-skin natives, made the word “mocha” synonymous with darkness and coffee for the European traders. The “darkness” connotation is what made room for chocolate coffee to be called mocha.

But Alfonso Bialetti was closer to the word’s original essence when he labeled his stovetop coffee pot invention the Moka pot, as the Yemeni coffee preparation method involved heating coffee with fire.

Benefits of Moka Coffee

Now that we have established the difference between Mocha and Moka, we can talk about the many benefits of Moka coffee without anything getting confused with a chocolate-flavored cafe latte.

A Holistic Coffee Experience

If you’re a true purist when it comes to coffee consumption, you do not want too many steps between the bean and the brew. Let’s look at instant coffee; for example, it is brewed en masse and then freeze-dried to take a solid form. 

Then it is put in hot water to recreate the drink it once was. This is the kind of coffee purists prefer the least precisely because of the additional steps taking away the authenticity of the coffee consumption experience.

Scientifically, the coffee might have the same level of caffeine and even coffee essence. Still, those who prefer a more elevated coffee consumption experience will never take a single sip of instant coffee. Now that you know how crucial it is to reduce the number of steps between the bean and the brew, you can appreciate that a Moka pot requires one step less than a french press when it comes to coffee brewing. 

With that metric, a Moka pot is the most authentic coffee consumption experience. This results in better-tasting coffee across all dimensions, from texture to bitterness and aroma intensity. If you drink coffee for the taste, you will truly appreciate Moka.

More Caffeine per Sip

Not everyone drinks coffee just for the taste. Though decaf varieties exist and people do enjoy the taste of coffee, many consumers want just the caffeine hit and won’t care whether it comes from an instant coffee sachet or a can of Redbull. Moka coffee is more concentrated and hence has more caffeine than most other brews, with other factors controlled.

In other words, you cannot compare dark roasted arabica Moka coffee with light roasted robusta Turkish coffee. As long as the beans, grind level, and initial water input are the same, Moka coffee leaves behind drip coffee, cold brew, standard brew, and french press.

It Is Cheaper

Remember when we talked about caffeine-chasers who don’t care whether their hit comes from an energy drink or low-quality coffee? Usually, access and low prices entice such people, and they often trade off taste and experience in the process. With Moka, gourmet coffee experience and cheap coffee don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can have better-tasting coffee (see advantage #1) and a more caffeinated beverage (see advantage #2) for a lower price.

There’s a saying, “every buyer is a bargain buyer.” And if that’s true, then regardless of whether you like coffee for taste or prioritize caffeine over the consumption experience, you have a reason to opt for Moka. The only exception to this is if you actually prefer diluted coffee, as Moka is the worst kind of brewing method for such coffee.

Replaces Multiple Cups

This advantage of Moka coffee is an extension of the fact that it contains a lot of caffeine. For perspective, let’s compare this to espresso. Espresso is often assumed to be the strongest form of coffee because it is used to spike different milkshakes, warm milk, and even cups of water to produce “coffee drinks.” A frappe is basically an iced milkshake with a hit of espresso. A latte is foamed milk and water with an espresso shot in it.

Since most coffee beverages are made by diluting espresso with taste or texture enhancing contents, almost every coffee you order has less caffeine than an espresso shot. The only exception to this seems to be a drink with a double shot of espresso or a very concentrated traditional brew, which would practically also be an espresso.

So how does Moka fare against espresso? A single cup of Moka has more caffeine than four espresso shots. Consequently, one serving of Moka can replace two to three coffees you have on any given day. 

If you like to take time out of your day and enjoy sipping on a cup as you read a book or watch the sunset, Moka might not be your best friend. But if you’re a productivity fanatic who wants to minimize the time spent on brewing and having coffee, you’ll thank your stars for Moka.

Moka can also be used to lower caffeine addiction. If you have your first daily cup of Moka and consume decaf coffee in place of the other ones, you’re going to be able to gradually replace the first cup of Moka with a classic American or traditional brew.

It Is Environmentally Friendly

Yes, Moka coffee is good for the environment compared to many methods of brewing coffee. Coffee pods are often disposable and hence disposed of. Plastic waste is already a global problem. 

Even the most environment-friendly brews, when ordered from a coffee shop, can come with things you eventually have to throw away. You can avoid paper cups, disposable napkins, and sugar sachets by making your coffee with a Moka pot instead of taking trips to the upscale cafe under your office.

How to Make Moka Coffee

Moka coffee is made by boiling water, so it bubbles through the grounds in the filter chamber and is collected in the upper chamber. Sounds simple enough, right? But when it comes to making such concepts more actionable, we must break down the tasks into steps in the right order. In this section, you will learn the steps to making coffee in a Moka pot in the exact order.

Add Cold Water to the Base Chamber

The first step is to add cold water to the bottom section. It is crucial for the water to be cold because you want it to rise as a liquid. Hot water heated further will rise in vaporous form, which will not help make coffee and result in ruined grounds due to humidity exposure.

Aside from making sure the water is cold, you need to be positive that the water is added up to the valve level. Why? Because, again, you want to use heat to get the water passing through the filter. The longer water has to travel to reach the filter; the less water will go through the grounds. Moka coffee is concentrated enough as it is; using little water will only make it more concentrated and even undrinkable.

Fill the Filter Basket With Coffee Grounds

This step too involves filling a section to the brim. You need to make sure the filter basket is filled completely, so the grounds don’t have the room to dance around as water passes through them. Water will not sit amidst the grounds, which is why more grounds are required to have the desired effect. 

That said, you may be tempted to create a mountain of grounds in the filter chamber and then use the bottom of a spoon to press it down. This is overstuffing and isn’t recommended because no space is left for water to go through. This pushes caffeinated water back to the bottom chamber.

Remember that, unlike a french press, there’s not a powerful physical force pushing the grounds through water or the water through the grounds. This means that you need to leave enough room for water to bubble through, even if the only force creating the movement is heat.

Place the Components Together and Faster Tightly

Before you can get to brewing, you need to ensure that the gasket, filter, and the two chambers are in place. The rubber gasket will help prevent spillage and aid the fastening. It goes without saying that the empty chamber should be at the top and the one filled with cold water at the bottom, with the filter placed firmly between the two.

Put the Pot On the Stove and Turn It on

Do not turn on the stove to medium or high heat. Most people are used to turning the stove up a lot because they cook in large pots and pans. Even the smallest pots and pans are too big compared to a Moka pot and its contents. The stronger the flame, the quicker water will reach its boiling point. You don’t want the cold water to quickly start boiling and pass through the grounds so fast that there’s no coffee essence in the yield.

However, you can make slight adjustments to the heat as well as the starting temperature of water to get different caffeine concentrations in your Moka coffee. When camping, you might not have access to cold water, but that’s fine because coal heats water much slower than live fire. 

And if you place a Moka pot on active coals post-barbeque, you’ll have high-quality coffee. Brewing over a bonfire is much harder as you need to keep the pot at a distance. After all, you don’t control the wood flame the way you control the stove.

Remove the Pot When Yield Is Collected

While water bubbles through the filter, it starts bubbling visibly long after the best parts of coffee have been collected in the top chamber. Do not wait until you can sense the bubbling, as the coffee will have been diluted significantly by then. Instead, look for a slight gurgling sound which indicates that water has passed through the filter basket. 

If you turn off the stove at this point or simply remove the pot, you’ll have the best yield with the right concentration. If you opt for turning off the flame, remember that the stove’s still hot, and the water will continue to bubble through, albeit slowly, for a short period.

Stir the Coffee for Consistency

This is a step that’s easy to miss or skip because it seems like coffee that’s just been brewed is already evenly distributed. While that might be true for drip coffee, Moka coffee is brewed with such concentration that it is easy for the flavor to vary from sip to sip if you do not stir the coffee before serving. If you brew only one cup, then you may not need to mix the coffee, but if you’re brewing a larger batch, you should pre-stir the coffee before adding sugar or creamer and mixing.

Add Sweetener And/or Creamer (Optional)

This step depends on your taste. You can treat Moka coffee as an espresso additive to sugary coffee drinks or can consume it without any sugar or cream. The final contents of your coffee drink are entirely up to you to decide. Generally, the reasoning behind whether or not you should use sweetening and/or smoothening additives is as follows:

  • If you consume coffee for the caffeine, you might want to add sweetener to offset the bitterness of coffee. 
  • If you consume coffee for the sugary taste of coffee drinks, you might want to add milk, sugar, and cream to the final mix.
  • If you drink coffee for the taste of coffee, you might want to hold additives and use minimal sugar or creamer.
  • If you have coffee for its health benefits, mainly for weight loss, use a sugar-free sweetener like Nature Restore Organic Stevia Powder and hold off any creamer.

Serve Moka Coffee

Finally, you will serve Moka Coffee to your guests or have it yourself. To have an experience consistent with the Italian Moka consumption tradition, you should avoid “to-go” cups, paper cups of any kind, or large containers. Have your Moka in a cup like the one made by Historically Modern Designs and prioritize earthen and stone cups instead of metal ones for a finer experience.

What to Look For in a Moka Coffee Pot

The best thing about Moka coffee is that you don’t have to rely on machines like Mr. Coffee Espresso Maker or NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine. Instead, you can work with any pot engineered with Moka’s working principle. If any Moka Pot will get you Moka coffee, then why even get picky about your pots? For three reasons.

  • Longevity – Moka pot is exposed to flames consistently, and you want high-quality metal underneath to keep the pot from taking damage. 
  • Filter – Unlike the drip coffee mechanism or filter cone, the actual filter basket of the Moka pot plays a big role in the final taste, so you want a pot with the right filter.
  • Safety – You want a Moka pot that minimizes the chance of you touching hot metal. Appropriate handle and grip safety are things to consider.
  • Ease of cleaning – Moka pots require regular and thorough cleaning, and if a pot is designed to get you Moka coffee but is impossible to clean, you’ll spend a lot of time wrestling with the bottom chamber and the funnel every morning.
  • Brand – This is an optional criterion, but it pays off to go for brands with a reputation for putting more thought into their designs. A branded pot is likely to get a better-tasting yield, though it is always recommended to check product reviews before buying. 

Final Thoughts

Each method of making coffee has its advantages and drawbacks, which is why these ways have persisted as distinct brewing methods. That said, Moka pot preparation is the superior way when it comes to getting intense high-caffeine coffee without fancy coffee machines or expensive pods.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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