7 Common Moka Pot Questions Answered

Written by: Garrett Oden

moka pot coffee questions

Making coffee in your moka pot can be a little frustrating, but it’s also a rewarding method to get the hang of.

The rich, heavy-bodied coffee that the moka pot brews is flavorful and versatile. It can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other liquids to make other drinks like hot water for an Americano or steamed milk for a Cappuccino.

And once you get the hang of it, you can repeat the brew with ease.

So go ahead and ask your questions and take the time to figure it out. It’s worth it.

Let’s dive into some of the most common Moka Pot questions.

1. Why Is My Coffee Bitter?

Frustrated by bitter moka pot coffee? Don’t be - we all start there.

javapresse blends

Here’s the thing: it only gets better.

Bitter coffee is caused by a few things, mainly these two:

  • Over roasted, stale, or low-grade coffee beans
  • Over extraction (brewing too much)

Read: How To Taste Coffee Bitterness

We’re just going to assume that you’re using specialty-grade, freshly roasted beans, so the issue is probably that you’re over extracting your coffee. Literally, you’re pulling out too much from the grounds.

Your goal is to extract less.

There are a few ways you can do that.

Grind on a coarser setting. The water won’t pull out the flavors as quickly from slightly larger grounds, which should bring back some balance.

Don’t brew for so long. Use pre-heated water or a higher heat setting to shorten the time that your grounds are being heated.

I strongly suggest starting with these, but there are a few other strategies. You can read about them in the Ultimate Guide To Moka Pot Coffee.

2. So... What’s With The Cold Towel?

Many moka pot brewing guides, including our own, advise using a cold towel to rapidly cool down the moka pot once the brewing is complete.

Here’s why.

Moka pots are big metal brewers. That metal gets so hot that it can start to mess with the coffee, even when the brewing is finished.

The cold towel accomplishes two things:

  1. Quickly cuts off the brewing so over extracted coffee doesn’t keep rising
  2. Keeps the pot from scalding the liquid coffee, creating off flavors

No, it’s not essential, but it’s an easy way to reduce the risk of bitter coffee.

Read: Why You Need To Be Drinking Coffee Black (And How To Start)

Another way to do this is to run the pot under cool water post-brew.

3. Does The Moka Pot Make Espresso?

I know that moka pots are often referred to as “stovetop espresso makers”, but sadly, that description is a little... optimistic.

You see, espresso is made when hot water is forced through super fine coffee grounds at 8-10 bars of pressure. The moka pot is only capable of producing 1-2 bars.

moka pot espresso

It’s just not enough to really be called true espresso, though the result is definitely espresso-like.

The coffee is still intense, still heavy-bodied, and still good for making faux-espresso drinks like cappuccinos and americanos. But if you want to be able to make true espresso, you’ll need an actual espresso machine.

Read: What Exactly Is Espresso?

4. Should I Start With Cold Or Hot Water?

I highly suggest starting off with hot, pre-boiled water.

This reduces the amount of time it takes to brew the coffee and keeps the hot moka pot from getting so hot that it “cooks” the grounds before the brewing begins. Cooked grounds taste metallic and bitter. Gross.

javapresse blends

There are many people who use cold water with no problem, but I find it’s more risky than is necessary. And it always seems to take longer for the water to heat in the moka pot than in a kettle.

5. What Size Should I Get?

Your moka pot’s size is, sadly, non-adjustable.

  • A 3-cup moka pot is designed to brew 3 cups (about 5-6 ounces)
  • A 6-cup moka pot is designed to brew 6 cups (about 10-12 ounces)

The general rule is that you should fill the coffee to the top of the basket and the water to the bottom of the release valve (or marked line).

While it’s possible to use less coffee or water, it’s not recommended. Using less of one or both ingredients easily results in over extraction.

Read: The Golden Coffee To Water Ratios

So, if you’re only brewing for yourself, you may not want that 6-cup, but you’ll have to make that call for yourself.

Since we’re kind of on-topic, if you want to make coffee that’s no so strong, don’t use less coffee - just add some water to the final result to taste. Stick to the brewing procedure!

6. Do I Tamp The Coffee Grounds?

Under no circumstances should you ever tamp the grounds in a moka pot. While it’s necessary in an espresso machine, it’s a recipe for disaster with moka pots.

Espresso machines are built with many failsafes that keep the machine from literally exploding if too much pressure is generated, which is nearly impossible in the first place since the water is being forced through the grounds so intensely.

Moka pots, however, aren’t so durable. Even with a release valve, too much pressure could cause the pot to explode, which can lead to injuries from hot water or flying pieces. And the 1-2 bars of pressure moka pots create isn’t enough pressure to force water through the finely ground coffee if it’s packed tight.

moka pot questions

Read: Skip The Coffee Aisle, Here's How To Find The World's Best Coffee

Don’t tamp or pack the grounds!

7. Is The Moka Pot Good For Camping?

There aren’t many coffee brewers that work well for campers, but the moka pot is one of them. It can be used over a portable stove or even a campfire to produce rich coffee. And, with a larger model like the 12-cup, it’s easy to dilute the brew and serve 4+ people.

However, there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Firstly, it’s very hard to be precise in the outdoors like you can be in a well-lit kitchen, which means it’ll be much easier to over extract and brew a bitter cup.

Secondly, moka pots aren’t exactly compact or lightweight. They can be a bit of a burden if you have to lug your pack very far, though they’re definitely more packable than other brewers, thanks to their durable construction.

Another great outdoor coffee option is the Aeropress.


Though once outcasts, moka pots are finding their place in the specialty coffee world. Be patient with the brewer. As we’re all rediscovering, it’s worth it.

But remember, if you’re not using freshly roasted, specialty-grade beans to start, you have no hope of brewing great moka pot coffee - it’ll always be bitter.

We source our beans from the world’s best coffee farms. They’re environmentally conscious, ethically minded, and love great coffee as much as we do. See the beans for yourself.

For the best cup of coffee, grind your beans fresh each morning with our hand grinder... 

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