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Moka Pot VS Espresso Machine: Which Should You Buy?
Written by: Garrett Oden
Eyeing a shiny new espresso machine and trying to decide if you should get a less expensive moka pot instead? These coffee brewers are commonly put head-to-head in buying decisions.
But they are very different beasts.
Sure, they both make super concentrated forms of coffee, but other than that, they have almost nothing in common.
Let me walk you through these differences (and similarities) so that you can make an informed decision that’s right for your tastes and lifestyle.
Dispelling The Espresso Myth
Before we move on, there’s something you need to know.
Despite being marketed as “stovetop espresso machines”, moka pots don’t actually brew true espresso.
Yes, moka pots brew coffee using some intense pressure, but only 1-2 bars. This is more than most people can generate manually but it doesn’t rival that of an espresso machine. Modern espresso machines brew using 8-10 bars of pressure. That’s 5-10 times the pressure of a moka pot, depending on the machine.
Yes, the coffee that moka pots brew is strong and about as close as you can get to espresso without owning an actual espresso machine, but, by definition, it’s not true espresso.
Coffee coming out of the moka pot is typically 2-3 times as concentrated as regular drip coffee. It’s intense, it’s bold, and it has a heavy body. Unfortunately, the brewing process makes it easier to brew bitter coffee but, of course, I show you ways to avoid that in The Ultimate Guide To Moka Pot Coffee.
Moka pot coffee can still be balanced, well rounded, and sweet, though generally the coffee has a deeper, darker flavor profile than normal.
Espresso shots are often 5-8 times as concentrated as regular drip coffee. These shots are very intense, full-bodied, and very flavorful. Similarly to moka pots, they can easily become bitter if you’re not careful. And yes, I also cover how to brew great espresso in our Ultimate Guide To Espresso.
Espresso can be rich, balanced, sweet, bright, and beautifully complex.
Versatility Of The Brew
Both moka pot coffee and espresso shots are strong enough to be combined with other ingredients to create fun drinks. See our guide to common espresso and milk drinks for an idea of what you can make.
However, since espresso shots are more concentrated, they’re a little more versatile. The flavor is more tightly packed and goes further in drinks.
For example, a cappuccino made with 2 ounces of moka pot coffee may not be very strong, but one made with 2 ounces of espresso will be nice and rich.
Both are versatile, but espresso’s flavor carries further in bigger and more complex creations.
When you look at the two brewers side-by-side, it’s clear which is going to be more of a headache if something goes wrong.
Moka pots are simple brewers that are made up of just a few parts. There are no wires, no delicate parts, and no materials that will easily break. A broken moka pot is just an unfortunate $20-30 down the drain. It’s sad, but it’s not going to be difficult to replace.
Espresso machines, on the other hand, are quite complex. There are many electrical components, the mechanics are far more complicated, and, simply put, there’s more to break.
A technical mishap in your espresso machine could cost hundreds of dollars to fix properly, and you’ll likely have to find someone specialized to do the work.
Home espresso machines usually last several years when taken good care of. Chances are you don’t have anything to worry about. However, a well-maintained moka pot can be used for decades if you can manage to keep it that long.
Brewing Ease Of Use
Here’s the big issue I see for you. Espresso is hard. Since the coffee is so concentrated, every tiny mistake makes a big impact on the flavor of the shot.
I’m not trying to scare you away from espresso, but as someone who’s trained baristas to pull incredible shots on high-dollar commercial equipment, I know the challenge and want to be up-front about it.
There are many variables in play, and you have to try to control each one. It can be infuriating, but it’s also extremely rewarding when you pull great, flavorful shots.
Now, moka pots aren’t exactly a walk in the park either, but compared to espresso, they’re much easier to brew with. It does take some time to get the hang of the process and learn what to watch for, but once you have a few good batches, more come easily.
If you really want to brew killer espresso, it’s going to be a daily challenge. The difference in CO2 content in your beans from one day to the next can throw off your shots.
Now, you can do it. You can learn to brew great shots every day. But it’s going to take some time, some intentional effort, and probably a bunch of reading.
Are you up for the challenge, or would you rather go with the moka pot and save your energy for other areas of your life? If you simply don’t have the time or energy stores to take on espresso, no worries. I completely understand.
Which Should You Buy?
I can’t make the choice for you, but I’ve tried to make it as easy and clear as I can.
Will you go with the simple moka pot that brews rich, deep flavored coffee? Or will you embrace the espresso machine challenge and aim for sweet, bright shots?
I know you’ll make the right decision for you.
And always remember, no matter what brewer you choose you’re wasting time and energy if you’re using stale, over roasted, or low-grade beans.
Start with freshly roasted, specialty-grade coffee and you’ll have a much easier time learning to love either one of these brewers. Our JavaPresse Coffee consists of beans sourced from some of the world’s best farms right to your door.
Ever had coffee that tastes like strawberries, spice, or roses? With specialty coffee, you can.