There’s something romantic about a picturesque moka pot brewing rich stovetop espresso. Not only has it been a worldwide favorite for decades, it’s still a worldwide favorite. Though not super common in the United States, I’ve seen moka pots in the homes of people all over the world, from Kenya to Switzerland to Guatemala.
Sadly, since we’re not as steeped in the moka pot as other parts of the world, we often have a harder time knowing how to pick one out. There are a few options, but thankfully, it’s actually not as complicated as it is with other brewers.
In this brief guide, I’ll show you the main things you need to consider when trying to pick the perfect moka pot.
Aluminum VS Stainless Steel
When it comes to moka pot construction, really only two materials are used: aluminum and stainless steel. Both are suitable for making delicious coffee, but the two materials have differences elsewhere.
Aluminum Moka Moka Pots
The original material that moka pots were made out of aluminum because it’s malleable (basically, easier to shape the metal) and inexpensive. However, aluminum also has its downsides.
Aluminum is a somewhat porous metal, meaning it has super tiny holes along its surfaces. These holes allow tiny coffee particles and oils to get stuck over time. But here’s the catch: you don’t want to clean aluminum moka pots with soap or abrasive surfaces.
That will scratch off tiny pieces of aluminum and will result in a tainted metallic flavor. So how do you get those tiny particles out of the moka pot? Well, you rinse with hot water, wipe with a rag, and hope for the best.
So, while aluminum moka pots can brew great stovetop espresso and are fairly durable, they tend to impact the coffee flavor eventually (like, years down the road), since you can’t really clean them as well as would be ideal.
Another weakness of aluminum as a material is its ability to rust. Once exposed to acid and oxygen (coffee and… air), it slowly begins to rust—especially if not dried really well. This is the reason that older moka pots (sometimes 30 years old!) have mean dark spots on them. It’s rust slowly forming.
So what’s the bright side? Aluminum moka pots are often half the price of stainless steel ones. If you’re on a budget, aluminum’s the way to go.
Stainless Steel Moka Pots
Stainless steel is a newer metal type that’s become really popular for kitchen devices. There are a few reasons for this.
- It’s non-porous — Those little holes in aluminum are not present, thanks to chrome being present in the steel. This makes stainless steel easier to clean and reduces flavor impact.
- It’s non-corrosive — Unless tainted at the factory somehow, stainless steel won’t rust—at least not in your lifetime.
- It’s even more durable — Stainless steel isn’t likely to get scratches or dings. It’s a very hard metal type that can take a beating.
If you’re really wanting a high-quality moka pot that will last not just a couple decades, but your entire life, go with stainless steel. But there’s another reason you may want to choose this metal type.
Not All Stovetop Types Are Compatible With Aluminum
If you have an electric or induction stove, you’ll want to double-check the moka pot you’re looking at to make sure it’s compatible. Most are not, but a few have different properties built into the base of the brewer that make them usable on those stoves.
If I were you, however, I’d just get a stainless steel brewer and not have to worry about whether it’s compatible or not.
Manual VS Electric
Moka pots are, admittedly, not the easiest to use. There’s definitely a learning curve involved because you have to carefully control two elements: temperature and grind size.
Electric moka pots make learning the moka pot easier. They plug into an outlet and have a temperature regulator, much like an electric kettle. This solves one of those variables and means you only have to find the right grind size.
Electric moka pots can also be pretty intuitive. The most advanced even have timers set to brew coffee for you in the morning before you’re even awake. It’s a cool feature, but you already know how we feel about grinding your beans immediately before you brew.
There’s also a pretty big difference in price between manual and electric moka pots. While you can expect to pay $25 or less for a manual moka pot, you’ll probably end up dropping $60+ for an electric one.
What Size Do You Need?
And last (but not least), how much coffee do you want to make each brewing session? You need to decide before you buy your moka pot.
Because of the way moka pots work, you really want to brew the designated amount of coffee every time. If you have a 3-cup pot, you’ll want to make three cups. A 6-cup pot? Six cups.
Moka pot “cups” are not your normal coffee cup. Each cup is about 2 fluid ounces of liquid stovetop espresso, which means a 3-cup moka pot will brew about six ounces of coffee. Decide carefully how much coffee you want to make each time, because once you’ve bought the moka pot, I don’t suggest trying to brew more or less coffee than the pot’s designed for.
Moka pots are incredible devices, and frankly, you cannot go wrong. Yes, there will be a learning curve and sometimes it’s frustrating to not be able to brew different amounts of coffee with the same pot, but it’s worth it for the stovetop espresso.
You can enjoy it on its own, make americanos out of it, top it with steamed milk, or even make creative coffee cocktails with it. It’s a pretty versatile tool to have.
That being said, it’s not the pot, but the coffee that truly determines the quality of your brew. Freshly roasted, specialty-grade beans have no rival—and that’s what you should be using.
We’ll happily send you these uber-fresh and tasty beans every other week via our JavaPresse Coffee Club. We partner with the best farms in the world and ship the beans to you the same day they’re roasted to ensure you get to enjoy the coffee at peak flavor and freshness.
And since fresh, high-quality beans tend to be more forgiving than stale and low-grade beans, you’ll have an easier time “dialing in” your new moka pot.Check out the Club for yourself!