How to Make Coffee with a Stovetop Moka Pot

How to Make Coffee with a Stovetop Moka Pot

I grew up understanding the difference between ‘everyday coffee’ brewed in the stainless steel percolator and ‘real coffee’. My grandmother made the first for my mother and her friends. It was, to quote my mother, an acquired taste. I know now that it was an acquired taste because, frankly, percolators make terrible coffee. When we were at home alone, my grandmother made real coffee on top of the stove with a moka pot. I never had to acquire a taste for this coffee. It was rich and dark and flavorful, a symphony on the tongue. As a little girl, one of my favorite breakfast treats was Nana’s moka pot coffee poured over my cornflakes with the milk.

A moka pot is a three part metal pot that you use to make coffee on top of your stove. Fully assembled, it is shaped like an hourglass. The bottom part holds the water for your coffee. The middle part is a metal filter that fits between the top and the bottom pieces and holds ground coffee. When the water in the bottom part of the moka pot heats, the steam is forced up through the grounds in the filter into the top pot, where it condenses into a liquid again. You can find moka pots in nearly any department store or supermarket for far less than you’ll pay for them through a specialty coffee shop. If you want the best, though, Bialetti makes several different models in 100% culinary grade stainless steel. Most moka pots that you’ll find in supermarkets are made with aluminum, which can affect the taste of the coffee.

Coffee brewed in a moka pot can be a heavenly experience – or it can be a huge disappointment. There is an art to making coffee in a moka pot that includes the amount of water, the amount and grind of the coffee, the compactness of the coffee grounds in the filter and the heat of the water used to brew it. It is possible, however, to make excellent coffee without any acidity or bitterness in a moka pot if you follow a simple procedure.

First, keep your moka pot scrupulously clean. Coffee flavor is the result of extracting oils naturally found in coffee beans. Those oils cling to any surface that they touch. Disassemble the moka pot after every use and clean the filter and top pot, being sure that you clean the underside of the top pot. Every few weeks, run some vinegar through the moka pot as if you were brewing coffee to get rid of any mineral deposits left behind by hard water.

Before you use your moka pot for the first time:

Follow the directions below using spent coffee grounds or inexpensive coffee that you don’t mind wasting. The first pot of coffee you brew in this should be thrown away. The intent is just to clean the machine out before using it for the first time.

To Make Coffee in a Moka Pot

Unscrew the top part of the moka pot and set it aside. Take out the filter basket.

Fill the bottom part of the moka pot with water to the pressure gauge line.

Drop the filter basket into place and add a heaping tablespoon of finely ground coffee for every three ounces of water in the pot. Do not tamp the coffee. The coffee will expand when the steam is forced through it, effectively producing its own tamp.

Screw the top part of the moka pot into place.

Put the pot over low heat and wait. It will take about five minutes for the coffee to finish. You’ll know that it’s done by the throaty sound of the coffee sputtering.

Pour into an espresso cup and enjoy.

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  1. Leyanne Taylor says

    Does anyone else have really bad results when using the Bialetti 12cup? I’m coming to the conclusion it’s just too big to brew in the optimum time :( Whatever method/advice I use I end up with burnt, bitter and watery coffee.

  2. kate wahl says

    I finally figured it out. I was using illy coffee and the temp was too low so I think it would start to boil and the coffee would get wet and nothing came out. I turned everything up and it is working great now :) I have decided I like my own grind better then Illy though which

    I was so afraid at having it at a high temp that I think I messed it up

  3. Robin Snow says

    kate – make sure all the parts are in the right order. It is possible to put it all together with the gasket in the wrong place, and most of the water will leak out without going through the coffee.
    Put it on high. The water boils at the same temperature regardless of how hot the burner is, it just boils sooner, which is not a bad thing.

  4. Keith says

    I think most people put the gas on so it covers the base but does not lap over the edges. That is maximum on my gas ring. Of course, if you have an electric cooker it will be different, but personally I wouldn’t put it too low (unless of course the instructions say otherwise). Also, espresso coffee grind is considered to be a bit too fine for Moka pots and this can sometimes obstruct outflow.

    Another thought: is the seal between the upper and lower compartment clean (no grinds wandered onto the gasket or the screw thread) and hermetic. If not, the water will leak out of the sides instead of spurting into the upper compartment.

    My two cents worth…

    Hope it helps!

  5. kate wahl says

    the first pot I brewed on medium heat then I read that was too high so I switched to low…nothing after 20 minutes, then I switched to medium low and still nothing after 10 minutes

  6. kate wahl says

    So I finally got my first moka pot. Brewed one pot for throw away and ever since then nothing will brew. I used the cheap coffee for my first pot and then I put the illy expresso coffee (never packed it but placed it in it) and yet I have not been able to fill anything with coffee so I am obviously doing something wrong please help

  7. Jayson says

    I recently added a few steps to my Moka Pot brewing process which seems to have given me a consistently better brew. First (and please don’t shoot me if you’re a purist) after I pour a cup, I sprinkle a pinch of baking soda in the coffee. I remember hearing about this with tea, to get a much smoother, less bitter cup. On a whim I gave it a try with my Moka Pot coffee. A small pinch definitely makes a huge difference. The baking soda neutralizes some of the acidity in the coffee, giving it a smoother taste. Give it a shot. Second, I take whatever coffee is left in the pot and swirl it around in both the lower and upper sections, adding a bit of water if needed. After swirling it around a bit, I rinse both sections out (not wiping them out) and let them dry. I believe the oils from the coffee act as a barrier to the aluminum, and that seems to have also dramatically improved the taste of the coffee. I have read about others doing similar with the upper section, but swishing the coffee around in the bottom section was something new for me. I’m interested in your thoughts.

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