The Moka pot and espresso machine are both popular brewing options for making what we all want – strong coffee. While they’re both good brewing devices, they don’t produce a similar cup.
Of course, both still brew a strong cup, but other than that, they’re pretty much very different machines. So, which one makes better coffee?
In today’s showdown, we will discuss the difference between a Moka pot vs espresso machine, so you can make an informed decision about which one is best for your needs.
Moka Pot Vs Espresso Machine: Which Is The Best Choice?
Let’s begin exploring the differences between the Moka pot and an espresso machine:
1. Making Espresso
Before we dive deep into these two coffee makers, we need to discuss the elephant in the room. What is an authentic espresso?
Espresso is a type of brewed coffee that has a viscosity similar to warm honey.
This stickiness comes from the higher concentration of dissolved liquid and the crema on top--the rich and creamy golden liquid.
To create authentic espresso, nearly boiling water (about 90 °C or 190 °F) is forced under 9–10 bars of pressure through finely-ground coffee beans.
With this in mind, do Moka pots make espresso?
Moka pots are marketed as stovetop espresso makers, but they don’t brew real espresso. The resulting cup is basically just a super concentrated coffee.
Yes, this brewing device uses pressure to brew coffee. However, it’s nowhere near the pressure espresso machine uses.
Compared to other brewing methods like drip coffee maker, a Moka pot uses more intense pressure, about 1 to 2 bars.
This is the most pressure a manual coffee maker can generate, unlike modern espresso machines brew using 8 to 10 bars of pressure. Others can generate more.
So, if you want to make true espresso, you’ll need an actual espresso machine and a stovetop espresso maker won’t do that for you.
Even if you use the most expensive Moka pot vs cheap espresso machine in making espresso, it still won't make a true espresso like the cheaper espresso maker.
In a nutshell, Moka pots may be called stovetop espresso machines, but they can’t brew espresso.
Instead, a Moka pot brews the closest thing you'll get to an espresso shot without owning an expensive coffee machine.
2. Coffee Flavor
Now that we've established that Moka pot doesn't make espresso coffee, let's now look at the flavor difference between Moka coffee vs espresso.
The flavor that comes out from a stovetop coffee maker is usually 2 to 3 times more concentrated than a French press coffee or drip coffee.
It has an intense, bold, and full flavor, especially when brewed correctly.
However, the brewing process of Moka coffee can be challenging for first-time users, which makes it easy to burn your coffee. This can produce a bitter taste.
On the other hand, a proper espresso is 5 to 10% more concentrated than a regular drip coffee.
An espresso machine uses 5 times more pressure than a Moka pot and has a grouphead valve that allows for a consistent and steady stream of pressure.
This pressure extracts more coffee flavors, resulting in a more intense cup.
Like a Moka pot, how your espresso tastes will also depend on how you brew your coffee grounds. So, if you have no idea how to use an espresso machine, you'll most likely get a bitter coffee.
Lastly, if your coffee beans have some flavor like orange or vanilla, an espresso machine can extract these notes better than a Moka pot because of the pressure it uses.
3. Brew Time
When it comes to the extraction process, a stovetop espresso maker requires a longer time compared to espresso machines.
Moka pots brew coffee in various stages.
First, this coffee brewing method requires a minute or two in the stove to create pressure in the bottom chamber that moves the water into the middle chamber, where the coffee grounds are.
Then, it needs another 30 seconds for the water to finally go up to the upper chamber, producing the coffee-infused water.
Essentially, it needs some preparation, but once you have the Moka pot on your stove, the heat does everything.
The espresso machine brews coffee in just 30 seconds, but the preparation of making an espresso requires a bit of time.
For example, you need to weigh the coffee grind, tamp the pack, and heat the espresso machine.
So, if you add the preparation, the brewing time of the Moka pot and espresso machine is roughly the same.
4. Versatility Of The Brew (Strength)
One common denominator espresso machines and Moka pots have: they both make strong coffee compared to other coffee brewing methods. So, what makes Moka coffee different from espresso?
Simple. Espresso is more concentrated than Moka pot brew. On top of that, it’s more versatile, which is why it’s used as a base for various drinks.
Moka coffee can still be used as a base for coffee beverages, but its flavor isn’t robust enough to blend well with other ingredients like milk and other sweeteners.
For example, a latte made with 2 ounces of Moka coffee may not be as intense and flavorful as the one made with 2 ounces of espresso.
5. Durability (Lifespan)
By simply looking at these two machines, you can assess which one can last longer. Moka pots don't have a lot of moving parts. It doesn't have electrical parts or fragile materials.
However, if it breaks, you'll need to replace the whole thing.
On the other hand, espresso machines are complex machines. They have a lot of moving parts and many electrical components that can easily break if not taken care of correctly.
If the electrical part breaks, fixing it may cost you hundreds of dollars, especially if you have an expensive espresso machine. You also need a specialist to handle the problem.
Even though espresso coffee machines are more susceptible to breakages, they can last several years if maintained properly.
A Moka pot can also last for years, decades even, especially if you know how to maintain it correctly.
6. Ease of Use
If you’re considering these two devices to make espresso, there’s something you need to know. Espresso is a challenging drink to make. Every detail needs to be right to make a great espresso.
If you make even a tiny mistake, you’ll brew bitter coffee. Even a professional barista can tell you that this brewing method needs a lot of patience.
On the other hand, Moka pots aren’t easy either. Brewing coffee on this device can also be challenging but not as much as making an espresso.
It has a learning curve, but once you’ve passed that, it’ll be an easy process.
So, the biggest question is: what challenges are you up to? Do you have the patience to pull an espresso shot? Or is learning how to make Moka pot coffee the only time you have?
8. Costs (Purchase and Ongoing)
The answer is pretty obvious, Moka pots will always be more affordable than espresso machines.
You can easily get a Moka pot for $30, while the cheapest espresso maker is around $120. Even the most sophisticated Moka pot won’t cost as much as the most affordable espresso machine.
One thing to remember, a less expensive Moka pot may seem like a good deal, but this type of brewing device uses lesser quality materials which may not last for long.
Understanding Moka Pots
A Moka pot is a stovetop coffee maker that has three chambers.
The bottom chamber holds the water, the middle chamber of the filter basket holds the coffee grounds, and the top chamber collects the brewed coffee.
How To Use
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to use a Moka pot:
- 1If you’re using whole coffee beans, make sure to grind them into a fine texture before using them in your Moka pot.
- 2Pour water into the bottom chamber. Hot water works best.
- 3Then, insert the middle chamber and fill it with your coffee grounds. The amount of coffee you need to add depends on the size of your Moka pot.
- 4Once filled, screw the top part on the bottom chamber. Be careful when doing so, especially if you’re using hot water.
- 5Without the lid on, put the pot on your stove at moderate heat. This will allow the pressure to build up, and the coffee brewed will start coming out of the top chamber. You'll know when the brew is finished when the coffee stops bubbling out. Put the lid on to serve.
So, are Moka pots good? Well, it depends on what you want in your coffee. If you want something straightforward, this is for you.
It’s much easier to use than an espresso machine and can make several cups in just one go.
Moka pots can't make espresso, and if that's what you want to make, you better go with an espresso machine right away.
A Moka pot simply can't handle too much pressure to make concentrated coffee. At the same time, it can be challenging to make a consistent brew.
If you're not used to this device yet, you'll end up with a different-tasting cup every time. Some materials can produce a metallic taste too, which won't make the best coffee.
Understanding Espresso Machines
An espresso machine is more complicated than a Moka pot. It uses motors and electronics to brew espresso.
Like a Moka pot, it has three components: a water boiler, a group head, and a portafilter. The water boiler is responsible for boiling the water and building pressure.
The group head controls the pressure and water flow that is pushed in the portafilter, and the portafilter is the hand-held basket that holds your coffee grounds.
How To Use
Here’s how you can use an espresso machine:
- 1Preheat the machine, portafilter, and cup by pulling a blank shot. All you need to do is boil water and run it on your portafilter and cup without any beans.
- 2Then, measure and grind your coffee bean. Make sure that it’s finely ground to pull a good espresso.
- 3Tamp your grounds, so the bed is flat and even. This allows consistent water contact, so you don't over or under-extract.
- 4Lock the portafilter and pull your shot.
The most important advantage of an espresso machine at home: you don't need to go to coffee shops every day to have quality espresso. At first, it's normal to make bad espresso shots.
Don't get discouraged. With practice, you can pull a shot that has a rich crema. Plus, if you get one with a steam wand, you can easily make espresso-based coffee like cappuccino at home.
Espresso machines are an investment. They're generally more expensive than Moka pots and require more cleaning and maintenance.
There are also different kinds of models available, so you need to do your research to find the best machine for you. You also need to practice a lot to draw a good espresso shot.
Another drawback with this machine is the amount of time you need to spend when making multiple cups.
While it will only take 30 seconds to pull a shot, you need time to prepare the machine and grind the beans.
You also need to be ready to replace certain parts and occasionally calibrate the temperature and pressure.
Common Moka Pot & Espresso Machine Questions
Should you tamp a Moka pot?
No, you shouldn’t. You should only tamp when using an espresso machine.
How much coffee does a Moka pot make?
This depends on the size of your Moka pot. Like other coffee machines, Moka pots come in various sizes to suit your personal preferences.
How long does a Moka pot take to brew coffee?
It will generally take a Moka pot 3 to 4 minutes to brew coffee.
Are cheap espresso machines any good?
Yes, they can still make good espresso. However, they make premium features that can make your espresso even better.
Moka pots are easy to use and affordable, but they can't make authentic espresso, and some materials can leave a metallic taste.
On the other hand, espresso machines produce high-quality espresso with a delicious crema.
If you want to get an espresso machine, we suggest you get barista training to know how to properly handle one.