Straight to the Point
Moka pots are ubiquitous in Italian homes, where espresso is most people’s preferred way to drink coffee. And while a moka pot can’t quite replicate the espresso you order in a cafe, it’s able to brew a much stronger coffee than drip brewers through the use of steam pressure.
As water begins to boil in the lower chamber, steam pushes water up the middle filter where it extracts coffee, pushing it through the spigot and into the top chamber. Using steam pressure to brew can be tricky, however. Towards the end of a moka pot’s brewing cycle, hot steam can pass directly through the coffee, sputtering and extracting more bitter flavors.
To find the best moka pots, we tested 11 models and evaluated how easy they were to set up and clean and, of course, which brewed the best coffee.
The Winners, at a Glance
Based on the original design for the moka pot developed by Luigi De Ponti and Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, the Bialetti Moka Express repeatedly brewed the best coffee out of any model we tested. It had a filter basket that was large enough for proper brew ratios, and every piece fit together neatly. Made from heavy gauge aluminum, it conducted heat evenly for consistent steam pressure and well-extracted coffee.
Made from stainless steel, this moka pot heated up quickly and brewed a full minute faster than our aluminum top pick. It brewed great coffee time and time again, and it’s also induction-friendly.
- Dark Roast Brew Test: We brewed a moka pot with dark roast coffee by measuring coffee and water volumetrically to see how much fit in each chamber. We ground the coffee on the finest setting of a filter coffee grinder. We evaluated each model on ease of use and brewed coffee quality.
- Light Roast Brew Test: We brewed a moka pot with light-roasted coffee and weighed out a 1:10 ratio of coffee to water (or as close as we could get) for each brewer. We ground the coffee slightly coarser than a traditional espresso grind and used a paper filter to remove more sediment from the final cup. We evaluated each model on ease of use and coffee quality.
- Cleanup and Usability Tests: We repeatedly disassembled each moka pot to see how well the parts fit together after multiple uses. We also evaluated how comfortable the handles were, how well the spouts poured, and how tight each seal was. Finally, we washed each moka pot by rinsing it thoroughly with water, and then a second time with coffee detergent to see how easy each one was to clean.
What We Learned
There’s No One Perfect Moka Pot Recipe
The moka pot is 90 years old and, in that time, its design hasn’t changed much. While other brew methods like pourover or espresso use precise measurements for better success, brewing with a moka pot involves a bit of wiggle room and well-wishing. Traditional moka pot recipes call for adding cold water to the bottom chamber until it’s just under the safety valve, filling the coffee basket until it’s level, and heating on the stove until all of the water runs through. But that method adds a lot of excess heat to the coffee before the water is even hot enough to pressurize.
When designing our tests, we leaned on former World Barista Champion James Hoffmann’s moka pot technique for pointers. The main takeaways are to start with water just off the boil, grind coffee slightly coarser than espresso, use a paper Aeropress filter for cleaner-tasting brews, and remove from the burner when the moka pot starts to sputter to avoid excess bitterness. In our tests, we found this last part was key: as the water boils in the bottom chamber, it creates pressurized steam that drives the hot water up through the coffee filter. Towards the end of the cycle, the water level gets low enough that steam itself pushes through the coffee filter. This means that you never quite fully get all of the water from the bottom chamber up through the coffee, and brew ratios are designed to compensate for this. We landed on a 1:10 ratio of coffee to water for the best-tasting brews, but it was harder to settle on one ideal grind size. To accommodate the variety of ways a moka pot can be used, we developed two recipes. First, we brewed a dark roast coffee ground to the finest setting on a standard coffee grinder with coffee and water measured by volume. After that, we brewed a light-roast coffee, using a high-end grinder to grind the beans slightly coarser than espresso. We also added a paper Aeropress filter and weighed out the coffee and water in grams before brewing. This way, we felt confident that our winning moka pot could accommodate any style of coffee preference.
Filter Basket Size Was Crucial for Brew Quality
Moka pots must be filled with water up to just below the safety valve to pressurize properly. This restricts the amount of water you can add. The same goes for the filter baskets: tamping the coffee down can cause the moka pot to choke, so grounds can only be added and leveled, leaving them loosely packed (think: measuring flour in a measuring cup). The only two moka pots with filter baskets that could hold the proper amount of coffee were the Bialetti Moka Express and the Bialetti Venus Moka Pot. Most other models brewed weak, bitter coffee due to baskets that were too small.
Angular Moka Pots Were Easier to Screw Together
The original moka pot design features a decagonal shape with Art Deco vibes, but these flat sides are more than just looks—they also gave you something to grab onto when screwing the top chamber onto the bottom. The London Sip and Cuisinox Roma, which are round, were harder to grab when screwing together, especially since our recipe called for hot water in the bottom chamber, and we had to rely on the rubber grips of a pair of heat-resistant gloves to get enough traction.
Heavier Pots Brewed Better Coffee
In general, moka pots that were heavier and had thicker walls conducted heat better and brewed better coffee—as long as the basket was big enough. Both the Coffee Gator Stovetop Espresso Maker (21 ounces) and Cuisinox Roma Stovetop Espresso Maker (33 ounces) built pressure consistently, but with smaller baskets, the coffee came out weak and bitter. On the other hand, the Primula Classic Stovetop Espresso Maker could fit a 1:10 ratio, but its thinner walls had a hard time controlling the heat, and it often sputtered out before the brew was finished.
Wider Bases Were More Accommodating for Gas Stoves
The Stelton Collar Espresso Maker impressed us with its looks, but its extremely narrow base was difficult to center on a gas burner. Wider, flared bases, like the Bialetti Venus, London Sip Stovetop Espresso Maker, and Cuisinox completely covered the flame, making it easier to control exactly how much heat was added. Even slightly narrower bases, like the 3.8-inch Grosche Milano Stovetop Espresso, were more difficult to center than the 4-inch wide Bialetti Express.
Stainless Steel Moka Pots Brewed Much Faster
Stainless steel is great at transferring heat (see: baking steels), and all three stainless steel moka pots brewed in under two minutes. Most aluminum models took at least three minutes, but this also made them more forgiving: slower-heating moka pots meant you had time to catch the end of the brew before sputtering kicked in. The fast brew times of the Bialetti Venus were appreciated with back-to-back testing, but the aluminum Bialetti Express is likely a better model for moka pot beginners.
Moka Pots Are Hard to Keep Clean
When you brew with a moka pot, coffee gets into all three chambers and, eventually, gives off stale, old coffee aromas. But cleaning with dish soap risks the metal absorbing soapy smells and off-flavors. Cleaning between brews should be done with a thorough hot water rinse to get rid of any leftover grounds, and then each piece should be wiped clean with a cloth or paper towel to remove coffee oils from the surface. Even then coffee oils will build up over time, requiring a thorough cleaning with coffee detergent. Just be sure to let every piece dry completely after cleaning—there are a lot of nooks and crannies that can hold onto water, and trapped water can grow mold and mildew inside the brewer.
The Criteria: What to Look for in a Moka Pot
The number one thing to look for in a great moka pot is a basket that’s large enough to accommodate a proper coffee-to-water ratio. It should also be easy to assemble and have thicker walls and a wide base for better heat distribution.
The Best Moka Pots
What we liked: The build quality of the Bialetti Moka Express was drastically better than most other models. It’s made from heavy gauge aluminum with thick walls, and it weighed 24.6 ounces—much more substantial than most of the competition. Combined with a wider base, the Express heated evenly during every brew, building a steady, predictable pressure that extracted excellent coffee. We got tasty brews from both the dark and light-roasted coffee tests, and the same amount of water moved through before sputtering started. The most important part? Its filter basket was able to hold a full 1:10 ratio of coffee to water, which was crucial for syrupy and sweet coffee. All in all, it’s a fantastic moka pot and only slightly more expensive than some of the other models that performed much poorer.
What we didn’t like: Aluminum is a softer material, and that makes it stickier when trying to screw the top chamber onto the bottom chamber. We wish the threads were a little smoother, as this model was tricker to assemble than some of the cheaper moka pots.
Price at time of publish: $38.
- Materials: Aluminum, plastic
- Weight: 24.6 ounces
- Height: 8.5 inches
- Base width: 4 inches
- Capacity: 9 ounces
- Induction-friendly: No
- Care instructions: Wash with warm water, allow to air dry before re-assembling; clean with coffee detergent when coffee residue becomes visible
What we liked: The stainless steel Bialetti Venus brewed the fastest out of any of the moka pots we tested. Steel is a great heat conductor, and the Venus also features a flared base that covers more of the burner, allowing for quicker heating. It has the same large basket as the Bialetti Moka Express, and we also liked its comfortable wider handle. Since it’s made from stainless steel, it’s also induction-compatible.
What we didn’t like: Faster brews mean less time babysitting a moka pot on the stove, but it also means a smaller window of time before sputtering kicks in. It took us a few tries to master the speed of the Venus, but when we did, it brewed excellent coffee.
Price at time of publish: $40.
- Materials: Stainless steel, plastic
- Weight: 24.4 ounces
- Height: 7.5 inches
- Base width: 4.25 inches
- Capacity: 8.6 ounces
- Induction-friendly: Yes
- Care instructions: Wash with warm water, allow to air dry before re-assembling; clean with coffee detergent when coffee residue becomes visible
- Stelton Collar Espresso Maker: This brewer had the smallest coffee basket (18 grams) and brewed weak and bitter coffee. It also had too narrow of a base and heated unevenly.
- Grosche Milano Stovetop Espresso: The brewer on this basket was too small for an ideal brew ratio, and it brewed bitter and weak coffee.
- IMUSA Moka Pot: This was the thinnest moka pot we tested, and it had trouble brewing at consistent speeds. It also had too small of a filter basket.
- Coffee Gator Stovetop Espresso Maker: We were impressed with the build quality of this moka pot (and it has an induction compatible plate on its base), but this brewer, too, did not have a big enough filter basket and brewed bitter coffee.
- Primula Classic Stovetop Espresso Maker: Even though this filter basket could accommodate a proper amount of coffee, the Primula’s walls were thin and it was hard get consistent results—some brews heated up quicker than others and would sputter prematurely.
- London Sip Stovetop Espresso Maker: This moka pot had the second smallest basket and brewed very weak and bitter coffee.
- Cuisinox Roma Stovetop Espresso Maker: Yet again, the filter basket for this moka pot was too small for a proper ratio, resulting in weak and bitter coffee. Its handle was made out of stainless steel and got hot during brewing.
- Zulay Kitchen Stovetop Espresso Maker: After multiple tests, this moka pot failed to seal properly and could not produce enough pressure to brew coffee.
- Yabano Stovetop Espresso Maker After multiple tests, this moka pot, too, failed to seal properly and could not produce enough pressure to brew coffee.
Are moka pots worth it?
A moka pot is an affordable way to make strong coffee at home if you’re not ready to invest in an espresso machine. They’re straightforward to use, sturdy, and, with good cleaning, a moka pot can last for years.
Is moka pot coffee as strong as espresso?
Moka pots brew coffee with a 1:10 ratio of coffee to water, ending up with a total concentration between 3 to 4% total dissolved solids—a little more than twice as strong as drip coffee, and around the same concentration of strong cold brew. Espresso, on the other hand, is brewed with a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water and has a concentration of 9 to 10% total dissolved solids, making it around 2.5 to 3 times stronger than coffee brewed from a moka pot.
Can moka pots grow mold?
Yes—coffee residue is very susceptible to mold growth, and moka pots can trap a lot of water if they’re not allowed to fully air dry before being reassembled. After brewing a moka pot, you should wash every part thoroughly with warm water and wipe dry with a cloth or paper towel to remove as much coffee oil residue as possible. If you use your moka pot frequently, you should consider a thorough monthly cleaning with coffee detergent.
Should you tamp coffee in a moka pot?
No—moka pots brew with steam pressure, and steam isn’t powerful enough to push through a tamped bed of coffee. Instead, you should fill the moka pot filter basket with coffee and level it off with your finger or a knife, as if you were measuring out flour in a measuring cup. This ensures that the moka pot won’t stall out in the middle of the brew cycle.
Why We’re the Experts
- Jesse Raub is the commerce writer for Serious Eats. He worked for 15 years in the specialty coffee industry and is our resident coffee expert, having tackled numerous coffee-related stories for the site, including reviews of coffee scales, handheld coffee grinders, and semi-automatic espresso machines.
- For this review, we tested 11 moka pots. We spent approximately 12 hours researching and testing the moka pots and went through four pounds of coffee beans.
- We’ve written numerous times about moka pots in the past—including about their history and our general love for the inexpensive brewer.