Videocast #4 – Stovetop/Moka Pot

I wanted to tackle a tricky brewing method for this videocast, and it will probably cause some debate – people saying that I am using it wrong etc etc…

I wasn’t trying to recreate espresso with the little brewer – I just wanted to find a way to use it so it made clean, sweet and tasty coffee with no bitterness or astringency.  It took a while and I ended up grinding coarser than even I expected.  There aren’t a lot of good brewing guides around for stove top brewers – but credit to the Stumptown one for ideas and inspiriation.

I am aware that with these videocasts I am not reinventing the wheel – I don’t claim any great originality.  I just want to present methods that are easy and repeatable that have great results.

Let me know what you think:


Videocast #4 – Stove top/Moka Pot from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.

Music:  Half Asleep
by School of Seven Bells, from the record ‘Alpinisms’

33 Comments

  1. The only person who has regularly served us stove-top/moka pot coffee uses cold water, espresso grind, pre-ground coffee and doesn’t take it off the burner when it gurgles.

    Wow. I thought I was just being picky and didn’t like this brewing method. Time to try it for myself.

  2. I was falling into the trap of using cold water with mine. Now I know better!

  3. Good video! My wife and I use a moka pot every day, for our evening coffee – otherwise I only use an espresso machine. I’d originally learned of, and learned how to use one in Italy, as that seems to be the home brewing method of choice there. But, I haven’t tried it with the near boiling water to start, I usually use room-temp to colder water. We already use a coarser grind, but I’ll definitely give the hot water a shot.

    I’ve seen Stumptown’s brew guide. Blue Bottle also does one for the moka pot, and one of their notes (I think, unless I am confusing it with those of Stumptown’s) was to heat the thing slowly, apparently in an effort to achieve what you mention where it’s really just water coming through, not steam, and not burning/scalding the coffee.

    Note to anyone using the electric versions – they do not shut off fast enough, and you will get a small bit of gurgling at the end (it seems to detect that as the stopping point and you hear it turn off, but at that point, you’ve had some gurgling).

  4. excellent video Jim. but whats happening to the comments? I’m viewing on chrome and as you go down the line they get smaller and smaller, after 3 its too small to read!

  5. Hey Mat, seems to be a Chrome only issue – Safari, IE, Firefox all ok. Not sure what is triggering it – something to do with the threaded comments code I think. Will try and hunt a bugfix out today.

  6. Nice video, simple and easy to understand. I wish can get a moka pot too

  7. Makes me want to pick up a moka pot. All of the videos are excellent, and I’m passing them on to everyone who I think would be interested. They’ve been a big hit.

  8. Nice Vid!

    reminded me of my student times in Leeds a bout 5 year’s ago ….
    Long dreadful evening’s and nights to complete essay’s and dissertation, we would gather in my kitchen for the moka shot that would keep us going!!
    with time being of essence i used hot water to speed up the process….later on a barista training at coffee fiesta Antwerp (2007) we where told to use hot water in the stove top and reminded to heat up the cup as well.
    Good tip I really like is the cold cloth to stop the steaming process! genius.
    keep up the good work!

  9. Excellent video. I hadn’t thought of using the hot water, but I had settled on using a hot flame to make it go faster. I haven’t used mine since I got a smoothtop stove, but maybe I’ll pull out the propane camp stove.
    When I was in a small town in Japan and the only thing available was low-grade grocery store vacuum pack pre-ground coffee, the Moka pot managed to make a drinkable cup from it.

  10. I absolutely LOVE these videos. The moka pot was my very first brewing device, but I haven’t touched it in a very long time. This video makes me want to bring it out again. Thanks!

  11. I have been researching moka pots and have read a number of folks claiming:

    1. that the Bialetti stainless models don’t do as well as the alum mocha express (achieve less pressure)

    2. that the smaller moka pots do better because of greater pressure

    some notice that the criticisms of the stainless are from folks who got larger stainless models and its really just about the size…

    anyone with broad experience care to weigh in on different kinds of moka pots?

  12. Great video, never tried with preheated water.
    Matt, Through the years i’ve been roasting and grinding coffee.
    I have a 1 cup (unknown brand) and a 4 cups Bialetti Moka Express.
    In the past i had a 3 and 6 cups aluminum Moka, the 6 cup made terrible coffee, over extracted and bitter. The 3 cup much better coffee but no where as good as the 4 cup Bialetti.

    To compare my 1 cup and 4 cup Bialetti Moka, i would say the 1 cup makes are more watery coffee but packed with flavors. The Bialetti makes something more similar to espresso, once the pressure valve opens, the coffee brews rapidly and the taste is dryer but also full of flavor.
    I cant really decide which one of these 2 i prefer but for sure with larger sizes brewers i find the coffee is overextracted and bitter.

  13. Hi. Thankyou for your great video.

    I've just purchased a 6-cup moka pot and found the coffee to be really bitter – not too much of a problem as I generally add hot water to make a long americano. I think perhaps my problems lie in the facts that i've been focussed on grinding my coffee to fine and also i've been using cold filtered water from the fridge. I'll give your method ago (just off the boil water in the bottom and a larger grind) tomorrow morning and i hope it'll solve my problem.

    Cheers!

  14. I want to agree about the larger pots producing inferior coffee. I need to test more, but it’s so discouraging to waste so much coffee while working with the bigger pots. I picked up a 4 cup Bialetti Musa like the one in this video and made decent coffee from it with these instructions. However, I found a much prettier 6 cup Erikka for cheap and returned my ugly blue-handled Musa. So far, I find it makes inferior coffee and way more than I want to drink. I guess that’s what I get for being drawn in by looks. I’ll keep working with it though and see if I can produce good results. I’ll post again if I do.

  15. Hey Nice Video…

    I’ve been doing it this way for years (except for the wet cloth part), and it really does produce a great tasting americano!

  16. I love the info on this site Jim.

    Just thought i might add a little experiment of my own.
    When i use a stovetop i start with cold water but put 2 small ice cubes in the top part to counteract the over heating effect.
    I got this idea from reading about the way an “Atomic” uses its long kneck as a heat sink to prevent boiling water burning the coffee.
    You just have to make sure your coffee maker has the channel around the outside of the coffee grounds chamber (like the one in the vid) so the ice melts and a coolant forms to stop unwanted heat travelling up the metal.
    It is also important to make sure the gas flame isn’t wider than the base of the pot to prevent excess heating of the pots exterior.
    This is just my own experience and i dont expect everyone to agree. Just another trick to try if you like experimenting with brewing techniques.

    Cheers!

  17. I use an induction stove and a stainless moka pot. I’ve found slow, gentle heat gets the best flavor and extraction. I don’t see the point of using hot water in the moka pot, unless for some reason you already have it boiling and ready to go. Personally I just use cool (softened) water from the tap or a water filter.
    Your video shows the coffee really shooting out, and I think you’ll find the flavor to be much more balanced yet concentrated if you turn down the heat so it starts with a very very slow trickle. It won’t get to a very heavy flow but you will have one definite whoosh of foam at the end. No bitterness, no burnt taste, just very concentrated coffee.
    What I think happens is the coffee gets primed slowly with some cooler water first, and the wet grounds slow the uptake of heat as the water gets closer to boiling. End result = no bitter over-extraction.

  18. I like the method; never before had I considered using hot water to start out with.
    As for the presentation, visually everything was quite clear, and while the music was pleasant, I found it to be too ‘full’ to accompany the video appropriately. The beat was a bit too driving, and vocals were somewhat distracting, as though they were competing with the explanatory text in the video for the part of my brain that processes words. Personally, I think a sort of minimal techno may have been more appropriate in this situation.
    Thanks for the video!

  19. You know what’s weird? I make mine in a bit of a different way (some steps are the same), and my coffee turns out great.

    I’m wondering how much is dependent on the actual stove top you use.

    Anyway here is what I do:

    1. Use filtered cold water
    2. Fill up to the desired level (don’t ever go over the valve).
    3. Use a coffee measure spoon to put in as many cups as you want. I bought one where one scoop = one cup and it’s pretty much spot on.
    4. Level off the coffee.
    5. Turn the heat on and wait.
    6. Now, here is where mine differs the most – do not take it off the heat until the coffee itself is actually boiling. Why? I’ve found that this is the only way to be certain that all the water from the bottom has actually ended up at the top. Whenever the coffee has tasted bad, I’ve checked the bottom and there was water left in there. When it’s been great, never any water in the bottom. This is just what I’ve learnt, not sure of the science behind it but yeah…

    The coffee is never bitter, always smooth. Try it out let me know what you think!

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