Moka Pot Magic: Mastering The Art of Italian Coffee


For an Italian, there’s nothing quite as enticing and comforting as the sound of the moka gurgling and sputtering on the stove. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting from the kitchen down the hallway and into the bedroom is enough to get people out of bed. It works far better than any alarm clock.

Moka Pot Coffee - (c) Valeria Necchio.jpg
Moka Pot Coffee - (c) Valeria Necchio.jpg

Patented in Italy 1933, also known as stovetop percolator, the moka is an indispensable part of any Italian household, and by far the most popular Italian homebrewing systems. Romanticism aside (for Italy is big on romanticism and nostalgia), there’s much to love about this humble device: it’s inexpensive, easy to use, and able to brew in very little time, and with very little effort.

The style of coffee the moka produces is what’s known as caffé all’italiana. It resembles an espresso in size and strength, but it’s in fact quite different – less concentrated, and without the signature cream at the top. That said, its flavour is just as bold – strong, deep and aromatic – while the colour is almost pitch-black. It is meant to be sipped in small amounts, in a small cup.

So, how does it work?

To make a good moka pot coffee, start with a quality-built machine, the size of which will determine how many cups you’ll brew (1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 cups are commonly-available sizes). Then, choose your coffee. Opt for medium-roast coffee beans here, and grind them on a fine setting, until they resemble fine sand. Of course, you can also use already-ground coffee (it’ll say on the package if it’s suitable for stovetop percolators). Just know that freshly ground beans will give you a more flavoursome, aromatic end product.

Begin by unscrewing the top and bottom and remove the basket from the bottom part. Fill the bottom chamber up to the valve with filtered water. Set the funnel-shaped basket in place and fill it with the ground coffee, avoiding pressing it down but making a sort of mound with it instead. Twist the top on tightly. Wipe the moka clean.

Place the moka over a medium-low flame. As soon as you hear it gurgling, turn off the heat and allow the coffee to come up completely – carefully lift the lid to check that it has finished. Finally, stir the coffee inside the moka to even it out, then serve right away in warmed-up espresso cups. Servings are about 60ml.

[A version of this article was first published in The Guardian]