Whether your Moka pot is hissing and spitting steam, or your coffee is too weak, we should be all too cautious when making the very coffee that is to propel us through the day. Make sure your morning brew is everything you expect.
A moka pot should work just fine day in and day out without problems if it’s maintained but every now and then something can happen to bring your morning to a screeching halt. Occasionally a moka pot will stop working for seemingly no reason at all and there are a few reasons why.
To summarize the possible culprits it is either:
- a leaky safety valve
- a clogged internal funnel
- a damaged rubber gasket
- a clogged filter screen
- or it could be fine coffee grounds that are tamped too hard.
Let’s go over everything you should know about using your Moka Pot first and then focus on some of the ways to make certain that it functions the way it is designed.
What a Moka Pot Does and Doesn’t
Moka pots are stovetop coffee makers that produce a distinct brew. The stovetop’s heat creates pressurized steam, that eventually forces boiling water upward through the grounds. Similar to a percolator but with a different spin. No these aren’t the “stovetop espresso makers” you’ve heard them referred to as by their manufactures. The is technically inaccurate.
Espresso is a method of brewing.
Espresso isn’t determined by a type of bean or a strength of coffee, and by definition, it requires roughly nine bars of atmospheric pressure to create. That’s where the coffee nerds are going to stop you.
Moka pots only use approximately 1 – 1.5 bars of pressure. Which means you’ll get a robust and extremely strong cup of coffee from them, but it’s technically not espresso.
Before the first brew
If you are using your Bialetti or whatever brand Moka pot for the first time, carry out a few practice brews and throw the coffee out. The coffee oils seal the aluminum surface and will prevent your coffee from having a metallic taste.
It’s important to make sure you understand the proper brewing procedure before you start brewing, otherwise, you could end up damaging your Moka Pot.
It’s a little-known secret that heating your water in a kettle prior to brewing will ensure that your coffee doesn’t become imparted with a metallic taste.
Using too fine of a grind can result in the filter getting clogged, which will slow or stop your brew process and cause over-extracted coffee. Some experts believe this to be a safety issue too, so be careful when grinding coffee. Make sure to use a proper coffee grinder, for more information check out our post on grinders.
Moka pots work well with grounds just slightly finer than standard drip coffee.
To Tamp or Not To Tamp?
Tamping is probably the most contentious point among Moka pot users. Many Italian grandmothers will testify to the “volcano” method of overfilling the filter with grounds, then tamping the grounds down when assembling the pot.
This may have worked successfully on pots made forty years ago (which were built like tanks), but is not recommended for today’s mass-produced, often aluminum-built pots. Tamping increases the pressure required for your brew to reach the surface, which can result in a much more bitter cup of joe but it also increases your risk of a safety hazard. Some might prefer a bitter cup of coffee but no one wants the latter.
Should You Tamp a Moka Pot?
Even the Bialetti company, the original creator of the Moka pot, recommends against overfilling and tamping. Check out our post on the best material for your Moka Pot.
Cleaning and Maintenence
The first rule, don’t clean your Moka pot with soapy water or an abrasive sponge.
You don’t want to go tarnishing that with the taste of soap. Simply rinsing it with hot water and wiping it with a clean cloth after each use will suffice. Same rules as your cast iron skillet, don’t impart the taste of soap into your pot.
It’s a good idea to leave it out on the drying rack for a bit so that it dries out completely.
Fill the base with half white vinegar and half water and no coffee in the basket.
Now put it on the stove just like you’re preparing a regular pot. Once the process is complete, pour out the water and vinegar collected up top, and repeat the process using only water this time.
Storage of your Moka Pot
Before you pack your Moka pot away into a cupboard, make sure it is properly dry on the inside.
Any moisture will cause pitting, which presents as dark grey bits that look a bit like mold spores. It’s not molded though, it’s much worse. If you have accidentally stored it away in a slightly damp condition only to find it in this state, you’re going to have to scrub it out with warm soapy water to the slight detriment of your coffee oils.
Also, if you use it infrequently the oily coffee coating will go rancid. Wash it with some hot soapy water and give it a good scrub with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly and you’re good to go again.
Proper Usage of your Moka Pot
Try not to over tighten the pot when preparing coffee, this will cause your rubber gasket to wear out more quickly. That said, if you don’t tighten it enough it may leak while on the stove and you don’t want that either. These are easy enough to replace anyhow, the main concern you should have is that your Moka pot works properly and without error.
If you haven’t yet mastered the art, here are our top tips for making an excellent coffee with your Moka pot:
If a jet of steam is shooting out of the safety valve on the lower, reservoir part of the Moka Pot: either the safety valve is clogged, or you’ve filled the reservoir above the fill line. This problem could arise from a clogged filter. Thus water is able to escape into the other chamber is it is designed to.
Steps to Cleaning and Fixing Your Moka Pot
Take the whole pot apart, including the gasket and filter, and rinse thoroughly, wiping off any stray or stuck coffee grounds with a sponge.
Also, check to see if your safety valve has a tiny protuberance like a little metal stick that you can push from the inside. The older war-ready models had this built into it. This might dislodge the blockage. But if the problem continues, you might have to send the pot back or buy a new one, depending on whether it’s still under warranty.
Only a trickle of coffee is coming out?
Either the pot isn’t sealing properly so that there’s not enough pressure to force the water through, or there’s a blockage in the filter or even the basket that holds the coffee grounds. So, take the pot apart completely, clean each part with hot water and a sponge, and check the filter and gasket and replace these as necessary.
Your coffee tastes odd: If you’ve cleaned the pot too enthusiastically you might have scrubbed the ‘seasoning’ coating off, which can result in a metallic sort of taste to the coffee, in which case re-season the pot by making a couple of pots using cheap coffee grounds and throwing the resulting coffee away.
If your coffee tastes very weak try putting more grounds in the basket when you make the coffee though if you fill the basket to about three-quarters full, this should be sufficient. Make sure you’re only filling the reservoir up to the fill line – about a half a centimeter below the safety valve; use a ‘dark roast’ coffee, which has a fuller, rich flavor.
Coffee is spilling out of the pot as it brews: this means your coffee is boiling, turn down the heat when you put the pot on the hob and this problem will go away.
Now you should be able to tell that your Moka Pot is done brewing.
Excess Coffee Grounds in the Final Brew
Although often times unavoidable, no one really likes getting spent coffee grounds in their cup. It’s simply unpleasant.
If there are lots of them or clumps of grounds, changing the pot’s filter will help, but a few tiny grounds are normal in any freshly-brewed coffee. If the ‘bits’ are larger – flat pieces of solid coffee – these are flakes of built-up coffee from the inside of the pot. Give the inside of the pot a good hard wipe with a dish sponge, but don’t scrub too hard, because you want to keep some of the natural coffee oils as ‘seasoning’ so that your coffee doesn’t taste metallic.
The liquid is hissing and spitting out where the top ‘pot’ part of the Moka pot screws into the bottom ‘reservoir’ part: check that there are no stray coffee grounds in the grooves of the screw parts of the reservoir and pot, and replace the gasket.
Hopefully, this guide to the proper workings of you Moka pot has been helpful. These convenient and often champions of brewing (when used properly) are a gift from the gods straight to your kitchen. Influencing your morning routine in aspects you’d never thought possible.
If you’ve found this guide useful, please share with other coffee worshippers, and be sure to check out the rest of our blog for Moka pot information and more.