Continuing our brewing method comparison series, we have the moka pot and the pour over method.
Both are pretty additions to your home cafe collection, for sure.
But I could not imagine two more different methods and I am excited to dissect each method!
For a point of reference the most commonly used moka pot in the US is arguably the Bialetti Moka Express, its basically the standard that all other moka pots are sized up to. Although it is very inexpensive it is still typically a little more expensive to buy than a basic pour over coffee dripper.
You can see pricing on various sizes of Moka Express coffee makers here.
With pour over coffee their really isn’t a clear cut standard. One could argue that the Hario V60 is the pour over device that sets the bar but there are a ton of nearly identical units that are just as good made from materials ranging from plastic, to ceramics, to metals. Pricing can vary widely for this reason.
Most people don’t want to use plastics if they don’t have to however so a top of the line product in the non-plastic pour over market might be the Coffee Gator pour over brewer as it is made from stainless steel and glass and doesn’t require paper filters.
No matter which model you are using though there is a lot to say about both of these brewing methods so lets dive in and compare them.
The moka pot is a simple way to get a bold coffee with a lot of body.
The moka pot is sometimes called the stove top espresso maker because of it’s strong taste.
But the moniker is isn’t exactly accurate.
The heat source (stove top) will not generate enough pressure to produce concentrated coffee like full blown espresso machine would. I have a whole article devoted to the ins and outs of espresso. Check that out here!
Coffee brewed in a moka pot is better described as the middle ground between a strong drip and an espresso shot.
Keep that in mind as you grind your beans.
Moka pots have developed a bitter reputation. But follow these simple steps and you can have quality cup every time.
Step 1: give the pot a good scrub down.
This rids the rig of excess oils and particulate left over from the last brew. These are usually the culprit for the grimey, bitter taste that put the bad taste in people’s mouths, causing the rapid decline in the use of method.
Step 2: gather the equipment.
You’ll need 3 things to set you up for success before begin brewing: a grinder, a scale and a water kettle.
I cannot really stress the importance of grinding your beans daily enough. Freshly ground beans are the pivot point for every brewing method. Don’t take my word for it though. Click here for a more in-depth explanation.
Aim for your grounds to be about the same size as table salt for best results.
After you grind your beans, weigh them on a scale to get the perfect dose.
Weighing your dose is far more accurate than the widely used tablespoon method.
Age and roast of the beans are variables that change from batch to batch. And they make a world of difference. Volume measuring yields different results and makes it exponentially more difficult to replicate, if you love a particular cup, or tweak, if you don’t.
Boil some filtered water in your kettle so you can measure it promptly after it whistles.
The standard coffee to water ratio for the moka pot is 1:7.
So if you have a standard 3-cup moka pot, your ratio will be 177.5g of h2o : 12.76g freshly ground coffee.
Step 3: fill the bottom chamber.
The largest piece of your moka pot is the water reservoir.
Along the interior, you will find a gasket. This is your “stop here” marker, if your model does not have the words etched into the side.
Be sure to fill this with warm water. Maintaining internal temperature throughout the brewing process prevents the acidic/bitter taste that sends people running.
Step 4: dose
Fill your portafilter with the fresh grounds. But be sure not to tamp they way you would for an espresso shot. The water will not be able to travel through well, causing an over extraction.
Step 5:apply heat
Place your assembled moka pot onto your burner so that the entire bottom is in contact with the heat, but the handle is not hovering over the stovetop at all. You don’t want to accidentally burn yourself.
Set to medium heat. And wait for the iconic gurgling sound.
Step 6: remove from the stove top, wait for the rest of your coffee to collect in the top.
Step 7: Pour and enjoy!
This easy to follow guide can be replicated no matter the make and model of your pot.
You do have options though.
Moka pots come in two materials: the classic aluminum or the modern stainless steel.
The big difference between the two is durability. Aluminium warps over time due to extended exposure to the acids in coffee + heat. Stainless steel however, is basically indestructible. You can bring it camping, stuff it in a carry-on if you’re flying, and throw it in a dishwasher with virtually no wear and tear. Keep in mind, durability often means higher prices.
Moka pots typically come in sizes ranging from the single serve 1 cup to party size 12 cup.
It’s perfect for every occasion.
Pour Overs are a little more difficult but you taste all the unique flavors.
If the moka pot and its robust and strong coffee was on one end of the coffee spectrum, look clear across to the crisp and bright extreme and you’d find the pour over.
If moka pot and it’s simple, handsfree method is East, than the labor intensive pour over is west.
But that’s not to say it’s a lesser coffee, by any means.
Pour over connoisseurs would hail this style of brewing the BEST way to experience the full range of flavor that every cup has to offer.
That being said, it does require all over your attention and takes time to perfect.
The learning curve is due to the different pour over set ups and many techniques out there.
But I will make it easy and go over the 3 most popular rigs and 2 main techniques.
Let’s start with the easiest pour over sets.
A perfect example of a flow restricter pour over is the Hario V60!
The V60 coffee dripper is super easy to use, and very affordable– the perfect expansion of your coffee collection.
These are very usually seen atop mug.
The come in a variety of materials: glass, ceramic, plastic. But their commonality is at the bottom of the cone.
Rather than the large opening of the chemex, flow restricters a hole that the coffee can slowly seep through. The slow drip allows the beans and the water more contact time to extract.
Some brands even build in little hatches that you can swipe closed for a minute or so to allow desired immersion time. The extra time in the cone gives the coffee more body than a classic pour over.
But the filter still catches all the oils and broken down coffee particles, making the flow restricter, as Joe over at Seattle Coffee Gear would say, “pour over on training wheels.”
If you’re more of a visual learner, their series on the pour over is comprehensive and hilarious.
If you wanted to jump right into the world, you could start at the halfway mark.
The Kalita Wave is still a flow restricter, but it requires more time and skill.
Instead of the single drip hole, there are 3 openings with a wedge to prevent clogging.
The build of the cone itself introduces movement to the grounds bed as you pour.
As you can see in the photo, there are ridges along the cone and the filter is creased.
This is strategically designed so the filter does not sit flush with the rest edges of the cone.
If it did, you could potentially miss some extraction entirely by accidentally pouring along the perimeter of the grounds bed and directly into your cup.
The most tedious (and delicious) pour over is the wide-mouthed Chemex. (click the image to add this to your collection)
When you hear the words, “pour-over” this is probably the image you get in your mind’s eye.
It’s a classic.
It’s glass build is aesthetically pleasing. You see the whole process unfold from bloom to pour.
This set up is the most challenging because the filter sits right against the walls of the brewing chamber.
It takes time to play with and master because there are so many factors that can change the flavour and strength entirely.
The best way to perfect your processes is to arm yourself with the proper equipment and a journal to note the subtle changes you make.
Guidelines to properly brew a pour over.
Regardless of which stage where you are the pour over spectrum, there are several steps you can take to get consistently good coffee.
Get your grinder, scale and kettle ready because this is a process, friends.
step 1: cleaning and maintenance
It should go without saying that coffee appliances need some tender loving care. So be sure to scrub down your pour over after every use to avoid build up of particulate and oil.
I would boycott dishwashers at all costs. Pour overs are infinitely more delicate than a the stainless steel moka pots that I mentioned as dishwasher safe above. One clink of a butter knife could shatter hot glass.
Step 2: warm
Once your rig is nice and clean, start boiling your water.
The best kettle you can have for this method is the gooseneck.
The narrow spout gives you more control over how much you pour and how quickly you do.
You can get the vintage-looking stove top style, or the more modern electric–both will do the trick.
Once the water comes to a boil, run a little bit of it all along the inside of your pour over and the filter to warm it up (and wash the paper dust out.)
Thermal stability is vitally important to this brewing method in particular because the coffee to water contact is relatively short. You don’t want the coffee to cool while you’re still pouring and cause the brew to taste sour.
Step 3: grind
Level of grind is dependent on the thickness of your filter.
If you have filter that is woven pretty tightly, you can use finer grinds because it is unlikely that there will be any fall through. But if you have a looser filter, you should grind more coarsely so that broken down coffee particles don’t make their way into your cuppa.
Step 4: dose
But regardless of the grind, your dose should follow this recipe until you find your preference.
1 part coffee : 16 parts water.
Pour out the water that was warming your brewing mechanism and place that bad boy onto your scale.
Zero out your scale by pushing the tare button.
Add your grounds to the filter.
Step 5: brew
The standard brew time for pour over is 2.5-3.5 minutes.
But this is where things can get tricky. There are 2 different ways to go about the pouring process.
1) one and done percolation.
Pour all the water into the reservoir and let gravity do it’s thing.
This option yields bright coffee, but may still have a lot of body and roast taste. Since there is longer coffee to water contact, the extraction is more thorough.
2) 3 pour pulse
Bloom your coffee with 10% of the total water starting from the center circling out to the circumference. Then wait 30 seconds.
Continue to pulse pour the rest, 10% at a time every 30 seconds.
This option is lighter and tastier. Your filter has more time to catch oils and particulate when you split the pour in thirds. The oils and broken down bits carry the smokey taste that comes from the roasting process. Pulse pouring allows all of the floral and fruity notes that belong to the individual bean to come to the forefront of the pallate.
Now you know the basics of the moka pot and the pour over!
You should be able to make an informed decision about what is best for your taste buds and your routine.
If you prefer dark, smokey coffee with full body, moka pots are probably best for you.
If you like light, bright coffee that is easy to drink, the pour over would be the way to go.
If you need something simple and quick, go with a moka pot.
If you’re looking for a coffee challenge, pick a pour over.
Both are amazing brewing systems, so it’s hard to go wrong. As with all things coffee, it’s about you!