Making the perfect coffee cup can be a scientific venture or a free-spirited affair. Most enthusiasts swear by exact measurements to get a consistent quality every time, while others prefer to throw caution to the wind and let their instincts guide them. That’s undoubtedly a fascinating debate until you have to figure out how much coffee grounds to use in a Moka pot.
Anywhere between 5 to 6 grams per cup capacity should yield a strong cup of coffee. That means if you have a 6-cup Moka pot, use at least 30 grams of coffee grounds. Or you can always just say whatever and loosely fill the filter basket with coffee.
Still not convinced? Perhaps it would help if we delved further into the topic and looked at its history.
What is a Moka pot?
An Italian household staple since the 1930s, a Moka pot is a three-chambered, aluminum pot used to make espresso-style coffee on your stovetop. It’s named after the Yemeni city of Mocha – a nod to its rich history of excellent coffee-making. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with a similarly named, chocolate-laden drink at all.
Moka pots, also known as Bialetti (after its Italian inventor, Alfonso Bialetti), have three distinct chambers – the bottom cylinder, the filter basket, and the top spout. The bottom cylinder holds the water, the filter basket houses the coffee grounds, and the top spout is where your final product goes. It’s typically made from aluminum, which holds heat well but can be hazardous if not handled properly.
How does a Moka pot work?
Moka pots work via steam pressure – as the water boils, the vapors push themselves upwards through the coffee grounds and into the top spout. All coffee-infused water collects in the top chamber, where it will wait for you to consume and enjoy it. Think of it like a reverse pour over.
This is where the measured vs. unmeasured debate comes in. Measuring proponents argue that there’s a golden ratio when creating the perfect cup of coffee. Too little and you make a weak cup; too much and you’re just wasting the grounds. Unfortunately, the consensus is still out on what that golden ratio is, but 5-6 grams per 1 cup capacity seems to be the average.
Do you like math and coffee at the same time? Then you’re in luck because this Moka pot debate goes even further. If you convert the pot’s capacity from cups to milliliters, you can fine tune a grounds-to-water ratio of 1:6, 1:7, or 1:8. In other words, use 1 gram of coffee for every 6-8 milliliters of water. And if you’re the weighing type, you can use grams instead of milliliters.
Fret not if this sounds like a whole bunch of unnecessary prep work. The unmeasured side of this debate swears by the method of filling up the filter basket loosely. You should be good to go if you don’t compact the grounds when you put them in there. This may not produce a consistent flavor every time, but that’s part of the adventure.
How Do You Use a Moka Pot?
Now that you’ve hopefully settled the debate in your head, it’s time to finally use your pot for a nice, strong cup of coffee. You have a few steps to follow, but it won’t be long before you can finally take a sip of your hard work. Here’s how you use your Moka pot:
Step 1: Put Water in the Bottom Chamber
Your first order of business should be to fill the base with water. Most pots should have a marker for the maximum amount of water you can add; fill it up until that line.
Did you think measuring the coffee grounds is the only debate surrounding the Moka pot? Think again. There’s also a debate on whether to use room temperature or boiled water for this process. And the reasoning for each will depend on your preferences.
Those who like to use room temperature water prefer the age-old method of letting the water come to a boil on its own. Because you’ll be placing the pot on the stove anyway, why not just let the appliance heat the water for you?
On the other hand, pre-boiled water supporters believe that if you heat the water before you start, you save time and avoid metallic-tasting coffee. This method ensures that the water reaches its boiling point quicker on the stovetop, thus minimizing its contact with the aluminum interior.
Regardless of which camp you support, you need water in that bottom chamber or there won’t be any coffee.
Step 2: Put Your Grounds in the Filter
It’s finally time to get the coffee out of the bag and into the filter. If you need to grind your coffee beans first, grind them finely. You want it to be slightly coarser than espresso grounds but finer than granulated sugar. If you’re using pre-ground coffee, you’ll want something closer to the finest one but not exactly the last level.
When you’re done, place the coffee grounds in the filter. Do not compact them – let them sit there loose and comfortably. You want the water to be able to go through them, or you won’t have a drink to enjoy. Make sure you level the top off with your finger or smooth its surface with a spoon. And no, we’re not going to have another debate about that.
Step 3: Reassemble your pot and get heating
It’s time to get going, finally. Place the last pieces of the pot together and put the pot on the stove. You don’t want to set it all the way up; just hot enough for the water to start boiling. Make sure you have oven mitts or similar when handling the pot from here on out because its surface will be hot. The last thing you want is a burn.
Once you start hearing the water gurgle, take it off the stove. If you open the lid, you should start seeing the first few drops come out of the middle spout. You’ll know you’ve taken it out at the right time when the coffee comes out in a steady stream instead of large, uneven spurts. The only thing left to do here is to wait for all of the water to go through the coffee grounds; you’ll know it’s done when you start hearing a hollow, slurping sound.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Once the bottom chamber is empty, congratulations! You’ve just made yourself some espresso-style coffee from a Moka pot. The only thing left is to grab your favorite cup and take your first sip.
What if the Coffee Is Too Strong?
If it’s too strong, you can dilute it with some water until you reach your desired strength. Make sure you add the water a little at a time so you don’t ruin the entire cup.
Also, make sure you use fewer coffee grounds or a lighter roast next time. Remember that coffee made in a Moka pot is meant to be like espresso – the final product should be quite strong. You can also add milk or sugar if you prefer.
Making yourself a cuppa using a Moka pot should neither be tedious nor scary. It should be an enjoyable ritual, regardless of whether you prefer to do it methodically or not. If you’re happy with your final product, you’ve done it correctly. Life’s too short to worry about ratios and measurements endlessly.