How to Use a Moka Pot to Make Superb Coffee

A step-by-step guide to using a moka pot like a coffee pro.

Published Aug. 23, 2021.

The first time I used a moka pot to make coffee, I must have gotten lucky. A few years out of college, I was working in a tiny office in New York, and the classic Italian wasp-waisted 3-cup coffee pot was in the kitchenette. Near the end of my first week, my coworkers suggested I be the one to make our coffee when we all started to droop during the long afternoon. I had fallen in love with the intense, lightly foam-topped little cups of coffee that was nearly espresso. It seemed pretty easy.

The second time I went to make it: Absolute disaster. The brew tasted burnt and horribly bitter. I had no idea what I did wrong.

Since those days, I’ve made countless cups, and picked up a few tricks to ensure fail-proof moka pot coffee.

Our Favorite Moka Pot

Often referred to as poor-man’s espresso machines, Italian moka pots are small, inexpensive (under $100) coffee makers that use steam pressure to force hot water from a bottom chamber up through coffee grounds. Find out which moka pot is our all-time favorite.  
  • Fill the bottom half of the pot with cold, fresh water, but stop filling when the water is just below the little bolt in the side of the pot. That’s the safety valve. 
  • Use coffee that is not as finely powdery as you would grind for espresso, but a bit finer than what you’d use for automatic drip coffee makers—aim for “medium-fine.”
  • Don’t tamp the grounds down, but do fill the funnel right to the top. Then use your fingertip to clean any stray grounds off the rim, for a nice, snug fit when it’s all screwed together.

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  • Put the pot on a small burner on medium-high heat, and leave the lid up, so you can watch. 
  • Don’t go anywhere, just look at the pot and ponder deep thoughts. It won’t be long.
  • As soon as coffee starts coming up through the tube into the upper chamber, close the lid. 
  • After about 10 full seconds, turn off the burner under the pot and let the coffee finish brewing, which should only be one minute later. You’ll hear a foaming sound, like whipped cream coming out of a can, and it will taper off. (You can peek, but coffee will be coming up fast, so be careful.)
  • Serve immediately. Don’t let it sit scorching in the searing-hot aluminum pot.

Bonus tip: If you want to fake a latte, start before you brew the coffee. Whip your favorite milk in an automatic milk frother. If you have a handheld frother, warm ¼ cup milk in a large, deep coffee mug in the microwave, then whip it up with the frother (you can add sugar to the milk before frothing if you like). Then pour in your just-brewed coffee. Sprinkle on a little cocoa or cinnamon if you want to be fancy. It’s delicious coffee—and now, dependably doable.

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