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If you’ve been eyeing a new espresso machine but aren’t sold on its hefty price tag, I have some good news for you: You can use a moka pot to brew espresso-like coffee right at home. They're small, convenient, and affordable—and if you end up upgrading to a real espresso machine, you can still keep your moka pot on hand for travel or camping trips.

What is a moka pot?

Southend Standard: Moka pots are made of either stainless steel or aluminium, making them virtually indestructible. Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li StackMoka pots are made of either stainless steel or aluminium, making them virtually indestructible. Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

This slick, inexpensive gadget is what I used to brew coffee through my university years when I moved from one place to another. For just about £30, it has all the features a caffeine-deprived, cash-strapped student needs—it’s inexpensive yet durable, with a stainless steel or aluminium construction that makes it almost impossible to destroy.

The moka pot has three main parts: the water chamber (base), the coffee basket with a funnel, and the upper chamber, where the fresh coffee gets pushed out through a spout in the centre. Fill the water in the bottom chamber, add the coffee grounds in the middle basket, and assemble all three parts together. Then, place the pot over a stovetop to heat up until fresh coffee starts to come out.

Note that aluminium moka pots may require an adaptor to work on induction cooktops.

What’s the difference between a moka pot and an espresso machine?

Southend Standard: A moka pot brews espresso-like coffee. Credit: Getty Images / Chatnoir A moka pot brews espresso-like coffee. Credit: Getty Images / Chatnoir

The moka pot was first developed in Italy, when espresso had become widely popular, which fueled the demand for at-home brewing options. This is partly why people in Europe call the moka pot coffee “espresso” when technically, it’s not true espresso. In 1933, when the first moka pot came to the market, commercial-grade espresso wasn’t as strong as today’s advanced espresso machines—therefore, moka pot espresso was comparable and became popular among consumers.

Though what you get from a moka pot isn’t technically espresso, the mechanism is similar. A moka pot uses pressurised water to extract coffee from grounds, but the pressure (2 bar) is much lower than that of an espresso machine, which on average goes to 10 bar or higher.

The difference in pressure can be noticed in the coffee. A shot of moka pot espresso doesn’t have the characteristically smooth crema that a standard espresso shot does. In terms of the taste, a moka pot espresso shot is similar to a true espresso shot. It brews rich and strong coffee but can be bitter if you’re not careful during the brewing process.

It may not be a true espresso machine, but make no mistake, a moka pot is also different from a percolator, which makes brewed coffee. A percolator heats up water to create steam that ascends to the top of the pot, condenses, and then falls back through the grounds, making coffee at the bottom of the pot, whose strength increases as the brewing cycle continues. The whole percolation process involves heating the grounds too hot and for too long, which results in coffee being overly bitter.

Do moka pots work better than espresso machines?

Southend Standard: A moka pot can create some crema, but it may not be as smooth as a true espresso shot. Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li StackA moka pot can create some crema, but it may not be as smooth as a true espresso shot. Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

The short answer is no. There’s almost no customisation in terms of the volume—if you only drink one cup of coffee per day but use a 6-cup moka pot, you’ll end up wasting a significant amount of coffee because you can’t half-fill the coffee basket. Fortunately, there are two-cup, four-cup, and up to 12-cup versions available.

However, if you’re interested in making coffee drinks but don't want to commit to a massive espresso machine that requires a learning curve, then a moka pot may be right for you. It may seem finicky at first, but rest assured, you can get a hang of it within a short period of time.

Southend Standard: Brewing coffee in a moka pot is budget-friendly and easy. Credit: Getty Images / ChatnoirBrewing coffee in a moka pot is budget-friendly and easy. Credit: Getty Images / Chatnoir

Even if you do end up with an espresso machine, you can still make good use of a moka pot when you take a road trip or go camping. Unlike an espresso machine that can be a headache when it breaks, a moka pot can last a lifetime.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.