I’ve been making stovetop espresso long enough to know the difference between the different grind sizes.
When making regular espresso you need to use a really fine grind but with stovetop espresso the grind needs to be slightly larger.
The smaller the grind the more resistance it has on the steam pressure and the slower it takes to brew. If you use actually espresso sized grind then the resistance can get a little too high resulting in a lengthy brew process and a an extraction that is a little over done.
The vast majority of pre-ground coffee is medium, perfect for a drip coffee maker. Taking these coffee’s out of the picture it’s also easy to fine espresso grind which I think is to fine for a moka pot.
Of all the pre-ground coffee’s I’ve ever tried Levazza is the one that I would best classify as medium-fine. It’s the only one I actually use out of the bag in my moka pot because I just don’t want to use something ground any finer for speed and taste reasons.
Additionally the speed is a concern because when you use a smaller grind size you will be tempted to turn the heat up slightly to get enough pressure built inside the moka pot to push the water through the grind… but there’s another issue that in my opinion is greater.
Fine espresso grind will sometimes push through the screen and rise to the upper chamber with the coffee resulting in a bit of fine grit in your drink, similar to what you’d find in the bottom of your french press coffee.
Moka pots are a lot like French press coffee in that there is always sediment in your cup. Everyone is OK with this until too much gets in the cup. Use a slightly coarser grind size and the moka coffee will be palatable instead of murky. 🙂
How Fine Should The Grind Be?
By increasing the grind size slightly from espresso grind this minimizes the particles that make it to your cup and decreases bitterness that comes from over-extraction. You will still want to use particles that are smaller than you’d use for drip coffee though – I’d label medium fine as best for moka pots.
In fact there are some “top shelf” companies that market moka coffee for sale – most notably Illy has a really awesome preground moka coffee for sale that is just like it’s espresso product but just slightly more coarse.
I’ve experimented with regular drip coffee maker “medium” grind and coarse grind but I’ve consistently found the best results with a medium-fine grind, almost halfway in between that with which you would use in a drip coffee maker and that which you would use in a proper espresso machine. The reason being the final coffee product is supposed to approximate espresso and you need the finer particles to get that level of intensity.
To each his own. You can make perfectly fine moka with almost any grind size but you will see a difference in volume of mud and the flavor depending on the grind size you use.
I recommend starting at medium-fine and then experimenting from there. You’ll soon find your preferred grind size.
What’s the Best Coffee for Stovetop Espresso Makers Then?
So if you settle on the medium fine (almost espresso grind) then I find it’s best to use any coffee suitable for espresso.
If you buy coffee beans directly from a roastery or in whole bean form online then buy anything roasted for use in an espresso machine and then use your own grinder to grind then to size.
If you don’t have a good grinder already and don’t want to buy pre-ground moka coffee then give serious consideration to buying a really good grinder like this model from Breville. There are better grinders out there for sure but you get diminishing returns as the price climbs.
You should absolutely not be stingy with your wallet however. Inexpensive burr grinders just don’t make very good fine grind. You have to shell out a bit more to get consistent high quality grounds to use in your moka pot.
How to Use Your Italian Coffee Maker to Get Perfect Moka
Now that you have selected the best coffee and grind size for your espresso pot it’s now time to look at the best practices for making moka.
It’s actually pretty easy from this point on to make espresso in an espresso pot like those made by Bialetti, DeLonghi, Primula, Alessi, and other top brands.
- First, use filtered water,
- next, fill the water to the pressure release valve. Never try to make any less than a full moka pot – it won’t come out right.
- brew your coffee over medium-low heat
- fill your grounds cup to the top and level it off. Do not tamp down but feel free to lightly press the grounds into the chamber.
- Lastly, make sure to remove the completed moke from the heat source immediately upon completion. See this post for more on when moka pots are done brewing.
Final Thoughts to Curb Your Expectations
Is moka coffee as strong as espresso?
Moka coffee grind will get you a final product that is nearly as strong as espresso. Making the switch from medium grind to medium fine will make a big difference. If you lightly pack the grind holder then that will help increase the resistance on water flow resulting in a stronger brew. Also brewing your moka over lower heat will also result in slightly stronger coffee because the water will pass through the grind just a little bit slower.
Overall nothing you do will replicate true espresso but the steps taken to “try” to replicate true espresso will give you the best moka possible.
You will also find that stovetop espresso will always have a slightly grittier texture than espresso made in a pump machine. The texture will remind you a bit of French press coffee but shouldn’t be so extreme. In some cases if your grind gets too small then you’ll get too much sediment in your cup resulting in coffee that’s not as strong as espresso but more bitter. That is something you want to avoid.
Lastly, to make good moka you need to use good equipment. Make sure you use one of the top moka pots on the market – we have reviewed our favorite stovetop espresso makers here – and always check your gaskets for failure. Gaskets are a cheap and easy fix and part of regular maintenance of your device.
What are the Best Alternatives to Stovetop Espresso?
As I’ve said repeatedly I love stovetop moka but it’s not the only brewing method I like. There is definitely a place for drip coffee – I use mine mostly for brewing large batches for parties or house guests. There is also however a place for French press coffee too.
French press coffee as you probably know is an alternative to drip coffee in that it is not espresso and is served in normal sized coffee cups. As a fan of stovetop espresso I like it because it gives me a way to drink coffee in larger portions but it still gives me that unfiltered taste that is to be expected in moka and pump espresso.
If you want to read more about this I’ve got a few articles where I compare moka to many of the common alternatives. Click through to read about:
- the differences between moka and Aeropress coffee,
- the differences between moka and the Aeropress
- and the differences between stovetop espresso and machine espresso
One final note – are you using a Bialetti moka pot?
Are you using an aluminum moka pot instead of a stainless steel version?
If so there are probably a few maintenance and cleaning tips you need to know – you’ve probably been doing it all wrong! Click here to find out what you need to know!