Like pizza, most coffee exists on a scale of acceptable to good, which is fine because coffee is, above all, a utility. Even a snob like myself knows you can’t expect a delicious cup just anywhere, but that’s what ice, sugar and milk are for. So when I say that moka pots make “bad coffee,” it’s not like I would refuse a cup of moka pot-brewed java — I just wouldn’t go out of the way to make one for myself.
These metal stovetop brewers are more trouble than they are worth. What other coffee-making method demands you use fire and oversee the entire brew? At least when you make a pour over you’re doing something. With a moka pot you have to babysit your coffee throughout the entire process, or else it will burn and explode while you get caught up on Twitter in the other room, and your renter’s insurance probably doesn’t cover that. And for the record, moka pots do not make espresso, which by definition has to be made with a lot more pressure than a two-cup Bialetti could dream of.
Moka pots also cook the coffee. It becomes scalded, and not in the same way that cheap coffee beans are burned in order to create a uniform, reliable taste. When coffee boils it loses a lot of aroma, picking up a cooked taste that makes your brew more metallic and bitter. You almost have to cut it with milk.
You can combat this compromised flavor by starting your moka pot with boiling water, or even pre-heating your moka pot before adding boiling water. But once again, this is a lot of trouble to go to, and your coffee will still have to endure some baking in order to get going.
I guess it’s not such a terrible thing if you use very cheap coffee; the moka pot is the most impressive way to prepare an offering like Café Bustelo. And I can understand why people go out of their way to do it, even with better product. They’re romantics, people who want to seize the morning with a montage. My friend regularly posts a clip of her moka pot brewing to Instagram stories, soundtracked with some music aligned with her mood, and I regularly watch, eagerly anticipating a sighting of the first burps of boiling mud which explode like gentle magma. But then I think of how after even a couple weeks of use, the aluminum starts to corrode because of the minerals in tap water, which then always leave a weird film of deposits no matter how much you clean the pot.
If you have read this far and wonder what I recommend as an alternative to the cursed moka pot, I suggest an Aeropress if you don’t have a lot of money and a manual espresso maker if you do. Both are hands-on methods for extracting a bolder cup and can show off the best in some freshly roasted beans that were picked by people who were treated decently and paid a fair wage. And even if you do decide to stick with your moka pot, I still hope you have a very good morning.