Updated: June 9, 2022 by Owen Richardson
Have you spent one too many mornings trying to create the perfect Moka pot brew only to be disappointed? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It’s probably not your Moka pot. More than likely you’re using the wrong size coffee grind. So, let’s talk about the best grind for Moka pot coffee and get your morning started the right way.
I would guess you might be here because your not-so-great brew is enough to make you want to throw your Moka pot in the trash and give up altogether. Or maybe you want to create a Moka pot coffee but have no idea where to begin.
In today’s guide, I’m going to talk about coffee grind sizes, what’s best for the Moka pot, what to purchase if you’re going to buy pre-ground coffee, and how to grind your own coffee beans for your best Moka pot brew.
The Scoop on Coffee Grind Sizes
The key to creating a great cup of coffee with a Moka pot is all in the size of the grounds you use. Using the wrong size grind will most likely result in either a bitter or sour taste to your coffee. You will know immediately, with the first sip, if you didn’t do it properly.
Coffee grinds come in a wide range of sizes. Some grinds are extra-coarse, others are super-fine, and there are more sizes in between. It’s important to use the proper grind size for the type of coffee you’re brewing to create a cup of java that you can actually enjoy.
When grinding coffee beans, you must know that grinding them too fine for your particular machine will result in over-extraction. Coffee grinds that are too coarse for your machine, on the other hand, are going to result in under-extraction.
Under-extraction means that you have not extracted enough flavor from your coffee, while over-extraction means you have extracted too much flavor.
Let’s break this down. You make a pot of coffee and it’s bitter. Therefore, you over-extracted the coffee beans and made the brew too strong. Now, what if the pot of coffee tastes salty or sour? This means you under-extracted the coffee beans and did not get enough flavor out of them.
This is exactly why you need to know the best grind size for Moka pot coffee. Correct grind size equals the perfect cup of coffee every time.
How Does a Moka Pot Work?
In order to understand why you need a certain grind size for Moka pot coffee, it’s crucial to know how the pot actually works.
The Moka pot is divided into three chambers: There’s one for water, another for the coffee grinds, and one for the completed coffee blend.
The Moka pot is placed on the stove and as the water heats, it increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and the water is pushed up through the coffee grinds. This process should only take about five minutes. You do not want your water to boil–only heat enough to start pushing up through the chamber. This creates your final brew in the top chamber of the Moka pot.
Now that you know the Moka pot basics, you can better understand why a particular grind size is needed and how to make the perfect coffee with your own Moka pot.
Why Grind Size Is So Important
The grind size you need depends largely on the particular coffee maker you’re using. Extraction rate, contact time, and flow rate greatly affect how the machine utilizes the coffee grinds. The relationship between these three factors is why you have to use the perfect grind for your Moka pot coffee.
The extraction rate of coffee is measured by the percentage of the coffee grounds that get dissolved into the water. In simpler terms, it’s how much coffee you are actually getting from the beans in your cup of joe.
This is where your over and under extraction come from. The ideal amount of extraction for a great cup of coffee is between 18-22 percent. When there is a larger surface area, the extraction rate for your grinds increases. Therefore, fine grounds will have more surface area, which leads to a higher extraction rate, while coarser grounds will have much less surface area and a slower extraction rate.
The contact time is the amount of time your coffee grounds spend in the water. The longer the coffee is in contact with water, the more extraction you are going to get. This is why, if the surface area increases, you need less contact time.
Flow rate is the speed at which water passes through the coffee grounds. The finer the coffee beans have been ground, the longer it will take water to flow through them because they are denser. If the coffee grounds are very coarse, water will flow through much more quickly.
Coffee that is finely ground will have a higher extraction rate and that is why certain machines need finely ground coffee beans. If they have a short brew time, you need to have a higher extraction rate to make a good-tasting cup of coffee.
How Fine Is the Best Grind for a Moka Pot?
A coffee maker such as a Moka pot that brews somewhat quickly does not need much contact time. Therefore, the grind size should be fine.
You might be wondering just how fine the grind for Moka pot coffee needs to be, though. The ideal grind size for a Moka pot is a medium-fine. If you use too fine of a grind, the coffee will turn out bitter, which pretty much nobody wants.
You can always grind your own coffee at home if you want, but if you’re going to buy coffee that has already been ground, then try to find something that is fine to medium-fine.
Coffee grinds that are truly meant for a commercial espresso machine will be too fine for a Moka pot, but most coffees you’ll find at the store that are labeled for espresso are actually coarser. This is due to the fact that a good majority of people do not have a high-quality espresso machine at home, so pre-ground coffee will be coarser than what a coffee shop would actually use for their espresso machine.
This means that you can most likely purchase espresso grinds and be just fine making coffee with them in your Moka pot. It might take some trial and error, though, if you are purchasing from the grocery store, to find what pre-made grind size works best for the coffee you’re making.
Creating Your Own Coffee Grind for the Moka Pot
Although a Moka pot is referred to as a stovetop espresso maker, you will still not want to use the same grind as you would for a true espresso machine.
You always have the option of buying coffee that is already ground, but to make an even better cup of coffee, you can grind your own. This also ensures that you get the exact grind that you want.
Although creating a medium-fine grind is going to be the most ideal for Moka pot coffee, some people have different preferences. Start with a medium-fine grind and see how the coffee tastes. If you grind it too coarse, you will likely end up with weak coffee, but if you grind it too fine, you might end up with coffee that is sour tasting or too strong for your own taste.
A high-quality coffee grinder is a great investment if you plan to grind your own coffee on a frequent basis. If you’re going to purchase a coffee grinder, find one that has plenty of grind size options, like the Cuisinart Burr Grinder, which boasts 19 different grind options.
A high-quality grinder with multiple options will allow you to not only have the best grind for Moka pot coffee, but also any other coffee you’ll want to make in the future with a different type of machine.
When grinding coffee beans for a Moka pot, the best tool will most likely be a burr grinder. You should be able to get more consistently ground beans from the burr grinder than with a blade grinder. A burr grinder has two revolving burrs that are used to grind the beans, which are crushed between a moving wheel and a fixed surface. For finer grinds, a burr grinder is going to work much better.
A blade grinder is just as it sounds: It has a blade almost like a blender does, which is used to grind the coffee beans. A blade grinder can give inconsistent results, which makes it harder to use for coffee makers like a Moka pot when you need a very specific consistency to your grind.
Is the grind for a Moka pot the same as for an Italian coffee maker?
The Moka pot is sometimes referred to as a stovetop espresso maker and it was actually invented by an Italian engineer, Alfonso Bialletti, in 1933. It became increasingly popular and is now referred to around the world as an Italian coffee maker. If you have not heard it referred to as a Moka pot, just know that they are one and the same, and the best grind for an Italian coffee maker is also a medium-fine grind.
Can you make an espresso in a Moka pot?
Espresso machines can be pricey, so some people will instead use the much more affordable Moka pot to make a coffee that is very similar to espresso. It will not be identical to an espresso that you would get from a coffee shop, but it will be much stronger than what you’d get with a typical coffee maker and not quite as strong as a shot from an actual espresso machine.
Are there different-sized Moka pots?
Moka pots come in sizes ranging from an individual cup size all the way up to the largest size, which can hold almost 50 cups of coffee!
There are Moka pots that are available to suit any lifestyle. A Moka pot for a single cup of coffee will be very small, of course, and can fit easily in almost any cabinet or on any countertop. However, if you are wanting to make enough coffee for multiple people at once, then purchasing one with more capacity would be ideal.
Do you need high-quality coffee beans for Moka pot coffee?
Of course, as with any type of coffee you make, the better the quality of beans, the better your coffee will taste. Bean preference is quite personal, but if you use a higher-quality coffee bean, you will most likely be happier with the result.
Are all Moka pots created the same?
There are two main types of Moka pots available for purchase. They are typically made in aluminum or stainless steel. Although both are excellent options and both can create great cups of coffee, there is one main difference between the two: Stainless steel Moka pots can work on any stovetop. This includes gas, electric, and induction stovetops. Aluminum Moka pots will only work on gas and electric stovetops.
You Now Know Why Grind Size Matters
I hope I’ve answered any questions you may have had about the right grind size for Moka pot coffee. You now know that you need a medium-fine grind to make an incredible cup of coffee with your Moka pot and what options you have for either purchasing the beans already ground or grinding your own.
Gone are the days of wasting your time and money making a pot of coffee that doesn’t taste good at all. You can now start your mornings with an incredible cup of Moka pot coffee and a great caffeine boost.