Many people think that a Moka pot, or stovetop espresso maker is the same as a coffee percolator, but they’re very different. Coffee lovers can tell the difference in the brew’s taste, even untrained eyes can see how the brewing process is different.
You also get more coffee from one and smaller batches from the other. Read on to understand the differences between a Moka pot and a percolator coffee maker.
Is a Moka Pot a Percolator?
Technically yes, Moka pots are one kind of coffee percolators like drip coffee or siphon coffee makers. Because water passes through the coffee grounds during the brewing process, instead of letting coffee steep in water like a French press coffee or cold brew. However, they are using pressure, and are usually categorized into Moka pot or stovetop espresso makers when buying.
When coffee lovers talk about coffee percolators, they are usually referring to gravity coffee percolators, which are different from a Moka pot in the brewing method and coffee taste.
To better understand the differences between these two coffee makers, check out each feature individually in the following section.
Moka Pot vs. Coffee Percolator – Side by Side Comparison
Looking at the Moka pot and the coffee percolator allows you to consider all the differences regarding their histories, design, brewing methods, coffee grounds used, and more.
The differences between the Moka pot and coffee percolator start back with their origins and use throughout history.
Alfonso Bialetti, an Italian engineer, invented the Moka pot in 1933. In no time, everyone in Italy was using it to make coffee. It also spread across Europe and Latin America. After World War II, manufacturers worldwide designed their own Moka pots, making it the most popular way to enjoy delicious coffee at home.
Hanson Goodrich, an American inventor, created the coffee percolator in 1880. He named it based on the percolation of the water to brew coffee, as opposed to infusion or decoction, which were the other brewing methods at the time. They initially used heat from a stove burner, but over time new models came out that used electricity to power an internal heat source.
The Design and Construction
Moka pots have a very distinct design, but there are some similarities to the coffee percolator on the outside. However, their interior construction varies greatly.
The Moka pot is aluminum or stainless steel with a Bakelite handle. Its exterior greatly resembles the coffee percolator because they both look like stylized kettles.
Moka pots have three parts: a bottom chamber, filter basket, and top chamber. The bottom chamber is where you put the water before starting the brewing process. The coffee filter basket holds the finely ground coffee fits over the lower chamber. The upper chamber screws onto the bottom, pressing the coffee filter into place.
Some of the best brands of Moka pot include:
- Grosche Milano
A coffee percolator looks like one large kettle. It’s aluminum, stainless steel, enamel, or glass. They can look very different according to the manufacturer. Glass percolators are nice because you can see the status of the bubbles during the brewing process. Enamel percolators come in many colors.
In terms of design, the coffee pot and handle stay together, but there’s a separate coffee basket and tube inside. The cold water goes in the percolator kettle before brewing. The tube goes down into the water, and the coffee basket sits on it.
Some of the best brands of coffee percolators include:
The Brewing Process
The brewing processes have a lot of similarities between the Moka pot and coffee percolator but result in very different cups of coffee.
How Does a Moka Pot Work?
A Moka pot brews coffee using pressure. Fill the bottom chamber of a Moka pot with water. Add finely ground coffee to the filter basket and gently tamp them. Put the filter over the bottom chamber and screw the top chamber in place.
Put the Moka pot on the stovetop burner and turn on the heat. After about five minutes, the water from the bottom chamber turns to steam and pushes through the coffee grounds in the filter. If you tamped the grounds properly, they turn to a puck as the boiling water pushes through and turns to coffee in the top chamber.
Once the coffee enters the top chamber, the brewing process is done. You can take it off the heat and prepare your cup of coffee because it only extracts coffee once.
There shouldn’t be many coffee residues in your cup since they’re below the top chamber, so you can wait and throw the used coffee grounds away when the pot cools down.
How Does a Coffee Percolator Work?
Add cold water to the kettle compartment of the coffee percolator. Put the tube in the kettle and add the filter basket on top. Pour in your coarsely ground coffee and tamp them gently.
The percolator goes on a stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Boiling water rises through the tube and reaches the grounds, then drops back to the bottom and cycles. Pay close attention to the rate of bubbles—too many bubbles means your water is boiling, and makes your coffee bitter. A lack of bubbles means the water isn’t hot enough.
After five minutes, the hot water will run over the coffee grounds to make a pot of coffee. However, since the water is still in the chamber on the heat source, you can let it go for 10 minutes total. The brewed coffee continually runs over the coffee grounds, resulting in a stronger coffee brew.
Coffee Grind Sizes
Moka pots call for finely ground coffee because they’re more like an espresso machine, using pressure to brew the coffee. When the grounds are so fine, the water extracts more flavor with its first pass-through.
A percolator, on the other hand, uses coarse grounds. Part of the reason is that the coffee basket doesn’t use a filter, and small grounds can push through the basket and end up in your coffee. Since the brewing process runs continually, coarser grinds have fewer contact surfaces and are harder to extract. This reduces the risk of over-extraction.
The Coffee They Make
Despite all the general similarities in how they look and their heat source, the biggest difference between the Moka pot and percolator is the coffee they make.
Moka Pot Coffee
Moka pots make smaller batches of concentrated coffee, so people often call them stovetop espresso makers. It’s an easy way to get a taste similar to espresso coffee without needing an expensive espresso machine or understanding of how to pull an espresso shot.
You can drink coffee from a Moka pot on its own, or you can add milk, cream, and sugar as you would to a traditional cup of coffee. You can also add more steamed milk to make it a latte or cappuccino if you have a milk frother.
Percolator coffee tastes like a rich version of drip coffee. Since the water and coffee continually run over the grounds, you get a stronger taste the longer you let it brew. This option lets you make a whole pot at once like a drip coffee machine. When it’s done, you can add cream and sugar as you would to a regular cup of coffee.
Both Moka pots and percolators are relatively affordable, especially for the base models. If you want an electric option for either, you’ll have to pay more for the technology.
Both Moka pots and percolators are durable since they’re often made of aluminum or stainless steel. This material means they get very hot when you’re heating them on the stove, though. You’ll want to handle them with care—even the handles can be hot to the touch.
Keep in mind that coffee percolators also come in enamel or glass. If you choose one of these designs, you’ll need to be more careful with it.
Both a Moka pot and percolator are portable and convenient and loved by outdoors enthusiasts. Stovetop versions are easy to transport because you don’t have to worry about cords and extra parts. You can heat them over a fire, so they’re a great way to have morning coffee on your camping trips.
Both a Moka pot and coffee percolator are great ways to brew coffee on the stovetop. The choice you make between these two kettles depends on what type of coffee you prefer to drink.
If you like a strong cup of coffee, or two, or more, then a coffee percolator is for you. You can make a pot of coffee while having more control over the brewing process compared to a drip machine.
If you like espresso-like coffee or espresso-based drinks, you’ll get closer to that taste using a Moka pot. While some pots are large enough to make two or four cups of coffee, the most common design makes a delicious shot.
Whether you brew some java in a Moka pot or a coffee percolator, you’ll get a strong cup of coffee that will satisfy your caffeine fix.