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You prefer a bold, rich morning coffee, but you’re not quite ready to invest in a home espresso machine. I’m here to present two simple and affordable home coffee brewing methods that will get pretty close to the mark. Although they’re not the same as an espresso machine—which requires A LOT of pressure to deliver that layered goodness topped with rich crema—either a good moka pot or an AeroPress can deliver a taste that’s almost espresso-like, because they both brew with a small amount of pressure.
So, which should you choose?
Several factors might sway your decision, including taste, brew time, and versatility. The two brewing systems have a few things in common, but also diverge in several ways. I’ve broken each down to help with your choice, but first let’s take a quick look at where they came from and how each of them works. Then we’ll dive deeper into their features, benefits, and potential drawbacks.
The moka pot, sometimes called a stovetop espresso maker, was designed in Italy by metalworker Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. Bialetti’s design was a three-chambered steel pot, to be used on any household stovetop. The design was so simple yet effective that the moka pot has become like the French press: a timeless device that has changed very little in almost a century. The Bialetti Moka Express is still one of the most popular moka pots worldwide.
How it works
A moka pot utilizes steam pressure to force hot water up through the filter basket and into the upper chamber of the pot. We show you how to make coffee with a moka pot in another post, but here’s a quick rundown:
How to brew with a moka pot
- Add water to the boiling chamber.
- Add coffee grounds to the metal filter.
- Screw brewing chamber onto boiling chamber with the filter nestled in between.
- Place on stovetop at low to medium heat.
- Wait approximately five minutes, keeping a close eye on it.
- When the upper chamber fills, pull off heat and pour.
AeroPress is the new kid on the block, the cool new kid that everyone wants to be friends with. Well… now they do, now that they know how cool he is. Designed by engineer Alan Adler and brought to market in 2005, the AeroPress wasn’t an instant hit. It was too weird for the mainstream, and even diehard coffee nerds were skeptical. Over time, however, the AeroPress advantages of simplicity, portability, and affordability began to pique interest, but where it really won people over was in the cup. The clean, smooth flavor which seems to highlight the best in your beans couldn’t be dismissed, and AeroPress is now one of the most popular brew methods for coffee lovers around the globe.
How it works
The AeroPress method uses the downward pressure of the plunger to deliver a rich, yet bright and clean profile.
How to brew with an AeroPress
- Place a filter into the filter cap and attach to the brewing chamber.
- Add ground coffee.
- Place atop your mug.
- Add boiling water to the chamber (you may want to rest the plunger in the chamber to seal in the heat of your brew).
- Wait approximately two minutes.
- Gently plunge coffee into your mug.
What the moka pot and AeroPress have in common
Although more than half a century apart, both brewing systems were developed by innovators who saw an opportunity in the market, but above that, they longed for an elevated and refined flavor. There are a few other ways the two are similar, so let’s unpack those a bit before we dive into what makes them distinct.
Both coffee makers will run you about $30, quite accessible as far as coffee makers are concerned. There is only one producer of the AeroPress. Moka pots have several makers, ranges of quality, and sizes, so you can spend a bit more if you want to get fancy.
Both methods require a similar grind size, which is leaning toward a fine espresso-style grind. There is much more room to play with the AeroPress, and you might want to adjust your grind size to experiment, but you’ll still want something fairly fine.
The brew time for both methods is quite fast, and depending on how fussy you want to get with each one, they can range from a couple of minutes to about five or so. Overall, both are pretty speedy.
Where the moka pot and AeroPress differ
Most of us would argue this is the most important consideration, and although they differ, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
The AeroPress uses a paper filter, so it produces a much cleaner and brighter flavor profile. AeroPress metal filters are also available. You can also play around with grind, amount, and brew time to get your desired taste. If you’re a coffee geek like I am, you’ll delight in experimenting to get your perfect brew.
Moka pots offer up a rich and slightly oilier profile that many find is closer to a true espresso. So if you prefer a darker, richer taste and don’t mind a bit more texture to your coffee, the moka pot might be your thing.
Ease of brew
Neither is particularly difficult to master, but the AeroPress tends to be more consistent once you get your method dialed in.
Moka pots are at the mercy of your stovetop, and if you take your attention away for a few moments they can boil over or burn. I recommend using low to medium heat, and keeping a close eye on it.
An AeroPress brews one cup at a time, and there’s no way to modify that. Due to the ease and speed of the brewing process, however, it’s fairly reasonable to brew several cups in a row, and they can be kept in a thermos or other carafe if needed.
Moka pots come in a range of sizes from one cup all the way up to a 12-cup option, so depending on your needs you can find the size that’s right for you. With their affordable price point, you might even consider a smaller size for everyday use and a larger one tucked away for when you entertain.
An AeroPress is pretty much indestructible and won’t show signs of age until it’s been used excessively over a very long period of time.
The several brands of moka pot vary in quality. Cheaper ones will obviously degrade more quickly. Loosening of the plastic handles is the most common problem, and they are also know to corrode and pit over time, which can affect the flavor of your coffee and make them more difficult to clean properly. A higher quality moka pot may still corrode over time, but only after heavy use. Many people find they last a very long time without issue.
Ease of cleaning
AeroPress takes the prize on this one. It’s hands down the easiest brewing method to clean. Just pop out the spent coffee disk and give the chamber and plunger a quick rinse.
Although a moka pot isn’t difficult to clean, there are a few more components, they get very hot while brewing, and you have to dig the coffee grounds out of the metal filter chamber. As noted above, as your moka pot starts to degrade overtime it becomes increasingly difficult to thoroughly clean.
An AeroPress is more diverse in the ways that you can brew with it, and results can vary greatly as you perfect your method. However, it will only and forever brew one mug of coffee at a time.
A moka pot, conversely, can brew only one style: a strong, rich, and oily brew. They do, however, have several sizes to choose from, offering much more versatility on that front.
The AeroPress is one of the most portable brewing methods around and has become a favorite for the traveling connoisseur. It’s sturdy and slender design makes it easy to add to your carry-on or backpack without adding noticeable weight. Some manual grinders are even small enough to slide right into the AeroPress chamber, creating the ultimate travel brewing set up.
Moka pots are fairly sturdy and you could pack one of the smaller ones to take camping or on a road trip, but it will be a bit awkward and add a bit of weight, depending on the size.
Which should you choose?
If you’re a traditionalist who dreams of sipping espresso on the cobbled streets of Portofino, you’ll probably stick to your moka pot. If you’re the trendsetter of your group, always looking to refine and perfect your brew, you’ll probably love to experiment with the versatile AeroPress, particularly if you plan to take your elevated brewing set-up on the road.