Picking the proper brew method can be difficult, and asking the right questions can get you answers. How do your ideal finished cups of coffee look and taste to you? What do you want to do with it? What does your budget look like? How much effort do you want to put into brewing your coffee?
Let’s peek behind the veil of the moka pot and siphon brewer and find out which one is right for you.
Welcome to the Thunderdome!
Before we find out who’s making it out of this battle alive, let’s see what our contenders have to offer. First up we have the moka pot.
What is a Moka Pot?
The moka pot has been around since 1933 when it was invented by an Italian engineer named Alfonso Bialetti, and the design has stayed the same since then. It features two stainless steel chambers and a funnel-shaped brew basket.
The bottom chamber holds the water and comes in contact with the heat source, usually a stovetop.
Ground coffee is placed in the funnel-shaped brew basket with the end of the funnel sitting somewhat submerged in the water below.
The bottom of the upper chamber has a filter screen to allow the brewed coffee to rise to the top but not the coffee grounds.
Pressure pushin’ down on me… or up in this case
As the water begins to heat up, the water vapor combines with the expanding gas and forces the water through the coffee at one to two bars of steam pressure. For reference, an espresso machine usually operates at around nine bars of pressure.
That’s nine times the normal atmospheric pressure being forced through a small amount of coffee, and that’s what gives you a concentrated espresso shot with a lovely crema on top. That pressure difference, along with a few other things, keeps the final moka pot cup from being called espresso.
If you’re feeling daring, you can try your hand at getting a nice crema from your moka pot by following our guide, Moka Pot Crema: What it is and how to make it.
Is Moka Pot coffee stronger than regular coffee?
Absolutely, and there are a few reasons for that. Since moka pots tend to use much less water than a drip coffee maker, there is more coffee for the water to pull caffeine from.
Also, brewing coffee under pressure allows for more of the natural oils from the coffee to be extracted and gives you that robust flavor. You can remove some by putting an Aeropress filter over the filter screen if it fits.
The coffee that is produced is full-bodied, and rich, with a strong and intense flavor.
What is Siphon coffee?
The siphon brewer is one of the oldest ways we still make coffee today. The concept has been around since the 1830s, but our modern-day coffee brewers are based on a patent from 1840 by a French woman named Marie Fanny Amelne Massot.
The siphon brewer also uses two glass chambers; a bottom one that holds the water and comes into contact with the heat source, and an upper chamber that holds the coffee grounds.
As the bottom chamber is heated, water is forced up to the second chamber, and the coffee grounds become completely submerged in the water. Once the coffee brewing is complete, you can remove the brewer from the heat source, and as the bottom chamber cools, the freshly brewed coffee is pulled down through a cloth filter.
This leaves you with a delicate, crisp, coffee that preserves the faintest tasting notes.
What is special about Siphon coffee?
A lot of what makes siphon coffee special comes down to how it is made. When you’re making siphon coffee, temperature control is essential. Because the vacuum created doesn’t need the water to boil to sustain it, you can keep the water at a constant temperature between 195 and 202 degrees Fahrenheit, or just short of boiling.
This does two things. It makes sure that the coffee never gets too hot and the rolling boil doesn’t over-agitate the coffee as it’s being brewed. Both of these can quickly over-extract your brew leaving you with a bitter cup.
You also get a cup that is completely free of the sediment from the coffee grounds. Since the coffee is brewed in the upper chamber and then pulled down through a filter, the filter catches all of the smaller particles.
Wait, is a Moka Pot a Siphon Brewer?
Yes and no. Both are vacuum coffee makers that pull heated water up from the bottom chamber. But, once the vacuum is created they handle the coffee very differently.
As mentioned above, the moka pot forces the water through the coffee under one to two bars of pressure. In contrast, the siphon brewer pulls the water up to the top chamber, where the coffee is allowed to brew at a much slower rate.
It’s best to think of them as cousins. Yeah, they are from the same family, but their childhoods were very different.
So who’s left standing? (Elton John, ’cause he’s still standin’!)
All joking aside, they both are. These brewers, while somewhat similar, serve different needs. You should pick the one that’s right for you! Or be like me, I have both, and I love them both.
If both aren’t in the budget then I would go with the moka pot. The sheer number of drinks that this little thing can make is wild. My current go-to is Cafe Cubano, which I brew up most mornings to start my day. Or check out our Moka Pot brew guide for the classic moka experience.
If you do end up getting a moka pot, just keep in mind that most of them have plastic handles that can and will melt if you leave them on the heat for too long. Trust me, I know from experience.