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If you’ve never used a Moka pot before, preparing and setting it up can seem confusing. Most don’t come with instructions, and those that do are often very vague, with faded black and white photos that are almost impossible to decipher.
After watching a few YouTube videos, you’ll be able to grasp the concept, but one question that pops up and doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut answer is, should you tamp a Moka pot?
Some say to do it while others strongly advise against it. So who is right? And are there any risks by tamping your coffee?
If you’re looking for answers, stick around.
✔ Quick Answer
The Theory Behind Tamping Coffee In A Moka Pot
So why so much confusion? Moka pots have been around for some time, and you would think there would be a clear answer.
I guess the confusion comes from the name. Moka pots are often referred to as “stovetop espresso makers,” and what do you do with an espresso machine? You tamp the coffee grounds.
The problem is that espresso machines operate in a completely different way. While a Moka pot can generate pressure like an espresso machine, it isn’t nearly enough to push through tightly compacted, tamped coffee.
A typical espresso maker generates about 9 bars of pressure, whereas a Moka pot can barely exceed 2 bars; they’re not even on the same playing field.
Do You Tamp Moka Pot Coffee?
No, you should not tamp your coffee inside of a Moka pot. A Moka pot isn’t built for high pressure.
With that said, you can lightly tamp the grounds, and by doing so, you can tweak the taste of your final brew, but in most cases, it isn’t necessary.
You’re taking unnecessary risks. The more compact the coffee becomes, the harder it will be for the small amount of pressure to punch through. In turn, this will slow down the flow and produce an over-extracted bitter-tasting cup of coffee.
Even Italians say not to tamp a Moka pot. From my experience, when preparing their pots, they tend to overfill the basket and carefully screw it together, trying not to spill the excess coffee grounds everywhere.
However, I find that I get the best results when I overfill the coffee ground basket and then use my index finger to gently spread the coffee grinds evenly within the filter basket.
I’m being firm, but it’s not a “tamp.” Sometimes I give the basket a few knocks on the countertop to even out the coffee bed. I then run my finger around the top ridge of the filter basket to remove any grounds so that the basket forms a good seal.
The Risks Of Tamping Coffee In A Moka Pot
Tamping coffee in a Moka pot can cause a few issues. As I’ve mentioned already, there isn’t enough pressure produced in the Moka pot to force through tightly compacted coffee grounds in the filter basket.
The pressure will build up, and if it can’t get through the coffee, most of the excess gasses and steam will be vented out of the relief valve on the side of the boiler pot.
Problems can arise if the safety valve isn’t working correctly.
With nowhere for the pressure to go, it will find the path of least resistance. If you’ve used fine ground coffee and tamped too hard, the path of least resistance will be where the two sections of the Moka pot join together.
Yes. There is a very small possibility that your Moka pot could explode. But I stress this is extremely rare, and in most cases, the valve will eventually give out to the excessive pressure.
If the valve is not functioning correctly, the ground coffee puck will ultimately give way to the immense buildup of pressure.
This is why it’s imperative to ensure the valve is always in good working condition. You can check the valve by pressing on it from the inside of the boiler. It should move pretty easily.
If it doesn’t, give it a good thorough clean with hot soapy water.
And if it won’t open at all, it’s best to buy a new Moka pot because you’re pretty much brewing coffee in a ticking time bomb.
Over Extracted Bitter Tasting Coffee
If you like taking risks and do decide to tamp a Moka pot and all goes well, you may be greeted with a cup of bitter-tasting espresso style coffee.
By tamping the coffee, you’ll increase the resistance of the water passing through the coffee puck.
This essentially means that when brewing, the water has a longer time to extract more oils and flavor compounds from the coffee – you may think more is good.
Not necessarily. When it comes to coffee, over-extraction often delivers a very bitter strong coffee, and with a Moka pot, you also run the risk of burning the coffee due to excessive heat, which increases the chances of bitterness tenfold.
With a regular espresso machine, you have more high pressure that helps to increase the flow – extracting less from the coffee as it passes through; you can also control the flow rate with your coffee grind and tamp.
Espresso machines work hand in hand with a good tamp and a high amount of pressure. Moka pots produce very little pressure and work best with no tamp.
Try Using An AeroPress Filter
Forget about tamping your coffee. When brewing coffee with a Moka pot, try using an AeroPress paper filter – you’ll be surprised by the results.
Dampen the AeroPress filter and stick it to the metal filter screen on the underside of the Moka pot.
By doing this, you will eliminate any of the coffee sediment making its way through into your cup, which is almost impossible to do without using some sort of additional filter.
Also, using a filter, I find that the brewed coffee comes out slower than normal and has a good amount of crema. The resulting brewed espresso style of coffee tends to be a little sweeter, more complex, and much cleaner.
So there you have it. Tamping your coffee inside of your Moka pot isn’t necessary and might actually make your coffee taste worse.
Even with a release valve, too much steam pressure could cause the pot to explode, which can lead to injuries from hot water and flying metal shrapnel pieces.
Do as the Italians do. Overfill the basket with coffee, give it a few knocks to even out the coffee bed, and then slowly slide your finger over the top of the basket to even out the grounds.
And if you want to switch up your regular Moka pot coffee, try using a paper AeroPress filter; I think you will be surprised by the results this simple hack can produce.
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