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Espresso machines are expensive, and they take more time to master than traditional coffee makers. Even budget espresso machines can cost several hundred dollars. This is why so much effort has been spent trying to find cheaper, easier-to-use equipment for making espresso.
The AeroPress and Moka pot are probably the two top budget espresso maker alternatives. But when it comes to AeroPress vs Moka pot, which one should you be using?
In this article, I’ll be breaking down the differences between Moka pots and AeroPress in terms of the coffee they make, their cost, ease of use and cleaning, capacity, and more. Your new espresso experience awaits.
What Is an AeroPress?
AeroPress is a completely manual coffee maker and a newcomer in the coffee world, having only been released in 2005. Since then, it has become quite popular among those seeking quality coffee from a budget or travel coffee maker.
The AeroPress’s design borrows from both drip coffee maker and espresso machine in its design, with some similarity to how a Keurig works. The device consists of a heat-resistant plastic chamber and a large plunger that is pushed into the chamber through an airtight seal.
Grounds are placed into the chamber atop a filter (typically paper). Hot water is poured onto the groups in the chamber, where they are mixed for a few seconds before the plunger is added. When the plunger is pushed down, the water is forced quickly through the grounds and the filter and down into a mug or similar container.
What Is a Moka Pot?
The Moka pot is a stovetop espresso maker that has been a central part of Italian coffee culture since its invention in 1933. Its popularity has also spread to many areas of South America and Central America.
Moka pots are loosely based on the concept of a stovetop percolator, with some design similarity to an espresso maker. It consists of a lower chamber that is filled with water and an upper chamber that catches the brewed coffee. In between the two chambers is a filter-basket that holds the grounds.
The Moka pot is placed on the stovetop, which heats the water until it turns to steam. Eventually, this steam builds up enough pressure to push through the filter basket into the upper chamber, picking up that coffee goodness along the way, resulting in a rich coffee brew filling the upper chamber.
The fact that the coffee remains in this upper chamber instead of cycling back through is a primary difference between the Moka pot and percolator: brewing only happens once.
Do AeroPress and Moka Pot Make Real Espresso?
When it comes to making espresso, the most important aspect is the pressure. Espresso machines need at least 9 bars of pressure to make a decent espresso. For great espresso, you really want at least 15 bars of pressure in your machine.
So can Moka pots and AeroPress provide that much pressure?
Not even close.
AeroPress produces about 0.25 bars of pressure. If you push hard enough, you can get that up to about 0.5 and maybe 0.75 bars, but neither your body nor the AeroPress is equipped to get anywhere near 9 bars. While you can’t adjust the pressure much, you can get closer to an espresso-like drink by following an AeroPress espresso recipe.
Moka pot produces about 1.5 bars of pressure. That’s slightly better than the AeroPress, but there is no way to adjust it up from there.
What type of coffee do AeroPress and Moka Pot make?
What you’ll get from either of these methods is really more like concentrated, rich coffee. Don’t get me wrong — it’s still excellent. In fact, I would argue that both are far superior to percolator or drip coffee.
You can still use this concentrated coffee to make beverages that resemble drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. If you’ve ever used a Ninja coffee maker, you’ll probably recognize this as being very similar to how those machines make lattes and other specialty drinks.
AeroPress vs Moka Pot: Quality and Flavor of Coffee
AeroPress produces some great-quality coffee, especially using the inverted method. It’s good enough that I often like to just add water and enjoy it as a mock Americano. The standard method is still better than drip coffee, but you really need to go inverted to get the best brew from your AeroPress.
The little bit of extra pressure in the Moka pot makes Moka pot coffee one of the best espresso-like beverages you can make without an espresso machine. With practice, you may even get a bit of crema to top off your brew. I’ve only managed to get any crema with my AeroPress using one particular type of beans: Kicking Horse’s dark roast.
The Moka pot wins if we are comparing it to the standard AeroPress method. However, coffee from the inverted AeroPress method is just as good as Moka pot coffee. I’m giving this category to Moka, but only with that caveat.
Does AeroPress or Moka Pot Brew Coffee Faster?
The Aeropress brewing process itself takes about 1-2 minutes, depending on whether you are brewing with hot or cold water (cold water needs to be stirred longer). If you are using hot water, you will need to heat the water separately since the Aeropress can’t do that. In general, that should all take less than 3 minutes total.
Heating the water and brewing are all part of the same process for the Moka pot. You can expect to spend about 7 minutes, assuming you have a reasonably fast gas stove. An electric stove could slow that process down substantially.
The clear winner in this category is the Aeropress, which takes roughly half the brew time needed for the Moka Pot.
How Much Coffee Can AeroPress and Moka Pot Make?
Moka pots come in sizes ranging from 1-cup to 12-cup. Only the smaller Moka pots are readily able to make 1-2 cups of coffee at a time, so buying a larger Moka pot doesn’t add as much versatility as you might hope.
The AeroPress comes in only one size, which can make between 1 and 3 cups of coffee in a single batch. If you need more than that, you’ll need to brew multiple batches. That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker since the brewing time is faster, but it is certainly inconvenient if you tend to make 12 cups of coffee a day!
Keep in mind that both of these brewing methods are making concentrated coffee — similar in strength to espresso — so don’t be too surprised if neither piece of equipment looks big enough to hold 3 8-oz cups of water. You can still get 3 8-oz cups from an Aeropress and 3-12 (depending on size) 8-oz cups from a Moka pot, but only if you dilute the concentrated brew.
In this category, the Moka pot is the definite winner if you consistently need several cups of coffee. However, either has good options if you typically make 1-3 cups at a time.
Is AeroPress or Moka Pot Easier to Use?
The AeroPress comes with clear instructions, and the process for using it is very easy to get the hang of. Physically, the hardest part of the process is pressing down the plunger, and it is designed to allow basically anyone to plunge with ease. The process isn’t so much about pushing the water down as it is holding it tightly in place and letting gravity do the rest.
Now, that is all based on the standard method of using the AeroPress. Some AeroPress recipes use an inverted method instead, which does require a bit more strength to plunge at a fast enough rate. It still shouldn’t be a problem for most people, but it will require a bit more practice.
A Moka Pot is also very straightforward to use. It might take a bit of practice to get the coffee grind size and the heating rate right, but even those steps aren’t difficult. Once you have those two aspects mastered, brewing coffee with the Moka pot will become second nature.
Both methods are very easy to master, so picking a winner here is a tough call. Just because the AeroPress is a more active process that requires the tiniest bit of arm muscle, I’m going to give Moka pot the nod.
Is AeroPress or Moka Pot Easier to Clean?
When the brewing process is done, the AeroPress leaves all the grounds in a clump at the bottom of the chamber. You can just remove the filter and push that clump out into the trash using the plunger. Then it’s a quick rinse, and everything is completely clean. It’s probably the easiest cleanup process of any coffee brewing method.
Moka pots are also very easy to clean. The only real downside is that the pot is a big piece of aluminum or stainless steel that sits directly on top of the stove, so you’re definitely going to want to wait for it to cool before you toss the grounds and rinse the pot.
AeroPress wins for ease of cleaning. Then again, AeroPress would win against just about any competitor in this category.
Which Is cheaper: AeroPress vs Moka Pot?
The AeroPress costs around $30, which is just incredibly cheap for a coffee maker. You’ll need replacement paper filters (or a reusable metal filter) eventually, but it comes with 350 filters to get you started. You’ll need a way to heat water to near-boiling, so that might add an additional expense if you don’t already have a water kettle.
There’s a wide range in Moka pot prices. You can get a reasonably good one for about $30-50, but you could also buy one for over $100.
There are additional accessories that I would recommend in either case, particularly a coffee scale and a quality coffee grinder. Since those are useful for either method, they don’t really tip the balance in either direction.
I’m going to give this category to AeroPress since there is no need to shop around to find the highest-quality, lowest-price option. That being said, you might prefer the additional options available for Moka pots.
AeroPress vs Moka Pot: Which Is Right for You?
These are two of the best espresso machine alternatives on the market, and there’s a reason neither has fully won that category.
Moka pots are better if you don’t mind taking a few extra minutes to make your coffee, need to make large amounts at once, and want that little bit of crema in your cup. Moka pots also have culture and tradition on their side, so they’re a great way to connect with Italian and South/Central American coffee culture.
The AeroPress is still new and exciting, and it is the easiest method I’ve ever seen for both brewing and cleanup. If you want fast, simple, high-quality coffee — and you only need it 1-3 cups at a time — AeroPress will become your best friend. It’s also easier to travel with as all you need is a bit of counter space and a way to heat water. If you do get an AeroPress, I strongly recommend learning the inverted method; it’s a bit more effort, but it takes your coffee game to a whole new level.
Even though I can’t pick a universal winner, I can let you know my own bias: I’m a ride-or-die on team AeroPress.