Moka vs Percolator

What is the difference between a Moka Pot and a Percolator?

November 14, 2021

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What is the difference between a percolator and a Moka pot? Is there really any difference at all? Yes, a Moka Pot and a Percolator are different and I’m here to show you how.

Is it a Coffee Percolator or a Moka Pot?

People often get confused between a coffee percolator and a Moka pot. It is not difficult to see how.

After all, they both sit on the stovetop (or have an electric version) and use hot water to extract ground coffee.

You will also often see a Moka pot labeled as a percolator (but not often the other way around).

However, there are many differences between a percolator and a Moka pot, and these include

  • Coffee Brew Method
  • Structure
  • Coffee Grind Size
  • Taste

Let us now explore some of these differences…

Coffee Brew Method

A coffee percolator and a Moka Pot use different coffee brewing techniques. When I talk about a brewing technique I’m talking about a way to extract the components of ground coffee beans into water so that we can drink it.

Coffee Percolator

A percolator may be considered an infusion brewing technique, percolation brewing technique, or a combination of both. It depends upon your definition of these two techniques. I regard a percolator an infusion brewing technique.

In infusion (immersion is the same as an infusion) coffee brewing, the ground coffee ‘sits’ in hot water for an extended time. During that time the components of coffee are extracted into the water. The longer the time, the greater the extraction (until a threshold is reached where no extraction can occur or until the extracted coffee just tastes awful). The French Press and Cowboy coffee are just two examples of the infusion technique.

In percolation brewing, the ground coffee is not ‘sitting’ in water for an extended time. Percolation brewing also does not recycle water through the coffee grinds. Water goes through the ground coffee only once. Just like you see happening in an espresso machine, a pour-over, or a drip coffee maker.

In a percolator, it may not seem that the coffee grinds are constantly ‘sitting’ in water because the water percolates through the coffee. However, the water is constantly recycled and this effectively increases the time the water is in contact with the coffee grinds.

A percolator brews coffee by recycling hot water through coffee grounds. No pressure is used to extract the coffee other than atmospheric pressure and gravity.

Each cycle of hot water extracts more compounds from the ground coffee and the water/coffee mix becomes more concentrated.

The strength of the coffee can be varied by adjusting the time of the brew

Top 3 Best Selling Coffee Percolators

Please also see our post on the Best Selling Percolators for 2020!

Moka Pot

The Moka Pot uses the percolation technique for brewing coffee. The coffee grinds do not ‘sit’ in water for an extended time and water isn’t recycled.

A Moka pot is often used on a stovetop but there are electric versions as seen here

IMUSA USA Electric Espresso/Moka Maker, 3-6 Cups, Red

$39.99
$24.00
Amazon.com
as of September 10, 2022 9:22 am

A Moka pot brews coffee by passing pressurized hot water through ground coffee (see image). The strength of the coffee is not usually adjusted by the time of brewing because the water never returns to the bottom chamber. The coffee made by a Moka pot may be considered espresso by some, because a pressurized chamber is used to initiate the flow of hot water through the ground coffee to extract the coffee.

However, the pressure is only about 1 to 2 Bar and is nowhere near the usual 7 to 10 Bar used to make an espresso. For this reason, I like to think that a Moka pot can make a coffee that is like an espresso but is not espresso.

For a quick tutorial on how to make your coffee with a Moka pot see our other post here.

Top 3 Best Selling Moka Pots

Structure

A coffee percolator consists of two interconnected chambers: a bottom chamber containing water and a perforated top chamber containing the ground coffee.

A Moka pot consists of three chambers: a bottom chamber containing water, a middle chamber containing ground coffee, and a top chamber containing the final coffee brew. The bottom and middle chambers are interconnected as are the middle chamber and top chamber. There is no direct connection between the bottom chamber and the top chamber.

Source: Percolator and Moka Pot on Wikipedia

Coffee Grind Size

You should use a coffee grind size appropriate to your brewing technique.

You usually need a fine coffee grind for a Moka pot because the water is in contact with the coffee only briefly. Consequently, you need as much surface area as possible to extract the coffee components into water.

A course grind coffee in a Moka Pot does not present as much surface area, takes longer to extract, and will make a weak and watery cup of coffee.

You can use a coarser coffee grind for a percolator because the water/coffee mix is constantly recycled.

The larger coffee grinds present less surface area and extraction is slower. However, water is constantly recycled through the coffee ground and will eventually extract the coffee compounds into the water. If the coffee grind is too small then a percolator will make a bitter and over-extracted brew.

In any case, you should use good quality coffee beans and grind them with a good burr grinder. A hand or electric burr grinder gives you an even and consistent grind from your coffee beans.

Taste

Taste is always subjective. If you prefer coffee made with a percolator then that is just fine! If you prefer coffee made with a Moka pot then that is just fine too! If you don’t like coffee made by a percolator or a Moka Pot then that is also fine. Hopefully, however, you do like some type of coffee!

I prefer coffee made by a Moka pot rather than a percolator.

A Moka pot can brew a rich, flavorsome, espresso-quality coffee. However, you do need to be careful not to over-extract the coffee which causes it to be bitter.

The coffee made by a Moka pot may be considered espresso by some, because a pressurized chamber is used to initiate the flow of hot water through the ground coffee to extract the coffee.

However, the pressure is only about 1 to 2 Bar and is nowhere near the usual 7 to 10 Bar used to make an espresso. For this reason, I don’t think that a Moka pot can make an espresso. The best I can say is that a Moka pot can make a coffee that is like an espresso.

The espresso ‘feel and taste’ of a Moka pot coffee also allow you to add water to make an Americano or even silky milk to make a latte or cappuccino.

The percolator makes a good coffee brew but can easily be over extracted with longer brewing times. It doesn’t have the same espresso quality and is a good coffee to drink and go. You can add milk, creamer, or sweeteners to offset any bitterness in the brewed coffee.

Summary

The following table briefly compares the similarities and differences between a percolator and a Moka pot.

FeaturePercolatorMoka Pot
Immersion Coffee Brewing TechniqueYesNo
Percolation Coffee Brewing TechniqueNoYes
Extraction by passing hot water through coffee groundsYesYes
Recycles hot water/coffee through coffee groundsYesNo
Coffee is extracted using atmospheric pressure and gravityYesNo
Coffee is extracted using water pressureNoYes
Can be used on a stovetopYesYes
Has an electric versionYesYes
Two chambers: Top and BottomYesNo
Three chambers: Top, Middle, and BottomNoYes
Top chamber pressurizedNoNo
Bottom chamber pressurizedNoYes
Vary coffee strength by brewing timeYesNo
Fine ground coffee is bestNoYes
Coarse ground coffee is bestYesNo
Espresso quality coffee drinkNoYes

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