Coffee has versatile flavor and body
Easy to use regardless of experience
Compact and portable
Cheaper than electric coffee makers
Must hand wash after every use
Uses a lot of grounds
More expensive than other moka pots
Handle gets hot
We purchased the Bialetti Moka Express so our reviewer could put it to the test in his kitchen. Keep reading for the full product review.
Following its invention in 1933, the Bialetti Moka Express has remained one of the most popular brewing devices around the world. Its simple design allowed casual coffee drinkers to make a rich brew (similar to espresso) right from home, and it was so revolutionary that the Moka Express we know today is nearly identical to the ones in Italian kitchens close to a century ago. I’ve owned a 6-cup model for just under two years and sum up my thoughts on it below. I cover a number of areas, including price, maintenance, and performance to help you decide if the Moka Express is worth purchasing. Read on for the full review.
Design: Simple and timeless
I would be hesitant to criticize the Moka Express’s design if there were aspects I didn’t like. After all, it’s one of the most influential coffee designs of the 20th century. Luckily, there’s little to criticize. The way it works is remarkably simple, especially considering the tasty results. There are three main parts: a bottom chamber you pour water into, a filter for the coffee grounds, and a top chamber into which the coffee percolates. When placed on a stovetop (or over a fire, for you campers), steam pressure builds in the bottom chamber and propels water up through the coffee grounds, resulting in the bold brew for which moka pots are known.
As far as the aesthetic, I appreciate the touch of Italian coffee history the Moka Express brings to the kitchen. The stainless steel and hourglass shape feel timeless, not antiquated. Plus, it’s compact enough to store in a cupboard if you don’t love the look of it. The item is available in sizes ranging from one to 18 espresso-sized cups (roughly 1.5 ounces per cup), and even the largest model won’t overwhelm your kitchen.
The only design flaw I’ve found over two years of use is that the handle gets hot to the touch. I usually grab it with a towel once it’s finished brewing.
Performance: A versatile alternative to espresso
While the Moka Express does brew richer coffee than, say, a drip machine, it does not make true espresso. There just isn’t enough pressure to replicate the body, aroma, and crema that we love about espresso. Nonetheless, I often use the concentrated coffee from my Moka Express for lattes and cappuccinos, which is why I recommend the item as a budget alternative to a real home espresso maker.
The way it works is remarkably simple, especially considering the tasty results.
I also appreciate the amount of control I have over the coffee. I can use a finer grind, higher heat, and less water for an extra-bold punch of caffeine, or I can use a medium grind with more water when I’m in the mood for something closer to drip coffee. All in all, the Moka Express is surprisingly versatile considering it’s a non-electric brewing device.
One downside, however, is that it can take a while to brew, and you have to pay attention to know when to take it off the burner. When using high heat on a coil burner and medium-ground coffee, it only took three minutes to brew, which is not bad at all. On medium heat with a fine grind, it took almost 10 minutes.
Cleaning: Needs a quick rinse after every use
The Moka Express should not be cleaned in the dishwasher, so you’ll need to wash it by hand or at least rinse it after every use. This never takes me long. Sometimes it’s less than a minute because I simply wash off loose coffee grounds and leave the disassembled parts to dry, but cleaning a brewer every single time when it only produces a small amount of coffee may annoy some users. Before brewing, I will occasionally question if it’s worth the effort for a cup or two of coffee, and my mind may drift to another coffee maker I have around. This is one tiny reason I think the Moka Express is better suited as a complement to other home coffee makers instead of as your sole brewing device.
I often use the concentrated coffee from my Moka Express for lattes and cappuccinos, which is why I recommend it as a budget alternative to an espresso maker.
I also want to mention that there are two schools of thought when it comes to using cleaning products on your Moka Express. Many experts say the buildup of coffee residue actually enhances the flavor over time and they recommend cleaning it with water, but no soap. I didn’t know this upon first purchasing the device, so I inadvertently followed the other perspective of washing with soap and resetting the flavor profile every time. This decision is all up to you, as neither one is wrong.
Price: Paying for the name
For such a simple and affordable device, the Moka Express’s value for money is rather complicated. On one hand, it’s significantly cheaper than an electric espresso maker, and it’s similar in price to other non-electric brewers, like a French press or pour over. On the other hand, the Moka Express is more expensive than most moka pots on the market. Considering that moka pots have a universal design and are usually made from stainless steel, it feels like Bialetti charges more because of its brand recognition.
Another minor frustration is that the price of the Moka Express varies widely depending on the retailer. It makes sense that the price varies by capacity—a 1-cup model, for instance, is less expensive than a 12-cup model—but when retailers charge substantially different prices for the same size Moka Express, it imparts a feeling that you must hunt for a fair deal.
At the end of the day, you can always find a Moka Express at a reasonable price, but I don’t consider the item a true bargain.
Long-Term Insights: No signs of slowing down
I have no major concerns about my Moka Express nearly two years after purchasing it. The top chamber still twists securely into the bottom chamber. The lid clasp and handle remain sturdy, and the gasket still seals well. I used the Moka Express regularly the first few months of owning it, but not as much now. That said, I think it would have held up just as well with heavier use over the same amount of time. The one downside I’ll note is that both chambers have minor coffee stains inside, but it personally doesn’t bother me much and is likely the result of lax cleaning on my part.
Bialetti Moka Expess vs. AeroPress Coffee Maker
The Moka Express and the AeroPress don’t share a similar design, but many coffee lovers may be deciding between the two for a few reasons. They are non-electric, sold at a similar price, and can brew coffee so rich it’s almost like espresso.
Our team reviewed the AeroPress, too, and gave it a higher score than the Moka Express, with specific praise for its fast brewing and ease of cleaning, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically choose the former over the latter. Those who want a coffee maker with a larger capacity or one that doesn’t require paper filters may prefer the Moka Express. In the end, both are worthwhile options, so it all comes down to individual preference.
Versatile, affordable, and reliable.
I don’t use my Moka Express as a go-to, everyday brewing device, but I would still recommend it to a variety of coffee lovers. It’s easy to use, breaks up the monotony of drip coffee, and can make lattes and cappuccinos if you have a milk frother.
- Product Name Moka Express
- Product Brand Bialetti
- Price $35
- Weight 1.44 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 7.5 x 9 x 4 in.
- Color Stainless steel, black, red, tricolor, and more
- Material Aluminum with a nylon handle and knob
- Warranty Two years