To the untrained eye, a Moka Pot and a percolator are the same thing.
Given, they both look very similar yes, and they even make coffee in a similar way.
But they are definitely different coffee makers, and the coffee they produce is very different.
Here’s the difference between a Moka Pot and a percolator: Moka Pots make small amounts of strong, concentrated coffee that’s close to espresso, and are very often called stovetop espresso makers.
However, that isn’t quite right to say.
Percolators, unlike their smaller percolating Moka counterparts, make large pots of average-strength coffee.
In fact, percolators used to be the workhorse coffee brewers for restaurants and eateries before the advent of the modern automatic drip coffee maker, which is the easiest, fastest and possibly cheapest way to brew large batches of coffee.
But anyway, in this article we’re going to look at the similarities and differences between Moka pots and percolators.
We’re going to look at a lot of aspects about them, so get ready for some fun info!
And as a nice little bonus, you’ll understand them so well you’ll probably never get these terms mixed up ever again! So many people get them mixed up, unfortunately.
So let’s dive in!
The Moka Pot
Let’s start with this classic mocha maker.
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Believe it or not, the Moka Pot is actually one of the oldest methods of brewing coffee.
They’re also technically percolators, which makes it all the more difficult to understand the difference between the two.
But percolator means that water passes through the coffee, rather than the coffee soaking and steeping in the water.
A French press would be the perfect example of the coffee soaking in water, opposite of water just passing through the grounds.
Anyway, what sets the Moka Pot apart from other percolators is the pressure involved in the brewing.
This is also why Moka Pots and their coffee are often called stovetop espresso.
A Moka Pot uses finely ground coffee in the chamber, and water in the bottom.
When you have those two set in place, you put the Moka Pot on the stove and wait for it to boil, or percolate.
As the water heats up to a boil and the pressure is high enough, it turns to steam and passes through the coffee grinds. After it’s forced up through the middle section and the coffee, it goes up into the main chamber and your strong, delicious coffee is ready.
How Does Moka Pot Coffee Taste?
As I said before, it’s pretty strong stuff.
There’s a reason why people call it stovetop espresso.
Although, as strong and dark as it may be, it’s not technically espresso.
But espresso requires nine bars of pressure, which is impossible with a Moka Pot.
The coffee made with a Moka Pot is somewhat similar to AeroPress coffee. Although, there are certainly differences there.
AeroPress coffee is less acidic, and there’s more pressure involved.
Moka Pot yields a coffee that could almost be described as being in between a regular pour over or automatic drip coffee made with average strength, and espresso.
The coffee packs a punch and if you’re looking for a nice wake up call in the morning, it’s a good brewing option.
For almost a year, Moka Pot was my go-to.
The strong, concentrated coffee you get from it is espresso-like in flavor, but in terms of body and overall intensity and strength pretty similar to ‘regular’ coffee.
Another reason why this coffee cannot be called espresso is because it doesn’t have crema, which is probably the main distinguishing factor in espresso.
Every espresso lover enjoys the perfect, golden crema.
And unfortunately, Moka Pot doesn’t have that.
The Pros & Cons Of Moka Pot
In short, if you like really strong coffee, you’ll probably love Moka Pot.
Here are the pros of Moka Pot:
- Fast, easy to make coffee
- Inexpensive coffee maker
- Makes good, strong coffee
- Easy to clean
And here are the cons of Moka Pot:
- Only makes a single cup of coffee (or just a small batch)
- They can get limescale build up
You got to love a coffee maker that’s easy to use, easy to clean and gets its job done fast.
What more can I say about that?
The convenience factor is very high.
But not only that, it makes a nice, robust coffee that any true coffee lover will enjoy. It’s one of or possibly the only brewing method where I like to use milk or cream sometimes in my coffee when I use it.
And trust me, that’s really saying something.
They are also very inexpensive coffee brewers, which is a very good plus.
You can get them anywhere from about $17 to $45. Not bad for a nice classic coffee maker.
The cleanup process for Moka Pot is pretty easy too.
You simply empty out the grinds into a trashcan or your garden or wherever, then rinse the device with water thoroughly and it’s good to go.
There are only a few cons with Moka Pot, the way I see it.
One of them is that they usually make just a single cup of coffee at a time. This isn’t the worst thing I can think of, though, because there are other coffee makers that do this.
AeroPress also only makes one cup at a time, and that’s a fantastic brewer.
But probably the worst thing about Moka Pots is that they can get this limescale, almost moldy looking buildup in the bottom chamber if they’re not used for a while.
Sometimes it can even happen if you use them regularly.
And that can actually be a bit difficult to clean, unfortunately.
But overall, it’s a great, classic brewer that you can hardly go wrong with, all things considered.
Let’s Talk About Percolators
Now, let’s discuss the close cousin of the Moka Pot… the percolator.
The two are similar in many ways, as I’ve mentioned before.
Percolators look like big, rounded Moka Pots, and they work in a very similar way.
But the end result – a.k.a. the coffee – is very different.
The funny thing about these two coffee makers is that they work in basically the same way. What I mean is that you put ground coffee in the chamber and they both just percolate the coffee.
But there are big differences you should be aware of.
For one thing, in a percolator you should use medium to medium-coarse ground coffee.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most coarse, it should be somewhere around 5-6.
It might not seem like a big difference from the super fineness of the grinds for a Moka Pot, but the coffee does come out quite different.
When the coffee is more coarse, it’s much less “espresso-y” than Moka Pot coffee.
Another difference between the two is how it actually brews the coffee, and particularly where the coffee actually sits in the percolator.
In percolators, the coffee grinds actually sit closer to the top of the percolator by the lid.
The heated water travels up the pipe in the middle of the device and then pours out of the spout into the coffee basket, where it slowly drains through the grinds (percolates) and badda-bing, badda-boom, you have coffee.
Another notable difference between Moka pots and percolators is that percolators don’t use pressure to force water through fine coffee grinds.
Water travels lightly through the grounds and drains through simply because gravity works its magic.
So there’s much less pressure than is involved in Moka Pot coffee.
How Does Percolator Coffee Taste?
How is percolator coffee different from Moka Pot coffee?
It’s vastly different.
Coffee made with a percolator can taste very similar to how your average cup of Joe from an automatic drip machine or pour over might taste.
We could say it’s “regular strength coffee”.
Not super bold and strong like Moka Pot.
The thing about percolators and this somewhat archaic brewing method is that it’s prone to over-extraction and possibly bitterness.
You really don’t have any control over where the water goes or how much at a time to put in, which leads to channeling and over-extraction.
The brewing process of water steaming up through a pipe and spilling onto the coffee grinds is neither precise nor consistent.
So while percolators have these quirks about them and the brewing process which may not it make it the most desirable brewing method due to lack of control, the coffee certainly isn’t undrinkable!
It tends to be more bitter than other brewing methods, but the ability of a percolator to make large batches of coffee quickly and consistently is a great thing about it.
If you are using a percolator as your brew method, it really won’t be top notch quality coffee like you might get from an awesome pour over or AeroPress, but they are a great way to make larger amounts of coffee quickly.
Percolator Pros & Cons
Here are the pros & cons of percolators.
- Quick and efficient for lots of coffee
- Easy to use
- Awesome, vintage look
- The coffee can be bitter
- Less control over brewing
- They can get limescale build up
I think you get the gist of the pros for this bad boy.
Percolators have similar pros to Moka Pots.
They are quite inexpensive, which can be one of the best things about any coffee maker.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a great coffee maker.
They are easy to use like Moka Pots, and they have a really cool vintage look to them.
I personally really enjoy the aesthetic factor, and percolators definitely have that. And the truth is, they really are a cool vintage way of making coffee.
But one difference between Moka Pots and percolators is that while you can get Moka Pots that make six cups or even bigger, percolators are by default made for larger batches of coffee, which is nice.
You can make a small or large amount of coffee with a percolator, and you can do it quickly and easily with that fun experience of hearing the coffee bubble and spurt.
The cons of percolators are things that we’ve already gone over when it comes to the brewing and taste.
The coffee tends to be more bitter than most other brewing methods due to over-extraction and lack of control in the brewing process.
And, just like their more bold, robust counterpart, percolators can also get that limescale buildup if they’re not cleaned properly.
Moka Pot Vs. Percolator
Now that we’ve already looked at both of these two similar but different java machines, let’s do the direct, head-to-head showdown.
We’ll look at a few major factors and compare the two.
Because even before the price point, taste is the most important factor of any brewing method!
And let’s just cut to the chase about this one…
When it comes to the taste, let’s just be real, Moka Pots pretty much kick any percolators butt in the area of making superior coffee.
Moka Pot coffee is strong, bold, and brings out a coffees flavor in a robust way without being bitter.
Percolators, on the other hand, can make coffee differently every time.
Sometimes it’s standard, nice tasting coffee; and sometimes it’s harsh and bitter. And it’s not really up to you in any way.
The bottom line is that Moka Pots make consistently great tasting coffee, while percolators make either good tasting coffee or bitter coffee and it’s pretty unpredictable.
Moka Pot wins big time in terms of taste.
The thing about the price point is that these two coffee makers are pretty comparable in terms of the cost.
But if you look at how much coffee they brew for the price, Moka Pots are ultimately cheaper.
So the price factor is also connected with how much coffee you’d like to make.
Remember, Moka Pots usually only make small batches of coffee, a cup or two.
You can get a three-cup Moka Pot for about half the price of a standard percolator.
But the percolator will probably be able to make at least twice as much coffee.
So if you want to just go with the cheapest option, go with Moka Pot.
There’s not a whole lot to say here, because in terms of functionality these two brewers are so similar.
However, percolators are slightly easier to use just because they don’t require very fine ground coffee to work properly.
But that may be the only difference in the convenience factor.
Pretty much every other aspect of using and cleaning a Moka Pot and percolator are so similar that you won’t notice a major difference between the two.
I hope this article cleared up the differences between these two similar but very different coffee makers!
When it comes down to it, it’s actually fairly easy to see the difference between a Moka Pot and a percolator if you had them side by side.
It’s mostly in the terms that people get them mixed up.
I used to say the wrong word for them all the time.
I’ve called a Moka Pot a “percolator” countless times.
And, well, it’s a true statement! A Moka Pot does percolate the coffee.
The difference, of course, is that a percolator is an entirely different coffee maker than a Moka Pot.
And maybe not so much in looks or the method they use to brew the coffee as much as how different the coffee tastes from the two.
But now thankfully, after reading this article, you won’t get them mixed up again!
And you can educate others about it.
If it’s not clear yet, Moka Pots are better all around coffee makers, but especially in terms of consistency and good flavor.
But both of these coffee makers have their pros and cons.
So enjoy your percolated coffee, whether it’s from a Moka Pot or a percolator, and coffee cheers!