Do You Tamp a Moka Pot?
A Moka pot is a fascinating little machine that makes fantastic coffee. Actually one of the reasons why a Moka pot is so impressive is its very simple, yet ingenious design. While the brew made in a Moka pot is similar to espresso, and it's essential to tamp the coffee before preparing espresso, it's a big mistake to do it for a Moka pot. Keep reading to find out why!
Should You Tamp a Moka Pot?
Most people will say that you shouldn't be tamping the coffee in your Moka pot under any circumstances and there is a good reason for that.
Even though a Moka pot is often referred to as a stovetop espresso maker, it isn't quite like your standard espresso machine. While both use water pressure to brew you a cup of coffee, the one that a Moka pot generates is significantly lower than what an espresso machine generates. In fact, the pressure in an espresso maker is around four times as high as in the Moka pot.
Both the espresso machine and the Moka pot have some safety features to make sure there isn’t too much pressure. For this reason, the Moka pot has a little safety valve which opens when the pressure gets too high. You shouldn’t cover it with water so that it works as it’s designed to.
What Could Happen to Your Stovetop Espresso Maker After Tamping Your Coffee?
If you tamp your coffee into the filter, you could end up with coffee all over your ceiling and an exploded Moka pot, but that's very unlikely. In fact, what is probably going to happen is one of these four things:
- Your Moka pot could leak. This is what happens in most cases. You will notice that steam or water is coming out where the boiler and the collector link. Generally this is where leaks tend to occur as water always looks for the path of least resistance. If the coffee is tamped in hard, it will be harder to go through than the silicone gasket that insulates the two parts of the Moka pot. If you ignore the leaks, it might ruin the seal, which would get your Moka pot to sputter.
- The excessive pressure is released. This is what the safety valve is here to do. When the water in the boiler gets to the boiling temperature, it will start producing steam. If the coffee grounds are too compressed, it won't go through them and will go out the safety valve
- The water forms channels through the grounds. If you tamp your grounds, they will become very compressed and stiff. As already mentioned, water always finds the route of least resistance, so it will dig narrow channels through the grounds in the filter. Consequently your brew will be bland, and the flavor will be lost. If you already feel that your coffee's taste is too weak, keep reading to find how to change that.
- Your Moka pot explodes. This is the least likely outcome. Most Moka pots are equipped with a pressure release safety valve that makes sure this doesn't happen. As the pressure builds up, at some point, the steam pushes the valve open, and the excessive pressure is released into the air.
Why Do Some Prefer Tamping the Coffee Grounds?
Even though tamping your grounds in most cases won't improve the taste of your coffee, some people prefer to do it. According to some coffee forum users, it will give you a stronger flavor if you do your tamping gently. While this can be true in some cases, most coffee experts agree that this is not the right approach. As you already saw earlier, tamping your coffee will make it weaker.
The way the filter and the chamber on top of it are designed is that they require you only to make sure the lid is even so you can close it tightly. This means that there is no need for tamping. Despite that, some coffee drinkers prefer their coffee tamped, which can be dangerous.
A middle ground between tamping and not tamping would be to lightly press the coffee grounds with a spoon before closing the Moka pot. Another, more subtle approach would be to gently tap the side of the filter against the bottom chamber of the Moka pot, so the coffee inside flattens.
There are two more reasons why you would consider not tamping your coffee. You might think that more grounds could fit in the filter this way, which might make the coffee stronger, but it won't. It will actually make it weaker.
The second reason you might think it is a good idea is that the higher pressure will extract more flavor. Again, it won't. In this case the water will simply dig channels through the densely packed coffee grounds and extract even less flavor than usual.
What Should You Do if Your Brew Is Too Bland?
If you think your coffee tastes too bland, there are a few reasons why this might happen:
Moka pot coffee shouldn't be as finely ground as espresso machine coffee. If yours is ground too finely, it will have a similar effect to having it tamped and making your coffee blander. If you think it's coarse enough, you could try with just a little bit more finely ground coffee. Nevertheless it is important to make sure it is not espresso coffee.
If you made sure that your coffee grind is the right size, you might want to try some stronger beans. Robusta is among the strongest coffee beans out there. Your brew will have a lot more caffeine in it, but the taste won't be as clear. If the Robusta coffee is too much for you, you can try mixing it with Arabica and get the best of two worlds.
The way coffee is roasted can also affect the brew at the end. As a matter of fact it can affect the taste and the amount of caffeine in the brew. Though, it is a bit counterintuitive how it happens.
Over roasting can simply make your coffee bitter without making it stronger. It is equally important to know that what coffee is considered is very subjective.
Probably the most straightforward approach to making a stronger brew is to lower the water to coffee ratio. While putting the same amount of coffee you usually do, pour just a little less water. Additionally, make sure it is not too little, as this will make your Moka pot start sputtering.
The Goods and Bads of Tamping When Making Moka
Ultimately, Moka coffee can be challenging to prepare. While most people just go for recipes and guides online, the information there can also be controversial.
Many coffee experts (and basically every Italian) will agree that Moka coffee shouldn't be tamped, but some still do it. It is important to realize that this can only make your coffee worse.
All things considered, if you are on the lookout for a new Moka pot, head over to our catalog and check out our premium products.