Moka pots are a fascinating coffee maker. Sometimes they wouldn't behave correctly, and start sputtering. The most common reasons for that are insufficient water, too much water, a loose seal, or a worn-out gasket. Keep reading to find out what else might be causing and how to fix it.
Why Does a Moka Pot Sputter?
There are a few main reasons why your Moka pot would sputter. Depending on the stage of the coffee-making that it happens in, there can be different reasons why.
It might be because there isn't enough water in the boiler or enough steam. You might want to check your seals and safety valve as they can often be the reason for sputtering. To accurately pinpoint the cause of the problem, you need a basic understanding of how a Moka pot works.
How Does a Moka Pot Work?
The way you brew coffee in a Moka pot is by using pressure. The Moka pot has three main sections. The bottom chamber (the boiler), the coffee grounds funnel tank, and the kettle where your finished coffee goes.
The bottom chamber is where you pour water. Most modern Moka pots will have a pressure release valve there. It is very important to make sure that the water doesn't cover it.
Once the water gets hot, the released steam goes up into the funnel tank. There it goes through the coffee and up the tower into the kettle. This is where you have your finished brew.
Is Your Moka Pot Broken?
It's probably not. As you have now seen, a Moka pot is a pretty simple device. First, you can check if the gaskets are intact, as this is one of the few parts that can actually deteriorate in time. If that doesn't help fix the problem, you should keep reading.
Depending on the sputtering and the stage it occurs in, there might be many reasons why.
In the beginning
If your Moka pot starts sputtering at the beginning of the brewing process this means that the sputtering begins before there is any brew and any coffee in the collector. There might be a few reasons why it's happening:
- Your safety valve might be faulty - One of the most common reasons for sputtering is the lack of pressure. An explanation for that would be a safety valve that leaks. The safety valve is there to release steam if the pressure is too high. Over time, though, it can get worn out and let out pressure even if there's only a healthy amount of it.
- Worn-out gasket - As already mentioned, the pressure rubber gasket on your Moka pot can deteriorate with time. What this means for you is that once enough steam is released and it starts making its way through the coffee, it leaks out through said gasket.
- Loose seal - If you've checked that your Moka pot's safety valve and gaskets are fine, you might check if the two parts of your stovetop coffee maker seal tight together.
- Insufficient water in the boiler - Probably the easiest fix to a sputtering Moka pot. If there isn't enough water in the boiler, the pressure wouldn't be enough to go through the coffee grounds in the filter.
- Not enough heat - If you've checked everything so far and your Moka pot is still sputtering, it might be because there isn't enough heat generated.
There probably isn't anything to worry about if you can hear sputtering at the end of the coffee brewing process. It probably means that your coffee is ready, but there is still a little water left in the boiler or in the filter with the coffee grounds.
To make sure everything is fine, you can open the lid and check if there's coffee in the collector. There might still be some light liquid coming out. What this means is that your coffee is around 10-15 seconds away from being done.
How Do You Stop Your Moka Pot From Sputtering?
So you now know why your Moka pot is sputtering when making coffee. If you decide that there is a problem with it and you need to fix it, you can do a few things.
Make sure your Moka pot is clean
You have probably already figured this out, but it's vital to keep your Moka pot clean. Make sure that the valve, both the lower and the higher chamber, are clean. Anything getting in the way can cause your Moka pot to release steam, even if it's new.
How do you clean your Moka pot?
Cleaning a Moka pot can be challenging at times. You need to find the balance between being too harsh on the coffee maker and being gentle with the top layer, especially if yours is an aluminum model.
One of the main rules is not to use strong detergents. They can be too aggressive on the surface, which might get your coffee to have a metallic taste. For your usual cleaning after making coffee, you can usually use water. Give it a good rinse, and you should be fine.
If your Moka pot needs a deeper cleaning you can dissolve a teaspoonful of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of warm water and then give it a good wash with it.
Another approach is to mix three units of hot water with one unit of vinegar. Then, put the whole thing in the liquid and leave it for half an hour. After you finish this, you should brew some coffee without actually putting any coffee in. This is good to make sure there's no remaining taste.
Don't tamper your coffee
A Moka pot is not an espresso maker. You shouldn't tamper your coffee in the filter. What this will do is get the coffee grounds too squeezed in together. This way, the water won't be able to go through them, and you probably won't have any coffee to drink.
The coffee grounds in a Moka pot's filter should be just enough to fill it without tampering.
Remove any grounds from the seals
It's very important to make sure your pot seals tightly. If they don't, it's probably because there are some coffee grounds stuck on them. Give them a good clean and try again. Now the seals should seal tight.
Make sure you don't pour too much or too little water
As you now know, a Moka pot uses the pressure built up by water and air to make coffee. Once there is enough heat, and the water starts to boil, the steam pushes its way up. To make sure the whole process can happen smoothly, you should make sure you leave a little space for air in the chamber.
It can also be dangerous if you cover the valve. The golden rule is that you should pour water just to its edge.
If there isn't enough water in the chamber, it won't produce enough steam, and the pressure will be too low. This might lead to spluttering when you start making coffee.
Turn up the heat
The leading cause for spluttering is the insufficient pressure in the Moka pot. Something else that might be causing this is insufficient heat. If you hear sputtering noises, it might be because of that.
What you can do is turn it up and see if there will be enough pressure to brew you a cup of coffee.
Lower the heat
As with a lot of things, the extremes are not too good. If you turn the heat up too much, no matter how well-sealed your Moka pot is, it will generate too much pressure and it might end up sputtering.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can too much sputtering damage your Moka pot?
The sputtering itself won’t damage your Moka pot. What is causing it might, though. If the safety valve is filled with coffee grounds or the seals don’t close tight that might be an issue.
How much water should you put in your Moka pot?
The golden rule is just below the safety valve. Make sure you don’t cover it as this can be dangerous. Not enough water will cause sputtering.
Can a Moka pot explode?
Under certain circumstances, yes. For example, if you cover the safety valve with water or not notice that the valve is faulty.
How do you clean a Moka pot?
Usually water does the trick. If yours needs something stronger, DO NOT use detergents. Use sodium bicarbonate and/or vinegar.
It’s important to keep your Moka pot clean. If you don’t wash it regularly it might sputter and things can get messy. Not only that, but you should make sure you’re pouring the right amount of water, that your safety valve is in good shape, and remember not to tamper your coffee. Also, it is important to use a top quality Moka pot. For that part, check out our catalog of high-quality 3 or 6 cup Moka pots!