c and the whole ritual of the preparation; it is no coincidence that the moka coffee pot is one of the most common items that many Italians take with them when they go and live abroad, while Germany is one of the main export markets for coffee machines. If, in Italy, drinking coffee is considered a real social ritual, not everyone agrees on the best way to bring out the unique flavor of a drink whose consumption increases every year. Let’s look together at what the differences are between coffee prepared with the moka and an espresso machine, starting from the extraction process, through to the cost and sustainability of the product.
Moka and Espresso machine: the differences and the history
The espresso is a more intense and robust drink compared to the coffee prepared in the moka, but the fundamental difference between the two is the presence of the “crema” or “cream”, which drives many people to prefer the small cup served at the bar or to equip themselves with a coffee machine using pods or capsules so as to be able to enjoy that more robust flavor at home. Both the moka and the espresso machine (at the bar or at home, using capsules or pods) use high pressure to extract the drink from the coffee powder.
In the case of the espresso machine, the temperature of the water is around 90 °C and the pressure is very high (8-9 atmospheres or more): the consistent layer of ‘cream’ is achieved for this reason and is formed from the suspension of micro-particles of coffee and micro-bubbles of water. Its color varies according to the blend used, a redder tone for the Arabica, a darker brown for the Robusta.
As far as the moka and its coffee is concerned, the only pressure the ground coffee is subjected to is that of the water vapor and thus the result is less dense and full-bodied. How to make the best coffee with the moka? To obtain the best flavor, our advice is to use a blend with the right granulometry or degree of grinding and never have the heat too high.
When the espresso machine was born
In 1884, Angelo Moriondo, an industrialist from Torino, invented the first machine for making espresso coffee but didn’t transfer his idea to an industrial level: in fact, the invention is generally attributed to the Milanese inventor Luigi Bezzera, who patented it in 1901. At first, this invention was in the form of a large vertical cylinder, containing a brass water boiler kept at high pressure using a gas burner. Next to the boiler there was the set of equipment in which the coffee was placed. By turning a tap, the boiling water and the steam passed through the coffee, for an extraction that took around one minute. After the Second World War, a lever system was implemented, invented by Angelo Gaggia, who in 1945 started up production of it. This type of machine used manual pressure, whereas today the extraction is performed thanks to an electric pump and in fact the work is simpler and less difficult, but the most important innovation was the temperature of the water which, from 120° C dropped to 85-90 °C: in this way the coffee lost its bitter taste, while the higher pressure allowed the delicate hazelnut-colored ‘cream’ to be created. Another important change was the pre-infusion, in which the coffee pod is dampened slightly in the very first phase of extraction.
When the moka was created
Give a moka to an Italian abroad and he will conquer the world. Or maybe not, but he will, without doubt, offer you a fantastic drink, icon of the “Made in Italy” brand as much as the instrument with which it is prepared. It is no coincidence, that this octagonal aluminum object is present in the permanent collection at the MoMa in New York! The coffee made using the moka is a symbol of Italianness which is still strongly felt today, it calls to mind lunches with the family and chats on the sofa in the early afternoon. The name “moka” comes from a city in Yemen, called (not surprisingly) Mokha, which was among the first and most famous areas for growing and producing the Arabica variety of coffee. The coffee maker that carries its name was invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 and became a widely used item from the 1950s onwards.
Moka versus Espresso: the costs, the more sustainable choice and the impact on health
Espresso and moka are much more than just two ways of preparing a drink, they can almost be considered two life philosophies. The reasons that lead a person to prefer one or another are clearly linked to personal taste, and de gustibus non disputandum est (you cannot dispute tastes) as everyone knows well. If a real espresso lover doesn’t hesitate to equip his home with a modern coffee machine using capsules or pods, which not only guarantees that “coffee from the bar” flavor, but is also very practical and quick to use, and doesn’t need washing after every single use, it is also true to say that in terms of cost and sustainability, the moka wins the challenge. Let’s see why.
How much does an espresso coffee cost and a coffee made with the moka?
First of all, we know very well that a moka coffee pot costs less than an espresso coffee machine: an expense that is a one-off occurrence, of course, which however has an effect on the decision of the consumer. As far as the cost of the raw materials is concerned, the moka, again, is the less expensive of the two options. Naturally the quality of the coffee makes the difference, there is also a difference between ground coffees at the less expensive end, in the middle and at the top quality end of the market, but on average the cost is lower than that for coffee sold in capsules. It should also be noted, however, that the coffee in capsules retains its characteristics intact for a long time, whereas the coffee for the moka risks losing its flavor and aroma if it is not stored in the correct way.
Which contains more caffeine?
Many people are convinced that the espresso from the bar or machine contains more caffeine, but that is not true at all. The quantity of caffeine contained in every cup depends on the amount of time in which the water remains in contact with the ground coffee powder. The longer the period of time, the greater the quantity of caffeine released and, given that the process of the moka is slower, in this kind of coffee there is a higher level of caffeine released. That said, we should always bear in mind that the levels of caffeine vary from one type of coffee to another.
Moka or Espresso, which is more sustainable?
Espresso lovers will have to resign themselves to the fact that the moka system is more sustainable for our planet, for two reasons: the machine used is smaller and its waste disposal is simpler, whereas an espresso machine has a greater volumeand all components in plastic, metal and electronic parts, which make the process of disposal more difficult. Furthermore, the capsules themselves represent a problem in terms of the quantity of non-recyclable trash that it generates. Fortunately, however, Filicori Zecchini and many brands are now producing compostable or recyleable capsules, which resolve this aspect of the problem.
Do Italians prefer the moka or espresso machine?
Are all your friends using espresso machines and you are starting to feel alone in your love for the moka tradition? Don’t worry, it will be a long time before the espresso machine overtakes the moka: more than 70% of Italiansprefer to use a moka. This symbol of the economic boom of the 1950s doesn’t seem to have aged at all, and, for many people, preparing the coffee is a still a ritual that takes a little time, notwithstanding the practicality offered by other solutions.
Has all this made you want a coffee now? Today we recommend a real gem of a blend, Etiopia: its flavor will transport you to exotic climes, back in time, to its ancient origins. You can also try out also the blends for moka: delicato, forte and kave decaffeinato. What’s your choice: the embrace of the espresso machine coffee or the “slow” pleasure of the moka?
Tell us about your ideal coffee break in the comments.