Moka pot Troubleshooting

The Moka pot is one of the simplest and oldest types of coffee makers in existence. Its first patent dates back to 1933, so it is about to celebrate its 90th anniversary. If this type of coffee pot has gained so much popularity, it is because of the quality of the coffee it produces, its ease of use, and the few problems it presents during its useful life.

Most of the problems with these coffee makers emanate from their ease of use. Because they are so simple to use, users become overconfident and end up not using them correctly. However, another important factor in breakdowns is the lack of cleaning and maintenance.

How to clean and maintain a Moka pot

No matter how much care you put into preparing coffee with your Moka pot, if the cleaning and maintenance of the coffee maker are incorrect, the coffee will end up tasting very bad. Any coffee or water residue you do not remove between uses will deteriorate the Moka pot and the coffee you prepare.

The cleaning of the Moka pot can be divided into two types: superficial and deep. I recommend doing a superficial cleaning every day and a deep cleaning every week. This way, the coffee pot will be with you for decades as good as new.

Daily superficial cleaning

A superficial cleaning involves separating the lower boiler from the upper chamber where the coffee ends. When performing this separation, we will remove the funnel with the coffee grounds from the last extraction.

  • Remove the coffee grounds from the funnel, which you can use in your plants as compost. Be careful that the coffee grounds do not get into the kitchen drain, or you could have a serious clog in your plumbing.
  • Next, wash the funnel very well. I like to use plenty of hot water and mild liquid dish soap.
  • Also, clean the top chamber of the brewer with hot soapy water until all the coffee residue is removed.
  • Do the same with the lower chamber of the brewer (including the valve). There are occasions when very hot water excessively stains the boiler’s inside.
  • Once these three parts are well cleaned, dry them with a cloth or paper towel since water is the worst enemy of Moka pots. If that water does not dry, it could damage the metal or contaminate future extractions with bacteria.
Dry the coffee maker after washing with a soft cloth
Dry the coffee maker after washing it with a soft cloth

Weekly deep cleaning

Once a week, you should set aside 5 minutes to further clean your Moka pot. If, in addition to the previous daily cleaning, you perform a weekly cleaning as indicated below, your coffee maker will never suffer from any problems.

In the weekly cleaning, you should also remove the rubber gasket and the flat filter under the upper chamber of the Moka pot. In addition, by separating this filter, we will have access to the back of the upper chamber and, therefore, be able to clean it better.

Remove the gasket with a tea spoon
Remove the gasket with a teaspoon

Clean all parts as above and ensure the rubber gasket and flat filter are clean, dry, and in good condition before returning them.

The Moka pot burns and blackens on the stove fire

This problem is a clear example of improper use of the Moka pot and one I see most often. Most people with gas cooktops burn their Moka pots at some point.

Cause 1: Too strong a flame will end up burning the outside of your Moka pot.

For sufficient pressure to build up in the water reservoir of the coffee maker, you don’t need to heat the water to an excessively high temperature, so you don’t need to use the burner to its maximum.

Solution 1: In my article on how to prepare coffee with a Moka pot, I explain how you can add boiling water to the water boiler and set the heat to a minimum to shorten this extraction time drastically.

I understand you do not want to spend 20 minutes in front of the coffee pot waiting for the extraction to finish, but setting the heat to maximum is not the solution.


Cause 2: The other cause of burnt Moka pots is that the flame comes out defective, yellow or orange instead of blue.

Solution 2: You must clean the stove well if any obstruction prevents the gas from coming out freely. If this does not fix it, you should call a technician because you will burn your Moka pot and all your pots and pans.

The Moka pot does not brew coffee or takes too long to brew coffee

Related to the previous problem, there are times when the coffee takes an eternity to come out of the nozzle of the upper compartment, which is why we end up setting a very strong flame on the stove. But sometimes, coffee does not come out of the spout, even with the strongest flame.

Cause 1: The rubber gasket that seals the flat filter is incorrectly positioned, dirty, or in bad condition.

Solution 1: Check the condition of the gasket and place it correctly. If it is defective, replace it with a new one.


Cause 2: The flat filter is clogged with coffee residue or incorrectly positioned.

Solution 2: Check the condition of the flat filter, clean it and place it correctly. If it is defective, replace it with a new one.

The metallic flat filter of the Moka pot
The metallic flat filter of the Moka pot

Cause 3: The funnel that holds the ground coffee is dented or does not sit properly, allowing the steam to escape without passing through the filter.

Solution 3: Check the condition of the funnel and replace it properly. If it is defective, replace it with a new one.


Cause 4: The ground coffee is too fine or compacted, preventing the water vapor from passing through it.

Solution 4: Grind a little coarser and never compact the coffee in the funnel.


Cause 5: If you have filled the kettle with too little water, it may not create enough water vapor pressure to pass through the ground coffee.

Solution 5: Make sure you fill the water reservoir with water just below the level of the safety valve. These coffee makers are not designed to operate with less water.


Cause 6: If you do not tighten the thread that joins the lower and upper parts of the coffee maker, steam could escape through the thread. Sometimes, this steam is not noticeable because it escapes very slowly or in the form of water droplets.

Solution 6: Tighten the thread connecting the Moka pot’s two parts.

Lots of steam is coming out of the safety valve

A lot of steam from the safety valve is good news, as it releases the overpressure generated in the Moka’s water boiler. However, it is also a consequence of the water vapor staying in the boiler instead of passing through the ground coffee to extract it.

Cause 1: You have placed too much coffee in the funnel or compacted it.

Solution 1: Put less coffee and never compact; pour the ground coffee into the funnel and shake it a little until it is flush with the edge but never compact.

How to place the coffee in the basket
How to place the coffee in the basket

Cause 2: You have ground the coffee too fine, and the water vapor cannot pass through it.

Solution 2: Grind a little coarser until the steam can extract the coffee without problems.


Cause 3: The flat filter is clogged with coffee grounds or limescale, and the steam cannot pass through it.

Solution 3: Disassemble the flat filter as I showed you in the first section on cleaning the Moka pot, and clean the filter until you can see the light through it.


Cause 4: The safety valve is clogged or damaged, and the steam escapes freely.

Solution 4: Clean the valve thoroughly and inspect it for defects. If the valve is damaged, you will no longer be able to use your Moka pot, as it will be dangerous. It could even explode if the valve does not release the excess pressure:

Steam escaping from the thread of the Moka pot

This is an uncommon situation with Moka pots, but not impossible. Two completely different situations can cause it:

Cause 1: The rubber gasket holding the flat filter is deteriorated or broken, and the bottom and top do not seal tightly, with steam escaping through the thread.

Solution 1: Replace the rubber gasket with a new one.


Cause 2: You have not screwed the upper part to the lower part tightly enough, leaving space between the thread that joins both parts, allowing steam to escape.

Solution 2: Tighten the thread that joins both parts of the Moka pot.

When the Moka pot finishes the extraction, there is still water in the boiler

After each brew, a little water in the boiler is normal and good since not all of the steam can escape through the small hole in the funnel. Sometimes, it is condensed steam full of oil from the coffee and drips to the boiler’s base.

In short, a few millimeters of water at the bottom of the boiler is perfectly normal. The rare thing would be that when disassembling the Moka pot, the boiler would be completely dry; if this happened, you would probably have heated the water too fast and at too high a temperature, resulting in a poorer quality coffee.

It is quite another thing if there is an inch of water in the boiler; this could result from a clogging problem. See this previous section to determine the cause and its solution.

Conclusion

As you have seen, Moka pots are a very simple type of coffee maker; therefore, the problems they can present are quite obvious. Their solutions are usually very straightforward as well.

In any case, you should be very careful when handling Moka pots as they are coffee makers that hold hot water and increase the internal pressure up to 2 bars. Therefore, you should be careful, clean, and maintain them so they will last many years.

Last article: How to start drinking coffee and enjoy its natural flavor.

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