Can I just add the coffee powder to the basket and let the the water vapour do the work or should I make use of a tamp same as with a professional Espresso machine?


3 Answers 3


You should not tamp the coffee in a Moka. These pots don't like excessive pressure, which tamping would produce due to increased density. This is also why the water should not cover the steam valve. In the worst case they can literally explode!

  • 1
    I think that the last part of this answer is a bit imprecise. The valve still works and opens in some specified pressure range even when covered in water. However when it opens while being covered by water, instead of emitting steam to the outside world, a stream of boiling hot water would shoots out of the valve. This is way more dangerous than the steam to nearby human tissue (and other stuff in your kitchen).
    – DCTLib
    Oct 27, 2015 at 12:33

The general idea is that tamping with moka pots is unnecessary/harmful/dangerous because of the excessive pressure this will cause (see Ivan's answer: https://coffee.stackexchange.com/a/489).

However, we usually compact the ground coffee a bit with a spoon by slightly tapping on the grounds while making sure that there is a flat surface. This tends to give a richer flavour if, for whatever reason, you do not fill the basket to the top. (E.g. if you want to prepare a smaller serving and you don't have a smaller pot.) This is not traditional tamping, but somewhat similar.

My hypothesis is that the reason for the improvement in flavor seems to be the longer extraction time: If the basket is only half full, I mostly tend to get underextracted, somewhat sour-ish coffee. Compacting the grounds a bit results in more resistance to the hot water and, thus, a longer contact time. (Not sure if that hypothesis is correct, but the result is easy to reproduce for me.)

  • Interesting! Do you have any hypothesis as to why it improves flavour? Is it something about the fashion steam goes through the grounds? Welcome to Coffee SE :-) Oct 26, 2015 at 13:07
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    @IvanKapitonov Thanks! Actually I have a hypothesis that sounds kind of logical to me, so I added that to the answer. :-)
    – anderas
    Oct 26, 2015 at 13:11
  • makes sense -- will try tomorrow! Oct 26, 2015 at 13:13
  • yeah, I guess it worked. I've got quite sour beans now though, so will keep experimenting. Oct 27, 2015 at 0:05

I tamp my moka pot, because it makes better coffee, in my experience. However it will depend on the specific coffee you are using and what flavour profile you like.

By adjusting the amount of coffee you use, the grind, the tamping tightness, and also stove temperature, you will change things like how slow the extraction is, and the temperature and pressure.

All these will have different effects on different types of coffee. The best combination will be whatever gets you the flavour profile you like best.

Actually, on the internet you will find this advice universally for moka pots, which all seems clearly wrong to me:

  • do not tamp
  • do not use espresso grind
  • those are not safe because the pressure will be too high, you will explode your pot
  • put hot water in your pot (not cold) or you will burn your coffee

For tamping, I followed what I learned from normal Italian family usage in Canada (not my family, but 3 friends' families who were from Italy) when I was a young adult in the 90's. All of them tamped with a spoon, and all of them used standard Lavazza ground coffee, which is an espresso grind, according to Lavazza.

From personal experience, I find I get the best results (for my taste and coffee blend) with my burr grinder set to its finest setting, and tamping firmly.

I have used several types of Moka pots in the 25 years since I learned about them, and I can confirm that my Moka pots have never exploded, even after a decade or more of use. Actually, the pressure valve never needs to release pressure in a moka pot, normally. It must just be there for emergencies, like if a child in your household innocently plugs the stem of your moka pot with something!

And the "using cold water causes a burned coffee taste" advice (repeated over and over in online articles) just doesn't make any sense. (Sorry, that has to be pure internet echo-chamber nonsense.) It is much harder to handle a pot full of very hot water, so I use cold unless I am in a real hurry. My old friend (from an Italian family) used to leave the pot on the stovetop for a really long time when the coffee finished, and that definitely tasted burned - water temperature was not the cause.

  • I think the confusion comes from the espresso grind and using Lavazza ground coffee as well as the word tamp. Seeing that tamped espresso grounds need at least 8 bar of pressure to get some liquid through, I don't think those tamped grounds are really espresso grinds. For comparison, moka pot safety valves should kick in at or below two bar of pressure. When people advice not to tamp, I think they have more forceful tamp in mind also, the way you'd see with a real espresso puck and a tamper. What you're describing sounds more like compressing or compacting which does indeed make sense.
    – JJJ
    Feb 21 at 11:52

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