Most coffee lovers want to branch out beyond the standard drip coffee maker at some point. Moka Pot and Chemex coffee makers are a great next step if you want to try a low-technology approach with a beautiful design.
If you have to pick one, how do you compare Moka Pot vs. Chemex?
What is a Moka Pot?
A Moka Pot is sometimes referred to as a stovetop espresso maker. Although it doesn’t reach the pressure of an espresso machine, it produces concentrated coffee similar to espresso. It typically doesn’t have crema, although some Moka Pot pros have developed techniques to make a small amount happen.
Moka Pot has two metal chambers that screw together in the middle. You begin with water in the bottom chamber, and coffee grinds in a metal filter basket that sits at the top of the bottom chamber. Then, you heat the Moka Pot on a stove burner. As the water boils, the steam pushes water up through the grounds, sending brewed coffee into the top chamber.
What is Chemex?
Chemex is a pour-over coffee maker known for its elegant hourglass shape that resembles an Erlenmeyer flask. You might think it’s complicated because it looks like a chemist would use it in their lab, but it is not that difficult.
Put ground coffee into the filter nested at the top half of the brewer. Then, when you pour hot water, the coffee drips into the bottom half of the vessel.
Moka Pot vs. Chemex: which should you choose?
One big thing that Moka Pot and Chemex coffee makers have in common is that neither requires electricity, although you’ll have to have an external heat source for boiling water. You might be comparing Moka Pot vs. Chemex if you are trying to find coffee gear for your next camping trip.
A Moka Pot is more durable than Chemex as it is made of metal. Its small size also makes it more portable. You can take a Moka Pot with you in your backpack or suitcase. A Chemex, made of glass, is more fragile and less portable. However, it can brew a larger batch of coffee in one go.
You don’t have to explore the great outdoors to get the benefits of these coffee makers, though. Both Moka Pot and Chemex brewers are popular for their attractive design, and you’ll enjoy having an inexpensive piece of Modern art on your kitchen counter or table at home. As a bonus, it will make coffee too!
Ease of use
As you ponder the Moka Pot vs. Chemex question, you need to be realistic about how much effort you are ready to put into making the perfect cup of coffee. So which one of those coffee brewing gadgets is less fiddly?
A Moka Pot is easy enough once you get the hang of it, but there can be trouble while you still learn to use it. Especially on smaller models, it can be hard to get the coffee grounds into the filter basket without spilling them.
You have to be careful not to put too much water in, as it can lead to the Moka Pot leaking.
Keep an eye (or rather an ear) on when your coffee pot stops making gurgling sounds meaning your coffee is brewed. Leaving it heating on the stove for an extended period will make your coffee taste burnt.
It’s easy to fill a Chemex with ground coffee because you are working with a large, open cone — not a tiny filter basket. You have plenty of room to move comfortably.
Once you’ve heated water in a kettle (Chemex fans prefer a gooseneck kettle), you pour just a little bit in to wet the grounds and let them bloom for about 30 seconds. Then, you pour more water in, working slowly in a circular motion.
There’s less potential to make a mess with a Chemex as coffee drips directly into the carafe. Chemex usually has a wooden or rubberized neck that makes serving and pouring coffee easy.
Chemex wins for ease of use because less can go wrong. The design is simple enough that even an off-brand manufacturer cutting corners couldn’t mess it up too badly, and that’s one of the big advantages.
Moka Pot and Chemex brewing methods take longer than the standard drip coffee maker. How do they stack up against each other in terms of brewing time?
When brewing with a Moka Pot, some people prefer to preheat the water in a kettle so that the coffee doesn’t burn while the water heats inside the Moka coffee maker. Regardless of where the water is heated, the process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
The best coffee for a Moka Pot is medium-fine grind size. While freshly grinding your coffee beans will improve the results with any brewing method, a Moka Pot will behave well enough with standard pre-ground coffee if you don’t want to grind the beans yourself.
Heating the water for brewing coffee with Chemex takes a while — you want a temperature little less than boiling, about 200 °F (94 °C). Wait 30 seconds after pouring a little hot water onto the grounds. Then, slowly pour the rest of the water and wait for the coffee to brew.
Chemex extraction time is typically 3.5–4.5 minutes, but all the little things you must do before that point add up to create a longer preparation time.
Moka Pot wins for the fastest brewing time, as some steps can be skipped if you are in a hurry.
Will you drink coffee alone, or do you usually enjoy coffee with family or friends? This is a key question as you consider different coffee makers.
Moka Pot coffee is not technically espresso, as the stovetop espresso maker does not reach the 9 bars of pressure necessary to pull true espresso. However, it makes strong concentrated coffee.
A standard coffee pot is sized based on five-ounce coffee cups. However, Moka Pot sizes are based on two-ounce cups, like espresso. Even a large size, a 12-cup model, will only get you 24 ounces (710 ml) of coffee.
The smallest Chemex size starts at 3 cups or 1 pint (470 ml). The sizes go up to 13 cups, or 65 ounces (1920 ml). While even the smallest size might be too big for a single person’s morning cup of coffee, Chemex beats Moka Pot for making coffee for a group of people.
Chemex is the winner, as it can brew a big batch in one go. However, a Moka Pot may work if you want only a couple of shots of strong coffee.
If you want Moka Pot’s full-bodied flavor with Chemex’s large quantity, you might be better off getting a percolator, as that would best combine the features you seek.
Chemex requires a paper filter, while a Moka Pot does not, making a huge difference in the coffee body and flavor. Do you like a cup of joe that’s more bitter and intense? Or do you prefer a clean cup of coffee with a gentler experience? Having an idea of your tastes in this regard will be crucial.
A Moka Pot works without a filter. This may be a concern if you have a problem with cholesterol, as the coffee oils in unfiltered coffee can exacerbate cholesterol problems. French press coffee has the same problem.
However, some may prefer Moka Pot coffee’s oily taste and earthy tones. It’s similar to the French press but less gritty — even smooth! There can still be some sediment in the resulting full-bodied cup, though.
Moka Pot coffee feels thicker than regular coffee and has higher caffeine content. The flavor also tends toward bitterness. When you brew, it gets more bitter if you don’t take it off the stovetop quickly enough.
The thick filter used with a Chemex removes the coffee oils. Coffee enthusiasts describe the resulting coffee as tea-like. It has low bitterness and nice acidity and can even be sweet. As the coffee is not pressurized while brewing, its caffeine content is comparable to drip coffees.
Chemex, just like other pour-over devices, is an ideal brewing method for lighter roasts of coffee. It will bring out fruity notes and extra flavors from the beans that tend to get lost while preparing coffee using using methods, such as Moka Pot or espresso. Regardless of roast level, Chemex will get you a cleaner cup of coffee than almost any other coffee brewing process.
The great benefits of Chemex include a more sophisticated flavor profile than many other brewing methods. However, the taste is always personal, so if you like intense coffee similar to espresso, Moka Pot is the one for you.
Cleaning your coffee maker is an often overlooked part of brewing coffee. As you consider new coffee gadgets, assess whether their cleaning requirements fit your routine.
Many Moka Pots are made of aluminum, which is sensitive to most cleaning products. The best way to clean an aluminum Moka Pot is to rinse it with water after use. It can be hand washed with mild dish soap if it needs more cleaning.
Some stainless steel Moka Pot models are dishwasher safe, although Bialetti recommends hand washing even their stainless steel models. Cleaning a stovetop coffee maker is pretty easy as long as you don’t do anything ill-advised, like put milk in a Moka Pot, which will only clog it.
The Chemex filter paper catches most of the oils and debris, so the easy part of cleaning Chemex coffee makers is simply removing the filter and composting or throwing it away.
After that, remove the wooden handle if your model has one. Then, you can either hand wash your Chemex with warm water and dish soap or put it in the dishwasher. If you hand wash it, a brush will clean the hourglass shape better than a sponge.
The Chemex wins for easy cleaning because it only needs quick rinsing and does not have many parts to disassemble. It is also dishwasher safe.
How much money can you invest in exploring new coffee brewing methods? While the sky may limit your curiosity, your finances could ultimately have a say in what you buy.
Moka Pots start around $20. If you buy a name-brand model or one that’s stainless steel instead of aluminum, you’ll possibly pay more than that.
Moka coffee makers do not require paper filters, so that’s one ongoing expense you won’t have. They are also pretty sturdy if handled as per instructions. Of course, some parts, such as rubber gaskets, can wear off. Bialetti, the Italy-based company that invented this device, sells replacement parts, but some off-brand manufacturers do not give such an option.
The original Chemex models cost around $40 for a 3-cup glass carafe, and similar replicas start around $20. A Chemex also has the ongoing expense of thick paper filters.
You may get more for your investment if you’re willing to pay a higher price first. That said, a container made of glass is extremely fragile by definition, despite the elegant design, so you’ll have to buy a whole new coffee maker if your Chemex breaks.
Moka Pot is generally a more budget-friendly option. There are a lot of brands to choose from (I reviewed the best Moka Pots in this article), and you don’t need to buy paper filters.
Of course, your personal preferences will determine the best coffee brewer for you. Moka Pot is the right choice if you like rich and strong coffee or want to make lattes at home. However, a Chemex would be an excellent option if you enjoy a light and clean cup of specialty coffee and appreciate flavor subtleties.
Looking for more coffee brewing options? Check out my Chemex vs. French Press comparison to make a better decision!