Traditionally the generally accepted method for cleaning a stovetop espresso maker is as simple as rinsing the pot out with warm water right after brewing.
Over time small amounts of residual coffee oils will buildup on the aluminum walls of the pot thereby sealing it. This leaves you with a perfect tasting cup every time free from metallic flavors.
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The oils hinder metallic tastes from ever getting into your coffee and the routine use of the pot ensures the buildup of coffee oil is sanitary.
Now, having said that, I understand that periodically these pots get an excessive amount of buildup in them and if you only use your moka pot every now and then then it may be worth while doing a little hand cleaning with a special pad between uses.
When used frequently the oil that seals the aluminum stays fresh and is churned with new oils but if you haven’t used your moka pot in a long time then the oils simply go bad just like any other oil in your kitchen cabinet.
You’ll have to scour the pot clean and then reseal it with a pot or two of throw away coffee.
Most stovetop espresso pots are made from aluminum. Bialetti makes the best selling Moka Express which is made from aluminum.
In fact if you want a stainless steel moka pot you have to look for them specifically – they are not the norm. See this page for some hand selected stainless steel moka pots if you are in the market.
Aluminum is not dishwasher safe and you won’t want to scrub it with abrasive pads either which is why you should only use super fine steel wool or soft scrub pads.
You can get away with more when using stainless steel but even still the best practice is to hand wash only with a cloth – or even the tip of your finger unless your pot is truly disgusting!
If you haven’t ever used your aluminum espresso pot before then the first few uses some of the aluminum will leech out into acidic coffee causing a metallic taste.
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You might wonder then why they are made from aluminum anyway!
Aluminum conducts heat better, faster, and more evenly than steel so it’s better for making stovetop espresso… you just have to seal the aluminum pores so that your coffee tastes like coffee and not a metal pot.
To do that you never wash the oils off after you make coffee. Just rinse the pot off under cold water and then pat dry with a clean cloth. The water will rinse away the coffee residue but leave behind the oil to slowly seal the metal.
Don’t use soap either! The soap will help slightly with cleaning but will also remove more of the oil that seals the pot!
The only thing that I would take some soap to is the rubber gasket on the inside of the pot. It’s the only part of the device that doesn’t need oil to seal it. Every now and then just peel it off and give it a good washing in the dishwasher, or in a soapy sink basin.
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You can use this time to inspect it for damage and reorder replacement gaskets if it is getting too beat up.
I’ve found that when I go for a while without using my espresso pot I like to clean it a little by just rubbing my thumb across it while rinsing it under warm water. This eliminates most of the excess residue that may have been going rancid without stripping it completely. I then sometimes brew an extra pot of moka after the light hand scrubbing for the purpose of throwing it away.
The scrubbing gets rid of the bulk of older oils and the throwaway pot help replace the old oils with new fresh oil. By washing it this way I ensure that I get the perfect taste I’m looking while removing the worst offending grime.
Of course at times your trusty Bialetti may need a complete overhaul. That’s when it makes sense to scrub it down under soapy water and then rough it up with steel wool to get down to clean, unsealed aluminum. Once you get to this point you can then run a pot or two of throwaway coffee to reseal it and essentially start fresh.
This is necessary only every now and then and only if you’ve neglected the pot. If it has corroded due to acidic coffee sitting in it or for some other reason or maybe you forgot to empty the pot and the grind in the filter basket started to mold! Yeah, it happens to the best of us sometimes.
As is always the case the preceding only applies to the upper and lower chambers of a moka pot including the filter basket. The gasket however should be cleaned well each time and with both soap and water. The gasket can easily pickup little bits of coffee grind and if not cleaned off the grind can “burn” into place and degrade the rubber faster than heat alone. If you go a few days between use these little bits of left behind coffee stay wet and can even develop mold or other rancid goodies.
If the gasket starts going bad so too does the quality of the moka coffee it makes.
The gasket produces a seal between the upper and lower chambers and if it’s not a perfect seal then pressure is lost resulting in leftover (unused) water and a brew that was created with below standard pressure. In short, the coffee just won’t come out right and you may end up getting little bits of grime in your moka from last week! Not good.
I always remove the gasket after each use and rinse it down well ensuring nothing is left on it for the next pot. Once every few uses I’ll even wash this rubber part down with soapy water. While doing this I give myself a perfect opportunity to rinse the upper filter screen which doesn’t get touched or cleaned as often–although I do not ever use soap on this screen either. The screen can’t be clogged very easily and this periodic rinsing ensures that never happens.
All metal parts should be regularly rinsed but not scrubbed with abrasive brushes or soaps.
Cleaning the moka pot is not hard. It is mostly as simple as disassembling the pot after each use and rinsing everything independently of each other. To this day I’ve never had to use soap on mine and it’s not recommended either… although you could use soap on your moka pot it if you wanted. If you choose to just expect it to negatively affect the taste of the pot for a few uses each time you do so.