The Moka Pot
The moka pot is something of a poor man’s espresso maker. It is cheap, easy, and very good. It is definitely not going to compare to a $5 – $10k espresso machine, but considering how much cheaper the moka pot is, it is very good deal. If you like strong coffee and don’t want to shell out the dough for a real espresso machine, then this is what you are looking for. The next step up would be a Brikka, which I do not own, but hope to to get some time soon. I heard that the basic idea behind the moka pot actually started in France, but I am not sure of that, so for now, we can give credit to the Italians. Most specifically, Alfonso Bialetti who patented the moka pot(caffettiera in Italian) in 1933. Bialetti is still a brand name of moka pots, Brikkas, and other coffee related products.
Now for the brewing notes. I have gathered tips from various sources on how to get the best espresso out of a Moka Pot, then experimented with it on my own, and here is what gave me the best results:
The first step is to fill the bottom section with filtered water(bad tasting water will give you bad tasting coffee) to just below the pressure release valve. I have tried this starting with cool water, as well as boiling the water in a kettle first, then pouring it into the bottom section, and although some say that this will make the coffee taste less bitter, it made no difference for me, but did speed the process significantly. The down side to boiling first, is that you are double boiling the water which removes more oxygen which will negatively affect the taste of your coffee. Perhaps it is a taste trade-off, but the main up side would be that it speeds the process, so take your pick.
I tried an Italian roast coffee bean simply because the stovetop espresso seems old world Italian-ish to me, so it seemed appropriate. I really liked how it came out with these beans so I decided to stick with it.
As with any good cup of coffee, you have to start with whole beans, preferably roasted between 3 days to one week ago. The grind is also an area of mixed emotions. I was initially of the impression that you should use a fine grind because your goal is to get very strong coffee, but in comparison to an espresso machine, you are dealing with more temperature variation, and thus pressure variation, so the brewing may take longer than an espresso machine giving you an over extracted brew. I think it is safest to go a little more coarse than espresso, but nowhere near as coarse as you would with a french press.
I loaded the filter up with ground coffee to just above the edge and then rounded off the top with my finger and wiped away and ground from the rim. You load the filter to just above the rim so that the grounds will be tamped flat by the top section when it is screwed down. For this reason, do not tamp the grounds prior to this. It is also important to clean the grounds off of the edge, if the top section doesn’t screw down properly you may leak pressure and coffee which is all kinds of bad.
Now the hard part is over! Just set the moka pot on the stove at just below high heat. Since not all stove tops are the same you may need to adjust the temperature to what works best for you. You have to heat the water to boiling so that the pressure will force the water up through the grounds and into the top section, but if you overheat the water, then you will scorch your grounds and leave yourself with some bitter espresso. Once the espresso starts flowing into the top section, you don’t want to leave it on the burner for more than a few seconds. Once you hear a gurgle sound, it is time to take it off of the stove and serve immediately. If there is still water left in the lower section when you are done, that is fine. The point is to get a small amount of very good coffee. Then again, there are large moka pots that would leave you with a significant amount of strong coffee. In that case, it would be nice to share.
That’s it! Serve it while it’s hot, and enjoy it. I hope you have enjoyed this post, and I hope you enjoy your coffee even more. Let me know if you have some better tips for me, or any questions about the process that I didn’t cover.