Spilling the Beans on Moka Pots
If you like a good cup of coffee, nay, if you love a good cup of coffee, then you would have delighted in the many joys of Italian coffee, like a cappuccino and a “caffe” or as we non-Italian folk call it, an espresso.
People who partake in coffee occasionally will probably have some kind of espresso machine at home, for entertaining purposes or for a decent cup of coffee every now and then. However, if you know your decaf from your full caf you’ll also know that to get a proper espresso, like the ones they make at restaurants and coffee bars, you will need one of those high-quality –high-priced-espresso-cum-UFO-machines they use.
Unfortunately, espresso machines for the home don’t produce the high pressure that needed to create a true caffe, even the more expensive ones.
So, what do you do? Move in with the local barista for your daily fix or spend hundreds of moola on an industrial machine? You could if you really wanted to or you could get your hands on a moka pot. While it still won’t taste exactly like the real thing, it’ll come pretty close to producing a good quality espresso, save you from a loveless marriage and a whole lot money.
More about a Moka
The moka pot was invented way back in 1933 by Luigi di Ponti and put into production by Alfonos Bialetti, a metal machinist. Soon every Italian home had one, or at least 90% of them, and, the little coffee pot became one of Italy’s most iconic designs.
Also known as a macchinetta, it is a relatively simple piece of equipment that uses steam pressure to force water through a strainer. Apparently, the design was inspired by an early version of a clothes-washing ‘machine’ that used a heat source to boil a container of soapy water, forcing the liquid to rise up out a tube. To date, more than 300 million have been sold.
Even though Italians have more than 150,000 coffee bars at their disposal approximately two-thirds of coffee is drunk at home, in the morning or after dinner, and almost nobody has an espresso machine in their house. Instead, the majority of homes have a moka pot; they are so popular that many of the Italian stoves are made with a smaller burner and grate, especially for their stovetop espresso.
I was given one as a gift a few years back, but because I had no idea what to do with it, it was soon used for my kids’ pretend tea parties, where I sipped on pretend coffee and they on tea.
That was until a coffee friend dropped by and saw my moka pot in the playroom, and not in the kitchen. When I explained the situation of my repurposed pot they took it upon themselves there and then to teach me the ways of the moka, for which I will be forever grateful.
The bottom line is that brewing coffee using the Moka pot makes for some of the best tasting DIY home-brewed coffee — far superior to the regular old drip machine and even the highly regarded French Press method. You can even do a pretty decent approximation of a real, barista-made espresso using a Moka pot.
What Is the Moka Pot and Why Does it Make Awesome Coffee
The moka pot is an affordable alternative to the more expensive coffee-producing products on the market, and while it doesn’t feature any of the hi-tech gadgets and gizmos, it makes a serious delicious tasting kick-in-the-pants cup of caffe.
Also called a stovetop espresso, there are three sections to the moka pot:
- The bottom section: this is where the water is held for boiling
- The middle section: this is where the coffee goes and where you’ll find a metal funnel, with a perforated disk set into it. This is the conduit or the coffee-duit
- The top section: this is where the coffee ends up
The ‘technology’ behind it is pretty simple. The pressure forces hot water through the coffee and the syrupy type liquid bubbles up into the top section through a funnel or chimney.
While some might consider the moka pot to be a rather crude contraption lacking the appeal of an Aeropress and the allure of a hi-tech espresso machine, purists know it delivers a good cup of coffee time and again. And if the criteria is based on ease of use, convenience and the taste, along with the price, the moka is more than enough.
For an affordable coffee maker, it offers several advantages:
- Quick and easy once the stove or heat is fired up
- Unlike your expensive varieties, your moka pot can go wherever you do. Even camping; as long as there is heat, coffee and water, there is a delicious cuppa joe.
How to Make Moka Coffee
Let’s get down to the business of making extremely good coffee. I want to say that with the right knowhow, you can certainly make good — even great — coffee using any coffee brewing method. But the Moka is one of the more simple, yet elegant coffee making solutions. And well, if it’s good enough for the coffee-loving Italians, home of the almighty espresso, it’s good enough for you and me!
The moka is simple to use if you take the time to read the instructions and actually follow them:Fill pot with cold water
Step 1: Fill pot with cold water
Step 2: Add coffee
Step 3: Fill but don’t press the coffee into the basket
Step 4: Tighten the top
Step 5: Place on heat
Step 6: Enjoy
What? That’s it?
You bet, it’s easy!
The Best Moka Pot to Buy
There’s a number of different machines you can buy. But, we recommend the classic Moka Express Bialetti
There are various makes available but there is one moka pot that tops most ‘best of’ lists, delivering coffee that has the taste somewhere in between a pour-over and an espresso.
The Moka Express Bialetti is very easy to use: it’s a case of putting the water and coffee into the correct chambers, placing it on the stovetop and watching it to make sure it doesn’t boil over. The hardest part is probably waiting the few minutes for it to brew.
While making Moka is easy, making outstanding Moka takes a bit more skill. But that’s why we are here. Follow these tips and you’ll be mastering the moka pot soon.
While making coffee using a moka pot is easy there are two things you can do to make sure you get the perfect cup every time.
Firstly if you boil the water before you put it in the moka pot you’re going to get a better tasting cup of pleasure. I tried it out myself, to see if the difference in water temperature did indeed change the taste, and it does.
If you use cold water the coffee spends more time getting hot, which affects the flavor considerably. The coffee tastes dusty, which is probably why some people refer to it as ‘The Cowboy Method’. I suggest you use your electric kettle to boil the water and make sure the stovetop is cranked up, otherwise, the coffee is going to sit in the pot anyway, while you wait for the element to get hot, which kind of defeats the purpose.
Secondly, to make sure your moka pot produces the best coffee it can, you need to remove the pot from the source of heat as soon as the thick syrupy part of the coffee flows down the outside of the chimney.
Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and you should see the rest of the liquid gush out. The moment you see the liquid start to flow pale you must remove it from the heat completely. If you don’t, that watery liquid is going to make the coffee taste bitter and burnt.
Caring for your moka pot
Your moka pot is like your BFF; low maintenance and only needing TLC every now and then. If however, you feel like you need a new one, a moka pot, not your BFF, they’re easy on the pocket.
They are available in different sizes, and homes that appreciate good coffee will have more than one moka pot. Usually, there is a four-cup for everyday use along with a one-cup pot and a 16-plus cup for family occasions and get-togethers.
The pot itself will last forever but you will eventually need to replace the filter disk, the runner ring and the funnel basket. Also, should you, like me, accidentally melt the plastic handle at some point, you’ll need to replace that too.
Depending on where you live, the replacement parts are easy to find and cost next to nothing. For others, like me, they’re a little more difficult to come by so I either order online en masse or when family members are travelling to Italy or Spain they bring a few spares back home.
How does the moka pot compare?
Opinions are like coffee machines – most people have one – and when real java lovers together there are always debates as to which method is the best to brew the perfect cuppa. I love my moka pots because when they’re not being used, they also double up as gorgeous display pieces in the kitchen. But I do know people who dumped theirs for an Aeropress, and I also know a few who have never gone the moka route because they’re forever loyal to their French Press.
vs the AeroPress
I can tell the story of the origin of the Aeropress 100 times. It was invented by Alan Adler, the brains behind the aerobie, a flying disc, almost like a frisbee, but better. A coffee aficionado himself, Adler was getting frustrated trying to make a single cup of java using a drip machine that didn’t taste watery and crappy.
With the steely determination of someone in pursuit of the holy cup of joe he spent time analysing the brewing process, and after a lot of testing, he developed the Aeropress. Inexpensive and convenient, the hand press brews what some consider to be the perfect cup of coffee in the ultimate conditions.
Why it’s so popular
It’s a given an Aeropress makes a delicious cup of coffee, but most converts give it the thumbs up because of the brewing time being so much quicker than a French press and a moka pot, and for a ‘simple’ piece of equipment most coffeesseurs agree it makes a much better espresso than home machines that cost thirty to forty times more.
If you haven’t used an Aeropress before (shame on you!) the best way to describe the coffee it makes is somewhere between a pour-over and a cafetière, or French press. It is smooth and light and a huge plus is you are able to control the strength of your caffe. While it doesn’t make the best cup of coffee it definitely comes pretty close and it scores points for being convenient and quick, and some of the best baristas around the world recommend it time and time again.
vs the French Press
Ah oui, the French Press, also called a coffee plunger or a cafetière, is a tried and trusted method of making a delicious cuppa in a short time while still extracting all the flavor from the coffee beans. What people particularly like is that it gives you complete control over the brew time as well as the strength of your coffee.
Why we love it
The French Press sits somewhere in the middle in that it’s not the fastest or slowest way of making a cup of coffee, it’s not the easiest but it’s also not the most difficult to use. And while it doesn’t make the best tasting coffee it’s certainly not the worst and if you’re after a few decent cups during the day, it’s an affordable option
The are a few makes and models available and they vary in price from the more expensive Bodum to the Espro and the IKEA Upphetta.
Our team mulled it over while sipping on the most delicious cups of coffee, made in our own moka pots, French Presses and AreoPresses, and we had to agree that deciding which is the better out of the three isn’t as easy as we thought. In terms of price the moka pot is definitely the most affordable of them all, but having said that the Aeropress and French Press are competitively priced too.
In fact, even if you bought all three of these, you would still spend less than if you bought a counter-top espresso machine. What we would suggest is you do just that – add all three to your coffee-making arsenal.
I still swear by my moka pot, and with more 300 million sold, it’s a firm favorite of many. Also, the French Press and Aeropress don’t have a global icon’s ashes buried inside of them.