Fed up with instant coffee? Don’t want to splurge on a coffee machine? Decided your plunger-style coffee doesn’t give you enough of a kick? Enter the stove-top espresso maker. Also known as a Moka Pot or Moka Express.
If you’re not entirely sure how it works, it’s basically a pot with separate chambers for coffee and water; a bottom heat source causes the coffee to brew up top.
In my local Southern Italian dialect, we call this pot ‘The Macchinetta,’ which translates as The Machine. Very Terminator style, I know. It’s kind of warranted, because we all know that coffee has the power to change lives, right?
It was a bloke named Alfonso Bialetti who invented the stove-top maker in 1933. I’d been happily using my Bialetti pot at home with no idea about the origin of the brand name until now.
Here are some tips to consider when brewing your coffee this way. Make sure your coffee pot has been properly cleaned - you don’t need to go nuts with a cleaning routine - but at least make sure there aren’t any left-over coffee grounds present. It can otherwise affect the flavour of the coffee.
If you allow the pot to get clogged over time due to lack of cleaning, it can also affect general operation. I know of someone whose pot exploded on the stove because of the pressure build-up—resulting in ceiling damage. This is rare. For this to happen, first you have to be super unlucky, second, it can be due to either clogging from coffee grounds, too much water, or a limescale build-up which has blocked the safety valve. We’re assuming that you don’t want to use your kitchen as a science lab, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what can happen when your pot isn’t properly maintained or used.
The coffee should be ground to a coarse level. If it’s too fine, you will have residue in your cup of coffee. (Not recommended.)
Use filtered water if you can, and don’t over-fill. Did you know the safety valve in the bottom chamber also acts as measuring cup? (It looks like a simple bolt on the side. Alas, it is not ornamental and has a use.) The amount of water you put in the chamber should reach this valve.
Don’t put too much coffee in the basket or too little. It should be just right. Sometimes, it’s a matter of trial and error. Definitely don’t tamp the coffee grounds too much as this will affect the pot’s ability to brew. You can lightly press down with a spoon if you wish—I personally don’t tamp.
Apparently, it’s best to have it on medium heat. Turn the heat right down as you hear the coffee beginning to brew--it sounds like it's gurgling. If you brew for longer than necessary, you will burn your coffee and it will taste beyond bitter. (Also not recommended.)
After using your pot for a while, if you see a white deposit on the inside, this is the aluminium naturally oxidising. You can try scrubbing your pot with warm water, baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice to help remove the stains.
Bonus house-keeping tip. Don’t put the left-over coffee grounds down your sink. It can really suck for your plumbing. Throw it in your compost, or add it to your garden. Or use as a biscuit base for your next dessert. Yes, that was a joke. And no, don’t re-use your coffee grounds for your next batch. Maybe for unwanted guests. Joking again!
If you’ve just bought a Moka pot (or planning to buy one) and you’re curious about which Sicilia Coffee blends to try, may we suggest our Espresso Di Lusso or Organic Crema. These blends appear to be fairly popular among the Moka pot lovers in our customer base.
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