A couple months ago I decided to pick up a moka pot. The Bialleti 6-cup Moka Express was the model I purchased. The moka pot is colloquially known as a “Stovetop Espresso Maker.” This device does not actually make espresso; rather it makes a small quantity of very concentrated coffee. If you go online and look for brewing instructions for the moka pot, you will see that everyone has their own method. Ever since I purchased mine I have tinkered with different methods until I found the process that produces what I deem to be the best tasting coffee.
But first a little background on the Moka Pot. The device was patented by Luigi De Ponti for Alfonso Bialleti in 1933. There are three basic parts: the bottom chamber which holds the water, the filter basket which holds the ground coffee, and the upper chamber which will hold the brewed coffee when the process is complete. Illy has produced an animated video with cutaway views that illustrate how the Moka Pot makes coffee. You can watch the video here.
After reading numerous tutorials, and testing out different processes, through trial and error I have come up with my method which consistently produces great quality coffee. The first step is to grind the beans, preferably freshly roasted. Having newly ground, fresh coffee will help maximize the quality of your brew. Use a grind size that is in between medium and fine (somewhere in between a drip coffee and espresso grind). This helps the coffee avoid becoming over or under extracted.
The next step is to fill the bottom chamber with water. There should be a pressure relief valve or a fill line, fill it up to the line or to the bottom of the valve. I use cool to room temperature water right out of the faucet (the water quality where I live is quite good, use filtered water if you have poor water quality). I have read that some people use preheated water because they say it helps prevent the coffee from being roasted or burnt by the moka pot. Contrasting the two methods, I noticed no burnt taste when I didn’t preheat the water. If you pour hot water into the chamber you might need an oven mitt or towel to screw the device together, which I find a bit cumbersome. With cool water you can use your bare hands.
After bottom chamber is filled with water, place the filter basket in the chamber and spoon your ground coffee into the basket. Fill it, but do not tamp or pack the coffee down. If the coffee is packed too densely it will clog. Just fill the basket and level it off.
Screw the upper chamber on, ensure that it is screwed on tightly and the threads are lined up properly. Place the moka pot on the burner, and set the flame such that it does not extend past the edge of the device. On my stove that is about medium heat. This level of heat will help provide the right level of extraction and prevent the handle from being damaged.
It should take about 5 minutes for the coffee to brew. Around the 5 minute mark coffee will begin to flow out of the center spout. When the coffee fills about half of the upper chamber, turn the heat to low (if you have the lid open, close it at this point as coffee can spray out from the spout) and then remove from heat when the brewing is complete. You will know it is finished by listening to it; there will be a bubbling or gurgling sound.
One last step before serving: give the coffee a light, quick stir. If you pour without stirring, you will notice a difference in each cup. The most noticeable different will be between the first and second cup. A light stir will allow your pot to have more uniformity with each serving. Since my pot is not all that large and most spoons do not fit that well, I use a chopstick or wooden skewer for stirring.
And that’s it, you’re all ready to enjoy some quality coffee!
Allow me to provide some notes on maintenance and cleaning. The moka pot is easy to clean and maintain. Allow the pot to cool down, empty the filter basket and rinse each component with water. Do not put the pot in the dishwasher, and do not used dish detergent or soap when cleaning. Just rinse with water. Oils from the coffee will adhere to your pot and help brew better tasting coffee. That being said, it is a good idea to wipe it down every couple of months. The oils can eventually become rancid, especially if you do not use the pot on regular basis. To wipe it down you can either use a wet towel or even just your fingers.
If you have a new moka pot, just keep in mind that it takes a few pots of coffee in order to break the device in, especially with the aluminum models. The metallic taste that is present will eventually fade away.
All in all, this is probably my favorite way to brew coffee at home. It is easy to do, produces great tasting, strong coffee; and is easy to clean and maintain. Coupling that with the low cost, I would recommend to anyone that loves coffee to purchase a moka pot.