Why I'm in love with my moka pot
I've had this for a couple of months, and it's just great
The moka pot has been nestled in the cupboards of every Italian's kitchen for almost a century, but only a couple of months ago did I get one for myself. I've spent a lot of time trying to get it right: this brewer makes bitter coffee if you don't watch it like a hawk, and there's no established recipe with recommended dosage (in grams).
In the process of finding my own way, I've fallen in love with this fantastic brewer. It's cheap, it looks great, and it can make some damn good coffee.
A bit of history
Unlike many popular brewers, this one has a long and interesting history. Alfonso Bialetti started his company 101 years ago, and made the first moka pot in 1933. At this time, Italy had a rich supply of bauxite, the ore that is used to create aluminium, and so Mussolini imposed an embargo on stainless steel. Aluminium became the metal that would build 20th century Italy – it was the metal of aeroplanes, electrolysis and the future.
It was due to this embargo, and due to the enthusiasm for aluminium that characterised this period, that Bialetti used aluminium for his new stove-top coffee brewer. This seemed fitting, since Bialetti's creation was revolutionary in its own way: it brought the espresso, usually only available on high pressure, industrial machines, into every Italian’s home.
Aesthetically, it was a thing to behold. Its beautiful, angular, hour-glass shape was typical of the Art Deco style, and was modelled on a silver coffee service that was popular in wealthy Italian homes at the time.
Almost a century on, it’s still impressing with its powerful coffee and glamorous aesthetics. The coffee it makes is full of the richness and acidity of a ‘proper’ espresso, and the extraction method is so much more satisfying than using any modern gadget. The unique shape is still captivating: I loved this thing before I’d even tried the coffee.
I bought my Bialetti 3 cup Moka express quite recently. Actually, it was after I featured it in an Amazon deals roundup article a few months ago. They’re so commonly loved that I felt I ought to have a go.
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I’d tried the coffee from stove-tops a few times. When cycling through Italy, we were made one most mornings by Airbnb hosts. Frankly, I found every single one disgusting. We’d be given a silty, grainy coffee that was so intense that it’d make me feel dizzy for most of the morning and leave a dry film in my mouth. I love strong coffee, but this was too much.
But I knew that this was probably due to the method; the coffee they were using was cheap Robusta, roasted super dark to mask the poor quality. To make things worse, it had been pre-ground and had probably endured a few months in a cupboard. It’d then be crammed into the basket and placed on the hob to be left unattended for far too long. The pots themselves were covered in old coffee residue – there’s a long-standing myth that if you let residue build up in your moka pot it ‘adds’ to the flavour of your coffee… Personally I don’t like adding burnt, old coffee flavour to my cup.
Back in London, I was determined to master this brewer. I wanted to make some genuinely tasty coffee in it. I tried the Bialetti with freshly ground, light roast, specialty coffee. I played with grind size and weighed quantities for future reference. I experimented with water-in temperature and brew speed.
And I’ve become a big fan. When done carefully, you can get something that’s pretty much a longer, weaker espresso. The moka pot gives that intense balance between sourness and sweetness that makes a fantastic espresso. It’s a little more watery than the real thing, but in many ways it’s nice having a little more to drink. When used right, there are no grains of coffee in the final result, and there’s no overpowering bitterness. It’s great.
Like all the best brewers, the process of making coffee is almost as pleasurable as the drink itself. It’s fun screwing it all together and watching patiently as it bubbles away on the stove. It feels like you’re camping or living in the olden days. Then, when it’s done, you rush it off the heat and cool it in a water bath. Controlling this piece of equipment requires some ingenuity, but it’s so satisfying to feel like you’re on top of things.
I’ve been drinking it as little espresso-like coffees, and as the weather has improved, I’ve been adding it to some ice and oat milk for a lovely iced latte. This little gadget has got me wondering if I’ll ever visit coffee shops again once this whole debacle has passed us by.