Moka Pot Coffee
Avast me Hearties!!! So I’m currently on ship off the coast of Colombia, where better a place to try some great coffee? Supplies are limited here and normally I wouldn’t buy pre-ground coffee but needs must and I got my hands on some Juan Valdez.
I used my trusty stove-top moka pot to brew up a couple of espressos for me and my scurvy crew.
For those who haven’t used a stove espresso pot before follow the How To guide below. It doesn’t produce a crema like a real espresso machine would do because there just isn’t enough pressure to extract the full potential from the grounds. However, it is pretty good and better than using a French press which tends to over-brew fine coffee grounds.
Moka Pots are stovetop coffee makers, the most famous brand is Bialetti, named after Alfonso Bialetti himself who developed and patented the design in Italy in 1933. The design is now firmly an icon around Europe and even used extensively in Latin America. Moka Pots come in many sizes, from super tiny to very generous and this makes them flexible and appealing a range of coffee drinkers. Plenty of coffee drinkers own several in different sizes to accommodate varying amounts of people they brew for.
While traditional aluminium Moka Pots can only be used on gas stoves, in recent years there have been a large increase in stainless steel versions and others suitable for use on induction stoves.
Over the decades, many companies have taken the original design and added things like pressure valves and other small adjustments. These generally cause the coffee to brew at a higher pressure to ensure a faster brew and a better crema. Regardless of adjustment, they are all very heavily based on the original, a testament to the ingenuity of Luigi De Ponti back in 1933.
Credit it to: “Moka Animation” by Alborzagros – Own work. Licensed under CC.
How to use a Moka Pot
So first I start with my moka pot and fill the bottom half with water up to the little pressure release valve on the inside. This conveniently makes an ideal level marker.
Next I put in the coffee grounds basket and pour in a good amount of ground coffee, up to the top before tamping it down with a teaspoon so it’s well compacted.
The key to getting a good cup of coffee from this espresso pot is to pack the grounds tightly together. This is what you would use a tamper for(see my guide here) if you were using an espresso machine. The reason you need to tamp down the coffee is so that when the hot water forces its way through from below it doesn’t just find one place where there is a weakness and rush through just there. You want the water to evenly flow through the whole coffee pack to ensure that you extract the most flavour possible.
Once tamped down, screw the lid on firmly and place on a heat source, in my case here, as gas stove. You can get moka pots that work on induction and electric stoves too.
While the coffee is brewing you can warm the espresso cups by holding them over the steam coming out of the spout.
The espresso pot will be making some gurgling and bubbling noises, when they stop it usually means the coffee is ready. Be careful not to leave it on the stove too long as you will over-boil the coffee, or risk melting the handle off the pot and damaging the pressure seal.
When it’s finished bubbling away you should have a nice amount of hot coffee in the top half of the pot, pour it into your prepared espresso cups and enjoy before it goes cold.
Moka Pot Cleaning and Maintenance
Moka Pots are ridiculously easy to maintain and incredibly minimalist. To prevent coffee from picking up any metallic taste, the Moka Pot shouldn’t be washed out between brews if you’re using it every day or every other day. Only when you don’t use it for a long time should you give it a proper wash.
After many uses (as, in, potentially a year or more) the rubber seal /gasket may need replacing. This is done very rarely and the seals are extremely cheap and easy to buy in kitchenware shops all over Europe and even just bits-and-bobs shops. Because there is a wide range of sizes, if you’re not quite sure which size you need, it’s easiest to take either good measurements and a ruler to the shop or just take the old, worn seal and measure it up against the new ones.
New seals often come in packs of two or three, meaning this is an extremely rare purchase and still, they should cost less than a cup of coffee anyway.
Moka Pot sizes
Plenty of coffee drinkers have a range of coffee making tools to suit their mood and need. Personally about my fine vessel are two espresso machines, three Moka Pots, a French Press and a separate electric grinder. And me and the crew use those all almost daily.
Moka Pot sizes come in a wide range and are usually described by the amount of cups they make. A cup in this case means 50ml. Each brand has a different range of sizes but the most common are 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 cup Moka Pots. The one in the pictures above is a 3 cup size and makes 2 nice big espressos. See the Bialetti range here
Remember, Moka Pots only make espresso shots but these can then have hot water added to make Americanos or milk added to make a wider range of drinks.
What espresso cup is best?
Well, a lot is down to personal preference and many people agree that a thick ceramic cup is best as long as its pre-heated as this will keep the espresso hot for the longest length of time. I like cups that have a little nipple in the bottom, this helps collect any stray coffee grounds and stops you having a disappointing bitty last sip.
Espresso cups come in all sorts though, from little glass ones with curved metal handles to the absolute classics you find in Parisian coffee shops. Some are cup-shaped and curved, some are straight up. It’s personal preference all the way and to be honest, it’s fun to shop for the perfect one for you.
A note to those forgetful seadogs out there…
When you’re distracted by mean clouds on the horizon or are still waking up from a rum-induced brain fog, it can be easy to forget to put water in the bottom section of the Moka Pot. Under no circumstances should you forget this. If you forget the water, put the coffee in the middle section and then put it on the stove, the Moka Pot will be eating only air, the coffee grounds will burn and you can very easily damaged the pot and the gasket. If you’re in a rum-fog, get yer salty wench to make it for you.
Fair winds! And good coffee!