You know what goes with a perfect morning? Yes, That’s right! A strong cup of really good coffee.
Now, as much as we love the flavor and just the overall experience of a cup of coffee brewed automatically using a machine, sometimes you just want to enjoy the manual labor of making your own cup. So, how do you make a strong cup of coffee without the use of an electric machine? One thing to use is a moka pot.
If you haven’t heard of Moka pots, you may have heard of stove top espresso makers. While the two terms do refer to the same device, Moka pots don’t really produce espresso. They just brew concentrated, strong coffee which is very close to espresso.
Moka pot brewing may require a little getting used to before you start brewing perfect cups and that is probably why they have built a bad reputation over time. However, there are some myths to be busted. Let’s start with…
What Really is a Moka pot?
Moka pots originated in Italy in the early 1900s with Luigi De Ponti patenting his new invention which was for Alfonso Bialetti. It is a device that is used to brew commercial-like espresso right at home. It became popular all over Italy pretty quickly and then spread beyond the borders.
How does it work?
Well, it’s not rocket science but it does have some ingenuity behind it.
it basically has three compartments: the top compartment to collect the brew, the filter basket right below it and the water chamber at the bottom. The metal body on these things are made to withstand high heat and consequent corrosion or rusting. The coffee basket or the filter basket is filled with a precisely fine ground coffee. The water in the base is then heated making the steam rise through the grounds and then reach the top compartment. What makes this so close to espresso other than this extreme coffee to water ratio, is that the water boiling in a mostly sealed compartment creates pressure. Sure, the pressure isn’t what is used in commercial espresso machines which is about 9 bar, but it is more than what you can produce with bare hands. The best Moka pots usually have a pressure of about 1-2 bar.
What this pressurized brewing does is, almost doubles the parts of coffee to that of water. While a normal cup of coffee is brewed at about 1:16 ratio of coffee to water, a Moka pot can bump it up to a 1:7. It produces a coffee strong enough to be very versatile. It can be used for many espresso based drinks like the Americano if diluted with more water or cappuccinos and lattes.
But this element of pressurized brewing is mainly what has caused the confusion around the items. As mentioned before, Moka pots don’t produce real espresso, it’s just concentrated coffee. But if you enjoy similar flavor at a much more affordable price, isn’t that what really matters?
Pros vs Cons of Moka Pots:
Although Moka pots have a pretty straightforward brewing technique, it does require some practice to brew a perfect cup. This learning curve throws some people off. But really, it’s not that hard!
The obvious pros include a simple mechanism, easy maintenance, durable, pocket friendly, easy to use, etc. The con being the learning curve. Being a bit careless might make a very bitter and unenjoyable brew.
You might also want to ask yourself if this is what you want before investing your time and money in this. Because, again, it does NOT produce real espresso. So if espresso is exactly what you want you should look for real espresso machines.
How To Choose The Right Moka Pot?
Although the Moka pot itself and its types are important considerations while buying, we will come to that later. Another very important consideration is the coffee you are using. This is not news that coffee is best at its freshest. Even the best beans start losing flavor after a week or two. And ground coffee even faster. So, to get the best out of your stove top espresso maker, you should always use freshly ground coffee.
Now the device itself…
#1 Aluminum or stainless steel
Both these metals are widely used for the body of stove top espresso makers as they are both very durable and can handle heat. However, aluminum is undoubtedly much susceptible to corrosion or oxidation. The aluminum ones will cost a lot lesser but will not be dishwasher safe and you will have to pat it completely and absolutely dry after washing to avoid oxidation. However, even with corrosive tendencies, it will last you one or two decades.
Stainless steel on the other hand are way more durable and will probably last a lifetime, not prone to corrosion, can be washed in a dishwasher. But they will also cost more. Even though stainless steel is dishwasher safe, it is not recommended, to extend the life of your Moka pot. So, while aluminum can cost a whole lot less and still last many years, stainless steel is really durable and much more easy to maintain.
#2 Cup size
It is very important to keep in mind that the filter basket has to be always full to the rim to brew properly. You can not use a bigger pot to make smaller amounts of coffee. So, the size you decide to buy should be really thought out. Common Moka pot sizes are 1 cup, 3 cup, 6 cup, 9/10 cup and 12cup. But you must remember that these cup measurements are not standard cups, they are the same as espresso shots.The 1 or 2 cup ones may be good enough for a single person’s use depending on their preference but a 6 cup pot is usually recommended for two servings so it is perfect for couples or just for sharing with a friend. The larger sizes may come in handy if you are serving a big family, or guests. So, before buying think about how may people one brew will be serving because having to repeat the process over and over can be really frustrating, but
having a bigger than necessary size will result in a lot of grounds an brew being wasted.
Do make sure to check if the model you are buying is compatible with your stove top. most Moka pots that will work for a gas stove may not work for an induction or electric stove as well. Choose one that will best suit your available facilities.
How To Use Your Stove Top Espresso Maker?
Using fresh ground coffee will always help enhance the flavor of your brew. The water used is also important, if the water tastes bad to you, the brew probably will too. Along with the right coffee and right water, keep a damp towel ready and cold.
The coffee needs to be finely ground but not fine enough to be clogging the pot somehow. Once you have the perfect ground, fill the filter basket with but don’t pack it. Make sure there is no ground is stuck between the joints, it may cause problems with the pressure forming inside. There is always a valve in the water chamber to release excess pressure if need be. You need to fill the water up to right below the valve. If the valve is submerged it will not work properly when need. Using boiling water for the bottom chamber rather than normal water is also good as it will avoid the risk of over extracting the coffee when the water is getting heated. Now you have to perform the fairly simple assembly. After putting it on the stove top, it will require about 5-10 mins to complete brewing. At first you might need some trial and errors to find the right temperature and brewing time. Once the brewing is done, wrap it in the cold damp towel to prevent over brewing due to internal heat.
And that’s it! Enjoy your coffee.
Best Moka Pots To Buy:
If you still need some help deciding, here are the best stove top espresso makers that we could find!
The Original Bialetti Moka Express:
This classic item possesses over 80 years of design and elegance. The special 8 sided design helps distribute the heat evenly producing a rich flavored coffee and enhance its aroma. This stove top espresso maker with an aluminum body has a patented safety valve and is very easy to disassemble and clean.
Bialetti Venus Espresso Coffee Maker
This is a more contemporary design by the same legendary company. It is a stainless steel alternative to the previous option and produces a much smoother brew. It also has a heat resistant handle for easier use.
Cuisinox Roma Stovetop Moka Espresso Maker
This option from a different manufacturer is a very versatile one. It has adjustable filter basket sizes and an induction base. It is also compatible with most cooking surfaces. Also, the sleek and fancy design is very eye-catching.
Wrapping the Towel…
The Moka pot or the stove top espresso maker is a real easy way for anyone with a caffeine affinity to have good quality coffee right at home. After a few practice runs, you will never fail to produce rich, strong and flavorful coffee, whether it is to treat yourself or to share a warm cup with a close one.