Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to make the real Italian coffee with a moka pot

I've fallen in love with Italy ages ago and have been there ages ago as well as already previously explored how Italians drink coffee and why there's not Starbucks in Italy. However, this time I wanted to explore more about moka express pots.

When it comes to coffee, there are hundreds of different machines and ways to brew at home, yet I still use a machine first introduced 80 years ago. I've seen this pot in real Italian houses, hence, I've purchased this myself as well as bought it as a gift to my coffee lovers friends.

It’s estimated that 9/10 of Italian households own this device and it’s also very popular throughout the rest of Europe and Latin America. The craftsmanship and design is simple, efficient and affordable. I’m talking about the Bialetti Moka Express.

The “Moka Pot” was invented by Luigi De Ponte for Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 and is recognized as the first coffee pot to bring coffee brewing into the home. Before then, huge pieces of industrial machinery were required to make a decent cup of coffee, and it was therefore reserved only for restaurants and coffee shops. Once introduced to the public, this eight sided stove-top aluminum pot quickly became an Italian icon that still sits in design museums and kitchens throughout the world. Bialetti Industrie continues to produce the same model under the name "Moka Express".

The Bialetti mascot with his index finger held up as if ordering another espresso. In Italian he is called l’omino con i baffi - "the mustachioed little man". The mascot is a caricature of Alfonso's son, Renato Bialetti.

Let’s discuss the design of the famous moka pot. There are basically five pieces that all fit together pretty easily. The base is the part that holds the water and comes in contact with your stove. There are two different schools of thought here. The directions instruct using cold filtered water to start the process, but many people believe using warm or even pre-heated water produces better tasting coffee. I usually start with warm water and turn the stove to medium-low heat.

The next piece is the funnel.

This is the compartment you fill with coffee and place into the base. You aren’t supposed to pack the grounds down as you would in a restaurant-style machine. Just fill up the basket without overflowing it. However my dear Italian friends said - the more, the better. However, these people love a real strong coffee, hence, the more the better.

Although this machine is considered an espresso maker and requires dark roasted fine (espresso) grind coffee beans, the final product you’ll be drinking is actually less concentrated than your typical restaurant style espresso. It lands somewhere in between that little frothy shot and a really dark roast coffeeshop brew. This taste and viscosity actually produce some of the best iced coffee you’ll ever have when you pour it over ice and a little bit of milk.

Once your water tank is full and your coffee funnel is inserted, you’ll screw on the actual coffee pot, which is the piece with a lid and handle. There is a screen filter and rubber gasket at the base of this piece, but it always remains intact so you don’t have to ever worry about it. Once you screw the pot on and lift the cap you’ll notice a stem or “tower” in there. Your coffee will begin to percolate when the water is boiled and the pressure forces it to pass through the coffee grains and filter and into the pot through this stem.

Avoid opening the lid of the pot until coffee is done brewing, because it has a tendency to spray out a little bit. Once your coffee is brewed and bubbling in the upper pot, turn off the stove and enjoy. Whether you want to shoot it straight, combine with milk, or pour over ice, the Moka Express will produce an easy and consistent cup of coffee for you every time.

Another small tip - obviously, this is a famous and well-known brand. However, you don't really need to by a Bialetti moka pot - these are being sold in pretty much every single shop in Italian, even in Chinese shops which moka pots........are the cheapest! You don't really need to pay more than 5 euros for a small one to make a real Italian coffee! :) Enjoy!

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