Happy National Espresso Day! While the “National” refers to the US (apparently Italy celebrates espresso in April), I say we make it International Espresso Day — and I’m going to help you celebrate by finally doing the post I know some of you have been waiting to see at Bleeding Espresso:
How to Brew Coffee in a Stovetop Moka Pot
First things first. The word “espresso” refers to the way coffee is brewed not to the coffee itself. Espresso is brewed by water that is forced up threw finely ground coffee because of steam pressure; in America especially, “coffee” is generally made in a percolator or via the drip method. The latter actually ends up having a higher concentration of caffeine, while the former tends to be thicker and richer in flavor.
Put another way, espresso is always coffee, but coffee is not always espresso. That said, it is important that if you want to make espresso in a moka pot, you get finely ground (often called “espresso grind”) coffee as other types are too coarse.
Some people might argue that coffee made in a stovetop moka isn’t *really* espresso since it doesn’t tend to create the gorgeous layer of golden brown “crema” on top, but really since it is indeed brewed via pressure coming up from the bottom, it is.
It’s not going to taste exactly like what you get in a bar (remember in Italy, the place where you get coffee is called the “bar”), but quite simply, for many of us in Italy and elsewhere, making this type of coffee at home is just the most cost effective choice — we also find it quite delicious as well.
Where did the moka pot come from?
The moka pot was created by Bialetti and rose to popularity in Italy in the 1930s; the basic design has been copied ever since, and there are also different moka pot looks, so feel free to experiment. Moka pots also come in different cup sizes (ahem), so it’s not uncommon to see several different sizes of moka pots in an Italian house for use with different numbers of guests.
Now, finally, the easy peasy directions for how to brew coffee in a stovetop moka pot:
1. Fill the bottom with fresh, cold water up to the middle of the safety valve; as you can see in this photo, my moka has a line that marks that level in various places around the bottom, which makes it even easier to tell where to fill to.
2. Put the basket in the bottom, and spoon in the coffee. This part you can experiment with, depending on how strong you like your coffee. As you can see, we like ours pretty strong, but you can fill yours considerably less — the most important thing to remember is not to pack it down.
3. Screw the top onto the bottom creating a super-tight seal. I use a towel for extra traction to really get that last turn tight. Then put the pot on the stove on low heat.
4. The top part of the moka will begin to fill with coffee. When you start to hear the sputter and gurgle of the coffee, remove it from the heat. P.S. Don’t lift the lid as I did for the sake of photos. There is very hot coffee spurting out of there, and it doesn’t care what’s in its way.
5. Serve hot, with or without sugar, with or without steamed milk, just however you like it.
When cleaning the moka, I have been told to never use any kind of detergent on it at all, so I don’t (just hot water and my hands). I have seen recommendations online to use a mild detergent, but I’m going to stick with what the locals here tell me. I do, however, take a scouring pad to my moka pot now and again to keep it looking mildly shiny, but as you can see from the photos, mine isn’t exactly new.
Ah, and that’s another thing about using a moka pot — throw out at least the first batch of coffee made by it, possibly even two or three batches. The flavor is just going to keep getting better the more you use it, so if your pot starts experiencing problems (the coffee is leaking out the sides at the seal or the top part isn’t filling up with coffee), I’d say to change the rubber ring that creates the seal. The replacement ring costs 15 cents (here at least), and it’s well worth a try before you start over with a new moka pot IMHO.
How do you drink your espresso?