Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ahhh Moka Pots

 In this dreary weather I think it would be a great time to share my love of the Moka Pot.

Living here on the Homestead has it's limitations. We are staying in a 24 foot travel trailer. We have a makeshift kitchen in an outbuilding but the only real hospitable space is the trailer.

With this in mind let me tell you that there is precious little room for luxuries like an espresso machine, but there is room for a Moka Pot!

I met my first Moka Pot in an Italian hardware store. I had no idea what I was looking at but the clerk finally got across to me, with his hand waving and gestures, that it was for making "cafe", coffee.
That week I saw them everywhere, in windows of houses, in shops, hanging from the door of a cooking store. I had no idea how they might work and I didn't speak Italian well enough to get a full explanation.

I would have bought one to bring home then, but they all seemed to be made of aluminum and I had quit cooking in aluminum years before. I also found later that the aluminum ones make terrible coffee. I find it's best to stay away from aluminum when it comes to cooking anything acid.

State-side I forgot about them until one fateful day I ran across a stainless steel Moka Pot in my favorite thrift store. I snatched it up and that action has sealed my long and happy relationship with my Moka Pot and a love for the genius who invented it.

Since so few people I meet have even seen, let alone used, a Moka Pot, I made this little video highlighting the crucial moments in the process. Cheers!


  1. Funny you write about Moka pots. I'm something of a coffee addict myself. It started with cafeteria coffee during my office life a few years ago, and continued with a French press and then an antique Chemex here at home.

    Anyway, I've been looking at Moka pots for some time, and finally bought a Brikka. A Brikka is a lot like a Moka, except that a weighted pressure valve delays brewing until a fair bit of pressure builds up, and then all the coffee arrives in one burst. It also emulsifies the coffee a bit, creating a foam something like the "crema" sought after by espresso addicts. I felt a little worried about the aluminum pot too, but in my reading I've seen that Italian-made Moka pots are almost all aluminum. They believe it spreads the heat more uniformly. The initial few brews are pretty bad, but after a few cycles the oils in the coffee coat the pot and prevent contact with the metal. Much like seasoned cast iron, this protection lasts as long as you never use soap or detergents on the metal. That's the theory anyway. I'm still getting the hang of my new pot, but there's a 137 page forum thread devoted to it CoffeeGeek.com, so somebody likes it. :)

    Great video by the way. Seems like you guys really enjoy your coffee routine too. I was wondering about the device you use for frothing milk. It looks like one of those stand-alone steam generators .. what model are you using, and how do you like it? I've been thinking about adding one to my collection for a sort of poor-man's espresso. A true espresso machine would be great, but it wouldn't really suite our minimalist cooking options (hot plate, wood stove, propane burner). Although, I guess I don't really have reason to complain ... our kitchen may be a wreck, but it is in the house. :)

  2. That looks interesting. Let me know how you like it. We find that a slightly courser than "espresso" grind works best in our pots. A light roast helps. We also push the limits on packing- tight produces a nice crema and too tight shoots the safety valve out.

    We do love our coffee time (2:30 pm give or take a minute or two). We have a nice little set up in the trailer but it is our "clean zone" so we make our coffee outside when it's nice or in the out building when we are working and pretty dirty. We have 2 propane camp stoves and a dorm fridge in there.
    The steamer in the video is not my favorite, it's too top heavy and wobbles on the burner. It makes coffee too but I have not bothered to get used to it since it makes 9 shots- too much most of the time for us (except maybe on a really tough day)
    My favorite steamer was missing that day but it looks like this http://coffeegeek.com/reviews/accessories/stovetopfrother . There are a few tricks to it, let me know if you get one and I'll tell you a few I have learned.
    I got them both at the thrift store. I think people give them as gifts and the recipients never learn how to use them and eventually give them to the Goodwill where they languish on the shelves because no one knows what they are.
    Sad for them- lucky for us!

  3. I looked through the reviews for the steamer you recommended on CoffeeGeek. Do you have any problem with rubber flavor in the milk? 2 of the 4 reviews mentioned that.

    The one you are using in the movie looks like a Bellman Stovetop Steamer. Those seem to get good reviews too, although they aren't listed on CoffeeGeek.

    I'll try your suggestion to use a lighter roast of bean. I've tried Espresso and French Roast so far, and the result is a little too rough. A decent grinder is pretty high on my list. I only have a blade grinder right now, so you get a mix of fine dust and gravel. The Chemex doesn't mind that, but this Moka pot isn't as forgiving.

  4. Well Lee, the steamer I like is similar to that one but it was used when I got it and I have not noticed any rubber taste problems. I would notice that. It is also not that exact one either, it is silver and I think a lot older. Maybe there are other types or it takes a while for the rubber taste to go away, or that particular one has cheap off-gassing gaskets...

    As far as the Bellman, It is highly regarded and it is the second one I have owned (the last one's gaskets died and I serendipitously found another one at the thrift store before I ordered new gaskets). The trouble with them is they do not like to stay put on gas burners. If you have a milk pitcher in one hand and are working the steamer with the other, it is not fun to have a slippery, top heavy, red hot unit on the move. The trouble begins when you have to apply a lot of torque to get the knob for the steamer to turn on and off, whereas the other steamer just has the little flip switch on top. It may sit still better on an electric stove- I have never tried it.

    As far as a coffee grinder goes I found I had the same problem with the blade grinders. I broke down and bought a grinder on Amazon. It is a conical grinder and gives a great consistent grind. It is a Capresso Infinity. We have it set at the second highest notch on the "fine" setting (it has 4 sets of grind types- course, medium, fine and extra fine. Each of those has four notches).
    The only downside to this grinder in my mind is that the cup that catches the ground coffee vibrates out while grinding. We just stand there and hold our thumb on it.
    When we were between grinders we used the grinder at the store and kept the coffee in the freezer- I know some say not to do that - but I did not notice a dramatic loss of flavor and if anything it increased the amount of crema I got out of it.
    I like a full city roast the best. Find a micro roaster in your area. If you have to do the grocery store coffee, look at the beans in the bulk bins. Pick one that is chocolate brown and dry looking. If it is dark and oily skip it.

    I have actually been researching roasting my own beans. I've got some green beans that I have tried roasting one batch of, but it was a mixed success. I roasted them on the BBQ and the light was bad so I under roasted them. The brew still tasted good but was a little flat. I am told it takes a lot of practice but that the best way to tell if they are roasted properly is by smell. I'm not sure it is worth it with all the excellent micro-roasters around, but I do enjoy the science of it.

  5. Hey, thanks a lot for all the details. That will help a lot in finding a milk steamer. I've been interested in roasting too, but haven't spent any time researching it.


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