Stovetop Espresso Brewing Tutorial

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This is a quick tutorial on the stovetop espresso maker. It is also known as a Moka Pot and is sold under the name Bialetti. A stovetop espresso machine isn't a true espresso machine, in that it can't produce an espresso extraction with the same level of pressure as a true espresso machine. From the Wikipedia:

Moka pots differ from espresso machines in that they brew under substantially lower pressure - 1.5 bars rather than 9 bars - and use hotter water - a mix of boiling water and steam at above 100°C (rather than 92°-96° of espresso machines), similar to early steam brewing machines.
Moka pots are widely agreed to produce inferior quality brewing to espresso machines, due to brewing at excess heat and insufficient pressure, but are considerably cheaper and more convenient than espresso machines, and the quality of brew is prized and preferred by many over unpressurized brewing.

Despite those limitations it does a pretty good job of making coffee, especially if you are adding frothed or warmed milk. Let's get started.

Step 1: Fill the bottom chamber with cold water. Stumptown Coffee advises pre-heating the water, so the coffee doesn't cook on the stove. That may be a good idea if you use the large 6-cup Bialetti, but I found with the 3 cup maker, it made no difference to the taste and was more of a hassle. Try both ways and do whatever works best for you.

add water
Fill the lower chamber of the Bialetti with water.

Step 2: Add ground coffee to the filter. There is some debate on how fine the grind should be. I use a grind that is finer than drip, but a little more coarse than an espresso grind. Do not pack the filter. Like regular espresso, I level the grinds with my finger and wipe off any loose grounds. Once the coffee is loaded into the filter, place in into the bottom chamber. or you could load the filter first and then add the ground coffee. Either way is fine.

add coffee grinds
Add ground coffee to filter.

Step 3: Twist the top and bottom chambers together until a tight seal is made. Failure to secure the two chambers fully could result in a failed brew and potential clean up mess.

Seal Espresso Maker
Seal the top and and bottom chambers together.

Step 4: Place the stovetop maker onto the stove and turn on the heat. A low flame is enough to do the job. You could also take it outdoors with you and use a campfire.

heat moka pot
Heat the Stovetop Espresso Maker

Step 5: When the coffee has completed the brew cycle and is in the top chamber, turn off the heat and serve the coffee. Below are some photos showing a brew cycle in progress. Ideally, you would want to keep the lid down during brewing.

Before Extraction
Before Extraction

During Extraction
During Extraction

After Extraction
After Extraction

Step 6: Allow your stovetop espresso maker time to cool before you break it down for cleaning. You don't want to burn yourself.

Bialetti 6800 Moka Express 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker
Bialetti 6800 Moka Express 6-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker (Amazon.com product page)

Resources

Cafe Cubano - Learn how to use the Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker to make this classic Cuban style coffee drink.

The Story of the Bialetti Moka Express - The interesting history of the stovetop espresso maker.

Wikipedia - References on stovetop espreso machine brewing temperature and atmospheres of pressure data.

Stumptown Coffee Moka Pot Guide - Stumptown advises pre-heating the water. Use this tutorial, if you'd like to try that method.

Published: June 2011, Last Modified: August 2011, Author Google+