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Craig Camp

The Pleasures of Moka

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While our well traveled espresso machine is once again on a ship back to Italy, our coffee at home comes from our well seasoned moka. While everyone likes to talk about espresso very little attention is given this simple machine which is used by most Italians at home. The truth is given care and with a little practice moka makes a wonderful coffee - all for about Euro 18.00.

What I have discovered is that for my morning coffee - I usually don't take a capuccino unless I am in a bar and never in hot weather - I tend to prefer the round rich taste of the moka coffee. It seems more of a beverage than the quick short short of espresso and it is much better to dunk your cookies in.

It is a shame the moka is marketed outside of Italy as a 'stovetop espresso maker' because it is not. Moka is its own style of coffee.

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I have several moka pots, including the kind that you flip. Do you see many of those around your parts?

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I have several moka pots, including the kind that you flip.  Do you see many of those around your parts?

You see them occasonally in the stores, but I have never used one or seen it in anyone's home.

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I has always understood that the flip coffee makers were a Southern Italian thing, no?

I used to have a Bialetti Brikka which I thought was pretty good. Some kind of special technology to get crema and a more espress-like cup of moka coffee. I ended up giving it to a friend once I got my Rancilio machine. When I'm in Italy, I tend to take all my coffee in bars.

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I bought one a few years ago after staying with a friend in Venice who used one every day. I use it occasionally, but not sure I know the best technique. Any tips?

Thanks!

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I has always understood that the flip coffee makers were a Southern Italian thing, no?

I used to have a Bialetti Brikka which I thought was pretty good.  Some kind of special technology to get crema and a more espress-like cup of moka coffee.  I ended up giving it to a friend once I got my Rancilio machine.  When I'm in Italy, I tend to take all my coffee in bars.

Indeed, I've always known them as a cafeteria Napolitana.

I have a Bialetti, but I prefer the all stainless models.

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I bought one a few years ago after staying with a friend in Venice who used one every day.  I use it occasionally, but not  sure I know the best technique.  Any tips?

Thanks!

Cold spring water filled to just below the pressure valve. I use Lavazza which is ground for moka, and do not overfill. Medium heat. Remove while it's still perculating. Stir. Serve. Oh yes, put a new rubber on periodically.

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I have several moka pots, including the kind that you flip.  Do you see many of those around your parts?

You see them occasonally in the stores, but I have never used one or seen it in anyone's home.

My Italian mother-in-law had at least 6 different moka pots. It was basically two pots - each in three sizes. (If you ever tried to make a smaller amount of moka than the pot was meant for you learned that you really do need all those different sizes.) She had the regular moka pot as well as the upside down pot. She preferred the upside down version, but there were many times when the pot was opened too soon and :wacko: ! I now have three "regular" moka pots which get a lot of use. I prefer "machine" espresso with nice crema, but this is easy and the coffee tastes good. :smile:

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I bought one a few years ago after staying with a friend in Venice who used one every day.  I use it occasionally, but not  sure I know the best technique.  Any tips?

Thanks!

One thing for sure you have to use it almost everyday to make good coffee.

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I bought one a few years ago after staying with a friend in Venice who used one every day.  I use it occasionally, but not  sure I know the best technique.  Any tips?

Thanks!

Cold spring water filled to just below the pressure valve. I use Lavazza which is ground for moka, and do not overfill. Medium heat. Remove while it's still perculating. Stir. Serve. Oh yes, put a new rubber on periodically.

The Zen of Moka. This and using it often and never washing with soap.

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When I'm in Italy, I tend to take all my coffee in bars.

Sorry our garden is too inviting in the morning to consider going to the bar although it is only a few minutes walk away.

Moka it is - in the morning anyway. After that it is off to the bar.

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reprinted from the Con Gusto newsletter with the permission of the author - me. For the full color look visit my website www.vinocibo.com

“I’d like a white chocolate skinny Mocha with an extra shot” you ask. Here in the USA that will get you huge chocolate flavored coffee for about four bucks. It Italy it will get you blank stares and a suggestion to go the kitchen utensil area of the local department store where you can buy the whole machine for about four Euro.

When you order caffé in Italy you mean espresso. No one except tourists drink cappuccino (coffee with milk) after 11 a.m., it is considered a breakfast drink. If you order caffé at a restaurant and they don’t have an espresso machine they will inform you that they only have mocha – don’t expect whipped cream and chocolate.

Be prepared for a major cultural confusion. Everything you think you know about Italian’s and coffee is wrong. The reality is:

• Mocha is not coffee with chocolate but a method of coffee making.

• Many Italians make mocha coffee at home - not espresso.

• Only the most expensive home machines are superior to the best mocha!

• That weird looking thing they sell as a ‘stove top espresso maker’ is in fact a mocha maker.

So it is true, you can make spectacular coffee that is far superior to most home espresso machines with a mocha maker. It fact in most Italian homes there is quite a competitive attitude when it comes to making mocha – each is sure that their technique is the best. What is this mocha? It is the machine you see sold all over the USA as a ‘stove top espresso maker’ which it is not. True espresso is only made in machines with enough pressure to shoot steam through very finely ground, darkly roasted coffee. For real espresso only steam is in contact with the coffee.

So mocha is a method of making coffee on the top of your stove that pushes very hot water rapidly through darkly roasted Italian style coffee in a semi-sealed environment. Mocha is the name of the maker used in this process. The coffee a mocha makes is very strong like espresso but doesn’t have the ‘crema’ or brown foam you see on the top of true espresso. I spent a lot of time and frustration trying to get coffee that looked like real espresso when I bought my first mocha maker here thinking it was indeed a ‘stovetop espresso maker’.

To make great espresso you need a machine that costs a lot of money and takes a lot of maintenance. As every Italian home has a coffee bar not so far away, it is easy to leave this type of coffee to the barrista (a bartender that serves more coffee than beer) who with their espresso machine costing about the same as a new car can make far better espresso than you can make at home.

The mocha is a three piece unit varying from very fancy designer models to the basic aluminum model you see in most Italian homes. It consists of three pieces:

• The base that holds the cold water before brewing.

• The filter which holds the ground coffee and has the tube that brings the hot water from the base to the top. This piece is placed into the base.

• The top which screws onto the top, securing the base and the top together so that when heat is applied to the base and the water boils, that the pressure forces the water rapidly up through the coffee and then arrives in the top of the machine ready for enjoyment.

Sounds and looks easy – right? Yes and no. The fact is for some magical reason a mocha will not produce really excellent coffee until you have used it for several weeks and then will regress into lousy coffee if you don’t use it regularly. – this is not just folklore and I have tasted the results myself.

To make great mocha you have to do the following things:

• Use it. This is the first and most important rule. To make great mocha you have to use it essentially everyday.

• The key is to pack the coffee correctly – this takes practice and trial and error as makers vary. The pack needs to be firm and full but not too much because the water won’t pass through.

• Don’t wash it with soap and don’t put it in the dishwasher – just rinse it out. Don’t leave the coffee grounds in it overnight.

• Use great coffee – true espresso grind is too fine for mocha , however most ‘espresso grinds’ are coarser here than they would be in Italy and so you can use the American version of espresso grind with your mocha maker. The Italian pre-ground espresso coffee sold in the United States by the giant Italian coffee producer Lavazza works well in a mocha maker and is relatively easy to find. The standard American ground coffee will only produce brown water in a mocha.

• Serve the coffee in small espresso cups as if made correctly, mocha is strong

• Stainless steel works more reliably than aluminum and is worth the extra investment

Maintenance and safety

• Only fill with water to the level of the safety valve

• The rubber seal will have to be replaced from time to time – check with your manufacturer and the retailer you purchase your mocha maker from to be sure that you can buy replacements

• Follow your manufactures instructions

• Clean the coffee grounds out of the gasket seal on a regular basis.

The mocha coffee maker can make an excellent and complex Italian style coffee for a very small investment. As always, to make great coffee requires excellent coffee, clean, fresh water and attention to technique.

It’s nice to know that you don’t have to give up your new car to have a great coffee at home.

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Thanks, this is helpful. The "stove-top espresso" designation really led me astray, as what I produce is nothing like espresso, of course.

Still a few questions, though. Should the coffee be tamped down firmly, or just a light pat? I assume the filter must be filled to the top - is there a standard coffee/water ratio, e.g. x tablespoons coffee to y ounces water? I usually use the Illy espresso grind, sometimes Lavazza espresso grind. Are these too fine, or is there a better choice? I grind my own for American-style drip-brewed but was not sure if I could get the right grind for the moka pot.

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Is this the same unit sold as campfire espresso makers in the US? I've been using these (first an Italian import and now, from REI) for years. It works (though my brother did thoroughly clean mine once when visiting!) Mine requires a little cup for the brew to flow into rather than stored in the unit itself.

For morning brew, I do toss the resultant beverage into a cup of heated milk (be it dairy or not.) If I'm feeling lux is in order - I foam the white stuff with a milk foamer - mine is glass and you have to heat the product and then pump it up - but friends have a stainless stovetop version - heat and froth in one. Very cool (hot?)

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Thanks, this is helpful.  The "stove-top espresso" designation really led me astray, as what I produce is nothing like espresso, of course.

Still a few questions, though.  Should the coffee be tamped down firmly, or just  a light pat?  I assume the filter must be filled to the top - is there a standard coffee/water ratio, e.g. x tablespoons coffee to y ounces water?  I usually use the Illy espresso grind, sometimes Lavazza espresso grind.  Are these too fine, or is there a better choice?  I grind my own for American-style drip-brewed but was not sure if I could get the right grind for the moka pot.

No you do not tamp town the coffee in a moka. The filter should be full of coffee but not packed otherwise the water cannot pass through correctly. I don't pat it down at all.

The moka measures all for you. Just fill with water up to the safety valve and fill the filter full - put not packed - with coffee.

Yes some espresso grinds are too fine for moka and block the passage of the water. The Illy and Lavazza espresso grinds you buy in the store in Italy work fine in a moka. If you have an espresso setting on your grinder it should work fine in your moka.

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Is this the same unit sold as campfire espresso makers in the US? I've been using these (first an Italian import and now, from REI) for years. It works (though my brother did thoroughly clean mine once when visiting!) Mine requires a little cup for the brew to flow into rather than stored in the unit itself.

For morning brew, I do toss the resultant beverage into a cup of heated milk (be it dairy or not.) If I'm feeling lux is in order - I foam the white stuff with a milk foamer - mine is glass and you have to heat the product and then pump it up - but friends have a stainless stovetop version - heat and froth in one. Very cool (hot?)

I think what you are referring to is not a moka but indeed is a stove top espresso maker. I have seen them but never used one - or actually met or seen anyone use one. You do see them in stores occasionally.

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The Zen of Moka. This and using it often and never washing with soap.

I have abused my moka pot! :shock: Not only did I wash it with soap, I got out the old SOS pad to make sure the inside of the pot would be sparkling clean!

When I told my husband what the proper care and cleaning of the pot was he remembered a dear great-aunt of his who made the best coffee in the family. She used the same pot for over 20 years and never used soap on it. She also made coffee for her family at least once a day. I will now cease and desist with the cleanliness routine and vow to use my pots more often. :smile:

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And this just in from my wife-when you are screwing the two halves of a moka together, make sure that (a) the threads are lined up properly, and (b) you screw the thing together more than one turn (but not too tight-only to the point where you would have to force it to make it any tighter). She violated both of these principles a year ago, and claims that she nearly lost her life as the top half whizzed by her ear. I was not there, so I cannot say for sure. However, I did have to repaint the kitchen walls!

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I think what you are referring to is not a moka but indeed is a stove top espresso maker.

Craig,

I have one of these and it's basically a moka without the top half. The water is forced thought the coffee by pressure (yet another example of PV=NRT, about the only thing I remember from chemistry), but the user supplies the receptacle. The idea was to save weight for the backpacker. I prefer the smaller size moka, though.

I have a couple of mokas I use periodically, mostly when camping. I like the coffee, too. But I think it's important to pack a little cup and a little spoon to really enjoy it.

Jim

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Ditto, Craig!

You're funny and informative as usual :smile:

A couple of things more:

-Apart from daily use, another critical point is the quality of water. Some tap waters make good moka coffee-others don't. If the water in your area is not good (you can suspect it if your coffee is still wretched even after 1 month of continuous use of your moka coffee maker) use mineral water.

-If your coffee doesn't come out properly and start boiling before having filled the upper part of your moka (which makes an awful coffee, of course) this can be due to several reasons:

1)You have filled too much the filter with coffee powder.

2)Your coffee powder is too fine (for example, it's espresso coffee)

3)It's time to change the rubber seal.

4)If you have already changed it, it's time to change the filter.

In any case, if you cannot replace your seal/filter at present, there is a trick. Remove your moka from heat, and cool down its bottom very quickly, putting it in cold water. Then put it on the heat again. This generally works.

-A "grandma" trick to get a sort of cream on your moka coffee. As soon as the first drops of coffee come out, pour them in your coffee cup, add a couple of tsp of sugar and stir vigorously with your spoon until creamy, then add very slowly the remaining coffee. When we were children, we were told that this was a way to get " a real espresso"...of course this is not true, but the result is anyway pretty nice :wink:

-Recently, Bialetti created a new moka coffee maker which is supposed to make an "espresso-like" coffee. We purchased it, seriously putting at risk our lives as it has a deplorable inclination to explode...so, we renamed it "The Boom-Boom Machine". If you survive, you'll get a coffee cup that looks just like an espresso cup. My hubby is very proud of that, and I daren't tell him that the coffee is practically undrinkable...

Pongi

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wow, boy have I screwed up my.. uh... mocha maker? caffettiera? what's the word for it? i've pretty much done everything wrong. heh.

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mrbigjas,

we generally call it "la Moka".

Caffettiera is a generic word, which can refer to any coffee maker (for example the caffettiera napoletana, which is something different) except for espresso machine, that's just "la macchina da espresso".

More, the word "caffettiera" is often used to indicate any kind of old, slow, coughing vehicle (car, boat or train). Since an old car is also called "un macinino" (a coffee grinder) could you explain to me why coffee and vehicles are so closely related in our italian minds?

This is the first time I notice it :laugh:

Pongi

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Okay, I'm sold! I've been eyeing Moka makers for years, and I think I'm going to march into Broadway Panhandler and buy one. Questions:

1. Okay, Stainless Steel is the way to go. Any particular maker? Anybody have an opinion of the right size for optimum coffee?

2. How do you feel about New York City tap water? I think it's better than most bottled water, and I filter it. What do you think?

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Bialetti is a very high quality brand, but there are many others. As you go up in price you start paying more for design than function - a moka after all is a very simple concept. Concerning size remember that you always have to make a full pot and need to use it often to make good coffee so don't get one too big - just big enough to handle your everyday needs. Then if you have guests you just make additional pots.

I would think filtered NYC water is fine, but I'll let the New Yorkers comment on that.

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