April 26, 2006

Moka Pot

by psu

In the wide landscape of available devices for turning ground coffee into an arguably drinkable liquid, the Moka Pot does not get its due. This strange device has the advantage of relative simplicity, and a long history of faithful service. I like them because they brew the coffee sort of inside out.

In the marketplace, the moka pot is trapped somewhere between the cheap plastic every day Mr. Coffee type machines and the high tech ultra-modern multi-hundred dollar espresso extractors that you can pick up at your local William and Sonoma store. I find its compromises to be perfect for my requirements. The coffee that it brews is stronger than the bitter thin product of a drip maker, but is not as potent as the thick, syrupy and often over-extracted shots that you get at your local coffee and takeout milkshake place.

I like to grind the coffee a bit finer than for drip, but not so fine as espresso, as I find that the device just can't push the water through in that case, and you end up with a mess. Mixed with hot milk, it makes for a perfect foamless "latte". Better yet, put the coffee in the fridge for a few hours and then mix it with cold milk on ice. When cold, the flavor of the coffee strengthens, and you get something much closer to the pure espresso experience.

I have had only two problems with moka pots.

1. The stainless ones just don't work for me. I could never find a grind for the coffee that didn't make either brown water or a hopeless thick goo that never really escapes the bottom of the pot.

2. I always end up burning the thing up on the stove.

My solution was to get a Bodum gadget that heats the water electrically on a dedicated stand, and is made of stainless steel and plastic which are both easier to clean than the aluminum. Yes it's overpriced, but in the long run it's cheaper than buying four regular pots a year.

So, if you want a decent simulation of espresso, and don't feel like putting out $400 on a stainless steel pump action double barreled nightmare machine, give up $20 on a Moka Pot. It'll get you close, and is much less fuss and worry.

Posted by psu at April 26, 2006 07:23 PM | Bookmark This

I've always felt an unaccountable affection for the moka pot. I think it makes a poor substitute for espresso (no crema, for one thing) and an equally poor substitute for regular coffee (too strong). What it does make well is kind of like Turkish coffee, but creates more mess. I've also destroyed the only moka pot I've ever owned (gas stove, compelling video game; you do the math).
Yet I can't stop ogling them when I go to the coffee paraphernalia store. Maybe it's the excitingly chunky shape, the simplicity of the design, or just some weird collectors urge, but I keep wanting to buy one, even though I know they inhabit a niche in my coffee ecosystem that does not need filling.

However, your post here has weakened my resolve. With summer coming up (and summer in Montreal is as extreme and crushing in its own way as our winters) maybe I should give in, buy a moka, and use it to make super-strong coffee for icing.

Posted by jeff at April 27, 2006 12:22 PM

A cheap $10 aluminum moka pot is my default method of personal morning coffee. It is my inner cranky eastern european peasant that just likes the idea of making coffee in somthing my grandfather used. One difference, there were no pressure release valves on the old models. Moka's used to have the nickname of "bombs". Although actually blowing up was rare.

As for burnin, I stick a digital temperture probe in the top. I can indulge my short attention span until the alarm goes off.

The all-in-one "cappuccino" Mukka Express looks interesting.

Worst idea.

Black and Decker made a microwavable moka pot. Completely useless. It was an expresso gyser. Great for steam cleaning the inside of your microwave.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at April 28, 2006 12:02 PM

you can always get a decent stainless steel one from ikea (comes in two sizes)....

Posted by GRY at May 10, 2006 02:14 PM

jeff: if you're looking for the right niche to fill, the moka pot is *indispensible* gear for the caffeine-addicted camper.

Posted by Benoit at May 10, 2006 04:40 PM

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