Making coffee with the Moka Express

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My small collection. The stainless steel one with a green handle was my father’s. It is over 20 years old. I bought the third one when I met Celia, 24 years ago.

In Italy a coffee is a caffè, we don’t really call it espresso even if the most popular home coffee maker is the Bialetti Moka Express. If you want a different kind of coffee, this is named in a “derivative” way: caffè macchiato, caffè Americano, caffè corretto and so on. Incidentally a cappuccino is not considered a caffè, as often described outside Italy, it is just a cappuccino. The machine, the Moka Express, is called “la Moka” or in some families “la macchinetta (del caffè)”.

My grandparents used to make their caffè with a “caffettiera napoletana” until the Moka Express appeared in the shops.

As a child I remember my nonna (grandmother) used one and never moved onto the Moka. I belong to the generation of the Moka and own a few of them in different sizes, made of aluminium or stainless steel. I am not planning to upgrade to the espresso capsule coffee makers because I like to make my own coffee.

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To make a good cup of coffee you need good ground espresso coffee to start with (even better if you can grind your own beans), an efficient Moka Express, good water and a few grains of wisdom.

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You need to open the Moka, separate the top, the bottom and the funnel, remove the old coffee, rinse with water making sure that all the old coffee grains are removed. To clean the gasket/washer use the handle of a teaspoon. Never, never use soap.

5Clean filter

Now fill the bottom with water up to the level of the valve, insert the funnel and fill it with ground coffee with a small spoon making sure that no coffee sits on the rim otherwise the Moka cannot be properly sealed. If grains of coffee land on the rim just remove them with a wet finger. You will end up with a small heap. Do not press the coffee down!

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Perfectly align the top and the bottom and slowly screw them together until tight but do not overdo it! If you have one put the little splash guard on the top of the spout where the coffee comes through, this stops any spitting.

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Place the kettle on the stove, on the smallest burner over the lowest flame. Italian hobs always have a little burner for the coffee, you might need to use a trivet. If you have an electric/induction stove use a low setting.

12On the Stove

After 5 to 10 minutes depending on your stove and the size of your Moka an intense aroma of coffee will pervade your kitchen and then the coffee starts to percolate, producing a very dark and creamy liquid with thin trickles of yellow froth. At this stage put the lid down if you don’t have the splash guard, as in the final stage hot coffee may spray over the edge.

13Coffee out

If you listen carefully you will notice that the tone of the gurgling changes . This signals the coffee is in the final stage and for me this is music to my ears.

The coffee is now ready, turn the stove off immediately otherwise your coffee will boil and be ruined. Remove the kettle from an electric stove, as the hotplate doesn’t cool down immediately.

14Coffee out5

Italian common wisdom says that when coffee is made at the end of the meal all the food smells from the kitchen vanish. This is true.

Pour the coffee in small cups. Add a coffee spoon of sugar if you like it (I do) or a dash of milk.

After the Moka has cooled down do not clean it but leave the spent grains there. That’s how your Moka gets proved, and the coffee gets better and better.

15Pouring coffee

16Sipping coffee

Now all that remains is to sip your caffè.