Part of the morning routine in almost every Italian home is the ritual of preparing coffee and the Moka pot is front and center in this daily undertaking. This began when the revolutionary design was patented 85 years ago by Alfonso Bialetti. The distinctive and classic design is recognized around the world, but all is not well for the manufacturer. Bialetti has announced that the famous pot is just no longer able to compete with more modern at-home coffee makers, especially the popular coffee pod or capsule machines.
However, in a recent poll, 82% of Italians indicated that they still prefer using their Moka over other machines. Part of the issue is that the iconic coffee pot, when well maintained, will last forever, or at the very least, for several generations and most families already have at least one (and often two or three).
For those who like the idea of the Moka pot, but are not sure of how to use it, here is a guide to brewing the perfect coffee.
First, one should consider the water. If you live in an area with hard water, your coffee will improve considerably if you use filtered water. As far as the temperature of the water, there is total disagreement. Some insist that the water should be room temperature. Others insist that it should be hot, while still others scoff at the idea and believe completely in using only cold water. The jury is out on water temperature, but you cannot go wrong if you use water at room temperature.
For the water level, look inside the water chamber and you will see a little valve near the upper rim. This valve and whether the water should cover it or not, is something else that many Italians argue about. The fact is, the valve is used to vent steam, so if you cover it with water it will be blocked. Our suggestion is to fill your Moka just below the valve.
Regardless of whatever kind of pot you are using, it is important to use coffee that’s as freshly ground as possible. If you are serious about coffee, it is worth investing in a small grinder and buying coffee beans. Believe it or not, within 20 minutes after grinding, coffee will have already lost more than half of its aroma. With regard to the coffee blend, in Italy it varies depending on the area, but the most common is 30% Robusta and 70% Arabica. Baristas advise that is a good idea to experiment with 100% Arabica and single origin blends until you find something that you really love.
The oldest and possibly most controversial of coffee-related questions is: should you pile your ground coffee into a ‘mountain’ or not? Some insist that by mounding the coffee it will become compressed when it is screwed to the base, resulting in a more luxurious brew. Experts disagree entirely with this approach. Overfilling the coffee causes problems. When you screw the pot closed, excess powder gets into the edges and often results in deficient sealing. The coffee is poorly extracted and results in a bitter taste. The best ratio for coffee to water is 10:1 – that is, one ounce of ground coffee to 10 ounces of water. If you begin with that ratio you can vary it according to your individual taste.
The much-anticipated gurgling sound that the Moka pot emits is music to coffee-lovers’ ears, but is that when the coffee is at its best? Actually, once the noise begins the coffee is already losing its aroma. The best time to have your coffee is just before the gurgling begins. How can you determine when? Try to judge when the pot is about three-quarters full; you will be surprised at how much more aromatic your coffee will be.
Finally, when heating the Moka over a flame on the stove, do not turn the flame too high. A medium flame is ideal and once the coffee is ready, always remove it from the hot part of the stove. Most of all, enjoy your coffee in the Moka pot and if you don’t already have one, make sure to add it to your Christmas list.