In Italy, coffee is more than a beverage, it’s an important part of every day life, a social phenomenon, a religious experience and one more reason Italy is suffering during this global pandemic.
However, when at home, the Italian way of brewing coffee begins with the iconic Moka Pot. Unless you are a tea drinker (I am not), I believe that during this time of “sheltering in place”, this is a perfect opportunity to share how to use this charming little pot. They are available in most home-good stores and online.
The Moka Pot was originally designed in Italy by Luigi de Ponti in 1933. Afterwards the model was patented by Alfonso Bialetti who then started mass producing it.
Look for the Bialetti logo, which is a caricature of Alfonso Bialetti himself, drawn up by Paul Campani in 1953.
The Moka Pot consists of three parts, the bottom part that holds the water, the filter-basket holding the coffee grounds and the collection chamber. The water from the bottom chamber, is heated on the stove-top. As the temperature rises, so does the pressure inside it. Eventually that very pressure sends the water upwards through the filter-basket into the collection chamber.
The Moka Pot, also known as the stove-top espresso pot, does not technically make espresso. Espresso is normally created by pushing water through coffee grounds under -9 bars of pressure, whereas, a Moka Pot will generally create no more than -1-2 bars, which is not enough to classify the extraction as espresso.
Fill the bottom half of your Moka Pot with water. Make sure the water level is right before the safety release valve. Most Moka Pots have a safety release valve (the part which looks like a nail), but if yours doesn’t, simply look out for a water level indicator. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to fill the pot with boiled water.
Fill the funnel-shaped filter basket with ground coffee of your choice. Slightly mounded is fine. Give it a shake so that the grounds settle evenly before placing the basket on the bottom pot.
Screw the top pot to the bottom, and place it over a stove. Turn the stove to a medium-high temperature, and remember to keep the lid closed.
After a few minutes, the pot should start ‘gurgling’ and you should smell the aroma of coffee. Leave it for about three minutes before you turn off the stove. Your espresso is ready to be served as is or with a bit of sugar (my mother always added more than a bit … ridiculously more). Or you can make cappuccino! The milk in Italy is richer than ours in the states and I use whole milk when making cappuccini (more than one). Warm the milk and then using a frother, froth until it triples in volume and becomes a creamy foam. Spoon/pour into your coffee and enjoy! Many years ago, while in Italy, a friend gave me her wonderful frother which unfortunately broke a few months ago. I replaced it with Zulay available on Amazon.
There is a running saying that a Moka Pot should only be washed in water, and others claim that it should never be washed at all, so that your coffee tastes better. Most makers of Italian coffee, tell us, however, that the latter is only a myth.