Product Type: Moka Cafetiere
Newest Review: ... has 3 sections, the bottom bit you fill with water to the line, then add the funnel and filter which you then heap with ground fresh coff... more
A gurgle in the morning gets you going
Bialetti Moka Express 3
Member Name: razor_sharp
Bialetti Moka Express 3
Advantages: Simple, effective and inexpensive
Disadvantages: Messy if you're forgetful
It's the gurgle just before the hiss that tells me my morning espresso is about ready.
It's the kind of personal relationship with your morning blast of caffeine that you just don't get with a teaspoonful of instant - or even with an electric espresso machine.
My espresso comes out of a stove top espresso maker which is the cheapest and simplest way to make the perfect cup of coffee. I started using one when I lived in Rome - no Italian home is without one - and although the espresso it makes is not as good as that made by the handsome 'barista' in your favourite Italian cafe (it's true, they are *always* handsome!) it's a pretty good substitute.
If you've not tried espresso then you've never really tried coffee - it's a short drink, no more than a couple of mouthfuls but perfectly bitter and with a long aftertaste that tells your whole body it's time to get up and go. Let me also say that, although espresso is supposed to extract more caffeine from the coffee than other forms of preparation, I find that it never makes me twitchy. Whereas if I drink a couple of mugs of filtered coffee, I get quite jumpy. Don't know why, that's just the way it is for me.
These espresso makers consist of four parts: the base that holds the water, a funnel shaped container for the coffee, a filter and the distinctively shaped top into which the coffee filters.
So how does it work?
You put water (cold or, for speed, just boiled from the kettle) into the base. A funnel shaped container for the coffee fits into it. Into this, you put the special roast espresso coffee. It should be filled to the top and 'tamped' down so that it's closely packed (if you don't the resulting coffee will be weak and thin). The upper unit then screws on tightly (if it's loose then the intense pressure created in the lower container will force the coffee to leak).
When you put the coffee maker onto heat, the water in the lower container starts to boil. Because it is a sealed unit, pressure builds up thanks to the steam being created. Eventually the pressure is so great that the water is forced up through the coffee grounds, through a spout and into the upper container. The high pressure apparently can bring the temperature as high as 100 degrees and it is this that extracts the maximum flavour from the ground beans.
The typical gurgling, recognisable by any expresso aficionado, is the sound of the water being forced into the upper container. My preference is to take the espresso maker off the heat at that point because if the coffee boils at all, the taste is ruined. The residual heat will ensure that all the water is forced through. It's best to serve the coffee immediately because if you leave it sitting in the espresso maker, I think it takes on a metallic taste. Anyway, once you've made the coffee, the wonderful smell will mean you want to drink it at once.
There are a couple of things about espresso makers you forget at your peril. One is that you MUST keep the lid closed as the coffee starts coming through or face a massive clearing up job. The coffee is being forced through at such a high pressure that, if you don't keep the lid down, it will manage to spatter over the entire hob surface, the wall behind, the floor surrounding the oven and even the filter hood if you have one. How do I know? Let's just say I don't always remember to follow my own good advice.
The other problem is that, with a smaller espresso maker such as mine, if you're using it on a gas hob you'll need a stand because the circumference of the base is so small.
Oh, I nearly forgot. There is something else to remember. And that's to keep the handle well away from the heat. I'm not sure what it's made of but if it gets too hot it will start to melt and the smell is unbelievably dreadful. Enough to put you off espresso for a couple of weeks.
Cleaning the espresso maker is simple. Just unscrew everything, empty out the coffee grounds (excellent compost) and rinse it all in warm water. I try not to use detergent to avoid any unwanted tainting and then I leave it to air dry. Because of its size and ease of use, these little espresso makers are perfect for just one person. I use the 3 person one and it makes just the right amount to get me started in the morning.
So how does this espresso maker compare to the machines? If you have a bit of spare cash, spare room in your kitchen and there are several of you drinking espresso, then an electric machine is probably worth investing in. However, for an individual espresso lover on a budget this is an acceptable way of recreating a taste of Italy.
Summary: Imagine you're in Italy