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I was first introduced to this style of coffee maker when my mother bought me a cheap imitation from Thailand. It produced horrible burnt tasting coffee so got put into the back of the cupboard and forgotten about. A few years later I was showed how good the coffee from one of these can be by a friend and decided to invest in my own.
A little research on the internet showed that Bialetti was widely considered the best brand to buy. Bialetti have been making and selling these coffee makers since 1933 and have to date sold 330 million units so these guys know what they're talking about. There's plenty of imitations out there so if you're looking for a Bialetti keep an eye out for their logo and mascot, "l'omino con i baffi", "the mustachioed little man". A caricature of the son of this pots designer he holds his finger in the air as if ordering another espresso. The six cup modal costs around £20-25.
This coffee maker is very simple in design. It's got a lower and upper chamber with a basket for coffee in between. You put your cold tap water in the lower chamber, fill the basket with ground coffee, securely screw on the top. You then place the whole thing on the stove and the pressure from the steam trapped in the lower chamber forces the water up through the coffee into the top chamber, ready for drinking. It can be used on gas and electric stoves but is not suitable for induction hobs.
I will now talk about each of the criteria dooyoo ask me to rate the product on:
This is a very well made coffee maker. Yes, it's simple and doesn't have all the bells and whistles found on some espresso machines but that is the beauty of it. The main body is made of aluminium and there are good quality rubber seals. The downfall of many imitation coffee pots is in the quality of the seals. If they aren't secure enough then the steam pressure cannot built and and the coffee will end up burnt as it coughs and splutters through the machine. There are no such problems with the Bialetti and the coffee seeps through gently. Rubber degrades over time so the seals will inevitably become less effective. Spares are widely and cheaply available so new life can be brought to your pot as it gets old. The coffee basket can also be replaced.
Because it's so simple this pot is very reliable. It doesn't even need electricity so it's great for taking camping or on holiday. I personally have taken it climbing in the mountains of Snowdonia with me and still had great coffee. There aren't many espresso machines that can claim to do that! It takes a bit of practise getting the perfect brew every time but that's merely a quirk of this style of coffee maker.
Ease of use 4/5
This is a classic example of easy to learn, difficult to master. Making your first coffee in this couldn't be simpler, just fill the tank to the fill line, fill the basket with coffee, screw it together and heat it up. Making a consistently excellent brew every time is more fickle. Unlike a expensive counter top coffee machine there are not thermostats or electronic gismos to ensure everything is the same every time. It's down to the user to apply the right amount of heat for the right amount of time and to add the right amount of coffee. There's lots of advice on the internet about the "best" way to make coffee in one of these but it's all just practise. A bit of perseverance will pay off.
This isn't a fully featured coffee machine. If won't froth milk, make a perfect cappuccino or butter your toast. What it will do is make great coffee with minimal fuss. I've grudgingly given it 3 out of 5 for features. Grudgingly because I want to give it 5, not 3, but that wouldn't be completely fair. It does have every feature it needs to get the job done safely and well. It has a good quality pressure valve on the lower chamber to stop it exploding and is well made. What other features do you really need?
The beauty is again in the simplicity. This machine only has three parts so there are only three parts to clean. I tend to wipe it out with a wet cloth and rinse the basket under running water. It's best to avoid detergents as the flavour can run over into the coffee and removes the layer of oil that gets built up which can diminish the flavour. Cleaning is an easy job even if like me you're lazy and leave it dirty until you next want to use it. It can at times be a little fiddly to get into all the corners and you can't really get inside the spout of the basket to clean in there so only 4 out of 5, although perhaps it should be 4.5/5
As I said earlier this is a well made piece of kit and mine is looking good as new after several months of use. The only small fault I might mention is the knob on the top has come a little loose, although this is my own fault for using this knob to screw the lid on when it's hot. This is 30 second job to fix. Just a turn of a screwdriver and it's done so I'm going to keep the score at 5/5.
I own the 6 cup moka pot. This translates to about a mug full of espresso which is more than enough for most people. It will happily do you 2 good strength americanos (espresso and hot water) and maybe more if you prefer your coffee weak. You can buy smaller and larger models depending on your need. The 6 cup does my partner and I very well. If there were more coffee drinkers it may become impractical in this size.
So, to conclude we have ourselves an excellent little coffee machine. It's solidly built, withstanding being carried around mountains in a backpack and reliable. It also looks great, considered by many a fashionable accessory even if you don't like coffee! At around £20 this really is a bargain. It will last many years even if you abuse it. It's not idiot proof like some coffee machines but then for other espresso machines you could easily pay over £1000.
The only downside I would mention is that it takes a lot of ground coffee to fill the basket. If you were having several cups a day it could prove expensive in coffee beans. For occasional use this shouldn't be a problem. You also have no control over the quantity of coffee produced.
If you like coffee and have a bit of patience you really can't go too far wrong with a Bialetti Moka pot.