As you may be aware, I am a great fan of the Italian stove top coffee maker . It is simple to use, cheap and when used properly, will produce an espresso that easily matches any expensive machine.
Having just purchased a new (Amazon)) Bialetti Moka Express 6 cup, I thought I would write a quick guide to getting the best coffee experience with a stove top. The most important thing to remember when making coffee using one of these devices is that you only get out what you put in.
Get Some Decent Coffee!
Therefore buying some decent coffee is the most important task. The bean and type of roast is purely down to your taste and part of the joy is experimenting, but the more effort you put into sourcing a freshly roasted and ground coffee, the more you will get out flavour wise. Traditionally espressos use a dark roast so that would be a good place to start if you are unsure.
The main thing to remember is that you will need a “fine” or “espresso” ground coffee bean. The heated water only briefly passes over the coffee so anything too coarse wont allow sufficient flavour to escape. Also, you will not get any crema.
A purest will grind the bean right before using but I usually have the beans ground in store for simplicity’s sake. Ideally a ground bean should be used within 10 days once the packet is opened. This is regardless of how its stored as it just becomes stale and loses the vibrant taste we are seeking.
Coffee is best stored at room temperature and in a dark, airtight container.
Where To Find Real Coffee Beans
If you are struggling to find decent coffee beans to work with then I strongly suggest you join a reputable coffee club like Whittard of Chelsea.
Doing so will give you access to some of the finest coffees from around the world. Make sure when you join you choose the “Espresso” grind preference if you intend to use them in your stove top.
Otherwise, supermarkets often stock a wide range but they are mostly low quality pre-ground, so I tend to avoid them as I find the quality and flavour questionable at best. There will be a selection of whole beans on offer which, if you have a grinder will be preferable and the Illy bean is good, plus widely available. Although I think very expensive for what it is.
Although I hate to mention them, if you get really stuck, Starbucks sell a variety of roasted beans which they will grind in store for you. I do like their espresso roast and is reasonable at £3.99 which is also Fair Trade.
Once you have some decent, fine ground coffee, you are ready to go. Follow these simple steps to get a decent espresso on the go:
1) Removing the coffee holder, use either filtered or fresh cold water from the tap and fill the bottom part of the pot with water to just below the safety valve.
2) Replace the coffee holder into the base of the pot and fill with coffee using a spoon trying not to spill it everywhere. The smaller the pot the harder not to make a mess!
3) Once the coffee holder is full, gently level it off. Don’t overly fill or compress the coffee as the water will struggle to penetrate it properly. Note, depending on the bean and grind, a little pressure can be good and can help get the crema.
4) Now screw the top of the pot onto the base nice and tightly, also making sure there is no unwanted water in it from its last clean so give it a shake out first.
5) We are now ready to place the pot onto the stove or hob. They work fine on both gas and electric, although electric hobs tend to be slightly over-sized this is not really a problem. The main thing to remember is that we are gently heating the water to the point where it just starts to boil and gently passes through the coffee and up into the top part of the pot.
Turning Down the Heat
We do not want it so hot that the coffee starts to boil in the top part of the pot also. You may laugh but it is easy to do, especially with he smaller style coffee pots. Going through all the effort to buy amazing fresh coffee then boiling the life out of it is not the aim here. You may as well use Nescafe.
Getting the right heat to begin will help; you want it hot enough that you are not waiting too long for it to boil and not too hot that its so aggressive so that if you turn your back for a second starts boiling over everywhere.
If you have the water and coffee measurements right, there should not be much more to do other than wait. I currently have an electric hob so tend to turn the stove off when the water has nearly finished coming through as it stays hot for ages, but with gas I turn it right down once the coffee starts to appear in the top.
Depending on how you prefer, you can adjust the thickness of the espresso by altering the amount of coffee and water and also the amount of compression of the coffee grains. I like my espresso to be fairly thick and strong so I tend to add a little less water to the pot to make sure.
It’s worth noting that the smaller the pot, the quicker the espresso will cool down. I have a very small one hit pot that if left too long will be too cold when its poured into a coffee cup so either be quick or poor boiling water into the cup to warm it first.
Cleaning the pot is important too. Do not put it in a dishwasher as it will get a strange salt build up. The best way to clean is with some warm water and a soft scouring sponge. I tend not to use any detergent. Pay special attention to the rubber seal and the thread as this can get coffee granule build up and inhibit the screwing together of the pot.
I hope you find this quick little guide helpful and let me know if you have any questions. The coffee pot used here is the Bialetti Moka 6 cup which can be purchased from Amazon here. The coffee used is the Whole Food Italian espresso roast ground in-store.
If you need access to some good coffee, then sign up to the Whittard of Chelsea coffee club.