The Café au Lait
In this article, we’ll walk you through a timeless classic in the coffee world, café au lait. Transport yourself to a Parisian cafe without ever leaving the house.
The Moka Pot. Perhaps you’ve seen it and wondered, “what is that thing?”
Well answer-seeker, seek no further… The Moka Pot is a simple device that also might be one of coffee’s best kept secrets.
Why? Because with a Moka Pot, you can get pretty damn close to enjoying the same coffee you would enjoy if you were to brew it with an espresso machine. Only instead of spending $4000 you can spend $30.
To the point, the Moka Pot is a way to brew coffee by forcing steam through coffee beans – literally the definition of espresso:
strong black coffee made by forcing steam through ground coffee beans
Oxford English Dictionary
A Moka Pot is a device for just that, with some key differences to an espresso machine.
How the Moka Pot Works / Credit: Wikipedia
The bottom chamber is filled with water. Once heated this water rises through the middle chamber which contains a puck of finely ground coffee. In the top chamber is a spout that the coffee rises through for you to pour and enjoy.
The video below shows a Moka Pot brewing with x-ray vision so you can see what’s going on beneath that shiny metal exterior.
Brewing with the Moka Pot is deceptive. It looks complicated but it’s actually simple and once you have it done, can be just as fast a brew as with an autodrip machine.
The three chambers work together really seamlessly as well. You unscrew the top and you have access to the funnel-like puck that holds your grounds and the steam chamber.
To start brewing with Moka part, start by separating these three chambers.
We boil our water in an electric kettle before pouring it in the bottom chamber to make things move along faster.
Don’t have a kettle?
Of course if you don’t have access to an electric kettle, you can pour cold water right into that bottom chamber and wack it on the stove, job done. This just makes it faster and reduces the need to fiddle with how high or low your stove top should be.
If you don’t have a kettle, skip straight to “Step 2”.
While your water is boiling (again, if you have an electic kettle, otherwise you will need to wait), ground your coffee at an espresso level grind. Assuming you have a 6 Cup Moka Pot, ground 20 grams.
We’ve aggregated the most common grinders and the appropriate settings for you below. Start here, play with it later.
|Grinder||Baratza Encore||Hario Hand Grinder|
Once ground, pour your grounds into the “funnel puck”. No need to tamp here, just pour them in.
Take your cold or boiling water (careful, it’s hot) and pour it into the “cistern” (bottom chamber).
You want to pour water up to the bottom of the little steam release valve (see below).
Now take your “funnel puck” with your finely ground coffee already in, and drop that into the bottom chamber.
Screw on the top chamber.
Note: Be sure to wear an oven mitt if you boiled the water before pouring into the cistern, cause it will be hot!
Place the Moka Pot, now filled with grounds and water, on one of your stove top burners, and turn on the burner. (Note: Even if your water was boiling when you put it in, you still need to continue heating it on the stove.)
You’ll need to fiddle with the heat that works best for your stove and temperature of the water that went in. The first time we did it, we put our stove on what we felt was a “medium heat” and then slowly increased the burner until we had a steady, not-too-quick stream of coffee coming out of the stem inside the Moka Pot’s top chamber.
Note: If it is your first time, it’s okay to life the lid and see what’s going on. What you’re looking for is a gradual rise of brewed coffee coming out of the stem in the top chamber.
Note: If it’s coming out slower than in the video above, trying increasing your heat.
Once you start to hear a gurgle like in the video below, you’re done. Turn off the burner and grab an oven mitt, because you’re ready to pout.
Take the Moka Pot off the heat source, pour and enjoy a very rich, bold cup of espresso.
We typically enjoy as an Americano, pouring some more hot water on top of the moka pot espresso in a coffee mug. If we have a little more time, we’ll froth some milk and pour it on top of a Moka Pot shot, to make a latte.
Final step, check in to your easy-to-make, cheap, no-espresso-machine-required espresso that you made at home with the Good Fika app.
For a 6-Cup Moka Pot:
There are some great video recipes on how to get something very close to a cappuccino or espresso with a Moka Pot on Youtube. The one below is our favorite. We encourage you, once you get the basic technique down, to keep pushing yourself to get something close to what you might enjoy at your local coffee shop with their fancy espresso machines.
Note: Of course, the best way to track your recipe changes over time is with the Good Fika app.
While it’s really easy to brew with the Moka Pot, there are a few “gotchas” that you should watch out for.
Your water is too hot, and the excess pressure is shooting out of the steam release valve.
Let your Moka Pot cool and try again with less heat.
We’ve written up an in-depth article here on the key differences between each Moka Pot available, including the original (the Bialetti) so you can make the best choice for you. Take a look.
Alfonso Bialetter / Credit: Wikipedia
An Italian Man, Alfonso Bialetti, invented the Moka Pot in 1933. His company, an aluminum moulding company he started in 1919 really took off after his invention in 1933. The company still exists today, and the mustachioed man on the outside of the Moka Pots they still produce, is the likeness of Alfonso’s son, Renato Bialetti.
Not all Moka Pots are octagonal in shape, but the original was, and now most keep it as tradition. The original reasoning was that it created more even heat than the smooth surfaced alternatives, but that has not been proven.
That metal is aluminum, and this aluminum actually makes your coffee brewed with your Moka Pot taste better over time. Think of it like a cast iron pan, where once you get it “seasoned” the pan is easier to cook with because the surface becomes “non-stick” only in this case, it’s the limestone deposits that develop on the aluminum surface that soften your water in the cistern and upper chamber, leading to a better tasting cup of coffee.
In our opinion, while the reasoning behind the shape and material of the Moka Pot problems holds some truth. We think the shape is informed more by the history of Bialetti, the inventor of the Moka Pot, than the goals and benefits described above. In truth, Bialetti was likely using the skills and tools he had at hand. He started his aluminum shell moulding company in Italy in 1919, and used the technique he was experienced with to create the first Moka Pot.
Hard for us to say, but we know one thing, the Moka Pot is an easy and cheap way to make a cup of coffee at home that compares with the La Marzocco espresso machine at your local barista’s shop.