Pros:Easy to use, versatile, and very inexpensive. Your friends will be impressed.
Cons:Addiction; need a stove top (or campfire to use it)
The Bottom Line: This is the perfect espresso maker for the pennywise who love an effortless, great cup of coffee.
I work daily with a bunch of Espresso junkies...they all have complicated $200+ machines at home and they all chipped in so they could get another one for the office. My manager even went so far as to give me a gorgeous set of espresso cups one Christmas and when I told her I didn't have an espresso maker she said, "oh, you will at some point". Well, I do like a nice cup now and again, but not enough to shell out that much money for the occasional shot.
Recommend this product?
I did however notice on Food Network that Giada DeLaurentis makes espresso for her recipes in a stovetop pot. All she did was spoon the coffee in, fill the bottom with water, screw on the coffee pot top and set it on the stove. Minutes later, Voila! Espresso. This was the one for me, though it was never stated who the pot was made by.
Same day, Ina Garten was using the same pot just twice the size and I was able to see the name...Bialetti. I went to my computer and found them everywhere...Bed Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel at only about 25 bucks for the 6-cup one (that's 6 espresso cups, not 6 eight ounce cups).
After buying one, and a can of decent coffee, I couldn't wait to try it. The instructions, obviously written by an Italian with a faltering grasp of english were simple and somewhat amusing, though there is no recommendation of how much coffee to use per serving. Most pre-packaged coffees tell you though. The instructions also don't tell you how long to leave it on the stovetop so there is some guesswork involved.
I put two heaping teaspoons of espresso blend coffee (I use Illy brand) into the enclosed filter funnel, filled the bottom of the pot to the fill line inside the base, twisted on the top section and put it over a low flame on my stove. About 5 minutes and one shower later, all the coffee from the base had boiled up as espresso into the top section of the pot. I had some very respectable espresso. I knew I had escaped the evil empire (Starbucks) for good.
The way it works is this: the bottom section functions pretty much like a pressure cooker so that when the water inside boils, the pressure created in the sealed environment pushes the hot water through the coffee grounds in the coffee filter funnel and through the spout above it into the top pot section just like a percolator.
There is a rubber gasket that helps keep the waterproof seal between the two sections and this can wear out. Replacements can be gotten by mail order online and in most gourmet and coffee shops.
There are some minor drawbacks though;
1. You will not have crema, which is the foamy layer you get on top of the coffee when you use a standard espresso machine, on coffee made by this pot. It's just an aesthetic prized mainly by coffee snobs and baristas.
2. You have to steam or froth your own milk if you want a latte or cappuccino. Don't sweat it, you can get a battery operated frother for less than 15 bucks (or whip out your immersion blender if you have one) and the total amount spent for the pot and the frother comes to 40 dollars. You've still saved a minimum of $160 not buying a big, scary, space-eating espresso maker not to mention what you save in repairs to the big one. We were charged 59.00 just for a fuse change and detail cleaning on the machine in the office.
3. If you're making coffee for a group, you may have to wait until the pot cools to make more unless you're good with an oven mitt. You may want to consider getting the 12 cup model which is a little harder to find than the 6 cup.
4. The funnel is a little tricky to remove from the base. The lip of the funnel is completely flush with the base of the pot so you have to make a few attempts to get a fingernail under it to pull it out. I regularly get a fingernail full of spent grounds when I try to get the funnel out. It's not impossible to do and maybe I'll get the hang of it one of these days.
5. If you open the lid of the pot while it's still on the stove to see if all the water has come to the top as coffee, you risk a steam burn or at the very least, condensation from underneath the lid dripping down the outside of the pot. This can spatter a bit. Just leave the pot on until you see a lot of steam coming from the spout and hear brisk bubbling in the top pitcher and you'll be fine.
6. Unlike an automatic drip, you don't have the benefit of disposable filters to make getting the used coffee grounds out of the pot easy. This is a trait of any non-pod espresso maker. If you have a disposal on your sink you can just rinse the grounds out of the funnel on this model and not think twice about it, but if not, you'll have to scoop/scrape the grounds out with a spoon or butter knife into the trash or composting bin. I find a small rubber or silicone spatula works best.
7. You may lose friends...the ones who paid all that money for a big machine.
The pluses in my view greatly outweigh the drawbacks.
1. The Bialetti is easy to clean. You can't put it in the dishwasher because it's aluminum and the surface will pit in the dishwasher, but a thick bottle brush is all the special equipment you night need to clean the base out. If you have smaller hands you can use a sponge. (Note, the inside of the base will darken naturally with use.)
2. It's CHEAP and does what it's supposed to do with consistency and speed every time.
3. If you're not in the mood for espresso on any given day, you can use it to make a regular cup of coffee...just use about a teaspoon of coffee per coffee cup instead of two.
4. It comes in 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 12 cup models and they all work exactly the same way.
5. You can use any kind of coffee in it, flavoured, supermarket brands, designer brands, and of course decaffeinated (which, in my view, is useless brown water, but whatever floats your boat!) I put a little powdered cinnamon in with the coffee in mine...FABULOUS!
6. You can use round, flat coffee pods in them as well though it's cheaper to just get a can or bag of ground coffee.
7. You don't have to worry about running out of coffee filters and therefore, other than coffee grounds, your post consumer waste factor is zero. No more of those, early mornings when you're desperate for an eye opener and there are no coffee filters. You contemplate using a paper towel or, if truly desperate, taking yesterday's filter out of the trash and reusing it. Don't try to deny it...at some point every coffee lover goes through it.
8. Your plants will grow better...not from drinking the coffee, but adding used coffee grounds to your compost is very good for your plants. (Don't use them on indoor plants unless you want your house to smell like Starbucks.)
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