Pros:Makes espresso-style coffee, albeit without crema, simply and cheaply.
Cons:Black Bakelite handle gets hot. Too small for most burners. Low capacity.
The Bottom Line: I find my 3-cup Moka Express satisfactory. The result isn't quite as good as Greek coffee or espresso, but it comes without the former's hassle or the latter's expense.
For those who like espresso-style coffee but don't want to pay $1.50 per cup at Starbucks or buy a complicated machine, the Moka pot, an inverted percolator, of which Bialetti's Moka Express is the best known example, is the alternative.
Recommend this product?
Virtually unchanged since its 1933 introduction (and owing its all-aluminum construction to Mussolini's trade policies!) the Moka Express, through a simple process whereby water in the bottom is forced by steam pressure through the grounds and into the pot, produces a thick, dark, highly extracted brew. It's not quite espresso--the high pressure developed in a modern press machine extracts coffee's flavors slightly differently and their narrow nozzles produce a crema absent here--but it's close. Bialetti now makes a Moka pot called the Brikka which more faithfully duplicates a coffee shop brew, but the cost is almost double and small sizes comparable to the 3-cup Moka Express must be ordered directly from Italy.
I've found my inherited Moka Express easy to use and maintain. Its roughly half-century-old gasket still seals well. Cleaning involves rinsing out the pot, shaking the grounds out of their holder, and removing any that may have lodged themselves in the gasket with a pin or knife tip. The only filter involved is a perforated aluminum plate which never needs replacing but may be removed for cleaning if necessary. If the unit does clog, a safety valve will prevent explosion.
There's a bit of a learning curve; packing the grounds tightly causes the seal between the top pot and bottom reservoir to sputter, and the best grind is found by by experimentation. New units, however, come with detailed instructions. Aside from a slightly more modern gasket and an engraved logo, however, that's nearly the only difference; new and old units are identical right down to the Bakelite.
The 3-cup Moka Express, which produces enough coffee in a single use for 3 demitasse cups or about half of an American coffee mug, is a little small for most stoves. Especially over an electric heating element, the black Bakelite handle tends to get unmanageably hot; I have to use a potholder to remove it from the stove.
Other than that, my only complaint is its lack of scalability. A differently sized Moka Express must be used if one wants to brew coffee for more than two people, and unlike a home espresso machine, the unit must be allowed to cool before reloading.
Overall, I find my 3-cup Moka Express a satisfactory appliance. Its results aren't quite as good as Greek-style brewing or espresso, but it comes without the time and labor of the latter or the expense of the former.
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