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Moka: The Closest Thing You'll Get to Espresso at Home for Under $50

Espresso lovers need to buy themselves a moka pot.
Espresso lovers need to buy themselves a moka pot.
Heather Hoch

Not everyone is a cold brew addict. That's fine. Espresso certainly has its place in my heart, but it's not the most conducive to at-home coffee connoisseurs--right? Wrong. The moka pot came to me a few years ago when I thought drip coffee or French press were pretty much the only options for my morning cuppa. I don't count Keurig because -- no. If you're looking for the boldness of an espresso, without spending money on an expensive machine, it's time to take a look at a moka pot.

See also: How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

This post goes out to my old roommate, Mattia. When we were living together, the Italian native brought home such delights as salami handmade by his grandmother, which single-handedly ended an eight-year stint of vegetarianism for me. He's also responsible for making coffee a daily habit for me by making it cheap and accessible, thanks to his moka and love of company on the porch while having a morning cigarette and cup of coffee. Italians....

Moka pots like Bialetti are great for folks who love the bitter intensity of espresso, but aren't quite ready to throw down thousands and thousands of dollars for a La Marzocco. Granted, the stovetop coffee pot won't give you the same quality and control as a pull off of a real espresso machine, but the relatively cheap moka is a pretty close alternative.

You can buy Bialetti mokas for around $40 from Crate and Barrel and Bed Bath and Beyond. You can also buy knock-off versions from Target for under $20, but, in my experience, those tend to be less functional and break in a matter of months.

A fine grind works best for a moka pot.
A fine grind works best for a moka pot.
Heather Hoch

Mokas work in essentially the same manner as a pressure cooker. Hot water in the base of the pot is pressurized and pushed through the filter, which contains your coffee grounds of choice. The coffee then trickles out of the spout in the upper chamber, resulting in a strongly concentrated brew completely separate from the grounds. The whole process takes only a few minutes, making it ideal for busy mornings.

For instructional purposes only-- please leave the lid closed as your coffee brews.
For instructional purposes only-- please leave the lid closed as your coffee brews.
Heather Hoch

While not technically espresso, moka coffee comes pretty close in both consistency and flavor. It's rich and definitely smacks you in the face with flavor. Espresso and dark roasts work well with moka pots, though you'll want to get a very fine grind on your bean for best brewing results.

 

Voila! Black gold courtesy of the moka.
Voila! Black gold courtesy of the moka.
Heather Hoch

Stumptown Coffee recommends using pre-heated water in the base of the moka before you heat up the pot on the stove. They also advise placing the finished brew on cold, damp thermal towels or to run the pot under cold water to stop the extraction. Both of these steps help prevent a metallic taste in your finished product.

Be warned that what might look like a cup of coffee from your Bialetti is actually meant to be more like three servings due to its high concentration. Therefore, some people will water down moka coffee, almost like an at-home Americano. I love the strong flavor, but have also found that including cinnamon in the grounds before brewing and a squirt of honey in the bottom of your cup before pouring yields some pretty tasty results if you're looking to cut some of the coffee flavor. Plus, the whole history of making Americanos just seems a little insulting.

Unfortunately, you're on your own in terms of steaming milk on your stove if you want a latte, which has pretty much been a failure for me every time I've tried. Bialetti makes the Mukka Express, which is a moka-like cappuccino maker, but, like the classic moka is to espresso, it isn't exactly the same.

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