Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

How to make Italian coffee in your Bialetti moka (expresso maker)

The new bialetti dama display in store

We bought a new Bialetti Dama 2 cup moka italian coffee maker the other day – a new model that has a window in the top and a silicone handle. A sign at the Bialetti store, posted below, entitled “how to prepare an excellent ‘italian espresso’” inspired me to post these instructions on how to make Italian coffee that I’ve given time upon time to foreign visitors to Italy.

This official instruction sign is strangely not available on the USA Bialetti website! I’m transcribing it here with my own commentary.

    1. Fill up the base with (preferably filtered) water. Fill until just below the safety valve pictured here.
    2. Insert the filter funnel. Make sure that the water doesn’t cause resistance – if it does, there’s too much water. To take out a few drops, simply remove the filter and flick away excess water attached to it into the sink.
    3. Spoon coarse grind coffee into the filter and LIGHTLY tap it into place, but do not pack it in! (That’s for cappuccino makers.)
    4. Attach the top of the coffee maker and place it on your stovetop. I think it works best on gas stoves, but it can also work on electric stove tops. The Sign says to use low heat, whereas italian practise says that this causes a burned flavour. At our house, we use high heat, but on the smallest burner.
    5. When you hear the characteristic “coffee gurgle” sound, all the water from below has made its way into the top section of the moka, and you’re ready for breakfast.

Three important tips to make a good moka coffee

The new bialetti dama display in store

The bialetti dama display in store

Amongst the important things to know is how to break in your moka and how to care for it.

  1. When you get a new moka, to break it in you must throw out the first coffee you prepare. The aluminium moka depends on a build up of coffee to taste good, so the second cup you make will probably be not great either, but it will improve with time. Bialetti also makes stainless steel models that are better for infrequent use as they require less build up to taste good.
  2. In relation to point #1, Never wash your bialetti with soap and sponge. Not only will your coffee taste like soap, but it defeats the whole purpose. Just rinse with hot water and clean with your fingers.
  3. After time, the rubber filter at the base of the top part of the coffee maker dries out, causing your coffee to taste bad and boil out the sides (which makes a mess of your stove). At this point you simply need to change the gasket. Purchase the Authentic Bialetti Replacement Gasket, I’ve found that the others don’t work properly.
By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

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  • http://coffeeofthemonthclub.net/ Coffee of the Month Club

    Very nice set of tips on creating Italian coffee.

  • Dontreply

    Hello,

    Your instructions say coarse grind. I have also read you should use a fine grind just slightly coarser than espresso. I have been using a Bialetti for 2 months and have had various results, mostly good. I have been using Illy and LaVazza for espresso makers and an occasional local roast. Recently I tried a French Roast but I ground it too fine and it does not taste right. I have a Moka 3 and 6 have tried both with same results.

    I am interested in recommendations on coffee types and grind levels for the Bialetti.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Hi,
    To be honest, I’m glad that you found this article helpful, but I don’t really know what grind to use! In Italy they sell packaged pre-ground coffee that says either “moka” or “espresso” and we buy the one for the moka. We usually buy Lavazza, or whatever else is on sale. I have a feeling you are much more of a coffee expert than I am :) !

  • Charles

    Take a look at the grade of the coffee grind in Bustelo Espresso in the can. It makes a perfect cup of Latino espresso in a Bialetti moka. It is a fine grind, much finer than the “espresso grind” that Zabar’s uses, and I found the Zabar’s grind made their espresso more watery, less rich. I compensated by FIRMLY patting down the Zabar’s espresso, and it was then much better and did not cause any brewing blocking problems.

  • MJR

    I also use fine ground coffee in my Moka. I buy an espresso bean at World Market (much cheaper than Illy)