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Stovetop

The stovetop espresso maker, also known as 'macchinetta' or 'moka,' is still the most popular way of making espresso at home. In Italy, it's usually simply called a 'caffettiera,' their term for 'coffee pot.'

It works by creating pressure through heat at about 1.5 bar, to force water through finely ground coffee and into a serving chamber.

How much is 1 cup? A traditional espresso is about 1.5 ounces. A 6-cup espresso maker would thus make approximately 9 oz. of that delicious liquid. Though espresso cups may hold 3 to 4 oz., it is customary to only partly fill the cup.

Fante's Top Moka Tips

Precautions are important when using your new moka, like with all kitchen appliances. To avoid accidents and damage to your moka pot, and to get a good cup of espresso, be sure to follow the easy but important instructions.

First, become familiar with the parts of your macchinetta. Take it apart and examine how each part fits in place before you wash and use it the first time.

How to make espresso in a macchinetta:

Fill the bottom chamber with cold water up to the emergency steam release valve (overpressure plug). Insert the funnel filter (cone) and fill it with espresso-ground coffee, smoothing it without tamping. (It should be at least 2/3 full for good taste, and doesn't need to be particularly smoothed.) Before screwing on the top chamber, make sure the flat round filter plate and the rubber gasket are in place. Screw the top tight enough to make a good seal. Put it on the stovetop with enough heat to cover the bottom, but not so that it heats the handle. When you hear the macchinetta begin to gurgle (approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on moka size and amount of heat), be mindful of the hot parts and carefully remove it from the heat. Allow it to sit for a half minute or so, then use a spoon to stir the coffee and serve.

Bialetti Video Demonstration

What happens during brewing Video Demonstration

The Anatomy of a Machinetta

The Overpressure Plug (emergency steam release valve) is a safety mechanism that will open a way for the pressure to escape if it can't go through the coffee grounds. It usually lasts the life of the pot. To help insure this, do not tamp the coffee grounds. Smooth the coffee, instead, then lightly knock the filter funnel downwards on a counter to help evenly distribute the grounds. And keep it clean.

Metal handles and surfaces get hot, so use a pot holder when handling a macchinetta. Close supervision is necessary when using a macchinetta, especially when children are near.

Keep the heat source low and under the pot. Too much heat will cause it to spit when it's supposed to just gurgle at the end of the cycle, and you can get scalded if you open the hinged lid. Too much heat can damage the pot, not just discolor it, and it can damage the rubber gasket, as well as handles made of plastic.

Especially made to keep the smaller espresso makers stable on your stovetop burners, cast iron trivets fit over any size grate.

To maintain the macchinetta in good condition: Wash all the parts with hot sudsy water, and rinse thoroughly. (Make sure the filter funnel holes are not clogged as well.) Before first use, and regularly (though not necessarily every time), also remove and wash the rubber gasket and round flat filter plate. Use a dull knife point, or small screwdriver, to remove the gasket, and to get to the filter plate.

Decalcify the boiler when you notice white deposits around the overpressure valve or on the inside surface of your pot. Fill boiler with about 1 part white vinegar to 8 parts of water, and let sit overnight. Then wash out the vinegar smell.

Aluminum coffee makers or parts should never be put in the dishwasher, as the harsh detergents will damage the finish of the metal. Some stainless steel moka pots may have an aluminum filter or funnel.

Take extra care when cleaning the filter funnel. Its top edge must not be bent or damaged in order to make a good seal with the gasket when the top is screwed on.

Gaskets are likely to last at least a year if they are cleaned on a regular basis. When the gasket starts to get hard or cracks, replace it. A telltale sign of a needed replacement gasket will be that some steam will begin to escape from the screw threads between the top and bottom pieces of your macchinetta.

Keep a note of the name of the manufacturer of the espresso maker, its model name and size; this will help in obtaining replacement gaskets. If you can't find a replacement, get a sheet of rubber in a similar thickness (from your local hardware or plumbing supply store), and use the old gasket to cut out a template on the sheet of rubber.
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