How to Use the Moka
Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker
So how does it work?
Water is heated in the boiler chamber, and the resulting pressure forces it up a narrow funnel opening. It infuses with the coffee grounds in the funnel’s filter compartment, then continues through another filter up the central column, and into the top chamber, from where it is served.
As with any appliance:
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions
• Heed safety precautions
• Replace worn parts
The Process of Using a Moka
• Fill the boiler chamber with cold water to just below the overpressure valve
• Insert the funnel filter into the boiler
• Spoon coffee into the filter, without overfilling or tamping
• Smooth it over with your finger or a spoon, and wipe any coffee grounds off the lip
• Check that the filter plate and gasket are properly in place underneath the serving chamber
• Screw on the serving chamber firmly
• Hold the bottom of the boiler with one hand and screw on the serving chamber (not by the handle) with the other
• Place the moka on a low flame or heat setting, focusing the heat source underneath the base, and not up the sides of your moka
• Stay with your moka and listen for the gurgling sound (at around 6 minutes) that signals that the water supply in the boiler is exhausted, and your coffee is finished brewing
• Keep the lid closed until it stops gurgling
• Turn off the gas flame
• Remove your moka from the hot burner
• After the gurgling stops, carefully open the lid and stir with a spoon to even out the espresso infusion before you pour it into the espresso cups
• Parts get hot, so use extreme care, use a potholder, and heed normal safety precautions to guard against scalding
• Wait until your pot cools enough before taking it apart for washing, and handle the funnel carefully to keep from denting when removing the spent grounds
Get to know your moka and how it works, and supervise it closely during brewing!
It’s good practice to do so with this and all your cooking appliances, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Become familiar with how the parts should fit together before you start using your moka.
• Parts get hot! So use common sense when handling it, and keep it out of children’s reach.
– Use a potholder, especially on handles of smaller mokas, if your hand is going to be too close to the hot body.
– Wait until the moka has cooled before taking it apart for cleaning.
• Use only properly ground coffee for stovetop espresso makers.
– Too coarse makes for watery coffee.
– Too fine-and-loose, and it will easily pass through the filter plate and up into the serving chamber.
– Too fine-and-caked from tamping, and it can block the flow of water from the boiler and increase its pressure.
• Fill water and coffee to the proper levels.
– Fill water only to just below the overpressure valve, to keep its level below that of the coffee grounds in the funnel filter.
– Fill the filter with ground coffee to just below the rim, and spread evenly with a spoon, pressing down only gently.
• Screw the server firmly on the boiler.
– First make sure the filter is properly seated and the rim and gasket are clean of coffee grounds.
– Hold the top chamber by the metal part, and not by the handle, as you screw it on the boiler.
– Drips coming from the boiler while the moka is over heat, are an indication you don’t have a firm seal. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, check for a clean seal and firmly screw the server on the boiler.
• Place the moka over a low flame or heat setting to brew, maintaining the heat source under the base of the moka.
– Too much heat makes the pressure build too quickly, and will cause the water to rush through the grounds and up the column spitting, instead of flowing smoothly and gently gurgling as brewing ends.
– Too much heat and you risk scalding if you open the lid during brewing.
– Too much heat can discolor and damage the pot, and it can shorten the life or damage the rubber gasket, as well as handles that are made of plastics or wood.
– Use a heat diffuser between the moka and your heat source when your lowest heat setting is wider than the base of your moka; this may increase the brewing time a bit.
• Stay close by so you can listen for the signal that the coffee is ready.
– When the water level in the boiler falls below the bottom of the funnel opening, the heated compressed air escapes with the liquid that is still it in the central column, making a gurgling sound as long as there is liquid remaining in the column.
– Listen for the gurgling sound, so you know when brewing is done and it’s time to turn off the heat.
• Remove it from the heat source to prevent your moka from boiling dry, to prevent damage to the gasket, the handle, and the pot, and to prevent scalding. After the gurgling stops, keeping the pot on the flame only heats up the metal and anything attached to it.
• If coffee doesn’t start flowing into the top chamber within 6-10 minutes or so (depends on moka size and amount of heat), it’s taking too long to brew, so remove the moka from the heat source, and wait for it to cool before handling and taking it apart for troubleshooting.
Top things to look for:
– Serving chamber that was not screwed on tightly enough to create a seal.
– Gasket that is too worn to create a seal.
– Funnel filter that has a bent rim, and doesn’t seat uniformly on rim of boiler for a good seal.
– Coffee grounds (too fine and/or tamped hard) that are heavily caked and blocking the flow.
– Overpressure Valve that is leaking.
• Maintain the parts in good condition and in good working order.
– Gasket: Keep a spare handy before it becomes too worn.
– Filter Funnel: Keep it free of dents so it will seat uniformly on the boiler’s rim.
– Overpressure Valve: Keep it clean of calcium deposits.
• Keep your moka clean.
– Washing all parts diligently with soap and thoroughly rinsing and drying is generally recommended, especially if you don’t use your moka frequently, to prevent rancidity from build-up of coffee oils.
– Avoid the dishwasher for aluminum pots or parts.
– Gasket: Wipe the gasket area with a soapy sponge after use. Occasionally remove it, gently prying it loose with a fork or dull edge of knife, for a thorough cleaning.
– Filter Plate: Wipe clean as above. Occasionally remove it with the gasket for cleaning the other side. Use a safety pin to help clear any blocked holes in the filters to maintain a smooth flow.
– Funnel Filter: Wipe clean as above. Use a safety pin to help clear any blocked holes to maintain a smooth flow.
– Overpressure Valve: Regularly wash the outside of the valve, and occasionally decalcify the pot to keep it clean on the inside.
– Wash the boiler and server thoroughly after use, dry, and store disassembled to avoid moisture build-up inside.
Many people think you shouldn’t wash the inside of an aluminum boiler, but simply rinse out and dry. This creates an oily sheen inside the boiler and helps protect it from corrosion, but not from rancidity if it’s not kept dry or if not used frequently.
– Remove Mineral Deposits: Occasionally fill the boiler with a white vinegar and water solution (about 1:8), let sit overnight, then wash out well before using.
• The overpressure valve is an emergency steam release valve, and contains a little steel ball, held against the body of the boiler by a spring. Should the boiler exceed its 14-30 pounds per square inch (1-2 Bar) of normal operating pressure, the spring will constrict and let the ball out a bit to release excess pressure.
• A calcified overpressure valve will prevent this safety mechanism from opening a way for the pressure to escape if it can’t easily go through the coffee grounds. As long as it is kept clean of mineral deposits, the overpressure valve usually lasts the life of the pot.
Do Take Note
Espresso makers are kitchen appliances that brew under pressure. Although characterized by a high level of quality and safety, evident by its longevity in common use since it was invented in 1933, as with all appliances, injury or material damage resulting from misuse or improper use of your moka cannot be ruled out. For this reason, do take careful note of all use and care instructions.
And, like me, enjoy a tasty moka daily! -NF
• Watch this beautiful one-minute video that uses Neutron Radiography, for a fast-speed x-ray view of what happens during brewing
Espresso Recipes from the 1960’s
In France, it’s café, in Italy it’s caffè, in Germany it’s kaffee, but in America it’s espresso coffee. An indispensable companion when guests drop in for the evening. With these exotic brews from European coffee houses you can have a “coffee house” in your own living room.
Treat your guests to these coffee drinks from around the world – all are easy to prepare.
Just black, with or without sugar.
1-1/2 cups hot espresso coffee
1-1/2 cups hot milk
Cinnamon, grated orange peel
Combine steaming coffee with steaming milk. Pour into cups. Garnish with a geneerous amount of whipped cream or pressurized topping and sprinkle with cinnamon and grated orange peel.
Place lump of sugar in teaspoon filled with cognac and hold over a cup of espresso coffee. Ignite cognac and lower spoon into coffee slowly.
Add a twist of lemon peel to your espresso coffee.
1 pint coffee ice cream
2 cups cold espresso coffee
Dash of bitters
Place several scoops of ice cream in a snifter. Add coffee and bitters. Sip slowly.
Hot espresso coffee poured slowly into a tall glass filled with ice cubes.
Espresso coffee with a dash of bitters.
Cafe au Lait
1-1/2 cups hot espresso coffee
1-1/2 cups hot milk
Using two pots, pour simultaneously into cups or mugs. 4 servings.
Espresso coffee with hot milk and a whipped cream topping.
Plain espresso coffee topped with whipped cream.
Into 8 oz pre-heated stemmed glass stir about 5 oz espresso coffee, one tsp sugar and 1 oz Irish Whiskey. Float whipped cream on top.
Add 1 oz Anisette liqueur into unsugared espresso coffee, about 6 oz.
4-1/2 measuring cups hot espresso coffee
4-1/2 measuring cups hot cocoa
Combine coffee and cocoa. Top with marshmallows and serve hot. Makes 12 servings.
Spiced Iced Coffee
3 cups hot espresso coffee
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
Pour coffee over spices and let stand one hour. Strain, pour over ice, and serve with cream and sugar. Makes 4 servings.
San Francisco Type Cappuccino
Mix sweet ground chocolate and milk, heat with steam valve, and add about 3/4 oz of Brandy for each 5 oz serving glass.
Heat milk on steam valve and add 3/4 oz Kahlua for each 5 oz serving.
To 4 oz of coffee add 1 oz of Brandy. Top with whipped cream.