Moka pot not "real" espresso?

Whitecrown

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Mar 24, 2020
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Hello everybody, I am currently in Italy for work, and with the covid-19 lockdown here one of my favorite parts of this country has been closed off, the coffee bars. On my stock up trip to the store, without knowing anything about them, I bought a bialetti moka pot and a couple tins of kimbo "espresso" coffee as an attempted substitute, and I am really enjoying it.

Another thing I love is history. I researched these little pots and found they were an adaptation of the very first "espresso" steam machines (from the word esprimere-to press out), which produced 1.5 bar of pressure just like the 1-2 bars of the moka pot... I was drinking the first espresso invented by the Italians, and was excited about it. Now to perfect my technique, and as I read articles I noticed a common saying in the internet coffee world: "moka pots do not make true espresso." One article even said bluntly that it is NOT espresso at all.

So there's my burning question for all you coffee experts: what gives? I am completely aware that 2bar Moka pot coffee is significantly different from what comes out of a high quality espresso machine at pressures of 9bar or higher, but the coffee a moka pot produces is exactly the same coffee that was so different, that the Italians made an entirely new name for it: "Espresso".

Am I missing something obvious in my ignorance of the subject?
 
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Whitecrown

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That's funny because on the Italian illy website they call the moka pot they sell the "popular Italian espresso coffee maker"
 
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Whitecrown

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I found the page of the illy usa website that says that, and it does not say this is how to make "real" espresso, it's just directions for making modern espresso. Nothing on that page excludes the original method from continuing to be "espresso". Also, they say "The name says all: an espresso is to be freshly prepared and enjoyed immediately. Expressly." The name espresso has nothing to do with one of the English definition of "express" as an adjective implying speed, as stated above its from esprimere which translates in English to "to express" which is express the verb, meaning to force out. It sounds like the people running the illy usa division are out of touch with illy italy.
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Central North Carolina
A moka pot doesn't function like a typical espresso machine, but they're still a great/cheap way to achieve bold/flavorful coffee. I personally don't give a damn what Illy or others that think they're authoritative on the subject do to accomplish what they consider espresso. IF I extracted to their lame standards the end result would be weak/thin compared to what I shoot for. The 'Italian rules' of __ grams, under __ bars of pressure for a total volume/time of __ are a joke. I say do what you like regardless of what others consider it to be.
 
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Whitecrown

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I like the way you see it shadow. I have no misconceptions about what I'm doing, I'm not making espresso with crema, and I still agree that modern espresso machines produce a superior shot. Perhaps whoever these authorities are should have made a new term for 9+ bar brewing instead of continuing to use the old term. All the English dictionaries still define espresso as coffee brewed by forcing hot water through grounds, none of them specify required pressure, so while I am speaking English I will continue to use this term.

I just read an article from 2018 where the "Specialty Coffee Association of America" (SCAA) polled baristas around the world, almost 3/4's of those in the USA, and found only 51% were brewing "espresso" by their own definition. The main deviation was extraction time. Theoretically you can walk into 49% of coffee shops, many in the US, and tell them their coffee is not "true" espresso, maybe turning up your nose as you declare it. I will continue to order my espresso with crema in the morning and after lunch when I can, and make espresso without crema in my moka pot when I cannot.
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Yeah the same applies to the Aeropress, many manual lever machines, etc. as they are forcing hot water through the puck with applied, but varying pressure. The whole 9+ bar thing is ridiculous as well. For YEARS I've gotten my best results using lower pressure, in the 8 or so bar range and I grind relatively fine, updose, tamp light and get fantastic syrup-like ristrettos. I don't measure or weigh anything except the dry dose and would estimate I get between 1-1.25 oz through 19 grams (always weighed every dose) in 45 seconds +/-. I don't see the first sign of drops/tiny stream until 12-15 seconds after starting the pump. This type of manipulation gives me very rich/heavy bodied extractions and nothing else weaker/thinner will come close. I choose coffees that suit my preference, then roast them to a specific range, let age, etc.

IF I didn't have access to an espresso machine I'd gladly make a moka pot work in my favor. Fresh coffee precision ground with a quality hand grinder and I'd simply make something great for me to consume. Sure can't beat the cost, time involved in cleaning/maintaining, etc. compared to many other brew methods.
 
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Troubardour

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Apr 14, 2020
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Costa Rica and US
I love using my moka pot to create a strong cup of coffee that I mix with other things like cacao, coconut cream etc to create nice combination of hot or cold coffees. The strong flavor of the coffee is a great base for that. Also, I recommend making a cuban expresso with the moka pot. A real gem.
 

MntnMan62

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Nov 15, 2019
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New Jersey
I enjoy my Moka Pot and am working on finding the right coffee to go with my palette for this device. I agree it makes a great strong bold coffee and also agree it isn't quite espresso.
 

wmark

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Nov 12, 2008
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I don't know if you use the term south of the border but we call it stovetop espresso (correctly or not)
 

MntnMan62

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Nov 15, 2019
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New Jersey
I had not used my Moka Pot in quite a while. I've been quite happy with the coffee I have been getting from my french press. But this morning I decided I'd give it a go again. In the past I had always used the Italian style espresso coffee in a can. Either Lavazza or Medaglio d'Oro. And it always gave me a bitter cup. This time I adjusted my grinder to a much finer grind and used the beens from my local roaster that I normally use for french press. Bluestone Coffee Sumatra Takengon. A dark/medium dark roast. I have to say it was an extremely enjoyable couple mugs of coffee. I used my manual milk frother to heat up and froth some skim milk to make a cafe au lait. No bitterness. It was actually sweet, but nice and strong and had nice mouth feel. I could get used to that. I'm going to use it again tomorrow morning.
 

PinkRose

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Feb 28, 2008
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Near Philadelphia, PA
I had not used my Moka Pot in quite a while. I've been quite happy with the coffee I have been getting from my french press. But this morning I decided I'd give it a go again. In the past I had always used the Italian style espresso coffee in a can. Either Lavazza or Medaglio d'Oro. And it always gave me a bitter cup. This time I adjusted my grinder to a much finer grind and used the beens from my local roaster that I normally use for french press. Bluestone Coffee Sumatra Takengon. A dark/medium dark roast. I have to say it was an extremely enjoyable couple mugs of coffee. I used my manual milk frother to heat up and froth some skim milk to make a cafe au lait. No bitterness. It was actually sweet, but nice and strong and had nice mouth feel. I could get used to that. I'm going to use it again tomorrow morning.

Since your Moka Pot was sitting around unused for quite some time, did you recondition the pot first - by making some coffee and dumping it out, or did you just drink the coffee that you made? I read (somewhere) that you're supposed to recondition the pot after it's been sitting unused for a long time. My Moka Pot has been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years. I could never get the coffee to come out right. I always think about trying it again, but then I change my mind.

I'm glad it worked out for you. It's like a new discovery!

~ Rose
 

MntnMan62

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Nov 15, 2019
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New Jersey
Since your Moka Pot was sitting around unused for quite some time, did you recondition the pot first - by making some coffee and dumping it out, or did you just drink the coffee that you made? I read (somewhere) that you're supposed to recondition the pot after it's been sitting unused for a long time. My Moka Pot has been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years. I could never get the coffee to come out right. I always think about trying it again, but then I change my mind.

I'm glad it worked out for you. It's like a new discovery!

~ Rose

No. I had not heard it needs to be "reconditioned". I just rinsed it out with some water. I'd say I had not used it in a number of months. Probably at least 6 months. I suppose yesterday's coffee was reconditioning and today's should be better.
 

MntnMan62

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Nov 15, 2019
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New Jersey
This morning's brew was as good as yesterday's. I'm really liking this Moka Pot thing. To be honest I had written it off. Turns out it was just the coffee I was using. That italian roast pre ground sutff in a can just doesn't work. From now whether it's the french press or Moka Pot, I'm sticking with my favorite beans from my local roaster. I always knew fresh quality beans could have an impact but never figured it would be the difference between yuck and delicious. I'm sold and lovin' it.
 

MntnMan62

New member
Nov 15, 2019
445
1
New Jersey
Third morning in a row using the Moka Pot. I am enjoying the stronger coffee it makes over the french press. At this point my desire to dip into the espresso arena is a bit muted. Not eliminated. Just muted. I think I'll take some time with the Moka Pot and go back and forth between it and the french press for a while.
 
May 28, 2020
57
1
Sarasota, FL USA
The Moka pot is a great little device, and though it produces a different type of espresso than a 9 bar machine, it
is still espresso, if you tune it right, you will get crema. There should be a wide spectrum for espressos
 

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