The Macchinetta: How to Make Stovetop Espresso Coffee Using a Bialetti Moka Express Coffeemaker

I'm just back from a trip to Europe, and while I was there I learned about a type of coffeemaker, totally new to me, that made such exceptionally delicious coffee that I couldn't wait to share it with my readers.

It's variously called a stovetop espresso maker, a moka pot, an espresso pot, or simply a macchinetta. It was invented by the Italian engineer Alphonso Bialetti in 1933, and Bialetti's company still makes the best known and most popular type of these coffeemakers.

Whatever you call them, these coffeemakers produce a rich, strong, espresso-style coffee that is ready in just 10 minutes. They are fairly common in Italy and neighboring countries, but much less known in the USA.

Warning: this is not a traditional American-style stovetop percolator in any way. The coffee you get out of these espresso pots is strong. Really strong. And it was the perfect medicine to conquer my jet lag, that's for sure. After downing just one cup of this glorious brew, you could have peeled me off the ceiling!

Needless to say I think I need to get myself one of these. And thankfully they are available on Amazon, so I'll share some links to typical examples of these coffeemakers right here:

A less expensive version, available in several sizes:
Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker

A slicker and more expensive 4-cup version here:
Bialetti Musa 4-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker

Here's a different brand, although it's bit more expensive:
VeV Vigano Vespress Nero Espresso Maker

* Full disclosure: as always, if you enter Amazon via a link on my blog and buy something, I will receive a small affiliate fee. There is no extra cost to you. Please think of it as my "tip jar"--and thanks so much to readers for your support!

If you're interested in more detail on how the moka pot works, I've posted a series of photos below with an explanation of how to use this coffeemaker. I've also included an amusing conversation I had with a friend I was visiting in Slovenia which is typical of how I ask dumb questions and am easily confused by very simple things.

Here are the three main parts of the coffeemaker: the water reservoir (center), the filter basket (right), and the coffee pot itself (left):

Fill the water reservoir with cold water, up to the pressure release valve on the side. Then place the filter basket on top...

....and fill it with grounds. Generally, you'll want to use an espresso or turkish grind coffee (meaning extremely fine, powdery grounds) with these coffee makers, but you don't need to--I made one pot using with a large-grind hazelnut coffee and found that the coffee still came out delicious.

Then, take the upper chamber and screw it firmly on to the lower chamber.

Set it on the stovetop, turn the burner on high, and then go do something else for ten minutes or so. When you come back, you'll have amazing coffee waiting for you!

And here's essentially how my conversation with my friend went:

Wait! How will I know when it's done?

My Slovene Friend: You will know. [Smiles mysteriously and then leaves for work, leaving me both confused and in a state of near-enlightenment]

Note that it's not that big a secret. You can just tell, by the different sound the pot makes, when all of the water has boiled out of the lower chamber and the coffee is ready.

Related Posts:
The French Press
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Our Favorite Coffee Store
Spending to Save: Frugality and Expensive Food

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Anonymous said...

My Brother In Law who worked at Starbucks got us one last Christmas! I found a French Press at on clearance at starbucks this summer and I love it too!

Kira said...

We have two of these at our house (when we moved in together, we each had one). My husband loves decaf espresso every night, and that's how we make it. We found our's for $10 at Tuesday Morning. I would recommend checking a Tuesday Morning/TJ Maxx place as well.

Teeny said...

Make sure you screw it tight or when you come back in ten minutes you won't have any delicious espresso.

Anonymous said...

My mom has made coffee like this most of my life, and I'm 28. It's one of the only ways in Brazil. I think it's also a latino thing, as I know Cubans make coffee like this too. Now I want some of the yummy black stuff.


Amanda said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been eyeing these little coffee pots for YEARS. When I lived in Key West I had the very best cafe con leche made from one of these little babies and have been wanting to reproduce that flavor ever since. I just didn't know what to do with the coffeepot--until now. Brilliant!

(Oh, can you tell me the measure of coffee that goes in the filter?)

Daniel said...

Thanks for your comments everyone!

Amanda, happy to be of service. :) To answer your question though, there's isn't really a specific measured amount of coffee that you use. You just fill the little filter basket up till it's level with coffee, that's all.

That's my kind of coffeemaker by the way: I don't usually have enough neurons firing to be able to measure coffee out when I first get up!


Amanda said...

No measuring? Even better! :D

Anonymous said...

Had to laugh remembering my summer in Italy in 1971 when I discovered this little item. I survived the month on espresso and unfiltered Camel cigarettes (I was in love!) and came back after one month 30 lbs lighter and higher than a kite. It is a fabulous product. Best, Alyson Stone

Daniel said...

Alyson, that is a *great* story. Happy that it brought back memories.


Barbara | VinoLuciStyle said...

I have one of these and love it. Actually using it today for espresso to make a dessert.