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I broke both of my French press pots, within a matter of a week. It happens. It’s okay, I have Bialettis, like, five of them in various sizes. I am American, I do enjoy my morning American coffee (albeit in a press pot) with cream (or sometimes not!), BUT! I am also Italian, and I do really have an intrinsic affection for that creation of home-crafted “espresso” brewed by percolation on the stove top. Mr. Bialetti, you little mustachioed man (he points!), this thing you have crafted is a collected wonder of subtle complexities, direct me towards a lustrous moment of quiet company, please and thank you.
This pot is the ubiquitous talisman for all things family, ever-present: for breakfast with hot milk and a crunchy piece of toast, made crunchier than just merely crunchy for the intent and purpose of dunking it into the cup of coffee, as well as for postprandial digestion with a peel of lemon (zest, not pith!) and a splash of Sambuca (my father only likes Anisette, to each his own). Brewing the Moka pot of espresso is not trivial, at all. In our present, urban-day mania over “artisanal” espresso, time with a cup and saucer of Moka espresso and hot milk is all but completely not at all spent, a case-in-point of totally forgotten beginnings. In reality, this particular cup and saucer is a picture of the beginnings from whence this “artisanal” era came, and it deserves our great respect.Other versions of the Moka pot predated the design fabricated by Bialetti, and I’m certain that the Russo clan owns them all, including but not limited to: the Neapolitan-style flip-over pot, as well as the makeshift bar-espresso style, stove-heated, hot water pour-through, drip pot, too (I don’t even know what that thing is called). Of them all, the Bialetti is the most consistently-producing coffee pot and the easiest to use, when and only when you figure the motherscratcher out. Let’s be clear–in the world of Moka, the fine line between bliss and death is a seemingly invisible barrier. Henceforth, some serious love and care must be taken in this realm! Like all life-love affairs, understanding comes with patience and shared time.Without further ado, I share my loving discoveries here, with you.  Please enjoy a morning cup of homespun caffè latte with a thick, crunchy slice of Rustic Italian bread, laden with melted butter baked therein and dunked into your cup. You know, that saucer is a replacement tabletop made to perform the duties of a solid platform whilst your beverage is enjoyed away from solid platforms. Hence, get back into bed (it’s nice in there), you have a cup and saucer…

How to Brew Moka Espresso in the Bialetti

FIRST. Heat water in a kettle until just to the near-simmer, don’t let it boil.

NEXT. Grind some espresso coffee (my favorite for the Bialetti is Counter Culture’s Espresso La Forza, hell to the yes) coarsely, as you would for the French press, or a percolator pot. Fill the filter cup to the brim with grounds and level the top off so that the grounds are even with the inner edge and slightly mounded into the middle–DO NOT PACK. For convenience, you can open the lid to the top of the pot and rest the filter cup standing upright inside of it while you assemble everything else.

NOW. Pour the hot water into the water chamber of the Bialetti, filling it just to the center line of the steam valve, and not a millimeter higher! Don’t cover the steam valve, it’s really that important. Holding the water chamber with a pot holder (it’s hot, now), fit the filter cup of grounds inside the water chamber (it should drop into the chamber easily without floating or displacing water) and screw the top of the pot onto the bottom, making a tight seal. Lift the lid open and set the pot atop the stove over medium-low heat.

FINALLY. Slow and steady wins the race–the coffee needs to be extracted evenly and heating it slowly induces even percolation of water upwards through the grounds. Watch it closely. What you want to see is that the coffee siphons up through the spout in a slow and steady stream, not a violent explosion. When there is enough coffee to fill the pot by 5/8 – 3/4 of the way up the spout, take the pot off the heat and close the lid. In the meanwhile, heat some whole milk (about ½ to ¾ cup per ½ cup of coffee) in a small sauce pot until it is just warmer than body temperature, this is when milk gets sweet and delicious, for serious. Swill some hot water into a cup (atop a saucer!) to warm it up, pour the water out. Pour a half cup of coffee and then add a half cup or more of hot milk. Ta da! That’s it, really it is. Viva L’Italia!

Feature photo: Clementina Russo

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