…BUT FIRST, A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
The chosen term for the stove-top coffee maker - the “moka” - pays homage to the Yemeni city of Mokha, a town overlooking the Red Sea and a port famous for its coffee trade links since antiquity. Read also: Coffee varieties (first part).
The famous octagonally shaped, aluminium "moka", recognisable all over the world, was patented by Alfonso Bialetti; the result of some brilliant intuition on his part after observing his wife doing the laundry!
In the 1930s, the use of the lisciveuse - the predecessor of the modern day washing machine - was widespread in Italy. It was effectively a large pot where the clothes were placed with a tube rising up its centre and with an opening at its top. The container below was filled with water - mixed with a little lisciva, a very effective natural detergent obtained from ash - which when boiled rose through the tube, along with the lisciva, and out of the top of the tube thus falling on to the laundry. Bialetti decided to apply the same methods for the preparation of coffee, designing the moka, that today gurgles in most Italian kitchens; a tradition that speaks of home, daily rituals, conviviality, intimacy and sharing.
With the moka, Bialetti revolutionized the pleasure of making coffee itself with its attention to detail and design; an example of an era and a culture that contributed greatly to spreading the reputation of the originality of Italian design throughout the world. Tight at the waist - like the fashionable ladies of old - and with that particular octagonal shape, it represents a unique example of industrial design thanks to its characteristics of form, function and longevity.
In 1933 the Moka Express was born. An Art Deco designed coffee maker designed again by Alfonso Bialetti, and immediately appreciated and loved by the public and made available in 1, 3, 4, 6 and 8 cup sizes. It quickly replaced the Neapolitan coffee maker and underwent surprisingly little design change over time.
The unit itself consists of 3 parts: a boiler equipped with a pressure release valve, a filter and a collecting vessel. It also had a sound that distinguishes it from anything else; that well known, welcoming gurgle that tells us that our coffee is ready. The moka is very much a personal object capable of creating a direct relationship with its user.
THE LITTLE MAN WITH THE MOUSTACHE
This image represents the connoisseur of coffee seemingly inspired by the figure of Renato Bialetti, son of Alfonso and well-known entrepreneur, with his characteristic black moustache.
The little man with a moustache was imagined in 1953 from the pencil of Paul Campani, a cartoonist and producer from Modena, a true genius in the world of communication.
A “Made in Italy” design icon and symbol of innovation, technology, functionality and elegance, the moka has even become part of the collection in some of the most famous museums in the world; we find it still exhibited today at the Museum of Modern Art - MOMA in New York and at the Milan Triennale.
The little man of Bialetti also reminds us of another character with a black moustache we know only too well... well of course, Mr. Bloom! With his black bowler hat and a nice little green suit - a little roasted coffee bean - he serves as our guide in the world of coffee.
Follow him on his adventures: Bloom Coffee School opportunities.
«…then to use it, it needs to be freshly ground,
Kept in a warm and dry place, and jealously guarded.
It doesn’t take long to make:
Add your desired dose, and don’t spill it on the stove.
Bring it to the boil, then lower it suddenly
Six or seven times at least, then the coffee is soon made. "
(Carlo Goldoni, from his comedy "La bottega del caffè" of 1750, gave us an idea even then on how to prepare a good coffee).
A WINNING RECIPE FROM ALBERTO POLOJAC (1st place at Professional Moka Challange)
1 three cup moka
12-15 g of coffee (medium grind)
150 ml of water (preferably natural mineral, avoid hard water)
PROCEDURE: Preheat the water by bringing it to the boil. This is necessary since the moka has an inherent design defect: the temperature of the water that comes out of the boiler can exceed boiling point, even briefly, thus extracting bitter and astringent substances from the coffee. To remedy this either use a lighter roast coffee or simply pre-boil the water separately which minimizes the contact time between the ground coffee and the metal of the coffee maker and extracts the coffee immediately maintaining its aromas - we recommend using a stainless steel moka.
So, at this point fill the moka water chamber up (with the pre-boiled water) to the level of the pressure release valve. Put the ground coffee in the filter (it’s always best to grind the roasted coffee beans on the spot, if possible, again to guarantee freshness and maintain the aromas) but without tamping it since it is necessary to facilitate the passage of the rising water; so just lightly tap the side of the filter such that the coffee grounds settle or just level it gently with a finger. Screw the upper part of the moka with a glove and place it on the stove on low heat so as to allow a slow rising of the water which, passing through the ground coffee, fully extracts the aromas. It is advisable to leave the lid of the coffee pot up and add 10-15 ml of water (as a bypass) to reduce its over-extraction, and in doing so, the coffee will not touch the heated part of the collection chamber but will come into contact with the water and avoid burning.
SOME USEFUL TIPS
WATER: water plays an important role in making a good coffee. If you fill the boiler up to the pressure release valve you will get a coffee with a correct extraction since it produces a more uniform pressure that avoids over-extraction. On the other hand, if we fill it to the rim, we risk wetting the filter that contains the coffee thus creating a sort of stopper. Read also: The importance of water in coffee.
CLEANING: to eliminate staining, separate clean all parts of the coffee maker (including the rubber gasket and filter) every time it is used. Put the equipment aside in the cupboard only if completely dry to prevent corrosion of the material.