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Everything You Need to Know About the Bialetti Moka Express

Bialetti. A household name and an essential rite in Italy for almost ninety years, this unique homebrew gadget is increasingly gaining traction here in the United States. Although technically not espresso, it is as close to being espresso without having to own an actual espresso machine. 

Here at WestBean, we’re fans of the Bialetti Moka Express for several reasons. First, the device’s material, aluminum, is an excellent distributor of heat and brews better coffee because each part and chamber are evenly heated. And because of the use of pressure and heat, the coffee comes out hotter than it would in a standard pot. The best feature of this method of brewing is that once seasoned properly (more on this later), cleaning the pot is as easy as rinsing with water--no sponge or soap needed. In fact, the coffee will taste better with each brew, thanks to its seasoning.

So how did the brand gain the recognition it enjoys today? 

Its origins stretch back to the 1930s when Mussolini was in power and Italy was experiencing tremendous growth as an empire that Italians honed in on their perfect cup of coffee-- a drink which represented both modernism and urbanization. Opting for a thicker, stronger coffee, steam powered and pressured to perfection, Italians, through trial and error, created espresso. 

It wasn’t until the early 20th century, however,  when large, costly espresso machines could be widely found in espresso bars, fueling social and public associations with the beverage. 

During the 1930s, the Mussolini regime also advanced a national campaign for Aluminum. Nearly overnight the precious metal became the quintessence of anything Italian, the hallmark of design and sturdy craftsmanship.

It was during this time of innovation that Alfonso Bialetti moved back to Italy from France, where he worked in the aluminum industry. He set up shop and in the 1920s the Moka Express was mentally conceived. Curiously, it was his observations on laundry practices that spurred the concept. He noticed that the launderers would boil the wash in a tub containing a central pipe. This pipe’s function was to redistribute the soapy water from the bottom of the wash back over the top of the laundry. 

Bialetti reasoned that this was a sure way to make good coffee at home and in 1933, utilizing the national metal, invented the stovetop Moka Express. Bialetti’s invention has virtually retained its same shape and function since and can be found in nine out of ten Italian homes.

Interested in trying home brewing with the Bialetti Moka Express? Grab a bag of Sweet Sussex, our award-winning espresso beans that feature notes of apricot jam, sweet chocolate and brown sugar and get brewing!

Below are our suggested steps for making the perfect cup of espresso with WestBean and Bialetti.

  1. Rinse the post with hot water. Soap isn’t really necessary as you want the coffee to slowly season your pot over time.
  2. Fill the reservoir with water up to the line, which is usually right under the valve.
  3. Place the metal basket into the reservoir and fill with coffee grounds. Grounds should be slightly coarser than espresso but finer than grounds for a drip. Also, do not pack the grounds, just level it with your finger.
  4. Tightly secure both chambers and place on stove.
  5. Brew using low heat (the flame circumference should not reach past the base of the Moka Express) and keep the lid closed until brewing has finished. Listen for bubbling to indicate the brewing is just about complete.
  6. Pour and enjoy!
Before disassembling and cleaning, please ensure the pot is cool enough to handle safely.

    Tip: You may want to brew a few “practice” cups first as the finish on the metal will distort the taste of the coffee. To curb economic impact, use cheap grounds for these brews and taste each cup until the flavor of the coffee emerges. This will also help season the pot.