My first little espresso maker

Don’t ask how it happened. I don’t really know. But I somehow seemed to have missed the part of growing up where you learn how to make coffee. And the part where you buy your first coffee maker.

I also missed “Star Wars” entirely, but that’s a separate transgression.

This month, I finally bought my first coffee contraption – at age 30-something, on the eve of our friends’ visit. (House guests are the key to making so much go from rumination to reality.)

I was waffling between the ordinary drip coffee pot (cheap, hulking, the usual starter appliance) and the French press (cheap, slim, fussy to clean). Both could produce adequate coffee, though nothing like the strong stuff I’ve come to crave in Germany. We’re expats at the moment, and anything bought with a cord is perishable. A fancy expresso machine seemed unreasonable, and though some friends have trekked their beloved Keurigs across the Atlantic and attached a hefty voltage converter, that seemed a bit much to me. (I’m a coffee novice, clearly.)

But it turns out there is another option. No electricity required. No throw-away filters. Stronger than your average American brew coffee. Simple to clean. Shiny and cute. And less than $40.

I present to you: the moka pot.

Bialetti Venus moka pot

Bialetti Venus 4-cup stovetop espresso maker

You might not recognize this little pot, but you’ve probably seen him before – looking more angular. The original moka pot was patented in the 1930s. It’s still made today in aluminum by Bialetti.

Bialetti man on a moka pot

One more, please! Apparently, the little Bialetti man is a caricature of the company founder’s son (Wikipedia)

This particular version is made of stainless steel, which I read was better – at least in some ways – because it doesn’t impart the taste of aluminum. And it’s friendly to all types of stovetops.

Venus espresso pot, separated

Two parts of the three-part espresso stovetop maker.

The bottom half holds the water and a little removable compartment of ground coffee beans. Once the pot boils, delicious espresso bubbles up into the top pitcher-like half.

Where the ground coffee beans go

Where the ground coffee beans go

Hochland espresso kassico

Our current espresso beans from Hochland. Yes, we like bears.

Venus pot compartment with coffee beans

Fit it up with ground coffee beans – just don’t press it in

I made the mistake of leaving lots of room in the coffee compartment, because the instructions warn against packing it too tightly. But our visiting friends (experienced coffee connoisseurs) showed me the way: If you want the strongest brew you can get, you have to fill up the little cup as much as you can.

Venus stovetop maker – on the stovetop

Please don’t leave me. I like to be watched.

Then screw on the top part and set it on a burner. I had to experiment with temperatures, because I started way too low. Turning the knob to medium-high (about 9 o’clock) works well for my stove, but I’d suggest starting lower to find your stove’s sweet spot.

Coffee brewing in Venus pot

Here comes the coffee!

After a few minutes – maybe 4? I should time it – the water begins to rustle. A minute later, it will start percolating up the spout and spilling over into the top compartment. From that point, it takes little time at all. (Sometimes, I’ll just turn off the burner at this point. The residual heat keeps it going.)

I love the gurgling sound. It rises to a growl, which reminds me of a tea kettle. So organic and pleasant. When you hear the growl, pull the pot off the burner.

Pour of espresso

Sweet taste of near espresso. Call it super coffee.

The taste is so much stronger than a typical drip pot of coffee, a big jolt in the morning. And bonus: Once the pot cools, just rinse the three parts and set them aside to dry. No soap recommended!

The only downside is that I bought the 4-cup version. 4 cups ≠ 4 cups. “4 cups” = 50 ml times 4, or 4 pseudo-espresso shots. Oops. This meant that we made 5 or 6 or 7 “pots” of coffee during each breakfast with the four of us. On the upside, the brew was tasty enough that our friends sought out the Hochland beans to take back to the States.

Next up: Foaming milk to make a cappuccino. Any recommendations?