Emily McCaul, assistant lifestyles editor | The Collegiate Times

As the summer progressed, and the heat from our downtown sidewalks remained steady, I found myself sipping on iced coffee more often during my work days. Seldom did I find myself longing for a hot drink amid those 90-degree temperatures, opting for the refreshing chill of a frappe over the punchy kick of an Americano.

However, on slow mornings at home, even amidst the intense heat of the outdoors, I stuck to making coffee on the stove: hot, homemade and highly flavorful. Up until last weekend, the Italian moka pot had not been a part of my weekend routine.

Originally drawn to the novelty on a sale shelf in T. J. Maxx, I purchased the 3-cup, Gnali & Zani moka pot for the college-approved price of $5.99, deciding to give it a try.

The inside of the moka pot's top chamber sits empty while the water in the lower pot is heated.
The inside of the moka pot’s top chamber sits empty while the water in the lower pot is heated.

So, what’s a moka pot? 

I was first introduced to the moka pot by one of my dearest, coffee-loving friends one afternoon at my apartment. The moka pot, widely known for its popularity in Europe and Latin America, is a coffee maker; it creates both espresso and coffee with the upward-passing of steam through coffee grounds. The pot itself bears an iconic, Italian design: pointed, geometric and thoughtfully crafted from aluminum.

Why is this better than my Keurig — and in what ways is it lacking?

As I have come to find in the past, there are many ways to enjoy ‘a good cup of coffee,’ Starbucks drive-thrus included.

The Keurig, a staple in many college apartments and dorm rooms, is known for its convenience, efficiency and variety of K-cup flavors — obviously a great option for college students.

However, what I feel the moka pot provides is an extra ‘oomf’ of quality to my coffee, an option for espresso, and a more-involved process (something many coffee connoisseurs appreciate for the simple sake of the practice).

Also important to note is the process time; typically, from start to finish, the moka pot will take up to 10 minutes of your morning.

What skill-level are we talking here?

If you can work a stove, are capable of purchasing a bag of coffee grounds and have access to clean, running water, you are qualified, able and capable.

How does it work?

Like any new experience, the moka pot will take some getting used to, but overall, the process is straightforward. The moka pot is comprised of three main pieces: the top, the bottom pot and the funnel filter. Its instructions are as follows:

1. Unscrew the top from the bottom chamber and remove the funnel filter from the pot.

2. Fill the pot with water, stopping just below the visible outer valve (if you have trouble identifying the valve, it is the piece that resembles an ‘outy’ belly-button on the bottom chamber). You can use hot or cold water here; the choice is yours.

3. Replace the funnel filter in the bottom pot, then add your grounds, patting down the coffee with a spoon. For espresso, I would suggest a finer grind, filling the filter completely. For coffee, experiment with a coarser grind, leaving some room in the filter before screwing on the top.

Coffee brews in the top chamber of the moka pot as steam rises through the grounds and funnel filter.
Coffee brews in the top chamber of the moka pot as steam rises through the grounds and funnel filter.

4. Once you have placed the water in the lower pot and the grounds in the filter, attach the top to the moka pot. Set the pot on the stove top, wait for a whistle and voila!

The stove will heat the water in the pot, kicking the air out of the bottom chamber, and sucking the water up through the grounds like a vacuum. In the top chamber is where the coffee will brew, spewing outward like a fountain.

5. When the coffee is ready, pour (with an oven mitt, or if you’re a typical college student like myself, a clean wash rag if you lack oven mitts), sip and enjoy.

The finished product is poured into a small espresso mug.
The finished product is poured into a small espresso mug.

Needless to say, next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of T.J. Maxx, keep an eye out for the sale section; the moka pot makes for a charming gift, a cozy morning in and, of course, a great cup of coffee.

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