Living in Japan, it’s almost impossible to find a cafe that offers a cup of espresso for less than $3-$4. Now call me stingy, but as much as I love espresso, I typically won’t be spending that much to get just one shot.
I dream of having my very own powerful espresso machine, but until then, I think I’ll stick with my small but trusty Bialetti macchinetta to make all the espressos I want, right at home.
Macchinetta — the affordable stovetop espresso maker
The macchinetta, also known as a moka pot, is found in virtually every Italian household. Shaped like an hourglass, it’s a pot which you fill with water and ground espresso, and boil over a stove until it extracts one or multiple shots. If you’re not familiar with it, this is what my macchinetta looks like:
Mine is the smallest macchinetta on the market, and makes just one cup of espresso. There are various sizes, including ones that make 10+ servings at a time.
To be clear, you won’t be able to extract a shot of espresso exactly like those served at cafes. Instead, you’ll get something that I usually describe as somewhere between an espresso and coffee, in terms of texture and flavor. The reason for this is that the coffee won’t be extracted with nearly the same amount of pressure as a powerful espresso machine. You won’t get a nice thick layer of crema, either, but it will still be aromatic and delicious nonetheless.
Using your macchinetta
The macchinetta is made up of three main parts — the bottom chamber which you fill with water, the funnel filter in which you set the coffee grounds, and the top chamber which will eventually be filled with the extracted espresso.
Now, onto making the actual coffee. Prep time takes less than a minute, with just three easy steps.
- Fill the bottom compartment with water. There will be a line inside it indicating how much water you should pour in.
- Fill the filter with espresso grounds. You don’t need to tamp the coffee, but I usually smooth it over lightly with the back of a spoon.
- Place on stove over medium heat. What works best for me is to set the flame so that it is slightly smaller than the bottom of the macchinetta itself. This will not only make sure that the water doesn’t heat too quickly, but it will also prevent the pot handle from melting.
After about a minute (longer for those with bigger pots), you’ll start to hear a soft gurgling noise from the macchinetta. Turn off the stove and wait until the gurgling subsides. Your espresso is now ready!
Tips for extracting the perfect shot
Using a macchinetta is simple enough, but here are few tips to help you get a delicious shot of espresso every time.
- Don’t wash the moka pot with dish soap. Don’t scrub it too hard, either. With the macchinetta, the more you use it, the better flavor you’ll get. The oils from the coffee will coat the inside of the pot, saving the coffee from tasting like metal. I only rinse it lightly with water after every use.
- Remove the macchinetta from the stove soon after it’s done extracting coffee. Keep an eye on it so you know when it’s ready.
- Use fine, fresh espresso grounds. You also don’t want the dry grounds to sit over the stove for too long before the water heats up (this will make the coffee bitter), so make sure the heat isn’t set too low.
As with everything, you’ll have to go through some trial and error to understand what works best for you. But you should try and have as much fun as you can experimenting, especially since you’ll be getting a flavorful cup of espresso every time.