Until I create something of a “mailbag” section on this site, I’ll post some of the more interesting questions, and my replies, here.

At 03:52 PM 1/16/2006 -0600, _ _ wrote:
>I've really enjoyed your site. I was wondering if you had a recommendation
>for a good Moka stovetop maker. In addition, do have a recommendation for
>coffee for the moka? lastly, how fine a grind do you need for the moka?

Thanks, Josh. As for a good Moka stovetop, you can’t go wrong with the standards: Bialetti makes many good ones and are always worthwhile. Some come with more design, some are just all about function. Alternatively, the Neapolitan stove top maker, which has two chambers that are flipped over during the brewing process, is also pretty unique and makes good coffee.

In any case, I’ll I learned a couple of tips about them I can share — and you’re fully entitled to ignore them!

First, in Italy most people use Moka pots at home. And they buy what would be considered the puny ones here: 1-2 cup sizes. Some of the stores sell the 6-8 cup sized ones, but those are literally purchased only by American tourists. Reason being that Italians (and I’m not even remotely Italian, btw) like to brew a fresh pot rather than let a big one sit around. Of course, American appetites for beverages are in the Super Big Gulp® range… so to each his own.

Second tip: tamp the grinds in the top a little. Not too hard, but just enough to make some extra room in the basket for some extra coffee. At least that’s the way I like it. Some really put muscle into it and try to smash atoms together. Others just let the grounds lie where they are like a snowfall. I do something inbetween: I take a small wooden tamper (or use the back of a large spoon) to tamp it down just a little. It brings out more coffee flavor to keep it from tasting too much like drip coffee, but it’s not so compacted to cause a meltdown and risk getting only a half ounce of crud.

As for a grind, I wouldn’t suggest anything too fine. The coffee will fall through the holes too much … or might get shot through with just a little bit of pressure. I may have a semi-professional Mazzer Mini grinder at home, but it’s completely overkill. So I stick to the blade grinder (i.e., “chopper”). Most Italian homes, for example, have access to only the most basic of coffee grinders and that suffices. So I would suggest getting as fine a grain as you can get with a relatively inexpensive grinder.

Good luck, and please write back with any findings to share.