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Moka pot brewing at home made easy

I’m always interested in deepening my home coffee brewing methods.  Over the years, I’ve brewing using a Mr. Coffee-style filtered coffee machine, then I graduated to using a French press (thanks to a gift from my best friend).  Several years ago, I try cold brewing when my wife bought me a cold coffee brewer as a gift.  When I started homeroasting a few years ago, I started expanding my brewing methods even further.  The testing started with a Chemex brewer, and then I bought an Aeropress.  I haven’t yet dived into making pourover drip coffee at home, and I want to try using a siphon/vacuum brewer at home as well.  I guess I need to use some of my Sweet Maria’s gift certificates to get some more hardware.

About a year ago,  I bought a mini stovetop espresso maker at an estate sale.  I was so intrigued with it, I bought a full-size version at my local grocery store when I saw one for sale.  The misnomer here is that stovetop espresso makers, in my opinion, don’t really make what I call “espresso”.  Sure, you could put an espresso blend of coffee in it and call it espresso, but from what I see, the process of a stovetop espresso maker is more of a percolation than the forced pressure process used to brew espresso.  I’ve also considered a stovetop espresso maker to actually be a form of percolator.  (For some interesting reading on this, check out the “controvery” under the heading of “Naming convention” in the Wikipedia entry for “coffee percolator”.)

After buying my stovetop espresso maker, I discovered that the more commercialized rendition of this little gadget is usually called a moka pot.  From what I can tell, what I have and what’s generally called a moka pot are the same mechanism for brewing coffee, only what people call a moka pot is more expensive and generally has cleaner lines.  Maybe I’m wrong, but my sharper angled device seems to be the same thing.  Anyway, I’ve never really known quite how I’m supposed to brew good coffee in this device.  I’ve always heard that percolators can overextract coffee by exposing the grounds to higher than ideal brewing temperatures (and because tube-driven percolators can recirculate already-brewed coffee through saturated grounds), so I’ve had a little concern.  But as I read up on moka pots versus percolators, I’m under the impression that if you’re not using a tube-driven percolator and are instead using one of these more pressure-driven percolating moka pots, you shouldn’t have the overextraction issues that are common with tube-driven percolators.

I write all this to acknowledge I’m a little confused on how to use this little gadget.  Call it a stovetop expresso maker, a percolator or a moka pot, how do I actually use it?  Enter our friends at Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  Today I noticed their brewing guides section on their website.  How cool!  They have photo-driven brewing guides for press pots, Chemex, moka pots, vacuum brewers, Melitta pourover drippers, espresso and Cafe Solo brewing.  The moka pot brewing guide has 10 steps along with an introduction that explains the basics to which you need to pay attention.  I love this this coffee tutorial section of their site, though. It’s very helpful for all the brewing styles noted, and it’s definitely worth checking out.