Bialetti Moka Express

| Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

The claim : Since the debut of the Moka Express in 1933, Bialetti has grown to be the world's most-recognized Italian coffee company. It can be found in nearly 90 percent of Italian households. In 2008, the Moka Express was included as a masterpiece of modern art in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Moka Express stovetop espresso maker produces rich, authentic Italian coffee in just minutes. The aluminum pot features Bialetti's distinctive eight-sided design for optimal performance. It comes in eight sizes, from a 1-cup pot to a 12-cup pot.

Cost: $24.99 for a 1-cup pot to $59.99 for a 12-cup pot.

Where: Sur La Table; Crate & Barrel; Bed, Bath & Beyond;

Anytime you can go old-school is a good time in my book. The Bialetti Moka Express offers such a time every morning, or whenever you feel like having an Italian-style coffee or espresso. I don't keep espresso around, because my Mr. Coffee is used only for the morning pot of Joe.

So, I used regular ground coffee (of the Starbucks variety, as that is what I had on hand) to test the 3-cup Moka Express — a simple, two-part “machine” crafted from aluminum. I filled the lower half with Brita-filtered water and the top part with about a tablespoon or two of ground coffee, then placed the maker on my gas stove with the flame set to medium-low heat.

After several minutes, it yielded a shot of what could be considered espresso (though I used regular coffee.) I tossed out the first shot, as I saw that was recommended online, but drank the second. It was delicious. And they only got better the more I made.

For those looking to buy one, I recommend getting a bigger version. It would give you more coffee for the same effort.

— Jason Cato

Brewing a great cup of espresso when you're not on the go need not mean investing in a pricey machine that takes up valuable kitchen-counter space. The 3-cup Bialetti Moka Express pot looks like a pint-size version of the espresso caffettiera my parents had when they arrived from Sicily in 1949. The pot's design is nearly unchanged from the ones Bialetti first started making in 1933, according to the company.

Precisely following the simple stove-top directions resulted in an outstanding pot of coffee the very first time. With a little practice, I was able to create a bit of the characteristic crema foam that floats on top of a proper cup of espresso.

For the price of a couple cups of java at a cafe, the Bialetti Express is an outstanding value for anyone looking to try their hand at being a barista.

— Tony LaRussa

G randma would be proud. Among my coffee-making collection, I have a Keurig for my cranky a.m. instant gratification, a French press for my more leisurely Sunday caffeine demands, and a drip coffee maker for larger social groups. But the Bialetti Moka Express intrigued me with its award-winning design and the cute little Italian man logo. With the dainty 3-cup version — that's three espresso cups, not three 8-ounce cups — I felt like I was playing house.

Then, I looked at the directions and got nervous — they were too simple! Unscrew the top from the bottom and remove the filter. Fill the base with water up to the valve. Fill the filter with coffee (no demands for a particular espresso rough grind or specially sized paper filters), and place inside. Screw on the top. Heat on the stove until water boils, and within a few minutes, the top section magically fills with steaming-hot espresso. The brew is rich and flavorful. Add hot milk, and you have a delicious latte.

At nearly 80 years of age, the Moka Express remains a frontrunner in today's high-tech coffee wars. It's a classic Grandma would have recognized.

— Sally Quinn

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