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Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
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stash
Senior Member
stash
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 286
Location: Wisconsin
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Botticelli II, Bialetti...
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso, Zass 169DG
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum eSantos
Drip: Presto Scandi
Roaster: Hottop & I-Roast
Posted Wed Jun 30, 2004, 8:05pm
Subject: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

I just bought this little Moka Pot, and am excited to give it a whirl.  There is some good information on the Brikka in these forums, but most of it is a little old, so thought I would see if I could get some "up-to-date" tips on getting the most out of this cute little device.  My questions are as follows:

1) What would be an appropriate grind setting ???  Bialetti simply states NOT to use finely ground espresso-type coffee.  However, the CoffeeGeek consensus seems to be to use finely ground coffee, just not quite as fine as one would use for espresso.  I would normally grind to a 10-12 setting on my Rocky for a pump espresso machine and about a 40 setting for drip coffee, so would a 20 setting or so be appropriate for the Brikka ???

2) Do you tamp the coffee grinds at all ???  There does not seem to be a CG consensus for this question.  Some Brikka owners don't tamp at all and some seem to apply light pressure.  Bialletti says NO "pressing".

3) Do you preheat the burner before placing the moka pot ???  This seems to be a good idea because it will help get the water up to temperature faster and I would think result in a quicker brew with less chance of bitterness.

4) Do you remove the pot from the burner the very moment coffee starts to flow and it makes the "puffing" noise (in Bialletti's words) ???  Bialletti seems to suggest this practice, but some CG fanatics suggest waiting to 10-30 seconds after the coffee first starts to flow.

5) What are some recommendations for enjoying the Moka brew ???  With steamed milk, frothed milk, plain milk, or just straight ?  I have a little manual Bodum milk frother that works very well, but found that plain frothed milk (without steaming) does not taste as well in espresso as properly steamed and frothed milk.  Not sure why.

6) Why does everyone seem to own the 2-cup version instead of the 4-cup ???  (Hoping "MyronJ" is still around and will chime in on this question... and the other questions as well).

As an aside, does anyone know if Bialletti will be producing a stainless steel version of the the Brikka ???  So far, the aluminum construction seems to be the only real glaring weakness of the Brikka.

I am also curious to know if anyone has tried one of the electric moka pots (with its own electric heating plate), such as the "La Pavoni ESP-20 Caffe Mattina"  ???  If I really like the results from my little Brikka, it would be great to have an electric moka pot like this for the office.
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stash
Senior Member
stash
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 286
Location: Wisconsin
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Botticelli II, Bialetti...
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso, Zass 169DG
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum eSantos
Drip: Presto Scandi
Roaster: Hottop & I-Roast
Posted Fri Jul 2, 2004, 10:26pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

Well, I guess I am going to have to answer some of my own questions.  I have used the Brikka now for only a couple of days, but I can already say I LOVE and am WOW'ed by this little "wannabe" espresso maker.   As a matter of fact, the results in my mind are so close to a good pump machine, I no longer intend to purchase a super automatic or even a semi-automatic "pump" machine.  I have even ordered a second Bialetti (an electric model) for the office.

The only negative I see so far is that the temperature of the brew could probably be 10-15 degrees hotter.  Otherwise, the quality is excellent.  Here are my initial "positive" observations:
a) Very easy to use and clean up.  In fact, I would say it kicks butt on any semi-automatic or automatic pump machine in terms of convenience !!!  You fill the bottom half with water using the provided measuring cup, grind, fill the basket, screw on the top, drop it on the stove, and simply wait 3-4 minutes for the gurgling sound that says your brew is ready.  (While it is brewing, you can prepare your steamed and/or frothed milk if so inclined).  For clean up, all three parts of the moka pot can be washed up in a matter of a minute.
b) Surprisingly, it makes a fairly solid puck... almost as solid as a pump machine, and this without tamping.  I would argue that this suggests the moka pot is producing a result not too far off from true espresso.  My taste buds (albeit relatively "newbie" taste buds) can't really discern any significant difference in the moka pot output versus a pump machine.
c) It does make a layer of crema.  For the most part, the crema is short lived but I have managed to keep it alive while pouring in the cup.  In one case, I had almost a 1/4" layer of crema which lasted a minute or so in the cup.
d) The moka pot is versatile.  You can make a very good "cafe crema" simply by filling the basket only 1/2 to 3/4 full.  I tried this the very first day and it was perhaps the best cup of coffee/espresso I have had in a long time.  I usually have to have a little sugar even in my coffee, but the cafe crema I produced with the Brikka was so naturally sweet (with absolutely no bitterness) that I could drink it straight.

Now to answer my own questions.  This is very preliminary, and may change, but I think I already have a good feel of how to properly work the moka pot:
1) A grind slightly coarser than an espresso grind works well, and does result in some crema output.
2) Tamping not necessary.  Just pat down with finger and clean any grinds off edges of basket.  And do not fill grinds to very top of basket.  I found that an overflowing basket and tamping are just not necessary to get a strong espresso-like brew.  The moka pot does a very good jump of compressing the grinds all on its own, just through the brewing process.  (All of this is pretty much in agreement with Bialetti's recommendations).
3) Pre-heating the burner works well, and I see no negatives in doing so, though I have not yet tried to brew from a cold burner.
4) I have been waiting about 5-10 seconds after the coffee/espresso begins to flow to remove the pot from the burner.  If I wait much longer than this, the crema seems to dissipate faster.  Leaving the lid open does seem to help maintain the crema versus keeping it closed, though it may also cost something in terms of the final brew temperature.
5) Don't know yet.  I have only drank straight or with a little sugar.  I will try with milk this weekend.
6) Can't answer this one either.

I am so enamored by this little moka pot, I can now see myself buying a bunch of them just because they are cute (and inexpensive) and to see how each one performs differently.  I would love to hear some recommendations for other moka pots, and why you love them or not ???
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brian5701
Senior Member


Joined: 22 Nov 2002
Posts: 5
Location: Sacramento, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bialetti Brikka
Grinder: Solis Maestro
Drip: Kitchenaid 4-cup
Posted Wed Jul 7, 2004, 4:31pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

I have been using the Brikka for the last 6 months and I totally agree with you on how great it is.  The coffee is RICH and it's easy to use.  I have abandoned my machines as I get more consistent results with the moka pot.  The Brikka really excels in producing a great cup without a lot of work.  I just can't handle waiting for most machines to heat up (sorry Miss Silvia!!!) and the grind and tamp for good shot is just too fussy for me.  Pods can get pretty stale (sorry Mr. Francis Francis!)  In answer to your unanswered questions:
  1.  I actually microwave some 2% milk and then hit it with the latte whip before combining it with the coffee.  In all honesty this produces the best capuccino I've had in a while. (Sacramento doesn't produce a lot of great coffee...)  I like your idea about the cafe crema - that never occurred to me.  Now I have something to try!
  2.  I think I read something online where someone thought that the 4-cup was actually a 3-cup when it comes to the quantity of coffee produced.  It's been a while since I bought mine, but I thought the 4-cup was the smallest size.
    As far as electric moka pots go, I think they're all just "normal" and don't include the special Brikka valve system.  I have tried normal moka pots before the Brikka and although I liked the product, the Brikka is way better and more consistent.  There's also one called "Kaliffa" made by Bialetti with the "Brikka" system which is shaped differently, although I think it's aluminum as well.  I was really hoping that Bialetti would start to market the Brikka here - Target carries a lot of Bialetti, but no Brikka.  I haven't seen much news on the Brikka front as far as new models go; I think the price point is the main problem - most people are happy with their normal (cheap) moka pots.  The Brikka is THE moka pot for Coffeegeeks!  Good luck!!!
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neddisc
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2004
Posts: 40
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Giotto
Grinder: Rossi RR45, Anfim Haus
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos and Electric...
Drip: Braun
Roaster: FR+8
Posted Wed Jul 7, 2004, 4:57pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

I am really interested in the brikka for work (I need something portable).  I was wondering, if buy the electric moka from bialetti, can I retrofit the top from the Brikka?  The electric moka I saw was the regular bialetti (and I want the crema production of the pressure valve of the Brikka).  I would be willing to buy both and retrofit, but don't want to buy unless I know it will work.
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stash
Senior Member
stash
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 286
Location: Wisconsin
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Botticelli II, Bialetti...
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso, Zass 169DG
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum eSantos
Drip: Presto Scandi
Roaster: Hottop & I-Roast
Posted Wed Jul 7, 2004, 7:16pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

neddisc Said:

I am really interested in the brikka for work (I need something portable).  I was wondering, if buy the electric moka from bialetti, can I retrofit the top from the Brikka?  

Posted July 7, 2004 link

I recently ordered Bialetti's 6-cup electric moka pot (non-Brikka) and should have it tomorrow.  Will let you know if the top interchanges.

****************************************** ******************************************

And Brian,

Thanks for the ideas and comments.  I agree with you entirely about how easy it is to produce a great brew from the Brikka, though I actually managed to make one or two not so good cups... just not sure yet what went wrong.  With a pump espresso machine, things were reversed.  I was usually surprised when I managed to produce a great cup, and not too surprised with so-so results.

For a milder "crema type" cup, try 3/4 of the full water and grinds.  I discovered this the very first time I used the pot.  Bialetti recommends a "break-in" for the pot consisting of running three consecutive batches at the 3/4 level... and I just couldn't resist sampling the third batch.  It was delicious and amazingly sweet and mild, though much more potent than an ordinary cup of drip.  I may still buy an inexpensive semi-auto machine just for something different now and then.  That is really one of the wonders of coffee I am starting to enjoy more and more... that there are so many different ways to brew the stuff with so many different results !!!
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neddisc
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2004
Posts: 40
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Giotto
Grinder: Rossi RR45, Anfim Haus
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos and Electric...
Drip: Braun
Roaster: FR+8
Posted Wed Jul 7, 2004, 7:39pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

Thanks.  Can't wait to hear (got my fingers crossed).
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brian5701
Senior Member


Joined: 22 Nov 2002
Posts: 5
Location: Sacramento, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bialetti Brikka
Grinder: Solis Maestro
Drip: Kitchenaid 4-cup
Posted Wed Jul 7, 2004, 10:16pm
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

That is really one of the wonders of coffee I am starting to enjoy more and more... that there are so many different ways to brew the stuff with so many different results !!!

I am with you there.  I'm considering ordering a Chemex brewer.  I have heard so much about them and I do enjoy drip coffee as well.
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stash
Senior Member
stash
Joined: 20 Mar 2004
Posts: 286
Location: Wisconsin
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Botticelli II, Bialetti...
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso, Zass 169DG
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum eSantos
Drip: Presto Scandi
Roaster: Hottop & I-Roast
Posted Fri Jul 9, 2004, 6:25am
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

neddisc Said:

Thanks.  Can't wait to hear (got my fingers crossed).

Posted July 7, 2004 link

Chris,

The top does interchange, BUT... I do NOT think I would try this !!!  The Brikka is put together better in several respects.  It has a double seal around the filter basket, while the standard pot only has a single seal.  The filter basket for the Brikka appears to be stainless steel, while the standard filter is definitely a flimsier aluminum.  The Brikka also has a different pressure relief valve which I would guess allows for higher pressure.  Overall, it is fairly obvious that the Brikka is built to withstand higher pressures.  I think if you used the Brikka top on the standard electric base, you would probably "blow" the basket seal, or the pressure valve, or the seal in the base.  The seal in the base would be the biggest concern.  If you blow this, it would expose the wiring to moisture.

Here is an idea I wish I would have thought of from the start.  Buy a second Brikka and an electric hot plate.  Not sure how much an electric hot plate costs, but I would guess this would work well in the office.  I may still take this route if the electric moka pot is a disappointment.

************************************************ ***********************************************

Brian,

I have a mini Bodum Santos in the office.  It kicks butt on drip coffee makers !!!  It gets the coffee to the proper temperature and seems to brew for an optimum time.  In summary, it just brings out more flavor in the bean than even a good drip machine.  We have a commercial Bunn machine in the office, and though it is better than most drip brewers, it really can't match the results from my little Santos.
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brian5701
Senior Member


Joined: 22 Nov 2002
Posts: 5
Location: Sacramento, CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bialetti Brikka
Grinder: Solis Maestro
Drip: Kitchenaid 4-cup
Posted Sat Jul 10, 2004, 9:57am
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

stash Said:

Brian,

I have a mini Bodum Santos in the office.  It kicks butt on drip coffee makers !!!  It gets the coffee to the proper temperature and seems to brew for an optimum time.  In summary, it just brings out more flavor in the bean than even a good drip machine.  We have a commercial Bunn machine in the office, and though it is better than most drip brewers, it really can't match the results from my little Santos.

Posted July 9, 2004 link

Yeah, I was researching the Santos at one time, but was turned off by the negative comments on the Sweet Maria's website as well as the caveats on the WholeLatteLove page.  Most of the gripes seem to be about it not achieving the right temperature, difficulty to clean, etc.  You are using the 6-cup electric model, I assume?  Do you find it easy to use?
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neddisc
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2004
Posts: 40
Location: Montreal
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Giotto
Grinder: Rossi RR45, Anfim Haus
Vac Pot: Bodum Santos and Electric...
Drip: Braun
Roaster: FR+8
Posted Sat Jul 10, 2004, 10:29am
Subject: Re: Brewing with the Bialetti Brikka 4-Cup
 

Thanks for the update.  That's too bad.  I'll probably still buy an electric moka for the office.  I thought about the hot plate idea, especially because in China Town here in Montreal, almost all the restaurant supply places sell a relatively cheap portable burner which would easily reach the necessary temp for brewing.  But in the end, I don't have a lot of space and I like the compactness of the electric, and the fact that part of the burner is not exposed when it is on, lessening risk of fire or burns.  The regular bialetti does work well and I was totally satisfied until I heard about the Brikka, and now I have to have one ;)

By the way, I have the full size el. Santos and it works great most of the time, although every now and again it shuts off too early (the water goes up and it immediately shuts off), and the results suck.  Usually I just reload it and run it again and the result is fine.  Honestly the worst thing about it is the clean-up.  You have to be very careful with the carafe to not let any water in, or it ruins the electronics.  Given that the hole in the top is so small, it makes it difficult to get the soapy water out sometimes, and it  can turn into a real contorsion act.  Having the burner built into the caraffe is somewhat of a bad design, although I'm not sure if there is any way to have avoided it.  I actually find my conventional Santos easier to clean.  But, both make the best coffee I've ever had.

Anyway, thanks again for the repeat post, and best of luck with the Moka collection!
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