coffee help please!
April 10, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Why won't my moka pot (italian stovetop coffee maker) make me a decent cup of coffee? half of the water seems to be unable to come up from the bottom part to turn itself into delicious, morning-saving coffee.

I have been using my bialetti moka pot for years (YEARS, i tell you) and it has always worked well. recently, it seems like the water gets stuck in the bottom part of the pot, even though it is boiling away and should be able to turn itself into steam and push its way through the grounds. this results in a) an extremely small amount of coffee, even if we leave it for a long time, and b) leftover water in the bottom of the pot.

here are things i have tried to fix the problem:
- changed the rubber ring
- changed the ground of the coffee
- cleaned the holes where the water pushes through the grounds

what am i missing? do these things just break after awhile or is there some little fix for it?

thank you!
posted by andreapandrea to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What usually happens with a moka pot is that, over time, the gaskets get softer and less effective, so gradually you move toward a finer grind and you tamp it down harder to compensate. This actually works, because a moka pot relies on a balance between these factors.

However, when you get a new gasket, as you did, sometimes you unwittingly maintain your grind and tamp habits and that doesn't work. You're creating too much of a barrier for the water. So now you need to back off on those until the coffee comes through as it should.

Another possibility is that if you have hard water, you may need to run white vinegar through the pot a few times to dissolve any mineral deposits that may be blocking the filters. Just make sure you rinse it very well before making coffee again.
posted by zadcat at 6:47 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

was the water in the bottom coffee colored i.e. could the tube to the top be blocked?

also, it sounds like you changed the gasket and the ground at the same time... bad problem solving to do two fixes at the same time: maybe they are cancelling eachother out.
posted by at 6:50 AM on April 10, 2011

1) The new rubber ring needs to be broken in, which takes a while. At the beginning you're likely getting a bit of steam leakage along the sides that causes this problem. Try keeping it meticulously free of coffee grit and tighten it really well.
2) People often put the heat too high. The water shouldn't be actually boiling away; steam needs to build up in the lower compartment that will then push the hot water up through the coffee. So together with observing point 1), try not to over-boil.
3) Not only the ground, but also the fattiness of your coffee makes a difference. Switch around with different kinds until you've found one that works well.
4) Not sure whether this applies to you but: no tamping in moka pots. Filling up well and knocking it down on the counter a few times will do, nothing more than that.

(This can be a pain. I'm using various kinds of stainless steel cookers for myself without much trouble. So I thought they were foolproof, bought one for my parents, and boy, what problems they thought they had. In the beginning, even I couldn't tighten theirs properly. It does get better over time.
And no: these things don't usually just break)
posted by Namlit at 6:58 AM on April 10, 2011

Seconding Namlit's #2 - I had this problem years ago when my moka, a gift from an Italian friend, was leaving water in the bottom. Once I reduced the heat so the pot came to a boil more slowly, it worked perfectly and has for about 10 years now...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:58 AM on April 10, 2011

Might you be over-tamping the filter basket? Try tamping very lightly or skipping the tamping altogether—see what happens.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2011

thanks everyone! the vinegar trick did it.

thanks also for the link, zadcat - it wasn't actually the same problem, but from all the research i have done on this problem, i'm getting to be something of an expert on the moka pot.

you all saved my morning!
posted by andreapandrea at 7:10 PM on April 10, 2011

I think the clue was that you'd had the pot a long time. It doesn't even take super hard water for some scale to build up over time. Glad it worked.
posted by zadcat at 7:07 PM on April 12, 2011

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