Everything you always wanted to know about moka (but were afraid to ask)

Hi everyone! After posting on why ‘let’s have a coffee’ in Italy is not simply ‘let’s have a coffee’ (I’m referring to the numberless ‘variations on the theme’ you get in cafés around here), I recently posted on my Patreon project (How to be Italian) a few tips on how to make yourself un buon caffè using the moka, our typical coffee pot.

Of course I am not so silly as to dare venturing into the topic of ‘The Neapolitan flip coffee pot’ (I presume you are aware that Neapolitans are to coffee what Aristotle is to philosophy!). I did not bring up Aristotle for nothing, you know, as the coffee rite is sacred for most Italians and I’m sure it inspired most brilliant ideas our people ever produced (can you figure out Michelangelo painting the ‘creation of Adam’ in the Sistine Chapel without gulping down liters of coffee? And can you imagine God trying to create Adam without having a good espresso before he set up to his undertaking?)

When it comes to coffee the real question is: is it better if you make it with the expresso coffee machine or using the moka? There is not a real answer to this quandary. It is like asking: orange or lemon? Milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Snow White or Cinderella? I mean, there is not anything wrong with preferring Mickey Mouse to Donald Duck, it’s just a matter of two different ‘Weltanschauungen’.

In our family we go for the moka, of course. Why? Well, first of all that’s the way we grew up. Our generation grew up in a world where at home everyone simply made coffee using the moka. Home coffee machines where introduced later on and have always been looked upon with an ill-concealed contempt by the elderly members of our family. Second, it does taste better (sorry, Nespresso. Er… no, not sorry) . Third, and here comes the real reason, it’s a matter of time. The coffee machine makes coffee in a few seconds. If it’s already turned on you just have to accomplish a few moves and… there goes your coffee! And where’s the pleasure in that?

Making coffee using the moka, instead, takes longer. Especially in the morning, it does help you wake up even before you assumed caffeine, as it requires the following steps: disassemble the two parts of the pot (most of the time the upper part doesn’t come off so you start cursing and that does wake you up); then you realize that whoever did the coffee before you did not remove the coffee powder, so you place the moka under running water and start washing it (ok, you know it actually was you, but you just blame somebody else because that’s part of the rite and it gives you a good excuse to curse again!); then you pour the water into the lower part, you place the filter and fill it with coffee powder which always comes out a bit and you curse for the third time because you’ll have to clean up the mess)—all this slight cursing is more of a muttering mantra than a war statement towards life, you know.

After placing the moka on the burner, a whole magnificent world opens up to you. It’s like entering a metaphysical Middle World where time does not exist and your mind floats in a silent extra Universe. You don’t know who you are (you did not know before either as you have not yet had your first coffee of the day); you don’t know what day of the week it is (of course you hope deep down it’s a Sunday but it usually turns out to be a Monday); you don’t know where you are (ok, I’m cheating here, as a quick look outside the window does tell you that you are not in Berlin any longer, that holidays are over, that despite the fact you are living in the ‘Country of the Sun’ it’s a crappy rainy day out, and that your balcony is full of garbage bags you forgot to take out for the fifth day in a row). Your brain is starting to awaken, and reality slowly comes in. You let go of your dreams and start planning the day (of course you go random here as the caffeine is still inside the coffee pot on the stove and has not reached your – slow and sleepy – neurons yet).

The plans you make for the day include: taking your daughter to school, do-the-laundry-for-heaven’s-sake, call the eye-doctor (you cannot spell in your mind the word ‘ophthalmologist’ yet—but then again ‘who am I? Tommy Bahama?’ as Homer Simpson would say with a monkey playing cymbals in his empty head), write that important email to your boss… The to-do-list is very long. The longer it gets in your mind, the louder the cymbals get (have the new neighbors gone nuts? Playing the cymbals so early in the morning?—uh uh, oops!).

When the mix between the crappy weather outside and the crappy thoughts in your head blend into a dark omen and you get the clear picture of how your day is going to look like, there comes a sweet music. No more cymbals, but a reassuring mumbling coming from the moka. The coffee pot is gurgling: there’s hope in life! The coffee aroma starts spreading in the kitchen, it’s all over your body and mind, it pervades your thoughts and you inhale it with your expanding lungs as you would breathe oxygen after spending the night in a dark, small, blocked elevator. All of a sudden, life seems to be full of options. Maybe it’s about time you work on a serious diet! Maybe you can start exercising every day! Maybe you can venture into emptying the cellar today (ok, you don’t get that optimistic!). The more you inhale the coffee aroma, the brighter your future gets. Of course, even if this nirvana state seems to last a few hours, it actually lasts very little time as you need to get up to turn the stove off some ten seconds after it starts gurgling.

Never mind. These ten seconds is all you need to get up on your feet and find a meaning in your life. The noble deed is now accomplished: the ‘old you’ does not exist anymore. Now you feel like a brand new person. You, and you alone, can change the world today (even if you still know that you are not Tommy Bahama).

However, if you get up and drink your coffee, and find out that your coffee sucks, there will be no world changing that day. You will more likely be a thorn in everyone’s side.

For the few (but very important) good tips for a good coffee using your moka, go if you wish to the full post… after pledging 1$ of course 😉


  1. What an amazing ode to good coffee Simona!! We don’t have a Moka– but a Spanish version that looks the same. It’s sitting on our stove top right now. I love your sense of humor and charming sense of all things Italian! Hope your sitting reading comments with a hot cup of coffee in hand! hugs friend!

    • Ciao Rhonda! As I got up early this morning (4.30 AM) I’ve already had 3 ‘caffè’ and I’m heading to the kitchen to make myself my 4th espresso 🙂 No wonder my nerves are a bit shaken! I like it very much to think that we have a common habit regarding coffee making! Have a nice day! xoxo

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