Moka Pot Brews: Key Variables

The Moka Pot is an unusual device and not exactly easy to decipher. I’ve learned a lot about brewing coffee with my 3-cup Bialetti in the last few weeks. This is a real short version of what I believe are the key variables that change the brew taste. The post assumes you already know basics of Moka Pot brewing.

Heat application: This is in my opinion the number one variable. Can be controlled on a stove top by getting a good steel heat diffuser which prevents the pot from being directly exposed to the heat. It also needs to be cut off at just the right time to prevent steam rushing through the pot’s lower chambers and scalding the coffee. It really need not be constant throughout the brewing process and is tightly connected to the next variable:

Brew Time: I didn’t realize how important this was until a friend pointed out that my brews were taking too long (8 – 9 mins). On cutting short the brew time (< 4 mins) using pre-boiled water, the sour taste in the final product was noticeably lower. The running theory is that in longer brews the lower temperatures of the water leads to extraction of the sour flavors from the coffee.

Grind Size: The Moka Pot can brew with a wide variety of grind sizes from medium-fine to fine. I believe the finest you can go is when your coffee grounds literally start getting through the upper metal filter in the Moka Pot. Grind size does make a noticeable difference to the taste of the final brew. It’s worth controlling and experimenting with. I’ve found it difficult to go finer if you can’t control the Heat applied. In my early trials where I’d exposed the pot directly to the flame, finer grinds would sputter violently. Once I had the diffuser in place those same brews had a consistent flow.

Other variables include Roast (medium, medium-dark and dark), water quality, coffee dose (the grinds must swell to fill the basket for best results), water volume in the lower pot – all play a role. The coffee quality too is worth mentioning. I was truly startled by Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (medium-dark). It had light qualities I couldn’t find any of our Indian SO or blends I’ve tried so far.

That’s all for now. This post ought to morph into something much more detailed later on.

Hooked

I’ve been brewing Red Earth’s Espresso Blend beans in my Moka Pot. I skipped the brew for 2 days and my mornings were noticeably duller with cravings. It’s official, I’m hooked! I have the espresso-like coffee with 3 parts milk, no sugar. I enjoy the caramel, dark feel to the coffee. Who would’ve thought it’d be addicting.

There’s something oddly satisfying about watching coffee percolate.

Light Roasts

My younger brother picked up a few light roasts for tasting and had them shipped over to my place so that I can send them on to him. Unfortunately, it looks like export of coffee beans to the United Kingdom have been banned! I’ve come into 3 small bags of light roasts, plus a large bag of Baalmadi beans. Let the tasting begin!

Varadymalai Estate, Light Roast

I brewed my cup while waiting for a call with a connect to begin. He promised to fit me into his tight schedule and warned me that I might have to wait. No regrets. That beautiful and delicious cup is from a 4+ min brew in a french press, 15 gm of coarsely ground beans and 200 ml of hot water. A real pleasant accident.

The Morning Bean

Home Blend Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold

The aroma of fresh ground coffee revives faint memories of friends from the south. Their homes exuding the warmth of filter coffee. Those familiar with Deccan, Pune will remember walking by the captivating aroma from the roasters next door to the Good Luck restaurant. Coffee adds it’s own magic to my breakfast. It helps bind every social experience, helping you remember them thanks to the number it does on your olfactory senses.

Bishop’s 1994, our 25th Year Reunion

Earlier this year, the Bishop’s School Camp Principal Mr. Joel Edwin reached out to me to meet. Little did I know then that it would set in motion a truly special sequence of events. It was a unique opportunity to reawaken the school spirit that was dormant all these years.

Rahul Kocchar, Mr. Joel Edwin Principal The Bishop’s School Camp and me.

A sunny May-morning Rahul Kocchar and I visited the school in response to Mr. Edwin’s email. The school was on holiday and we met up with & Mr. Dawson & Mr. Edwin at his office. He wanted our support to get the class of 1994 together. Our class was to be guests of honor at the Junior School Sports Day on 11th December. Although their email had gone out earlier, the response was tepid. Rahul and I reached out to our classmates that same day to begin organizing an outreach.

Mr. Joel Edwin brings with a fresh perspective with him to alumni relations. I remember our first meeting at the 150-year anniversary organization team meetings. Mr. Edwin and I’d never met but he spoke to me like a headmaster might speak to any student. He welcomed me back to the fold with scolding. Why had I stayed away from school for so long? It’s this level of familiarity and sense of family he maintains that is the driving force behind renewed school-alumni relations.

When Satish, Vikram, Kishore, Rahul, Vishal, Janak, and the other boys met up for the first couple of meetings, the extent of their ambition was astonishing. In the first couple of meetings our key goals were set. We were to throw a dinner for our former teachers, many of whom had retired. Teachers were to be driven to and from all the events. The class of 1994 would pay a fitting tribute to our beloved former Principal Mr. B.W. Roberts by creating a bust in his honor. Would the school approve of the bust? Would the alumni contribute to achieving our goals and attend enthusiastically?

The core team backed up their intentions with strong efforts and co-ordination. Answers to all questions had to be sought out. Satish brought together the class of X-A reviving old connects. Confirmations and donations began pouring in from alumni all over the world. As the big day got closer, the tempo of the core team began to step up. More joined the core team to help manage music, connect with teachers. Speeches were written, the core team met with each teacher to invite them and to take pictures for secret mementos. The school support staff was also to be recognized, especially the long-serving members.

X-A 1994 together again.

The big day had arrived and we met at Harding Hall for breakfast and to put on our school ties and belts. Once again we were to be schoolboys. We walked over to the Jeejeebhoy Ground as guests of honor along with the wonderful and former Junior School Principal Mrs. Roberts to flag off the Sports day. Altogether 55 old boys had made it from all corners of the world.

As the day progressed, one by one our former teachers began to arrive. Former Bishops headmaster, Mr. Guzder, Mr. Dupratt, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Chavan, Mrs. Jolly, Mrs. Postwala, Mrs. Singh, Mr. J. Bhaskaran, Mr. Varghese, Mr. Dolas, Mrs. Randhawa, Mrs. Daniels, Mrs. Oliver, and many other teachers were in attendance. Colonel Simant Upadhyay of ’94 gave a moving address encouraging all to step up and live up to every challenge.

Mansfield House takes the Salute.

That afternoon, we assembled outside The B.W. Roberts Building to pay tribute to Mr. Roberts, to our former teachers who were no longer with us and for the unveiling of the bust. Those who spoke about Mr. Roberts shared a glimpse of the kind of person that he was, the love that he had for the school and the people behind it. He was a General in every sense of the word said Mr. Guzder, and galvanized those around him to action. A special moment was a moving rendition of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol’ Oak Tree” by two present students. A fitting tribute to the man who led us in every regard.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold”

The night’s Dinner was our tribute to our teachers, to be with them and to enjoy their company once more. Several more moving and sentimental speeches were made by teachers and students as the drinks flowed and the night wore down. Our teachers thanked us for their mementos, a personalized picture of them with words students would often use to describe them.

Class of 1-A with Mrs. Oliver our class teacher.

25 years on we still enjoyed a sense of belonging and warmth that we had in school. To watch the spark of recognition flare in our teachers’ eyes for each and every one of us was priceless. To echo Mr. Dolas’ words, we all went away from that day with our glasses full of emotions. I know that the love and respect we extended to our teachers that day would go a long way. Even as I write, some of the boys continue to help teachers out with the funds that were gathered. If anything, what the class has done is only a reflection of their sincere efforts to shape us through those 11 years, to smoothen out our rough edges and perhaps to show us a glimpse of who we now are.

We will always remember our roots.
The class of 1994 with their teachers, Headmaster and Principal.
The class of 1994 together again.