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Jul 11, 2006 07:14 PM

What coffee to use in my Bialetti espresso maker?

If you have one of those Bialetti espresso makers--the kind that are standard in Italy for making espresso at home--what kind of coffee do you use in it?

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  1. I would just go to your favorite coffee roaster and ask for some advice. Peet's has a few beans that I like for espresso (notably "Espresso Forte" and "Major Dickinson's Blend"), but if you have a favorite coffee shop I'd say go ask them. Even if they don't roast and sell their own beans you can find out what they use.

    Oh, and I'm sure you know this, but be sure to grind you beans finer than you would for drip coffee.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mhoffman

      Good advice!

      Then there's the problem with water temperature. We reside in Colorado. Our home on the eastern slope is 5,400 feet above sea level. Our mountain place is at 8,500 feet. I envy all of you who live at sea level or just above and enjoy 212-degree coffee. I love hot coffee, but it's elusive at home. When it comes off the stove, it's hot for about 3 swallows, then cools rapidly. At our mountain place hot coffee is even harder. Reason is water boils at lower temperatures at altitude. Down on the 5,400 foot plains it boils at about 202 degrees. At 8,500 feet water boils at 187 degrees. I've measured the temperatures of boiling water at both altitudes.

      1. re: filmconsultant

        I noticed mine blew steam out the pressure release the last time I brewed a cup above 6000 feet . Had this ever happened to you ?

        1. re: emglow101

          Happened to me once at our 8,500 foot mountain place. I attributed it to altitude, but now I'm not so sure. After that one "burp", the machine keeps on performing.

    2. For me, the darker the better for espresso, but why not have fun and experiment with different beans, or blend your own? (I blend at least 3 kinds together, and always get raves on my coffee and espresso.) Don't grind your own, though - have the shop do it so it's fine enough.

      1. Well, there is an interesting debate to be had about where and when your beans should be ground. I shouldn't dare argue with the advice of coffee-drinker with a francophone name, but I think it should be acknowledged that we are dealing with a genuine tradeoff here.

        Coffee shops use burr grinders, which provide an extremely uniform grind and (I'm told) produce better flavor. You can get a burr grinder for home, but they are expensive and break a lot. That's why most people (myself included) have a blade grnder at home. Blade grinders do not get the same uniformity of particle size, but I don't see any reason they cannot be used to grind the beans fine enough for espresso. Burr grinders *are* better, *but* getting your beans ground when you buy them translates to a longer interim between grinding and brewing - which, all else being equal, is bad.

        So choose your poison: an uneven grind (and possible flavor damage), or your beans going stale faster. The right answer depends on your taste and how quickly you use up your coffee.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mhoffman

          mhoffman - you're right, of course, about grinding. It's just that I'm really clumsy and usually have coffee all over the floor and myself! Plus, re-calibrating the grinder for my Melitta, then my French press, and then my La Pavoni is beyond me, so I gave my grinders away to better homes. My coffees never have a chance to get stale since I use them in ice cream, granites, BBQ rubs, ganache, makeup (just kidding) ;-)

          1. re: mhoffman

            Although I have used the same burr grinders for 20 years (have 2, one for home and one in our mountain place)I also still have to calibrate for various coffee makers. And at times I get out my old mill--blade grinder--and use it now and then. What I discovered with mills is to put in the total amount for the Bialetti but don't grind the beans all at once. I grind and shake, counting 8 seconds. Then I stop momentarily so beans rest a few seconds. Then I grind and shake another 8 seconds. I find it's best not to grind more than 16 seconds. Always consistently great coffee is the result.

            And yes, I also get coffee grounds on the floor. But unlike spilt sugar, coffee grounds are Hell to clean up.

          2. O, to be a coffee bean in Claudette's kitchen!

            (Sorry, my out-of-date work browser won't let me use the "reply" feature.)

            1. The advice above is very good. So answer #1 is that you can use any variety of coffee that you want (it doesn't have to be the one called "espresso roast"). Answer #2 is that you could have your coffee ground at the shop (but tell them you are using a stovetop moka espresso maker), or you can grind at home. (Note that the correct grind for espresso depends on the way you are making the espresso, because different machines generate different amounts of air pressure. In particular, the stovetop moka is vastly different than the $2000-$4000 espresso maker at your local java shop.) I prefer to grind at home.

              But let me add a third option to the mix: many Italians that I know use the "bricks" of pre-ground coffee. Try Illy or Lavazza brands, which are excellent. These are preground for your exact brewing method. I called them "bricks" because the coffee is vacuum packed into the shape of a brick. Look for these in the coffee isle of a grocery good grocery store, or ethnic food market.