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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.

              1. I use Illy or Lavazza myself, but occasionally I do an espresso grind of Greenwell Estates Private Reserve 100% Kona (which can be ordered online)

                1. Because stove top makers like Bialetti produce an excellent espresso, they’re popular everywhere. When I lived in Paris, everyone seemed to have one. Over the years I’ve amassed 8 Bialettis–really come in handy when making coffee for guests. Just line them up on every burner. The only thing that wears out is gaskets, which are easily replaced and can be ordered online. By the way, before storing empty Bialettis, make sure they’re completely dry–mold tends to form on the bottom half. I have burr grinders in both my city home and mountain condo, along with a couple of mills (those small grinders that use a spinning blade.) Serious espresso drinkers prefer burr grinders because they result in a much finer, more consistent grind. But they cost anywhere from $50 to $300. One caveat: never run a burr grinder empty–it destroys the burrs.

                  Coffee mills are much cheaper–between $15-$30. When using a mill I never grind beans longer than 16 seconds–beans overheat. Continually shake it whilst grinding, pause after 8 seconds to let beans cool, then grind and shake until 16 seconds have been reached. My beans are stored in an airtight container in the pantry–never the fridge or freezer. Although I've tried practically every brand of espresso and French roasts–both beans and fine grind–I prefer espresso. Interestingly, darker roasts have less caffeine. Right now I'm using espresso beans from Costa Rica. I also love Italian espresso coffee–illy or Lavazza–that comes in vacuum packages. But I think beans ground immediately before brewing make a better coffee. For purer water, I bought one of those filter water pitchers that easily fits into the fridge.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: filmconsultant

                    Actually Bialetti's don't make espresso coffee. Espresso coffee is made using high pressure coffee makers, Bialettis are low pressure and do not produce the crema needed for an espresso.
                    The coffee needs to be ground slightly coarser than used in normal filter machines and not tamped down in the Bialetti filter.

                    1. re: Spacerunner

                      You're correct! When I wrote about making espresso in my Bialettis it's because I use espress beans along with a 50% mixture of Java Kajumas Organic Taman Dadar, both of which I purchase on the Internet as green coffee beans and roast them weekly in my own coffee roaster--placed on one of the far outside patios due to the smoke. I find espresso beans really enrich whatever coffee maker I use.

                      When I want a pure espresso I use one of my two espresso makers--one in our main home, one in our mountain place. Can't have too many coffee makers and machines.

                      Thank you for correcting my miss-speaking.

                  2. I am super picky about coffee and eschew canned coffee in general, but La Llave is cheap and rocks in a Bialetti.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tim irvine

                      If by canned coffee, you're referring to that stuff on grocery shelves, my opinion is none of it is coffee. Don't know what they add to the few coffee beans lost amongst the other "beans" in the can, but ain't none of it good from the first drop--much less the last. And you're correct--I've used La Llave and it's a good cup.

                    2. Actually, between our home and mountain place, I have amassed 8 Bialetti coffee makers, two espresso machines, and two French presses. I know--overdoing it a bit, until guests show up and want coffee NOW! But the damn Bialettis and French presses never wear out. The only thing that ever goes wrong with Bialetti is the gasket. And those can be ordered cheaply online. I once went to a Bialetti dealer to buy gaskets and was told gaskets aren't available--I would have to buy a new Bialetti maker. (HA!)

                      I use a 50-50 mixture of espresso beans and experiment with beans from Mexico, South America, Ethiopia (Africa) or other parts of the world. Mixed and stored in the pantry--never the fridge or freezer--in one of those huge gasket jars they use for canning in Europe.

                      I buy all my beans online--one of the best suppliers for beans, roasters, and anything else coffee is sweetmarias.com. Amazon.com is another great supplier. Sweetmarias has a standard shipping charge and great coffee. Their people forgot more than I'll ever know about coffee.

                      1. I found I enjoy the Illy dark roast coffee . And also , the one I buy the most of is a dark roast from Café Graffeo in S.F. I grind my beans with a Kyocera hand ceramic grinder .

                        1. I like darker coffees. A French roast is what I use if espresso is not available. Depends on how strong/rich you want your coffee. If I don't grind my own, I look for finer grinds; but any good coffee will do. However, I stay away from all that canned stuff in super markets and go for the bagged coffees like Peet or similar--usually offered in various strengths and from various sources.

                          1. No matter where one lives you can still order on line from Zabar's NYC, and they ship immediately. Zabar's roasts their own coffees and are expert in providing a consistently superior product, either whole beans or various grind to order at a true value price. I order 4 one lb bags at a time, thus it ships free!
                            For my regular brewed coffee, I get the "French/Italian Roast", (I like a strong flavorful cup; for espresso, the "Dark Italian Roast" suits my tastes.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ospreycove

                              I just signed up for their newsletter. That is quite a site. My wife, who is Jewish, says they have merchandise hard to find other places.

                              Thank you.

                              1. re: filmconsultant

                                When you are in NYC a visit to their store is a top priority!!!!

                            2. As others have already pointed out, the Bialetti does not make espresso. The Bialetti is a "moka pot" widely used in Europe because it can make coffee SIMILAR to espresso. It was invented in the 1930s when there was no such thing as a true home espresso machine and commercial machines were ghastly expensive! Some say they get a little crema with their Bialetti, but that was never my experience with mine. The classic Bialetti moka pots are made of aluminum, and for that reason I abandoned mine years ago because of corrosion problems. An added problem in many of today's kichens is that they will not work at all on induction. But they do make updated models that do. I do now have a true "super automatic" espresso maker (Jura Capresso from Switzerland) that I love dearly, but there were a lot of years between it and my Bialetti.

                              As for what coffee beans to use, whether in a Bialetti or a true espresso machine, use the kind of coffee that you like. However, if you purchase a burr grinder be cautious with very dark roasts because dark roasting can produce a very oily coffee bean that can eventually clog a burr grinder, but they work perfectly well in a "spice grinder" type of machine.

                              An Italian friend scoffs at any coffee beans or ground coffees labeled "espresso." She says that in the part of Italy she came from "espresso" is a METHOD of making coffee and not a type of coffee. She also says that all of the espressos she remembers (she's an American now) were medium roast coffees because dark roasts tend to be bitter. But she came to this country a long time ago and "fusion" is turning all traditional foods and recipes on their ear! <sigh>

                              Short answer: Use whatever kind of coffee YOU enjoy!!!